How to Launch Your Beauty Line with Zero Budget
Today I'm going to hit a big question that I know a lot of you are facing: How can I start my own beauty line with basically zero budget?
Many of us have the hustle, but not the budget, to make an entire cosmetic line from scratch. But let me tell you something, it's all in this one little concept: SCALING.
So today I'll share my best tips for getting started, because getting started is more than half the battle. From there all you need to do is show up every day, and plan how you will scale to get where you want to go with your packaging and your beauty line.
I’m going to get you started--and you can do this all at home--but please remember that you are required to follow FDA labeling standards for selling cosmetics and GMP practices (here) for manufacturing them.
If we're talking LITERALLY zero budget, you can get a two-week free trial on Shopify, make a store pretty quickly, and use some very good images that you pull from online, make in photoshop, or take from something you have existing in your home. But then you do need to ship what you sell, if you sell anything at all. And that seems tough.
So if by "zero budget" you took that I meant $100 - $500, then alright, this blog is for you.
For entrepreneurs, here’s the cheapest (most easy) way to launch a new product:
1. Inner Packaging
A good example of a low MOQ bottle, available on any of the 3 sites mentioned above are dropper bottles. Other low MOQ sites sell off-the-shelf lipglosses, click pens and other items in the US, but these sites are harder to find in a search. If you know exactly what you want, feel free to search the packaging name and "buy in the US".
Aliexpress is made for low MOQ orders and Amazon is what it is. If on Alibaba, search for what you want in a variety of ways, then go to the quantity box and type in "1". Alibaba contains both factories and agents; those just starting out are more willing to work with you on low quantities, though a lot will just flat out say "no". Don't give up! Just keep searching and hustling. It's how our co-founder Megan was able to start her company, Amalie. It took her 3 months of hearing "no" before she finally heard a "yes", and got her first low-MOQ order of WINK bottles.
Buy some stickers put on the bottle or label to put on the packaging. You can buy some labels at Walmart or on Amazon and print these yourself, but I would suggest trying to find a low MOQ (minimum order quantity) printer that can give you a decent price (our custom sticker MOQs start at 250 units; get your quote here).
3. Outer Packaging
For outer packaging, the options are limited, but not that limited. Kraft paper boxes, cake and cup cake boxes, and pillowboxes are some cheap options that can get you started. Combined with a custom rubber stamp with your company logo (easily ordered online for less than $25), there’s can suffice for carrying the product in the beginning.
4. Printed Materials
You can create and print instructions at home from your own printer. Make sure to print the full, INCI-compliant ingredient list either on the primary panel (label on the bottle), the outer box, or at least on the instructions.
You can also create brochures or cute cards for marketing materials, and print them at home on cardstock or glossy paper.
5. Formulating your Cosmetic
There are plenty of online stores when you can purchase small amounts—down to the gram—of cosmetic chemicals and pigments. Many of these sites even offer some free formulating guides and recipes to get you started. Online communities specially for cosmetic chemists will help you figure out any snags, without having to pay to enlist the help of a certified cosmetic chemist. You can start formulating in your own home, following GMP practices for safety and cleanliness.
6. Online Store
You can get started on Etsy for free, while you ramp up your own online store. Shopify is a great option for a cheap, customizable and aesthetically pleasing website, at a price of $29/month. Squarespace is also great, and starts at just $12/month. If you’re familiar with free blogging platform Wordpress, you can also use the WooCommerce plug-in to turn your site into an e-commerce store.
For your store to do well, you'll need good photos. You don't need to hire a company to do this. Just take pictures with your Iphone outside, in good light. Use nature as a background and let the camera focus on your product. The best time to take photos is about 1 hour after sunrise or 1 hour before sunset. If you can get a friend to help, use a piece of white printer paper for a make-shift lightbox. I promise, you can get decent-enough product photography with an iPhone and a piece of white printer paper.
7. BONUS: PR
PR is tough in the beginning, because what one person considers news (e.g. your beauty launch), another person thinks is totally boring. PR is built on relationships, and you might not have any at this point.
Once you have your product(s) ready and your website or e-commerce store live, it's time to get the word out! Put together a list of PR contacts that would be interested in your store or product, and be prepared to ship or deliver some free samples!
It's always best to start local, as locals are mostly likely to support locals. Contact your local newspaper, any relevant local clubs or e-ship groups, and even smaller sources that you might not have considered, like highschool or college newspapers. Make a list of groups that you're a part of, and reach out to them--again, the same concept as locals supporting locals. You want to help those that are a part of your "in group".
From there, you can continue expanding to whoever your products might be relevant to: magazines or e-zines with your specific demographic or who would be best-served by your product, blogs that are just getting started out or expanding.
Realize that all of you are entrepreneurs in this together--whether you're beauty brands, beauty bloggers, or newspaper writers--and you all need a little boost now and then. Maybe somebody will extend a helping hand, but don't expect anything. You're not entitled to press coverage. Just get out there, be an awesome human being, and increase your chances of getting helped by helping others first. The best thing you can ask someone to get them to like you is, "How can I help you?" and genuinely meaning in.
Conclusion: How to Launch Your Beauty Line with Zero Budget
Now that you know how to take your idea to a beauty line in 6 easy steps with a minimal budget. Maybe it's not ready to go into Sephora yet, but it's something. Taking one step forward is better than doing nothing, I guarantee it. Iterating on an existing design or process is much easier than starting from scratch. From here, you have nowhere to go but up.
In the next blog, I’ll dive into how you can scale your business and go from making 10-100 units at a time, to 250-1000. Later I’ll discuss the necessary regulatory and organizational steps to go from 1000 to 10,000 units and higher.
Just remember: show up everyday and find a way to hustle what you want. You can do it!
AND - finally - this was a brief post today, but it's something that Megan and I both have a lot of experience in. If this topic is something you think is really cool and you'd like to see a full E-book written on, feel free to email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or comment below!