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Really, What Does It Take to Build a Beauty Business?

By: Martha Kepner
Posted: January 28, 2014, from the January 2014 issue of GCI Magazine.

On any given day, founder and creative director of The Beauty Company (TBC) Alisa Marie Beyer has a lot on her calendar. From a call with formulators and product developers to a design strategy session with her creative team to karate practice with her youngest son, this busy entrepreneur’s life is anything but typical. For the past four years, I’ve had the pleasure of working with this dedicated entrepreneur on a day-to-day basis and witnessing first-hand the strategy behind the business she drives—namely, beauty.

Honed from her experience in the worlds of PR and fashion—her life before starting The Beauty Company—Beyer has a unique perspective on starting and building beauty companies that allows her to take good ideas and make them extraordinary. It is with this unique perspective that Beyer is now taking some of her own advice and turning her attention to the creation of her own brand: Coastal Salt & Soul, a line of vintage fragrance, body, bath and home products inspired by Beyer’s lifelong love of the seaside.

Now, after countless hours working with numerous beauty entrepreneurs all hoping to toss their hat into the crowded beauty ring, and deep in the process of starting her next new business, we thought it was an interesting opportunity to get Beyer’s perspective on how a business can win in the beauty arena.

As she likes to say, “People come to TBC with one of two things: a dream or a dream that is broken,” and this isn’t necessarily always a fifty-fifty proposition. Sadly, we’ve seen our fair share of businesses fail. As a creative writer and avowed beauty dreamer, there’s nothing I like less than seeing the twinkle fade out of another creative dreamer’s eye, which is why hopefully, with Beyer’s perspective on navigating this tricky landscape, every dreamer out there will have a better idea on what it really takes to succeed as a business in the big, bold, beautiful world of beauty.

Martha Kepner: Strategically, what is the most important decision a new beauty business needs to make before they get started?

Alisa Marie Beyer: A strong vision. To build a business from scratch, you need to know what the heck it is you’re building.

That sounds simple, but it’s not really simple at all. I’ve seen entrepreneurs without a strong point of view on what the vision is for their company, and I’ve seen entrepreneurs with a razor-sharp focus. The best know exactly what they want, they know what they need to do to achieve their vision, and they know what they need to do to get there.

They also are super at mapping out a system of how they are going to reach their goals. At my company, I have a system called a Work Plan, (much dreaded words for my staff!), and I’m a stickler for planning the work and working the plan 24-7-365.

MK: What do the most successful new businesses do well?

AMB: You need to believe in your vision for the business, and you must empower everyone on your team to believe as well.

True entrepreneurs don’t question their ability to succeed or whether they are worthy of success. They are always confident with the knowledge that they can make their business succeed and that they have the vision, dedication and determination to get over every hurdle that is part of the start-up process and to succeed. This confidence gives the team a sense of strength as well.

MK: What is the biggest mistake often made by business owners?

AMB: This one is so clear to me since it’s my biggest issue as well—focus and discipline.

I believe entrepreneurs start companies because we are good at coming up with ideas, and we sometimes fall in love with the idea of new ideas. While they all might be really good ideas, we simply can’t execute on them all, and we end up in a weird Ping-Pong scenario—bouncing from one idea to the next, using up resources while nothing is actually getting done or moving forward. (Translation: Lost revenues and increased expenses—nobody likes that!) Getting stuck in the idea phase of being an entrepreneur burns through time, energy and money, and often, nothing gets done because the focus shifts, yet again.

My team has a signal for when I’m doing this—it’s the word “mangos.” If I get off the path and start running around talking about idea after idea and not focusing on the business at hand (i.e., picking mangos), someone will discreetly cough, “Mangos”…which makes us all laugh and I get back on track.

On a larger scale, I also have found that identifying and writing down my five key areas of focus helps me stay on target. I keep an idea journal, where I write down all my other ideas and promise to not act on them for four weeks, which often leads me to realize a week later that the mango I was chasing after is not as ripe as I thought.

MK: What are the most important intangible success factors you think an entrepreneur needs?