Beauty Store Business

AUG 2017

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108 August 2017 | It's the kind of fairytale that can only occur in the digital age: Girl makes new product. Girl posts on Instagram. Product goes viral—and a booming business is born! That's how it happened for Letty Calvo, the owner and CEO of Vera Mona, a cosmetics company based in Temecula, California. The now-famous brand is well known for its revolutionary flagship product, Color Switch. The spongy wonder, which allows everyday makeup lovers and professionals alike to quickly clean their brushes mid-application, gained instant traction, catapulting Vera Mona from a modest, garage-based startup to a full-blown business with surging sales and distribution in Sephora and boutiques worldwide. "I always love sharing our story; I'm usually bouncing off the walls when telling it," Calvo says. "It gives me a lot of pride to relive how it all happened!" Here, she talks about the company's humble begin- nings, meteoric growth and future plans for conquering the world of color cosmetics. Beauty Store Business: What is your background, and how did you get started in the beauty industry? Letty Calvo: I have some beauty experience; my first job was doing cosmetics at counters for retailers like Sears and Nordstrom. I also freelanced as a makeup artist during college. But I moved away from that to cor- porate America, working mostly for cellular companies. When I decided to get my master's degree in business, I stumbled onto creating Color Switch as a project for one of my MBA classes. I made a few prototypes and put it on Instagram, and it just took off from there! How did you know you created a winning product to pursue as a full-time career? When I searched for a dry method to clean brushes, I couldn't find anything. I started testing different sponges to see what would work. When we put it on Instagram in January 2014, within a month, my husband and I had a full-blown business out of our garage. We didn't even think about it; it just happened in weeks. We couldn't make Color Switch fast enough because it went viral. The business just chose us. We didn't even have time to think, "Why don't we make a business out of this?" We put it out there, it was a hit, and we haven't looked back. Within the first three to six months, we realized we couldn't do everything out of our garage anymore. We subleased a small space at first, then a year later established our own space, moving from Los Angeles to Temecula, California. Nothing was holding us back with the move, since it was mostly an online and wholesale business. Now, we manage everything out of our warehouse and office. What was the process for creating Color Switch and subsequent products? I used to work for a company that sold industrial supplies, including different types of sponges. I purchased quite a few and started testing to see which worked best. Sponges are washable and reusable, so I knew they would work well. The surface also needs to be rigid to effectively clean brushes. From there, we did different variations of Color Switch to meet different needs, whether you're a makeup artist or just the typical girl who owns a couple of brushes. We have the Color Switch Solo, which is for someone who owns one brush. With our Duo, makeup artists can use the center sponge, which is smaller, to dip in a fixing agent or water to do wet makeup applications for a creamier consistency. We have the Proband, which you can wear on your arm and is more for a working makeup artist on the go who needs to quickly clean brushes, hands-free. And now we have the Cake & Bake Beauty Sponge, geared toward baking, blending and concealer application. What are your plans for additional products in the future? Three of our products are within the Sephora Collection— one of our biggest collaborations right now. With a Sephora Executive Spotlight Letty Calvo Vera Mona's owner and CEO shares how she grew her business from a garage-based startup to an Instagram sensation. Courtesy of beautyblender "The business just chose us. We didn't even have time to think, 'Why don't we make a business out of this? '" Vera Mona's Color Switch Collection and Cake and Bake sponge

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