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How to Launch a Makeup Brand and Sell Online: The Ultimate Guide

How to Launch a Makeup Brand and Sell Online: The Ultimate Guide

You don't need to be Estee Lauder to sell your own makeup, but you do need to know how to make or find good formulas, have great packaging, and you need to know how to market yourself. This article is for the makeup lovers that are really in it and want to make their business work. So in this article, you will know how to launch a makeup brand and sell online step by step.

how to start your makeup line from scratch, with expert advice and real examples from successful beauty brands. Everything you need to know about building your makeup brand, and about ingredients, packaging, and labeling, including how to position your makeup line in a crowded marketplace, how to create manufacture, or white label your makeup. How to source & develop your packaging, manage your inventory and set up your online store.

Make sure you're sticking around until the end of this article because I'm going to teach you some tips on how you can market your makeup brand online. Sephora carries over 250 brands, so you might be asking yourself, is there really room for me?

And you know, how can my mascara get noticed among an ocean of competitors? So I'm not here to sugarcoat things. It's a real challenge. But the good news is that if you were in this game even 15 years ago, it would have been so much harder. For over a hundred years, cosmetics were controlled by L'Oreal, Unilever, Procter and gamble, and Estee Lauder Companies.

These companies took home a whopping 81.7% of the worldwide beauty revenue in 2019. Can you believe this? But luckily e-commerce solutions and access to manufacturers have made it super easy for the little guy to come in and take a piece of that pie. So here's how you enter the market.

# Figure Out What You’re Going to Sell

1. So step number one is figuring out what you want to sell. Right up there with marketing, this is one of the most important parts. So if you need to take a few months to figure this out, just be patient with yourself and allow yourself that space.

Brainstorm ideas by answering these questions.

First, how has your idea different from what's already on the market? So the cold hard truth is that if you're getting a product on Alibaba and you're just throwing it online without much thought, you're not going to do nearly as well as a brand, who's really taking the time to differentiate itself. So maybe it's not your formula that's all that different, but maybe you stand out because of your brand story or your ethos or your cause.

Can you identify a customer for your products? So sometimes I hear small business owners say, Oh, my products are for every woman of every age everywhere. If you're targeting everyone, the result will actually be the opposite. You're just going to end up speaking to nobody in particular. So to avoid this, just be clear about who your target audience is. This doesn't have to be this big fancy document or anything, but you'll want to define who your audience is, what they like, what they dislike, how old they are, and what kind of lifestyle they lead. Include relevant demographics and psychographic.

You'll also want to think if you're speaking to customers that are currently underrepresented by brands. So for example, Vive cosmetics is run by women who wanted to represent Latinas.

How to Launch a Makeup Brand and Sell Online: The Ultimate Guide

They found a gap in the market and they are now dominating that corner. So if you can clearly answer these questions that we just talked about, then you are ready for the next step.

# Finding niche markets

Once you figured out what you're going to sell, you've already done some of the legwork it takes to carve out your niche. Finding a niche means appealing to a subset of a market. So for example, Sugar Pill's hyperpigmented colors, and extreme looks appeal to a cosplay audience.

How to Launch a Makeup Brand and Sell Online: The Ultimate Guide

Studio 10 targets an older customer addressing the issues specific to mature skin. Or what about workout-proof makeup? Sweat cosmetics sells this and they target athletes. So once you figured out what you're going to sell and what niche you're going to go after next, you're going to want to think about whether you want to make, manufacture, white-label, or resell.

# Make Manufacture, White Label, or Resell?

What you decide will depend on your time, skill level, and how much money you have available.

So here, I'm going to explain four ways to produce or procure your products for your makeup brand.

1. Making your own cosmetics

Some beauty products like lip balms, face oils, and bath products are so simple that you can just make them at home. You can find recipes on making cosmetics.com and you can find tutorials on YouTube. You'll have to play around with the formula until you find one that you're happy with.

You'll want to play with ingredients, measurements, and methods that give you the right texture, color payoff, staying power, and overall look. Keep a record of the ingredients and the methods that you use, so that your formulas remain consistent throughout.

And you're also going to want this for when you're ready to grow and ready to pass off your production to a commercial facility. Even though your manufacturing facility may be in your kitchen at first, you still want to make sure that you're following local regulations, FDA sets guidelines for air control and surfaces in the US, so check out FDA requirements.

The DIY method is a really great starting point for new brands. Factories often have super high minimums, like 20,000 units, and that might be unrealistic if you're a brand that's just starting out. Melissa owner of the Lip Bar started out by making her own formulas.

How to Launch a Makeup Brand and Sell Online: The Ultimate Guide

She said, "I had no idea how to make lipstick," but she learned the ropes through research and connecting with cosmetic chemists

Eventually, though she hit a wall. "I realized there's no way that I should keep doing something that I wasn't an expert at." She says, "In order for us to effectively sell, I needed to be able to produce and mass." This freed up her time for creativity and storytelling.

You might find it fun to make your own formulas, but if it's not your strong suit or you're not really interested in that, just know when it's time to outsource. If you're looking for a cosmetic chemist to bring your formulas to life, check out A Cosmetic Chemist.

How to Launch a Makeup Brand and Sell Online: The Ultimate Guide

The owner is named Sherry. She's worked on well-known brands for years, so that's for everyone located in Canada. But for everyone else just simply type in cosmetic chemist plus your location into Google to find the right candidate. 

2. White label manufacturing

white labeling or private labeling refers to taking a generically manufactured product and selling it under your own branding. So this can be customized slightly with color or fragrance, but many brands will use the same formula by the same facility as yours. A white label is an ideal option for brand selling and novelty item versus a unique product.

So for example, if you were to launch a unicorn theme store, maybe you'd sell private label lipsticks with unicorn packaging and unicorn-inspired names. So really, the lipstick itself is not as important as the branding or the concept. White label is a really great way to move quickly from idea to finished product, especially if you're jumping on a hot trend.

Check out Megan Cox Cox's white label company called genie supply.

How to Launch a Makeup Brand and Sell Online: The Ultimate Guide

So it's a beauty lab for entrepreneurs, that specializes in providing clean cosmetics for small brands that are making their first foray into private labeling. They also do semi-custom formulations, which can range anywhere from $1,500 to seven grand.

And the timeline from that is anywhere from two to nine months to get one of those projects finished. Complete custom formulations can be anywhere from three grand to $150,000. It's quite a bit, but this can take anywhere from six months to a year.

3. Manufacturing unique cosmetic formulations

Here, we're referring to making formulations from scratch in a manufacturing facility. When Kate launched Redhead Revolution, she was producing products at home, which she eventually outgrew.

How to Launch a Makeup Brand and Sell Online: The Ultimate Guide

Kate eventually settled on a manufacturer after having done plenty of research, "I knew I was looking for companies that focused a little bit more on higher quality and more natural ingredients," she says.

Finding a local manufacturer was important to her so that she could stay very close to the process. "I was actually able to go to the factory in person and to meet the people and create a relationship with them." When building Vive, Leslie says that she and Joanna did research and reached out to several manufacturers, sometimes being ignored, but requested many samples before finally settling on one, "We went with the manufacturer we felt gave us the most attention and could deliver quality products."

There are many online resources to help connect you with manufacturers, both in North America and overseas. So you want to start with these. Manta is a list of cosmetic manufacturers in the United States, and then you'll also want to check out Maker's Row.

How to Launch a Makeup Brand and Sell Online: The Ultimate Guide

4. Curating and reselling cosmetics

You can also resell and skip the manufacturing altogether. Buy wholesale items from multiple brands to make a curated shop. To focus you're offering to think in themes. Local-only brands are a great place to start. You can try natural or organic products or products for specific skin types or skin concerns. So for example, India is the owner of India Rose.

How to Launch a Makeup Brand and Sell Online: The Ultimate Guide

A clean, cruelty-free beauty boutique that specializes in coveted labels for her over the border Canadian customers. She says, "I started pretty low tech. I had a whiteboard in my dining room with a list of the brands that I wanted to contact and whether or not I had heard back from them." Curating your own shop is a really great way to break into the beauty industry.

Building your makeup brand

In any image-based industry, the brand is especially important. So consider how your packaging, branding voice, and your website design can help reflect your brand values, tell a story, and create an experience for your customers. Your brand is a feeling you want customers to have when they think of you.

So is that you know, wow, they're doing really innovative stuff. Or is it all they really care about animals? Differentiation in this space is so important and in some cases, it can be even more important than the product itself. So think carefully about what sets you apart in this really crowded space. And then tell that story, tell it on social, tell it on your website, tell it on your packaging. Just tell it everywhere.

And your photography, your photography also tells a story. So be sure that the aesthetic and the models look like your ideal customers and represent their lifestyle and their values.

5. Ingredients, packaging, and labeling

Because cosmetics are applied to the body, it can be a bit of a risky space to play in because of health and safety concerns. In order to stay safe, follow laws around how cosmetics must be manufactured, tested, labeled, and marketed. Refer to your local legislation and regulations on where you plan to sell.

Choosing cosmetic ingredients and
building formulations.

If you're white-labeling, research ingredients, and suppliers thoroughly, just to be sure that the claims that they're making are accurate, you might also want to hire a third-party firm to do an audit on any manufacturer or vendor before you start working with them. So here's a couple of things you're going to want to consider before looking at ingredients.

Are the ingredients skincare grade and/or approved for use in skincare in your country? Okay, so for example, coconut oil may be sold in both food grade or skincare grade versions. Think about what preservatives you will use, if any, and how that might affect your shelf life? Will your products make organic claims? And be sure that if you do go the organic route, that the supplier possesses the appropriate certifications, these will differ from country to country. Trace the supply chain. Is the supplier reputable? Can they provide references? 

Also, think about the labeling laws in your country and the countries on where you plan to ship. Also, are any ingredients known as common allergens? For this, you're going to want to check out the EWG skin deep cosmetics database for information on the safety of ingredients, and also names lists and directory of cosmetics ingredients is another great resource.

Sourcing and developing packaging

Packaging is extremely important for makeup because it serves several purposes. You know, your packaging helps application, it helps preservation and brand appeal, and protects fragile items like eye shadows, and it could also be the factor that makes your product innovative. The packaging does a lot of the heavy lifting, especially with makeup. So the details do matter.

If you choose a clear container, consumers can see which color they're choosing right away. And if you choose a teardrop applicator, the lip gloss can be applied really precisely. So for simple items, you can easily source empty containers and print your own labels when you're just starting out.

But you may need to work with the supplier to create custom packaging if you're really wanting to stand out. Be sure to test out your packaging before bringing it to market. So Megan Cox discovered that the glue in the brush applicator was not compatible with the formulation of her brand's eyelash serum.

How to Launch a Makeup Brand and Sell Online: The Ultimate Guide

 And so then the bristles just began to fall out. So she says, "packaging was a really big issue for me. I lost a lot of customers because it was unreliable." After the experience, Megan conducted her own quality control, flying frequently to her manufacturing partner's facilities, and just maintaining a close relationship.

Labeling requirements

Each country has its own rules, governing packaging requirements for beauty products. So within your country, there may be state or region-specific rules as well. These regulations are in place to protect consumers, and that covers everything from packaging language, weight, or volume labeling, ingredient listing, and safety or allergen warnings.

# Managing inventory

Managing beauty inventory can be a little more finicky than with other products.

So here are a couple of tips for you

1. Keep an eye on shelf life, natural products have a shorter shelf life. So to start just order smaller quantities so that you're avoiding waste. Watch temperature and humidity.

2. Be sure that your products are stored away from the heat or sunlight and moisture because that can damage or melt them. So somewhere in a cupboard is a great idea.

3. Stay organized, create a system that allows products to be really easily accessed and really easily identified. So. If you have all your outside containers, the exact same, buy a couple of stickers that go on the bottom or on the sides so that you can easily identify which product and which shade you're looking at.

And this is also going to help you avoid shipping the wrong product out to your customers, setting up your online store.

# Set up with Shopify

It only takes a few minutes and we have a free 14-day trial for you to get started. Test it out, see if you're into it. But having your online store made with Shopify is going to help take your makeup brand to that next level. And I'm not just saying that, there are so many apps, there are so many features that make running your online makeups or very convenient and very beautiful to look at. So, learn how to set up your Shopify store from scratch.

Here are a couple of pro tips to get you started

Product descriptions are super, super important, especially for makeup. You're going to want to use this space to describe the texture, the finish, the application, and how they should use the product. If you're selling makeup online, customers don't have the access to be trying your product on their own skin.

So use this space to be as detailed as possible. Use a free app called tabs by the station to organize your topics like ingredients, warnings, how to apply it in claims.

How to Launch a Makeup Brand and Sell Online: The Ultimate Guide

You can also help visualize color variations through swatches using bold product options. Enhance product pages with large, super clear images of the product on a clean background. Also include lifestyle images that capture the product, used on models that they can see the texture and see how it wears on the skin. Ideally, this would be on several models with varying skin tones.

Consider additional media too. Try videos, you can try lookbooks and makeup tutorials. And these can live on your product pages or they can live in a gallery on your site. Also, try embedding photo reviews. That's going to help with conversions by quite a bit, and also embed a live Instagram feed, that's going to help take your customers from your site to your Instagram.

# Shopify apps for makeup stores

Apps can add a lot more functionality to your store to help you make that sale.

Here are some Shopify apps suggestions for your makeup brand.

1. Prominently feature large lifestyle photos with the free shoppable fashion galleries app. It's amazing because customers can click right on the image to get the look and buy that product in order to achieve what the model is wearing.

2. Upsell and make product recommendations using lime spot personalized.

3. You can also allow customers to virtually apply cosmetics before they buy from you. So for this checkout decorative cosmetics try-on. This can be a little bit pricey, so install this app once you have traffic.

# Choosing a theme for your makeup store

Themes are the skeleton of your website design, many are fully customizable and can accommodate your brand's logo, fonts, colors, and your entire design. In the Shopify theme store, you can try by filtering through the makeup industry. So I myself have used debut and I got a really great result.

Debut is a free theme, but if you're looking for something a little extra, you can try envy, vantage, and you can also try simple, and simple is actually free.

# Marketing your makeup line

1. Target your niche

This is where the work that you did in the beginning to define your niche is going to pay off. Find out where your audience hangs out. Do they go to trade shows? Are they on Instagram a lot? Do they spend their time on Tik Tok? Speak their language and be strategic with your partnerships.

2. Leverage reviews

Over 70% of Americans say that they look at product reviews before they actually make a purchase. So for this, you can try an app like Yotpo to embed reviews on your product pages.

How to Launch a Makeup Brand and Sell Online: The Ultimate Guide

You can also link up with beauty influencers to review your products for you. So for my own brand, I started reaching out to YouTubers and I contacted this one creator, her rate was $8,000 per video. But she did have half a million subscribers, which makes sense.

but if something like that is out of your price range, just contact smaller accounts, they would be more than happy to make review videos in exchange for your products.

In addition to working with other social media personalities, I use my own social accounts to grow my audience. So for me, I focused on Tik Tok for my own brand, and I recommend you do the same.

Social media marketing

Social media is a great place for budding brands to market themselves for free. So for me and my brand, we use Tik Tok and with Tik Tok, I gained 13,000 followers in three days and I made $400 in sales on my first day of using Tik TOK. At first, I didn't want to use Tik Tok because I already had Instagram to worry about, I already have Facebook to worry about, but I decided that I would give it a try.

I think it is important to get on Tik Tok and to get on that trend right now because the level of engagement is what Instagram would have been five years ago. Tik Tok has also helped me double my followers on Instagram. So the crossover really is there as well. Now I didn't write the algorithm.

So I'm going to share some tips with you, but these are speculations. So keep that in mind. But these are some tips that I'm using to make my account grow like wildfire.

Tell a story

I made sure that my content told a story. The way that I produced my packaging is very innovative and it's very visually stimulating. So I explained the manufacturing process from start to finish. I included visuals of the machines and the people who created my packaging.

I would recommend that you explain the problem and end with the solution. So in my video, I opened with a problem, creating the makeup with the recycled process. And then I showed my personal solution at the end.

Present your brand ethos

So I do go in to explain that this process isn't the easiest or the cheapest one, but I did feel that it was the right one. I also decided to make my video really snappy. So I did a lot of shortcuts and information presented really quickly, which helps stimulate this generation that has a very short attention span. So that's a quick little tip for you right there.

Present your product

At the end of my article, I show a final result and I introduced the product without being overly sales. I think it's important to emphasize that Tik Tok right now is not a place to be sales. People are going there to be educated or to be entertained. Whereas Instagram is full of ads now, and you kind of expect to be sold to Tik Tok is still very much community-based.

Some other tips
I made sure to break down this video into steps and then show them as subtitles. I also use the whole caption section for relevant hashtags. In this case, I mixed popular hashtags with more niche hashtags that all related back to the content.

Use a viral song and put the volume super low behind your voice so that you up to your chances of getting on the page for that song, and that's going to help you with exposure. Once you find the combination that works for you just continue making that same type of content in different ways.

So for me, for example, I tried to create a get ready with me video, where I put on makeup and did an entire look and people didn't really seem to care. So I just did not continue down that way. But as soon as I created process videos, those seem to be the ones that really stick, so I just continued with that theme.

The good news is that I don't think I'm a unique case. I think it is really easy to grow on Tik Tok right now. You don't need to be a content genius. You don't need to have the best equipment. I think you just need to show up and provide value. So I urge you to hop on and try it out for your brand.

# How much does it cost to start a makeup line?

The cost of starting any business depends on several factors. In the cosmetics industry, the barrier to entry is very low. If you opt to start from home, create your own formulations and bootstrap your growth, but you could require significant upfront capital if you plan to manufacture commercially.

I myself spent $5,000. My biggest costs were labor, shipping, ingredients, and a photoshoot. However, I was super careful not to overspend. So $5,000 is pretty low as far as the startup costs go.

Leslie and Joanna also started small when they created Vive.

How to Launch a Makeup Brand and Sell Online: The Ultimate Guide

They got a $10,000, small business loan that they secured with a solid business plan. We had to start small with only one lipstick formula and only five shades.

For Melissa of Lip Bar, her forecasting fell short and she ran out of money quickly. "I had saved what I thought was a year's worth of expenses," she says, "it lasted six and a half months." But her drive to build Lip Bar encouraged her to find creative ways to keep the lights on.

She and her roommate shared a bedroom, renting the second room out on Airbnb. To cut costs, look for manufacturers or white label companies that can accommodate lower minimums, find opportunities to barter, and also team up with other brands to share costs on things like photoshoots and marketing campaigns.

Last words

If this is something that you're passionate about and you're headstrong in making this happen, then I fully believe that you will make it happen. When I started out, I knew nothing. All I knew was that I love makeup and I had the drive to learn how to run an e-commerce business on my own.

So, share your thoughts and also tell me what products you're going to sell in the comments section. I cannot wait to hear about all of your brands. And congratulations on getting one step closer to starting your own makeup brand.

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