How to start a makeup business: Smart tips from Valerie Reed of Valana Minerals


Valerie Reed is the founder of Valana Minerals, a makeup brand that caters to the beauty of all of us. In this feature interview with Charcoal Ink, Valerie lets us know how you can start your own makeup brand.

Some of the brilliant lip glosses from Valana

1. Where are you from? If you are from the US, please state what town + state for my international readers.

I’m was born and raised in southern California. I’ve traveled quite a bit but most of my life, I’ve been in California. I also work as a Sociology Professor and I love the study of culture and social institutions. My areas of specialization in Sociology are higher education and race and ethnic relations. I also enjoy gardening and ceramics.

2. Why did you start your Valana Minerals?

I had trouble finding makeup for myself. and several years ago, I had an allergic reaction to antibiotics. I also had Selenium toxicity. I learned what Selenium was, how your body uses and needs it, and how you can end up with toxic levels. That’s what got me to look at my cosmetics. My acupuncturist helped me figure out that what the problem was. I didn’t realize at that time that I was getting it in my diet in multi-vitamins and that it was a possibility that trace amounts could be absorbed through your skin. I started learning more about natural cosmetic ingredients. I made things for myself like moisturizers.

I wanted to use makeup but I had trouble finding foundation that matched my skin tone and when I did find something that matched, it made my skin break out. I finally decided that if I wanted makeup that worked for me, I’d have to make it myself. I knew I wasn’t the only one who could use such products, so I started Valana Minerals.

3. Why did you pick the name Valana?

I have two goddaughters and my business is named for them and myself. Their names are Maryana and Kiana. I used t he first part of my name and the last part of their names for Valana. I wanted the business to be a model for them to demonstrate some of the things they could do someday.

4. Do you work on Valana full time?

Yes, and between my business and teaching I have two full-time jobs. When I began Valana Minerals was part time but the business has grown quite a bit. I work as a full-time professor and I work at least full time with my business.

5. What are Valana’s most popular products by sales with consumers?

All of our products sell well (if they are slow sellers, we discontinue them). The most popular products are Stardust Luxury Foundation, Sparkie Lips Gloss and Faux Synthetic brushes.

6. Most readers will be curious to know how much money it is possible to make with a makeup business brand. Can you give us a range of how much money to expect to make in year 1?

When a business is your own the potential is limitless. However, I don’t think that a business owner should expect to show a profit during the first year. The SBA (Small Business Administration) estimates that 95% of all new businesses will go out of business during the first year. Of the remaining 5%, half of those will survive for five years. I honestly believe, that the first few years of business ownership is about building a business that is strong enough to “survive” for five years, then focus on profits, which I believe are truly limitless.

7. Did you find investors before creating Valana minerals?

I used my money to start Valana Minerals. I’ve had offers from investors, but I’m not interested in those types of business relationships at this time, maybe someday.

8. What are your favourite makeup brands and why??

When it comes to using makeup my favorite is Valana Minerals and I won’t use anything else. When it comes to business models, I like Mary Kay. I think the original business model was one of the most innovative of the time and truly pioneering.

9. When you started your range, how did you know what colours to choose for your consumers?

I started testing shades on myself, friends and family. I have a very diverse group of close friends and they tested shades. After I had several good shades, I spent quite a bit of time at cultural fairs with a booth to sell and demonstrate my products. This allowed me to create new foundation shades based on the customers that came to our booth.

10. Can you tell us any trends about the typical Valana mineral consumer who shops on your website?

Valana Minerals’ customers are very savvy and are interested in knowing what ingredients are used in our products. They increasingly concerned about their environment and even animal welfare and the role that plays in their cosmetics. Our customers are also very ‘web savvy.’ They are open to making purchases online with independent businesses that craft specialized products and this is unique, from a global perspective.

11. What business sources are critical to your work as an entrepreneur, ie do you read black enterprise, fortune, forbes, FT, WSJ

Most of the publications you listed focus on large business interests. These sources are helpful in some ways but don’t generally address the core needs of micro businesses, like Valana Minerals. I find that magazines and books that address culture, fads and trends are actually better predictors of the needs that small and micro businesses need to address. The Small Business Administration also offers a number of resources that are beneficial to small and micro businesses.

I found that reading these books helped me better understand the potential of my business. They are good sources of inspiration and offer practical ‘down to earth’ wisdom.

Purple Cow by Seth Godin

The Girls’ Guide to Building a Million-Dollar Business by Susan Wilson Solovic

How to Run Your Business Like a Girl: Successful Strategies from Entrepreneurial Women Who Made It Happen by Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

12. What skills do you need to create a makeup business?

Patience, vision and tenacity are important. It’s also important to know when to quit and to have an exit plan. Any business owner/creator should know enough about themselves to be very clear and honest about what skills they possess and those they don’t. You don’t need to be good at any particular thing but you should be able to get someone else to help where needed. Focus on what you are at and identify people who can work with you to build your business.

Follow Valerie on Twitter here.

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