At the youthful age of 29, Kristen Brown has a career in the beauty industry many only dream of. While starring on FYI’s makeover series, B.O.R.N To Style, Brown flexed her skills and showcased her ability to enhance women’s natural beauty with a pop of color.
Presently, the San Angelo, TX, native is busy growing her own endeavor, Gold Label Cosmetics. The lipsticks have been worn by the likes of Emmy Award winning actress Viola Davis, Oscar and Grammy award winning singer and actress Jennifer Hudson as well as Tony Award winning actress, Cynthia Erivo. Recently, Brown found her way onto TV again, this time it was when Gold Label Cosmetics was featured on The Wendy Williams Show in Wendy’s holiday gift guide.
While Brown is proud of her company’s various successes within the last six years, she isn’t afraid to admit that there have been some missteps along the way. In a candid conversation with #TeamBeautiful, Brown shares her top 3 business tips for redefining success, knowing when to scale your business and the importance of saying ‘no’ to opportunities that only pay you in exposure.
Tip #1: Every Opportunity Isn’t Always Beneficial For Your Business:
Kristen Brown: One of the mistakes I made early on was giving away too much free product. Everyday I get a new email requesting product and it gets exhausting because I can’t afford to give away large quantities. I don’t have sample sized lipstick or matte lip pens. There are a lot of beauty boxes out there and if I send them upwards of a thousand units, that’s a lot of money for me to be giving away. My packaging is through a manufacturer so say for example if a beauty box asks for 11,000 units, that costs me upwards of $16,000. And if I don’t get a return—at the very least, some usable data, then what was the purpose of that? I’ve made those types of mistakes where I wanted to be in everything and eventually you learn that some of the things that you thought would have value for your business, turns out not to be the case.
I would advise other aspiring business owners to be frugal and picky about the partnerships that you participate in and the products that you give away. Even with some of the charities I’ve given product to, I don’t hear anything back from them once they get the product. They promise certain things then we have to hunt them down to fulfill their promise. So watch how much product you give away because half the time it doesn’t equate to a sell or the brand awareness that you expected.
Also, I would advise against spending a lot of money on advertisement and social media, there are ways to make that less expensive. Instead of sending individual emails to influencers where you say, ‘I would like to send you my product, can you mention it on your social media and do a product review?’ I’ve had a beauty vlogger tell me the cost for her to do a YouTube video is $7,000, that’s a lot of money! There are companies that have brand ambassadors databases that you can access. You have to find these people that are willing to take $200 or even $50 and work from there.
Tip #2: Don’t always equate the success of your business to your monetary sales, measure your success in your actions and accomplishments:
Kristen Brown: I participated in my first trade show last year and I was very proud of myself because I made a commitment and I followed through. To me, that’s a big deal. I didn’t really know what I was doing in terms of displaying products by the booth but I had someone help me to articulate the products features and I got several inquiries about my product which was very exciting. I thought success was getting on the radar of bigger brands, getting whole sale orders and being in stores. I thought several major retailers were interested in my company but then I realized they were interested in a lot of brands and eventually they’ll purchase from a select few. It was still a success for Gold Label Cosmetics to be recognized by a bigger retailer even though they didn’t place an order, they liked what they saw.
I’m proud of the fact that Gold Label now has placement in Vivrant Beauty which is black owned boutique in Harlem where the owner carries a lot of multi-ethnic beauty brands. It’s my first brick and mortar location in New York and its great to be amongst the beauty brands of that caliber so that’s a win for me.
Tip #3: Figure out necessary expenses versus optional expenses:
Kristen Brown: I was really excited when I got a publicist because I thought it was the right thing to do. I was spending a lot of money but I didn’t really have a lot for them to promote. So a year later, I had to revisit that expense because I didn’t have the financial flow to afford it. I was working with a great company so when I’m in a financial position to hire a PR firm again, I want to work with them, they did a great job; however, it was premature and I wasn’t taking it as seriously as I should have.
What was a necessary expense for me was packaging and formulation. Formulation [of the lipsticks and matte pens] took time. It wasn’t as expensive as I thought it was going to be but it did take time and time is money.
I had product shoot with a photographer I loved but I wanted to see what else was out there so I did another shoot that was thousands of dollars more. It was great, it was worth the money, but as far as expenses are concerned, I probably wouldn’t work with that photographer again unless I was ready i.e. doing a larger campaign for a store.
I wished that I had invested more into the product and less into what surrounds the product because the photos were fine the first time around, the photos were fine every time I took them. So I wish I had stopped trying to upgrade before I was ready.
Bonus Tip: It’s okay to be multi-passionate, use one business to invest in the next:
Kristen Brown: At 25, I had already started Gold Label Cosmetics but I didn’t take it seriously, I wasn’t taking myself seriously because I thought there were other things that I needed to be doing. I thought I needed to be out at events and having all of these luxury experiences like traveling abroad even though I couldn’t afford it, that’s where my head was at. I had a longing for something that didn’t have as much value as starting my own business.
Before I moved to New York, I started meditating on what I wanted. I wrote down that I wanted my cosmetics line to flourish and I started envisioning myself telling my friends that my brand is in Sephora. I began envisioning myself at a banquet getting an award for my cosmetics line. I’ve known since I was in my early 20s that I wanted to be in the beauty industry, I also want to own a karaoke bar amongst several other things. And now I know that I have more than enough time to do it all. When my cosmetics line starts to take care of itself, I can start the karaoke bar and while I’m doing that I can also start to expand my line to other continents. If have a bunch of goals on your list, you just have to be decisive about which one you’re going to do right now. You don’t have to have to limit yourself, just invest all your time and energy into one thing until that does well then move on to the next thing. When you’re ready to move on to the next goal, you’ll have money to fund your transition and everything will flow as it should. I believe in the law of attraction and if i want something, it’s inevitable that I’m going to have it.