What does it take to start your own beauty brand?

Posted by Emeline


What does it actually take to start your own beauty brand? With the growth of beauty social media entrepreneurs, it would be easy to imagine one merely attends an evening course, bank loan in tow and fiercely pushes forth on their social media strategy to become a success. Social media aside, it’s got to take more than that, right?

I attended the WAH Power Lunch (Cosmetic Product Development event) last Wednesday, chaired by the one and only Sharmadean Reid MBE (who did our S/S15  fashion edit).

It was held at Town Hall Hotel in Bethnal Green and we were joined by Emily Maben – marketing Director for Sleek MakeUP,  Liha Okunniwa & Abi Oyepitan – founders of Liha Beauty, Melissa Sinclair – founder of Big Hair Beauty, and Stephanie G-M – founder of Ouli’s Ointment’s.

Wah Women's Event



It felt fitting to compile the breadth of information shared into tips on starting your on beauty brands and on what to look out for.

10 tips on starting your own brand:




These go hand in hand. Make sure to back up your passion with market research. Sharmadean – founder of WAH Nails – built up a community and whilst she knew that nail polishes were going to be huge. WGSM (the trend forecaster) backed up the trends and she built a business case to strengthen her product. Research can never be underestimated and passion will keep you going and bring gravitas to your brand.



It’s so important to research the name of your brand and product names – IPO.gov.uk – is a great place to start, and after doing so, to Trademark your name, nationally and internationally. Sharmadean explained that if you plan on taking your product to different territories, you need to know if your product’s name(s) and your brand name is free of use. It could land you in a legal battle and quite frankly “aint nobody got time for that!”



Try and learn as much as you can about all aspects of the business. Melissa Sinclair – founder of Big Hair Beauty – mentioned that she realised that her product stopped being profitable for the manufacturers to produce when she supplied her own ingredients. (N.B Manufacturers tend to make a profit on the raw ingredients they supply to make the products. It becomes an issue when you bring in your own raw ingredient).

Instead of letting her know their issue with this, they ceased communication and she was left with 25 kilos of raw material for EACH of her products. So Melissa took a course and learnt how to make the products in-house.




When the costs can range anything from £3,000 to £15,500 (in Melissa’s case) it’s important to think strategically. You might decide to continue working for yourself alongside starting your brand, as Liha founders Liha Okunniwa & Abi Oyepitan are doing. Consider crowdfunding too: Kickstarter and Indigogo work well as method for raising finance for products. You may decide to relocate, downgrade your life and work from less expensive parts of the city as Sharmadean did. Starting your own brand can be a huge sacrifice so it’s worth careful planning.



Mentors, advisors, consultants. They can make all the difference. Melissa hired a consultant who put her in touch with a chemist. You essentially pay for their contacts but when starting out it can save you a lot of time. Your network is really your most powerful weapon so don’t be afraid to contact people on LinkedIn. Key words such as “cosmetic consultant” can lead you onto a host of other recommendations.


FIND A REPUTABLE CHEMIST WAH-Power-Lunch---Beauty-Brands---Thandie-Kay

Shockingly, manufacturers often own the brand’s formulas but you can own the Intellectual Property by developing it independently by a coveted chemists (if they have their own lab). Once your product has been sampled, this sample will need to be tested by a chemist and an MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) will be needed for each product. If the ingredients have been supplied by yourself, you will need to hold certificates for each of these. Testing can take 3-6 months after sample development and will need to be calculated into your planning. There are can be lots of little complications that can have huge impacts so it’s wise to seek professional advise.



Make sure a professional looks at the contracts because they might have loopholes, such as only knowing your formulations after producing 100,000 units or being bound to the manufacture for a number of years.

Don’t assume you own the formulation or IP, the manufacture owns these unless it is clarified in your contract that you do.

Those formulations are really important and they are known by name; own them where you can! Interestingly you don’t trademark hair care formulations as ‘spinner chemists’ can replicate the formulation purely from the hair product labels!



Stephanie G-M – founder of Ouli’s Ointment – recommended speaking to PR companies to find manufacturers, speaking to people you know and attending beauty product Expos. At the Expos, if you get into conversation with manufacturers make sure to negotiate – if you need that one ingredient for your formulation, stand your ground. Manufacturing locally, in your home country can be a lot quicker with short lead times but might be more expensive.



Emily Maben – marketing director for Sleek MakeUP – explained that it is all about getting in front of the right person. Buyers
are always busy so find an inventive way of getting in front of them. Liha and Abi – founders of Liha Beauty – got speaking to the sales assistant at Liberty during their open call for new brands and it was passed on to the beauty buyer.

You can exhibit at expos and tradeshows but once you’re in front of a buyer make it all about YOU. Sell the story of your brand (make sure it is unique), be ready with a pitch line, business card and products to give away. Most importantly make sure everything is spotless; catalogues, marketing, website. If they aren’t interested in stocking you at that moment, do not be disheartened. Don’t be afraid to ask “When will you be able to?”, “What do I need to do?”  or “Where do I need to be for you to stock me?”

But in the words of Sharmadean “Don’t beg” if they want you they will come for you.



Afterword by Hayley Mills  “We should be comfortable with trusting our own voices and should not be afraid of going for it. Men have no qualms figuring things out after they’ve taken the leap. Women are often overly self-aware which can hinder and create a multiple of doubts before they even start.

We can be too sensitive to the perception of others, it’s important to realize that leveraging on our community and our network isn’t something to be ashamed of, this has been done for centuries in old men’s clubs.

We should lose our self-awareness to minimize doubt and enable to us to achieve our full potential.

The nicest thing about the WAH Power Lunch event was that is wasn’t about men vs women, it was about women empowerment. It was really functional and about practical delivery. It was information that was needed to help us get going, about sharing and knowledge without romanticizing the journey. It was a community of inspiring individuals.

Follow Emeline on twitter and on instagram

Read more from Emeline!

Photography by Karina Stevens @karina_hurricane



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Follow Us

Subscribe to ThandieKay.com!

Email *

What we're tweeting

"RT @parisreview: James Baldwin was born on this day in 1924. Read his Art of Fiction interview here: https://t.co/ElUtP29bwF"
"RT @HadleyFreeman: A friend who lives in the US read this and compared England to "one of those crazy people who goes on a good date and im…"
"RT @ava: When you practice what you preach and the laws of nature bend in acknowledgement. This is Kindness. This is Generosity. This is Lo…"
"Mother superior and Queen @BritishVogue https://t.co/2BQPBq45bY"

Latest Posts