Annie Lawless started her first business when she couldn’t find what she needed.
The Suja Juice and Lawless Beauty founder has celiac disease, and adopted a gluten-free diet and daily juicing habit “back when there was no Whole Foods in my state.”
So when she couldn’t find organic cold-pressed juice for sale at her local grocery store, she went into business with her then-boyfriend and started bottling her own and delivering them to friends and neighbors in her native San Diego.
That business was a success. By 2015, the business was valued at $300 million and both Goldman Sachs and Coca-Cola had invested in it.
A similar thing happened when Lawless decided to start her second business, Lawless Beauty. Lawless, who is a fashion and beauty influencer behind the blog Blawnde and has an Instagram following of nearly 200,000, couldn’t find high-performance luxury makeup that was formulated with nontoxic ingredients.
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“I like full coverage and high pigmentation,” Lawless said. ” you either had NARS or Bobbi Brown or Laura Mercier, with high-performance products and beautiful packaging, or Whole Foods brands that were tinted moisturizers and earth tones. ‘Why isn’t anyone doing heavy-duty high performance makeup — that young girls are wearing — without ingredients that aren’t good for us and our skin?”
Thus was born Lawless Beauty, a venture Lawless and her husband launched in 2017. The line is sold in Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman, and will enter Sephora in the spring.
Lawless has learned more than a few things in the six years since founding Suja Juice. She shared them with the audience at BeautyVest. Below, some of the lessons Lawless has learned from her entrepreneurial experiences:
• “It has to feel like me. I needed to have a unique perspective and show the consumer who I am through product — sleek, sexy packaging in the clean market, because I wasn’t able to find it.”
• “It’s a great time to be an influencer-backed brand. I bring my consumers into the back end and behind the scenes so they feel connected to my brand — it’s not a nameless, faceless brand.”
• “Consider investment very, very wisely. When you’re young, it’s exciting when people want to throw money at your concept. It’s so much more than the money — you need to have a good relationship with your investors, you need to have a friendship and like these people personally. Ultimately if you want to grow the brand, everyone has to be on the same train.”
• “Nothing goes according to plan. Even in business, I’ve had not one launch go to plan — whether it’s barcode problem, pump issues…it’s always something. Now I know to expect it.”
• “Outsource and keep overhead low when you first start out. I don’t have a single employee on my payroll — it’s just me and my super-helpful husband. I outsource p.r., branding, external manufacturing. Make sure the people doing the work around you are super talented, but that you’re not responsible for them in the beginning.”
• “Social media is more powerful than most forms of traditional marketing. I’ve seen the most return from social.”
• “Listen to yourself, but keep your two feet rooted to the ground. With packaging lead times, distribution, testing — all those things take forever, so it’s really important to know you’re not going to have an idea for a product and get it done six weeks later.”
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