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Follow Your Passion : Key Steps To Developing Great Cosmetics

26 Aug

I was struggling to put together content for my next blog post because as you know I can get really technical (and ultimately pedantic!) on the formulations we receive and come up with every other day and I really would like this blog to serve those of you who aren’t necessarily cosmetics chemists (for those of you who are, ChemistsCorner is a great resource), and who would just like to either start their own cosmetics business or peek into the everyday life of So Susan Cosmetics and what we get up to.

This morning, the struggle continued as I stared at a blank screen trying to decide whether it would be better for me to write something (as I’ve now committed to publishing a post every 2 weeks), or wait till inspiration hits and put something out there that will really benefit you (and ultimately myself as I too learn so much with every thought and action I put down on “paper”). Of course the Universe always gives us a reason to pause and put things on hold no matter how hard we try to be productive so I waited till I got to work. And what should pop up in my email the minute I opened it this morning was none other than an excellent piece on the Foundation of Good Formulation Development from Innovadex (another amazing resource for ingredient suppliers).

I thought it was such a great, comprehensive list but so totally focused on just formulators that I’m just going to take little excerpts from it, and add a few of my own especially when it comes to the aesthetics of the final product since I believe beautiful, functional packaging and the right pricing is just as important as the formulation of any great cosmetic product. So here is my Key Checklist to creating a product that I believe in and am inspired by :

  • Formulations must be cosmetically appealing and delight the consumer. When beginning a project, put together a formulation strategy outlining the various approaches you are considering along with a technical rationale. Ensure also that you have researched the right packaging for a consistent brand story.
  • Don’t fall in love with technology, fall in love with consumer benefits. Creating product stories is easier when you’re delivering real benefits.
  • Treat each product like a little fairytale or a good book, with a beginning (delight your customers with unique, beautiful packaging which is the first thing they see), a juicy middle (ensure the formulation feels and looks superior on the skin, do not compromise!) and a great ending (price it correctly, according to your target demographic and your brand positioning to secure that sale).
  • Be responsible for the product that you’re putting out there in the market. Label your products accurately and in accordance with all labelling guidelines in the country you want to market them in. Start stability testing and packaging compatibility tests as early as possible. Always do your final stability testing in the package you will market.
  • Never kill technology because of costs and naysayers. Push your chemist and packaging supplier for the best that you can afford and know that a truly great product is always a series of trade-offs between product aesthetics (which includes your primary and secondary packaging), safety, optimum formulation performance and cost.

It is truly less complicated and scary than it all seems, so for all you budding cosmetics entrepreneurs out there, I say : What are you waiting for? As always, I’m leaving you with a Beauty Tweet about following your passion that has always inspired me by an amazing teacher, author, poet & novelist… Franz Kafka. Tweet and share it if you agree!

TODAY’S BEAUTY TWEET : “Don’t bend, don’t water it down, don’t try to make it logical. Rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly” @sosusanbeauty

 

 

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Today It’s All About Me…

3 Aug

There are some days when I wake up and know that today is rest day, today it’s all about Susan the living, breathing person rather than Susan the entrepreneur, or the founder of a cosmetics company, or Susan the employer. I take 3 deep breaths while still in bed and do a silent prayer, thanking God for the blessings I see in my life and asking Him to further give me the wisdom and courage to pursue the tasks of the day. (Yes I really do live by the day, maybe not so quite in the moment – it’s something I’m still learning to do ever since I read Ekhart Tolle’s “The Power of Now” – but neither do I wallow in too much worry for what’s to come next year or the year after that).

And of course, after my morning coffee ritual (these 10 minutes of just making my espresso is what I call my “minutes of reflection and peace”, extremely invigorating when it’s just you pottering about in the kitchen, watching the coffee brew and taking in that delightful aroma), I curl up on my sofa and go straight to a good book. At the moment, it’s Paolo Coelho’s “Aleph” and oooh the quotes in that book are life-changing! My favourite is definitely the one about going for your dreams (see below for today’s Beauty Tweet and share it if you agree)

Later, I do what is becoming a near-obsession lately i.e. reading business blogs mostly recommended by other female entrepreneurs (and no, they don’t all have to be written by women, as long as they’re inspiring and nurturing). A few good ones I’ve been following are :

  1. Marie Forleo
    I think she single-handedly reinvented the whole concept of life & business coaching.
  2. Melissa Cassera
    Melissa makes me smile (always a good thing during your downtime), she has some seriously good tips on PR and Marketing yourself and your brand, done in a big, brazen way which I love!
  3. Mastin Kipp’s The Daily Love
    I sometimes wish I came up with this, little snippets of how to love yourself and others in your mailbox every fortnight. Helpful, Hopeful, Heavenly.
  4. Angela Jia Kim’s Savor The Success Videos
    When Angela first started vlogging her experiences on starting her Om Aroma brand, she had less than 10 followers, and I was one of them. Fast forward 6 years later, and she not only has a successful skincare brand, but a business network for female entrepreneurs making at least 6-figure sums (yes, that is a pre-requisite to joining her Savor Success Circle!).
  5. Neil Patel
    A british transplant now based in Seattle, Neil is a serial entrepreneur and I’ve used most of his companies’ services since starting out in business myself (the Hello Bar, Crazy Egg, etc…). A great marketer that we can all learn from.

Another thing I like to do on my “It’s All About Me” day is to work, and I know that sounds counter-intuitive but when I say work, it really has none of the negative connotations relating to doing something that someone forced upon me, or the daily humdrum of having to complete a project when all you really want to do is bask in the sunny outdoors with a lemonade. I L-O-V-E the creative part of my work, so it really is something I jump out of bed excited to do, especially when designing packaging, creating colours and tweaking our formulations. You can see from below, my hands are constantly (and I meant constantly!) covered in makeup. The picture below was taken when I was trying to compare whether the fill would fit in nicely with the injection colour of the primary component samples that I’d received just a couple of days ago.

Photo 03-08-2014 11 56 59

And below another shot (sorry I could have made it clearer but it’s my “All About Me” day today :)) of the 2 primaries which I have to choose from, a really fun part of the creative process as you look for brand & design consistencies.

Photo 03-08-2014 11 50 28 copy

 

TODAY’S BEAUTY TWEET : “Don’t be intimidated by others’ opinions. Only mediocrity is sure of itself, so take risks and do what you really want to do”@sosusanbeauty

Help A Reader!

20 Dec

Name: Jasprin Smith
Email: jlasbeautique@gmail.com
Your Questions: Susan,

I am looking to start a lip gloss line to go with a business I am starting.  I don’t want a full blown cosmetics line, only lip gloss.  Do you have any recommendations for companies that do packaging and labeling of lip gloss?  I am going to use my own formula, I just need the packaging.

Thanks in advance for your assistance.

Jasprin

Help A Reader!

11 Oct

Hi Kaitlyn!

I remember those days when I used to wreck my brains over the figures for every little thing, from packaging to formulation to labour costs to shipping and packing, to fulfillment costs, even to the sandwich I was going to have for lunch! It’s still a big headache today, only now I have the luxury of a customized software that we use as well as several more hands to help me with the nitty-gritty bits of the business.

To be honest, there is no other way of getting an accurate evaluation of your business plan or the funds you’re going to be needing (and ultimately spending!) if you don’t request for current prices from your manufacturers. Each product that you come up with (if you’re contract manufacturing, which I’m supposing you are) is so customized to your exact requirements (from print size, colour, texture of the components, to formulations, to fill quantities, to the final quantities you order, to your packing methods, etc…) that there just isn’t any way of “guessing”, unless you’ve had that exact product manufactured before.

A few things that may be able to help though is perhaps getting a buffer fund together i.e. an emergency fund, something you can fall back when and if you have underestimated or come across an unexpected cost. In this economy, I think it’s also great to keep your current job (i.e. in makeup artistry) going at full-force while you are planning your next steps so there’s always a sense of security and most importantly relevant trading history.

I hope this has helped, but I’m opening up the question to the public in any case.

Rgds, Susan.

 

Name: Kaitlyn
Email: kaitlyn@kaitlynrae.ca
Website / Blog: http://www.kaitlynrae.ca
Your Questions: Hi there!

I’m so happy to have come across your blog. I’ve been wanting to start a makeup line for years and have been working as a makeup artist in film/tv and fashion. I’ve been very ill and have just started to recover and realized that I really need to get things going with this dream of mine, because… life is just too short!
I have all of my products planned and have been doing a ton of research again. I have been updating all the notes I had on my business plan but now that it comes down to getting actual figures to apply for grants and loans, I really have no idea what figures to come up with. When you did your first business plan, how accurate were your figures for start-up costs? I’m trying to figure out the costs of a smaller start-up once everything has been formulated (I’ve teamed up with a cosmetic chemist). I’m trying to find out what our start-up costs will be if our goal is to really try and do it right (our brand will rely on a target market with money and therefore their attention to quality and luxury-type items will be key)

Is there any way you can think of to do this without requesting real quotes from companies? I’ve researched lots of companies, but I don’t yet have the details they require to give me a quote. I want to make sure that the numbers on my business plan will reflect the amount of money I’ll need but these figures are so daunting!

The information you supply on your blog is so valuable and it’s helped me so much! Thank you for sharing with all of us who are passionate about getting into this business 🙂

Looking forward to hearing from you!

Kaitlyn Rae

Reader Question : Who Develops Our Formulations?

10 Mar

“I absolutely love your blog. I get so much information from reading it! I’m trying to look into creating my own cosmetics line and boy is it a lot of work. I noticed in one of your posts you talked about how you should connect with a cosmetic chemist to get things going. Do you have an advice on how to find a cosmetic chemist to work with? I’m just wondering how to start without using a private label and simply re-packing their products and calling them my own. I’m not a chemist myself but I still want products that will be my own on a limited budget. Any advice?”

After my last few posts on developing our formulations in a lab, I’ve been receiving lots of emails asking for advice on who best to develop customized formulations with, and in smaller, more practical quantities. The above email sums up your sentiments very well : Private label companies may be able to provide you with choice and the ability to start a range on a tighter budget, but there is just something not quite right about repacking someone else’s formula (a formula that hundreds of other companies are using) and calling it your own.

If that echoes what you feel, then here’s an alternative which I hope will help. We work with 4-5 different contract manufacturers at any given time, some very large (from whom we order in volumes to capitalize on their huge formulation choices & lower prices), some who specialize in amazing powders or emulsions (because I really am quite anal about the product I put on my own skin, and I road-test every single colour and SKU on myself), some with proprietary ingredients or formulations, who do in-house clinical tests, and ONE which I call an “artisanal” laboratory with an amazingly gifted founder and chemist. Her name is Larisa Rossi and she started her own manufacturing facility in Bergamo, Italy (where her parents are from), with her own office & warehouse in the UK. I met her quite by accident last year when she was looking for an office space in the same block as where Jelly Pong Pong‘s offices were, and it was simply a dream come true for me. We could finally develop strong, proprietary formulations in small batches in order to test the market and gauge consumer response.

There is a caveat however. You need to be aware that customized formulations require some investment, you probably would not be able to do anything without a minimum investment of GBP 2000 – GBP 3000 per formulation in perhaps 2-3 different shades (unlike taking a starter pack from a private label company, where you may end up spending less than GBP 500 in total for a whole host of products). If this is something you’re willing to take up, you can continue reading for an indication of Larisa’s prices and quantities (I’m only quoting it from previous dealings with her in order to give you an indication, so please bear in mind that this may change drastically depending on what you develop).

Powders pressed in a pan (this includes eye shadows, blushers, bronzers, illuminizers, etc…) : 1000 pcs /shade @ GBP 0.70 each

Hot pour emulsions in a pan (pan concealers, lip/cheek stains, lip balms, cream blushers, etc…) : 1000 pcs / shade @ GBP 0.80 each

Liquid emulsions (liquid foundations, concealers, luminizers, anything in a cream format) : 15 kgs/ shade @ GBP 60/kg

As you can see, the quantities are below industry average (which are 3 to 4 times more), prices per piece (or per kg) are a little higher but achievable if you are determined to have something fully customized and completely yours.

You need to be aware that like many contract manufacturers based in Europe (other than really large ones who have specialty packaging departments to offer full, turnkey services), Larisa only offers formulations and not primary or secondary packaging. I believe I have spoken at length about primary and more particularly secondary packaging providers. If you have the means to order bulk formulations, make time and hand-pour them into your own bottles or jars right in your kitchen sink to keep your overall budget to a minimum.

So drum roll please, here comes Larisa’s email!

Larisa Rossi : larisarossi2@gmail.com

Choosing Bottles for So Susan and Test-Filling Them

7 Mar

As you all may or may not know, I’m working on a new (semi-eponymous) cosmetics line called So Susan which not only allows me to indulge in my love & new-found obsession of combining skincare with colour (I turned 30 in 2011 and anti-aging peptides are my new best friends!), but also enables me to really blog about my progress right from the beginning.

I am truly devoted right now to developing the best foundations for different skin dilemmas (mine is extremely dry with the occasional breakouts when I’m stressed, and I want soft, flawless DEWY skin), packaging them in luxurious, upscale glass bottles. Some of the decisions I have to make involve the make & colour of every single component of the botte, from the cap to the rim, to the pump head, to the bottle, to whether it should be an airless pump, to the colour, size & positioning of the logo, whether it should be silkscreened or foil-stamped or engraved, how the bottle is to be labeled (to abide by cosmetics directives & regulations), etc… It’s not uncommon to find myself sitting down for hours, staring at bottles, turning them around in my hands, pouring different coloured oils & foundations in just to see whether the logo shows through nicely.

Just so you know, there are minute differences in the picture of the 4 bottles above (which I probably didn’t manage to capture on camera very well) i.e. the colour of the gold rims, the positioning of the So Susan logo & the colour of the pump head.

Being already a stickler for beautiful packaging, when the line carries your own name, you really want to get it right. Hence the huge amount of samples after samples I’ve requested from my chinese manufacturer (I will name them once production is finalized and I am definitely assured of their quality) in order to compare different printing effects or colours.

The other thing you need to do is to do a test-fill yourself. Obviously, your contract manufacturer will have their own test-filling procedures, some put them under different heat conditions, with the tests lasting for a month, some for 3 months, some in between. But doing it yourself ensures you know without a shadow of a doubt how the product looks like in your primary packaging & more importantly, the manner of which it is dispensed (does it squirt a good amount out? How many pumps does it take for the product to finally show?). Put yourself in your customers’ shoes and gauge their expectations after having spent money on a product.

By the way, if you’re worried about high courier costs from China for samples (I hardly ever come across asian manufacturers who courier samples at their cost, unless you’re committing to large orders) , I’ve finally, finally found a great, low-cost courier service provider by the name of Fast Lane International. I really need to spread the word about these guys because what they do is truly exceptional : pushing the cost of couriering small packages from the Far East all the way down (GBP25 for small 0.5kg packages). Which is amazing news for us cosmetic brand owners as we rely so much on China, Taiwan & Hong Kong for our components. Register online for another 10% off their quoted price, it really doesn’t get any better than that!

A good contract manufacturer should be able (and want!) to send small bulk samples of the final formulation to you. It doesn’t have to be a whole vat, anything between 80g – 150g should do very nicely. If you were to test-fill 30ml bottles (most likely the industry average for face emulsions), that would give you 2 – 3 filled samples, including some product loss during the hand-filling procedure. What you could also do is make sure they’re filled neatly, and then get them over to be photographed professionally (please do NOT do it yourself unless you are a professional photographer. A good picture does credit to your brand commitment and helps you sell your range, don’t skimp on this). You’re then ready to upload it onto your website, or do some nice “coming soon” social media marketing to get customers excited about your new product.

Reader Question

13 Feb

“I’m about to lose it. I’ve been looking for a site like yours EVERYWHERE. I think the clouds opened up and you came down. At least I’m pretty sure that’s what just happened.

I read in one of your posts that the most expensive manufacturing component is the actual cases that hold the makeup. I am young – 22 years old – and looking to start my own cosmetic line with a niche clientele. The problem is the innovative part of my line is the custom design of the palettes.

Do you know any companies that offer cheap custom design? Or in what other areas should I keep costs low in order to be able to afford nice palettes?

Thanks so much! You’re AHmazing!

It’s been a great start to the year, I’m getting lots of reader questions and comments, and just generally lots of wonderful emails thanking me for creating this blog. I suppose it just never occurred to me that this kind of information would generate so much interest among all you budding entrepreneurs, and I’m genuinely honoured you take the time out to read, digest and to comment. And hopefully, to finally take that first step to creating your very own brand!

 

OK now, back to the question at hand. Custom designing your own plastic components takes a lot of time and a lot of financial resources. There is just no two ways around it, and there is no short cut. In my 10 years in the business, thinking of all sorts of ingenious ways of reducing costs (when I first started the business, and then as the economic crisis hit & I decided the company needed to be more lean), I have never come across any manufacturer (small ones, large ones, artisans working from home, from the UK to USA, from China to Malaysia to India), who could customize a component without huge tooling costs. The smallest tooling cost we ever paid was for a single lipstick mould, and that was USD 1200. An average quote is $8000. I can think of far better ways of using that sort of money, especially when you’re starting out. You could purchase an entire starter range from a private label company to sell & generate you income!

 

OK, now the good news. You mentioned wanting to customize palettes. The one way we were able to fully design our own palettes was to have them made out of paperboard (or chipboard as some call it). We could have as many cavities as we wanted, with the option of having a mirror in any size we wanted, in any artwork, or covered in any material, with a multitude of closure options (magnetic, with ribbons, elastic, buckle, button, etc…). Don’t expect to purchase them in small qtys though (2000 pcs & above per design, and you really need to negotiate for this qty), and bear in mind paperboard components are generally more expensive (20 – 40% more) than their plastic counterparts. You would be looking at an investment of perhaps $2000 – $3000. A few paperboard manufacturers we’ve worked with before in the past (all based in China, I don’t know of any UK- or US-based manufacturers who will negotiate on small qtys at small prices) are Shantou Huajian Paper Production and Cass & Co (absolutely beautiful palettes & boxes, but more expensive than Shantou).