Range Beauty’s Founder Alicia Scott shares her journey of building a cosmetics company

Joining me on the show today is Alicia Scott, Founder of Range Beauty!

Range Beauty was created out of a need for more diverse shades and less toxic ingredients in the cosmetics industry. It’s a brand that encourages you to express yourself, while still allowing your true skin to shine through. Range Beauty was formed for people ranging from all shades, skin types and genders who have felt left out or underrepresented.

If you’re creating a brand in the beauty space tune in to learn how she went about making a new foundation formulation from scratch and How she landed an iconic beauty industry mentor and stick around for the end where Alicia shares her advice for anyone just getting started.

This episode was so much fun and there’s plenty of actionable tips packed throughout so make sure you’ve got your notepad handy.

Please note, this transcript has been copy pasted without the lovely touch of a human editor. Please expect some typos!

Alicia: I'm Alicia Scott, I'm the CEO and founder of Range Beauty, and we are clean duty for the forgotten jades and we utilize botanicals in our make up line, specially formulated for eczema and acne from skin.

Doone: Sounds like heaven. Can we get back to life before you started range beauty and talk about what you're up to and what was driving that desire in you to launch a business in the first place?

Alicia: Yes, the life before range beauty was very different because I was fashion obsessed. Ever since I was little. I just knew I was going to work in the fashion industry. My parents were so supportive of me designing my own clothes and in high school I took a fashion design flaws. And so I went off to Virginia Tech for fashion design and merchandising. And after graduation I moved to New York. My family's from New York in New Jersey, so easy transition, moved to New York and started working immediately in the industry. And I held several different jobs. And each one of those jobs always had me behind the scenes, though no matter what I was doing, I was always behind the scenes and seeing how the set up went for like New York Fashion Week, L.A. Fashion Week, when we had different showroom events or would have to go to Vegas for events. So I would always see the interaction between the models and like makeup and hair or whomever was behind the scenes. And so that's kind of what started to propel me onto this journey. I noticed the pattern of a lot of the black models coming to set with their own makeup kits.

Alicia: And at first I thought it was just something in the model world because oftentimes they would have to bring their own nude colored bra or something else with them. And so I thought it was just part of their model kit. And then I noticed it was specifically just black models that I was seeing bring their own makeup kit. And I asked in a model told me this whole story of how a designer on a previous campaign flat out said to her while she was sitting in the chair, I can't do the look that the designers requested because I don't have anything in my kit for your skin tone. And yes. And I was so shocked because especially living in New York, you just kind of think that we have everything at our fingertips. And so to hear her say that it was shocking and then she felt that she was a problem, she felt like it was her responsibility to be to now come prepared to shows. And so that's why she started putting together her own of whatever she could find across an assortment of products. Just have with her to try and avoid having that happen again. And so that kind of was the first line for me was that we were still seeing this huge lack of shades and products available for black women.

Alicia: And it made me look at my own journey with makeup, which wasn't really anything I always expected to, like I said, our eyeliner and mascara, because you don't have to worry about anything with those. You get one shade and you're good to go. You don't worry what you're doing. And so that was really my selection. And it was because I just didn't want to try to match my skin tone. I would walk down the aisles. I would see I didn't see anything that was a match. I didn't want to try and buy something and have it not. And then on top of that, I have extremely sensitive skin dealing with eczema and acne. A lot of the ingredients in these products were triggers for my skin. So they would inflame my eggs and I didn't want to try anything new. And so that's what started me along like, oh, if I can make a dream makeup line, what would I want it to look like? And that's kind of how the concept started. That was back in twenty fourteen.

Doone: Ok, wow. So really pretty, pretty Fenty pre like I guess Mac as Mac always had different shades of foundation.

Mac has always been around because I remember a lot of, a lot of the girls in high school go to the Mac counter for prom and homecoming. But I think with them it's always been about their ingredients. So I went on the clean spectrum, but I believe Mac always had a nice assortment of shades.

So you have the realization you're working in fashion at that time. What are the first few steps that you took to actually get started? And you move from idea, light bulb moment in your head to hey, I'm actually a business owner and I'm like doing shit.

Yes, so I always say my first step was speaking about it out loud. So at the time I had two roommates, we were living in Brooklyn and an apartment. And one of my good friends, her name's Alisa. She at the time was the only person I knew kind of in the entrepreneurial world. She was always doing like she started her own thirsting business and she had a photo shoot for it that I was involved with. And she was a she was my first insight into a friend or someone close to me having her own business on the side of her doing her kind of five. And so I remember we were sitting in the living room and I was thumbing through and I a magazine, I think it was like essense or something. And there was an article in it about the best lipsticks for black women. And it kind of made me like, oh, let me ask you what you think about this idea I have for this. And so I said, what do you think about me starting my own makeup line for black women? It's just like, really? My gosh, it's so cool. Do it. What was your dream line like? What do you want it to look like? And so that was really my first step, because I feel like when you say it out loud to someone and you actually start thinking out loud with this person in this and you're kind of like an idiot, it really starts to make it more tangible than when it's just in your head.

And so I think that was my first step, was just having someone in my circle that I could trust and that I could speak to about it that was encouraging and motivating and kind of pulled these different questions out of me that I had and started to think about. Like what? So she when she asked, what would your dream be, what would it be expensive, do you think that you would want it to be like a luxury liner? Like did it? I want it to be affordable. I don't want it to be affordable. I don't spend that much on it. And then. Oh, well, what do you want it to look like? Is it just going to be different? So just kind of bouncing off these, having a regular conversation and just thinking about what exactly what were the components of this line that I wanted to make. And so that was my first step, I think. And I kind of took what we're talking about. And I became best friends with Google and I started searching. I mean, because Google grew, you could possibly need. And at the time, even though YouTube wasn't as big back in twenty fourteen, there were still even videos on there, like how to make your own lipstick at home or how to make your own lip balm or how to make your own flesh at home or whatever. And so you just kind of using that in whatever else turned up on Google about oh here's how you start your own makeup line or what do you need to start to have a startup business or all of that.

So I create my own checklist. I started grabbing things and put it together and formulated this checklist of what I wanted for the actual line itself and then the things that I had to take care of within the business aspect of it, and then LLC, that kind of stuff. And so with the manufacturer and on Google, I typed in what it was I wanted. So I knew that I wanted clean ingredients. I knew that I wanted a US based manufacturers, that I could get to them easily if I needed to. And I knew that I needed someone who had a low macu. So a minimum order quantity, because a lot of times if you work with companies overseas or even companies in the US, they have a high purchase amount that you have to hit before you can actually receive products. And so for me, I was like, I don't have that much money. I'm in New York, I'm living in New York, like, I don't have that much money. And so I just searched and there was a site that came up. It was called I don't know if it's still around, but it was cosmetics index dot com. And it was this entire index of everything related to cosmetics manufacturers or packaging manufacturers. Or if you want to do private label, if you want to do custom, if you want everything that you could imagine, if you want to buy ingredients separately, it was this sounds amazing and it was amazing.

I was like, yes.

And so that's where I found that's actually where I found the list of manufacturers that met my needs. And then all I did was I started calling for them. So it was kind of like I started dating these manufacturers. I started going on to figure out who was my perfect match. I was playing my own matchmaker. And so I would follow them. I would talk to them about the idea they had. I would see how they received it. I would see it about their price. I would see if they had pigments that were deep enough for me to create this deep shade range that I wanted to offer. I would make sure that they had clean ingredients. And then I started thinking about I don't want it to just be makeup. I want it to be makeup. That's good for your skin. And so how do I make that happen? So then I started looking at me, factories that could operate, skincare ingredients and the makeup or into the. And so that really narrowed down my search, and I think that's the best thing that you can do and it's so easy just to make a claim. But then once you start thinking about precisely what it was, what it is that you want this line, whether it's clothing, makeup, whatever to be, and you get to narrow down your prospects, then you get to some really great gems.

And so I narrowed it down. I think it was like I got it down to the top three or something. And then I found my manufacturer, who I still work with today, and they hit all my check marks. And then the bonus is that it's a woman owned manufacturer, which I just loved and actually started the company as a solution to a problem she had with makeup. So it was just perfect. It was a perfect match and that's kind of how everything started. I had all that together. I actually ended up relocating from New York to Atlanta because the fashion industry is so fast paced, there wasn't really time for me to put aside to start a line with my role. At the time I had heavy traveling. My hours were pretty insane. And then just trying to keep up with New York budget. I knew I wanted to relocate somewhere where I could save and successfully launch. And so I actually liked the best places for entrepreneurs to move to. And Atlanta came up as the best place for black women to start businesses.

And so I packed everything up and I moved to Atlanta and I ended up spending my first order with my manufacturer was one hundred and fifty dollars.

That was their order minimum. And I received so much so many products with it. And I sat in my new living room in Atlanta and I treat it like it was like 16 or 17 different shades of brown just in my living room with the the sources that I got from them. And I realized that a lot of these cosmetic companies just aren't creating for us because they don't care to see the need to. It's not because it's difficult to or they don't have the resources to do. And and so that was kind of my third label. That was like, OK, something we're going to do this.

Wow. And so that process of you having the more more than the realization, but you have kind of like validated with your friends, that kind of thing, then you've started the process of finding a manufacturer right through to getting those that early sample set of products. How long was that development process until you actually got to a place where you feel like I have the finished product and ready to sell.

So it started concepts started twenty fourteen. I did a soft launch, like my original launch was in May of twenty seventeen. So about three years of research testing, I tested on myself and my family and my friends and I had them kind of spreading the word about what I was doing. And at that time I also started our social media page. So I wanted to have our social media before the product was there to start to drive some type of awareness and excitement about what it was that I was making. And then I started using it to also comment under people that I would see on social media. So I use social media at the time as another research component. I would see these brands put out lines and there were a lot of black women and women of color who would come in and be like, what is the range? What, like, oh my gosh, I wish that you would do this. I would say, yes, I would comment under there and like, oh my gosh, you should check out that address. At the time I was get cosmetics with my name and I like, oh my gosh, for especially for black women. And it and I would also take those comments that I would see it and use it to apply to the line. So it was kind of like my market research tool. But yes, it was about three years before I actually had my website up and running, had a final product, had packaging and was ready for sales.

Wow. OK, cool. And what was the, you know, the initial capital that you needed to put together for kind of your first order at the website, the packaging and all that kind of thing to get started?

To be honest, I don't think it's been more than five hundred dollars. So I did my own website through Squarespace. I got there like nine dollar plan that came with like and I think it was like two or three months of free trial or something like that. I did it myself at the time. I didn't have like a huge photography campaign or anything happening. So I needed to go there packaging. I actually found a graphic designer on Instagram, again using Instagram and a little extension of Google. And I was doing hashtag I don't know if I just did hashtag graphic designer or packaging design or something. And I found this girl, Linda, who was based in L.A. and she actually was like an intern at a cosmetics company and. They're packaging and so I sourced her packaging and so her cost fifty dollars for me to do three different packaging iterations. So yes, I am someone who is just like if I don't have to spend a lot in the beginning, I'm not going to. And I think that's a big thing for Sanders. They have to come out of the box with. Like, you're not coming out of the box, covergirl. You're not coming out of the box as Benti. You have to stay true to your voice in your mission.

And there's a difference between something being professional and something being perfect. Like perfect is just it's unattainable. Nothing is perfect to make sure that it's professional, make sure it's sellable. And I tell people I went through I've gone through four different brands since I first. So if I would have put up all this money in the beginning, it would have been such a waste and such a loss. And so if you can just figure it out on your own, that's always the best thing and that's the best way to keep your costs low. If not, try to source someone like that. I mean, she wasn't a professional graphic designer, but she someone who wanted to add to her portfolio. And so that's why her cost was low at the time. So just making sure that you're tapping into resources to keep your costs as low as possible in the beginning, especially before you have any sales. So you're already going to be starting off basically with a loss. So you don't want to you don't want that to be huge and now you're scrambling to make it up for sale. So I would say I originally started I was like five hundred dollars.

Amazing. And I think this that's laying out there I don't know who said this. I'm pretty sure it was Garibay is like done is better than perfect. And I think it's so true for entrepreneurs to understand that, especially in that, you know, really early phase of where you just have to be scrappy and you have to just go with what you can and don't get overwhelmed by perfection.

I'm guilty of that. I'm always like what I wanted to be. I was so guilty.

And I think another thing for me was I had I had a I have a great circle of friends. And once I started talking about this, they they were kind of like my accountability partners. So when I would see them and I was like, oh, you know, I didn't like it. And they're like, wouldn't you say the lunch date was going to be next month? I did it. And so they kind of kept me accountable. Like, she just want to just set a date in mind. And that's what I had to do, because it has on me like, oh, it's going to be sometime this summer or I don't know, sometimes, like kind of I didn't want to, like, narrow myself down and take myself down because, you know what, if I'm not ready, but once I put a date on it as I'm not changing the date.

So OK, so what happens when the date rolls around? It's lunch time. How do you start getting customers and getting traffic to your site to to buy your products?

So before I had my cycle live, as I mentioned, I was posting on our social media at the time. I had Twitter and Instagram and I took a picture of the range of shapes that we had and the image actually ended up going viral at the time. One of one of the big makeup content creators at the time picked it up and retweeted it. And she was like, this is what you call range is what we call a shade range. And again, it was during a time when a lot of brands were coming out with like three decades and their whole entire range. So is a very popular problem at the time. So that tweet went viral and it definitely shook up my sales. And so I was very fortunate for that. And then off of that, I just started building and started building its own rhythm. People were coming to the start posting about it. Our customers started posting about it. My friends and family were getting the word out. I was getting the word out on my personal pages. So it really was organic word of mouth. But at the time when I first came up with the concept, I was very specific that I wanted this to specifically be for granted, Ronchi, because that's where I saw the largest gap in the market. And so originally my range was only about six inches.

And I think I have like three maybe Tanji and the rest was brown to deep brown. I also wasn't speaking about my eczema and my acne and how I started this. I was like, I don't I don't even want anyone to know that I am the one that created this. I kind of want this to be a faceless brand. That was another thing. A third thing was I wanted it to be affordable. I wanted it to be kind of like in the CoverGirl category, because at the time, clean ingredients were seen as a luxury and I mean, kind of even know. So I think there's more affordable lines. But at the time, you didn't see. Affordable line, having clean ingredients, and so my price range was like I think at the time, six dollars to ten to twelve dollars. The foundation was twelve dollars and today my foundation is twenty one dollars. So there were just these different factors when I started the line that it starts to form this thing that I was like, wow, this isn't actually where I wanted it to go off of. Our social media became very girly, which I know that's not how I want it to be. I wanted to be a very minimal I want to any gender to feel comfortable using it. But it was very like pink, glittery. And so there is a lot going on.

And it seemed that there was an issue with the price. So I was asking for feedback and I would receive the feedback that it was unbelievable that a small black owned brand could come out with clean ingredients as I was advertising and only charge one dollars. So for them to think about this mass cosmetic giant where we're charging toward dollars with their ingredients for clean house if you're able to do it. So there wasn't this trust going on. And so I saw a complete slowdown after the viral tweet. There was a complete slowdown in sales. I was seeing a lot of feedback about the collection and I kept some people calling it like cute skinny dip. It's so cute. Oh, it's a cute line. And it was just bugging me. And so I was already going to the drawing board because you say, let's scrap this and start clean. And in the midst of that, I received an email to my business account from a brand called Skinny Dip, which is actually based out of London, I believe. And they start off as fashion accessories. And then they branched into making their own makeup line and everything else. And they were selling like Topshop and stuff in the US. And so they actually emailed me and said that I was infringing on their trademark.

And I was like, oh, heck, yeah. Like, what does this mean? Oh my God. I was like, oh, this is for like, do you have any money?