The Leap of Faith – creating a cosmetics company
One of my favourite series of content on Mrs Mummypenny are my interviews with incredibly inspiring people who have set up their own businesses. Often they have worked in the corporate world or have done very different things, but have taken that leap to follow their dream and set up their own business. I celebrate those people. Today is the turn of Eve Dawes, founder of Dawes Custom Cosmetics.
I must tell you how we met. I was sat drinking cocktails in Hyde, a bar that overlooks the Bellagio fountains in Las Vegas, April 2017, I had just turned 40. Eve walked past me wearing my dream Louboutin shoes, the shoes that I occasionally try on and dream of buying one day. So I jumped up and went to her table to tell her how much I adore her shoes. We chatted about life, made Insta friends and the rest was history.
We recently caught over lunch during my April 2019 Vegas visit and I got to be one her first clients in her custom cosmetics lab. Honoured. Over to Eve to share her story.
1)How long were you in the employed world and what were you doing?
From 1999-2008 I was dancing around the World with ballet companies, musicals, and cruise ships. Going from contract to contract. It was always scary ending one contract and auditioning for the next contract. It took a lot of faith in my abilities, but I was always so fortunate to be continually employed and also rehired a lot. After dancing, I went into the Personal Training and the fitness world, where again you’re self-reliant and self-employed. You don’t have a chance to have any doubt you’ll succeed as you have to; paying your rent, mortgage, and bills depends on it (I had a house in Florida at that time and was living in and paying rent on a place in Islington, London as well). The discipline instilled in me from ballet school was a great character trait to have as a self-employed person.
2)At what point did you think, it’s time to change career/branch out leave and go self-employed? Was there a trigger moment?
So many of my friends are entrepreneurs and promote having more than one revenue stream so if one tanks you still have multiple other sources of income. I’d already transitioned away from one on one personal training to online programming as you are limited to your income if you charge by the hour and you can’t magically make more hours in the week. I was blogging on Fitnessbyeve.com as another income stream (sponsored posts, products, affiliate links, etc). Also working with my husband on our company Sorority Specialties but wanted to invest in another company or create a start-up, but I didn’t know what.
I first started having the idea for custom cosmetics after a trip to New York where custom products are already buzzing on the beauty scene. The idea snowballed into being experience rather than product driven for several reasons: Vegas, where I live, is the party capital of the world so why not give visitors something memorable and something to take home with them to remember their trip or special day by (bridal, birthday, divorce and bachelorette/hen parties are my target audience).
Secondly, I was Mrs. Nevada at the time and had been in the fitness modelling world for five years and was fed up of leaving makeup artists afraid to eat or drink as I didn’t have the right colour to touch up my lipstick with and the long-lasting formulas were chemical filled and drying. Thirdly, the majority of the luxury brands were (and still are) testing on animals and the ingredients were rubbish! What woman doesn’t love her luxury makeup, so what if you didn’t have to give up luxury brands or compromise on natural, cruelty-free living? If you can’t find the solution, create it!
3)What plans did you put in place before starting your business, e.g. training, saving money, building customer base?
I worked a lot during the year prior to save money to be able to launch the company without going into debt or taking out loans. I did a lot of research as I had no idea how to start a cosmetic line and there are so many areas to cover from ingredients, to suppliers, to printers, to licensing, to distribution, to creating a website, to fulfilment, and staff training. My original customer base was from my blog and the local community as I met a lot of people during my reign as Mrs. Nevada and all of my volunteer work.
Building my customer base is an ongoing task, as it is for any company and you can’t just rely on word of mouth although that’s definitely the best. I’ve used a lot of funnels; from my FitnessByEve blog to Glamour & Gains Podcast to social media. I also do a lot of pop-ups and collaborations to collect emails and meet new people that I can reach and create ongoing relationships with through Mailchimp email campaigns. I also write guest articles and answer a lot of pitches on HARO which is great for backlinks.
4) Tell me about your business?
I didn’t want to be just another lipstick company, so Dawes Custom Cosmetics is a customised experience that makes you feel special, beautiful, and valued. Where you can create memories and your own unique custom colour lipstick, gloss, or eye shadow either online or in-person. I was fed up of wasting time and money searching for the perfect shade and texture of lipstick and lip gloss that wasn’t full of chemicals and wouldn’t dry my lips out, or leaving makeup artists and not having the right shade to reapply later, or luxury brands that tested on animals! Which is why I set out to create a conscientious company that was kind to animals and your skin and was also fun!
Taking it beyond colour, you can also select the finish, scent, texture, and name it. It’s a really exciting concept that I love sharing and makes for a really special bachelorette/hen, wedding, or birthday party or a thoughtful gift. Plus, it allows visitors to get out of the Vegas heat and take a break from the casinos! It’s also available worldwide via our virtual custom lipstick appointments, online customisation options, and ready to wear collection.
It also has philanthropy at our core. I was heavily involved in philanthropy as Mrs. Nevada and after my reign ended, I was seeking ways to still be able to give back. Creating Dawes Custom Cosmetics For A Cause Program allows the company to make donations to non-profit organisations.
5)How is your business progressing?
I always have so many ideas and must be careful not to bite off too much at once and finish each project before moving on so that it’s done in its entirety. My business evolves by listening and responding to what people want. For example, I just opened my first location as most clients are Vegas tourists who want somewhere close to the strip. I’m working on the next phase now but don’t want to spill the beans before it’s launched so stay tuned!!!
6) Can you share three business successes?
- Building a great team. I found my first employee while he was volunteering as the backstage makeup artist on a charity show I was performing in. He had a good heart and I liked his work, and he totally got the concept and got behind it from day one. I give him a lot of creative freedom which artists need in order to thrive and grow, so it’s been a mutually beneficial relationship.
- Dawes Cosmetics For A Cause Program. I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to create a company that allows me to give back and to contribute to various charities through events and limited-edition collections that donate a percentage back to the chosen charity. As leaders, it’s our responsibility to lead by example and this program allows people to do good, feel good and look good so it’s a winning concept for everyone.
- Opening of my 1st location! The quality of products, buzz around custom cosmetics, unique concept, and cruelty-free natural ingredients has led to loyal customers and increased demand. I’m so happy with the ingredients I’ve sourced, their skin benefits, safe nature, and vegan options. I love being the creator and blending the colours to make them perfect for each client or season for my ready to wear collection.
7) Can you share three learnings
- If there’s a problem get on top of it immediately, take accountability, even if that means taking a loss in the short-term, protect your brand and reputation at all costs.
- Know your USP’s (unique selling points), these are what will set you apart, especially if the market is already saturated. Lipstick is a saturated market, but cruelty-free custom cosmetic experiences are a niche that offers all of the feel-good vibes plus quality products and memories.
- Be willing to change and fast to adapt. Don’t be regimented in your ways or allow barriers to stop you. When I realised I needed a heat source to melt the plant waxes for the lipsticks I thought being a mobile service might be out of the window (we also offer on-location custom lipstick experiences); lugging around a 30lb microwave didn’t appeal. Rather than being roadblocked, I researched all of the other various options that wouldn’t leach plastic and would have the correct melting point, etc until I found a solution.
8)What things do you miss about being employed?
A regular pay check and set hours, that you get to go home and be done with work. Whereas having your own company is a seven day a week job or at least it is for me as it’s a passion project and a new company. The training program I have in place for employees makes it possible to scale the company and eventually pass off many of the responsibilities.
9)What things are you grateful for now that you didn’t have whilst employed?
Unlimited creativity! I can create a company that’s completely my vision and aligns with everything that I believe in. I have the opportunity to be a leader in the beauty world rather than a follower and educate others on cruelty-free beauty. That I can make my own hours to some extent and work from my home office if I don’t feel like doing a full-face and driving to the lab.
The support of my community and people like you, Mrs Mummypenny, that have been so encouraging and helpful. Business is all about relationships and I’ve loved getting to know so many people through this journey that I probably otherwise wouldn’t have connected with or shared similar interests.
10) What piece of advice would you give to someone thinking of leaving the employed world and setting up their own business
Make sure you have enough money saved and then some! It’s very rare for a company to turn profit from day 1 as the initial investments are so high for most companies, so have realistic goals and expectations. Most companies make a loss for the first two years, and sadly many businesses fail due to lack of cash flow.
You won’t always have the answer to everything so break it down into steps as to how to accomplish it and work on each of those steps methodically. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and advice. It’s a wonderful way to learn and doesn’t show any weakness on your part. An important part of starting a company is knowing your strengths and weaknesses so you know what your role is, what you’re going to do, and what you’re going to outsource.
11) How do people find your business website, social media links?
Dawes Customer Cosmetics . I want to thank your readers for reading my interview so have set up this exclusive 15% discount code valid through Dec 31st 2019: mrsmummypenny
Closing Words from Mrs Mummypenny
I love this interview! An incredibly inspiring story that motivates me hugely in my entrepreneurial journey. I am so proud of what Eve has achieved, and have loved watching her business grow over on Instagram. Experiencing Eve making was lipstick was such a wonderful experience that I highly recommend to anyone visiting Vegas! I now get to wear my custom blended lipstick every day as a constant reminder.
Eve will be guest on my podcast Mrs Mummypenny Talks on 11th June so watch out for that! Oh and Ill be a guest on Eves podcast very soon too! Collaboration rules.