The beauty industry has never lacked successful female entrepreneurs throughout the years. In the early 1910s, Florence Nightingale Graham founded Elizabeth Arden, before going on to build a beauty salon and cosmetics empire that made her one of the wealthiest women of the time. Till this day, Elizabeth Arden continues to operate with a yearly revenue of just under US$1 billion.
Over the next few decades, there were many other ambitious women who followed in her footsteps, including Josephine Esther Mentzer, who founded Estée Lauder, in 1946 as well as Mary Kay Ash who founded Mary Kay where salespeople sold products to customers directly via a multi-level marketing model in the early 1960s.
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Since then, the beauty industry has grown exponentially. Along with the ageing population in developed countries and as e-commerce continues to grow, beauty brands are presented with new opportunities to engage their customers and grow their businesses. According to an industry forecast done by Orbis Research, the global cosmetic industry was valued at over US$532 billion in 2017, and is expected to be worth over US$805 billion by 2023. Plus, with the continued growth of emerging markets in Middle East, Africa and Asia, it is inevitable that the connotations and expectations associated with beauty products and services continue to shift and evolve.
Here, the most prominent female beauty entrepreneurs who have been, and continue to be, successful in adapting to and evolving with the ever-changing needs of their modern-day customers:
1. Emily Weiss – Glossier
Even though Weiss founded Glossier barely a few years ago, it’s virtually hard to imagine life now without its signature millennial pink pouches. Pioneering the concept of consumer-led beauty, Emily Weiss is one of the key figures in democratising the beauty industry, and puts the focus on her customers rather than follow a model that involved mega beauty brands and industry experts dictating to customers what to use and how to use them. Today, beauty has become a community where everyday users are experts in their own ways, contributing to what products are made to make their lives easier. Plus, anyone who’s ever visited a Glossier store will also understand that shopping for beauty products is no longer just about visiting a store, but more importantly, an immersive way to experience a brand first-hand. I mean, can you even remember a time when #shelfies didn’t start conversations?
2. Pat McGrath – Pat McGrath Labs
Known to industry insiders as “Mother”, Pat McGrath is an institution in herself when it comes to makeup artistry. Widely regarded as the most influential makeup artist in present times, McGrath burst onto the fashion scene in the early 1990s while working with Edward Enninful, then a fashion editor at i-D Magazine. The rest, as they say, is history. Her breathtaking works have since been featured in global editions of the biggest fashion magazines, as well as seen on the runways of shows like Prada, Christian Dior, Balenciaga and Givenchy.
In 2004, she was tapped by Procter & Gamble to take on the role of Global Creative-Design Director for Max Factor and Cover Girl. Finally in 2015, she launched the very first product of her makeup line, Pat McGrath Labs, which retails at Sephora, Net-A-Porter and luxury departmental stores. And after just three years since its conception, Pat McGrath Labs is estimated to be worth US$1 billion. “Mother” does know best, after all.
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3. Huda Kattan – Huda Beauty
Born in Oklahoma to Iraqi parents, Kattan majored in finance and didn’t have a clue her life would take this turn. Now, with 33.3 million followers on Instagram, she’s one of the biggest social media influencers in the industry and ranks amongst the highest paid influencers, commanding an estimated US$18,000 per post of sponsored content. Not bad at all for someone who started a beauty blog to share makeup tips and post makeup tutorials back in 2010. Later in 2013, she launched a series of false eyelashes under her cosmetics line, Huda Beauty. Headquartered in Dubai, Huda Beauty now offers a full range of makeup including liquid lipsticks, highlighter palettes, foundations and eyeshadow palettes.
4. Sabrina Tan – Skin Inc
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Take a walk through any beauty retailer and you probably don’t remember the time when customisable beauty was not the norm. Whether it’s a personalised face cream, or multi-masking to treat all of your skincare concerns at once, customisable beauty is widely available today. But 10 years ago, it was a different story. As one of the first brands to introduce customisable skincare solutions, Skin Inc gave consumers the option of mixing several serums into one so that multiple issues could be addressed at once. Plus, the simple yet innovative use of colourful bottles in creating this personalised cocktail serum, lovingly named “My Daily Dose”, has made beauty and skin fun instead of troublesome and confusing. Since its launch in Singapore a decade ago, Skin Inc is now available in over 100 cities around the world via Skin Inc stores, Sephora as well as luxury retailers.
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5. Rea Ann Silva – Beauty Blender
If the saying, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”, taught us anything, it’s that many beauty brands are utterly impressed with the BeautyBlender. Starting out as a hot pink, tear-drop shaped applicator, the BeautyBlender has found its way to the stash of countless makeup junkies and professional makeup artists alike. With a soft and bouncy texture that can be used to apply and blend base makeup in any textures (not to mention it’s washable and reusable), it was created by Hollywood makeup artist Rea Ann Silva, whose priority on the job was to create the look of beautiful, flawless skin for her celebrity clientele as HD technology became prevalent. Today, the versatile tool is available in a wide array of colours, plus mini-sized ones that are specially designed to get into the tiny nooks around the eyes and nose for a pro-like finish.
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