If you’re of an entrepreneurial spirit, are interested in the beauty industry and want to start your own business then the cosmetics sector might seem like an attractive space to launch your own product. It can be a profitable exercise; many familiar cosmetics companies started as home-based enterprises. Straight from college, Jessy Fofana and a friend began by making lip balms in their kitchen as a hobby. As the brand grew, Fofana took over the marketing and PR end of the business while her partner handled design. One of the key factors to their success was publicity; they created a memorable email pitch and sent it to influential people in the media. The brand was Femme Arsenal, and Fofana was 27 when they sold the company to Ecko.

So before you start, here are a few things you should keep in mind from the get-go.


Compliance is number one. Seriously…if you don’t adhere to all regulations you could find your company being shut down; or worse, in court being sued by an unhappy customer.  Find out the regulations for your jurisdiction. If you decide to use a manufacturer then they will be able to help with information.


Marketing should be integral to the whole development process. Don’t confuse marketing with selling. Developing a product and then decide to ‘market’ it is a classic mistake.  Marketing means knowing your market; who you are selling to, knowing your customer and what their needs are. Start a conversation and connect with the people you are creating your product for. Listening to your customer will give your company direction.

Don’t assume that because you, or your family or friends are enthusiastic about your creation that it will work on a bigger scale, Test it with sample groups or at group shows to get feedback.

Sending out free samples to influencers and bloggers in the hope that they will give a good review can help to spread the word. Be aware that it can also work the other way. A bad review by a trusted influencer can kill a product…so be wary; do your research.


There are many cosmetic manufacturers, easily found online, who can help with bringing a home-developed idea through to a product ready for distribution. Manufacturers have extensive experience, use state-of-the-art technology and have an in-depth knowledge of regulations around their product sector. It’s also in their interest for your product to sell. They will usually have minimum order requirements and in the excitement of starting a new business it can be all too easy to place an order only to have it sitting at home, still unsold, months later. Ideally, get orders first, then manufacture.

Product Positioning

Can you identify a niche for you product. If you can create a product that addresses a specific problem there is a greater chance of success. Some of the most successful start-ups identify a need and then develop a product to meet that need.

Shop or Website

Persuading shops to place your product on shelves can be difficult; every product is fighting for shelf space. So yours should have a unique selling point to differentiate it. Packaging should emphasise its difference from other products in the same category.

Even if you get stocked in shops, a website is a must. You have total control over the presentation and message. It can present your product in the best possible light and offer more in-depth information. An online shop on the website has the advantage that yours is the only brand on show. Be aware that an online shop involves just as much work as a physical store. The main issue is driving traffic to the site. Demos, roadshow events, trade fairs, online advertising and, most importantly, word-of-mouth can all contribute to publicity.

Logo & Branding

The logo and packaging should reflect the ethos of the brand. Just because you’ve designed a new product doesn’t mean you can design a logo and packaging! It can be worth getting third party assistance on this. But before engaging a designer be very clear what your brand is all about or you could end up with a logo and packaging that looks generic.


While it can be true to say that, in business, there is never enough money, it can be all too easy to spend money unnecessarily. Careful planning can reduce waste. Remember; money that’s been wasted could have been spent on something productive. Ideally, only order in bulk from a manufacturer after you have secured sales. Do your research, look at what others have done and, if possible, learn from their mistakes.

Business Plan

Starting a cosmetics business from scratch is hard work, but it can also be fun. Planning ahead is the key to avoiding those nasty pitfalls. Set out a business plan early on. It doesn’t have to be set in stone or complicated; the best ones adjust to changing circumstances. But it should have goals with timelines. A good business plan, with goals, sets the direction for the day-to-day work and a sense of achievement when goals are met.

This is the first in a series of articles on the business of beauty: Basics