Today's interview is with Caitlin Picou, founder of Kismet Cosmetics. Here is what she had to say about launching and growing a successful beauty business, despite the competition.
1). Can you tell our readers about your background?
I have been developing products in the beauty industry for over eight years now. I began creating hair care products, and then made the switch to creating my own cosmetics line and becoming a licensed makeup artist. And since I started my company four years ago, I have grown it to have five employees and have been featured on CNBC's Billion Dollar Buyer.
2). What inspired you to start your business?
My father was a major influence on me and my want to go into business for myself. My father believed in entrepreneurship and small businesses. He passed away unexpectedly in April of 2012, and this pushed me further into my drive for my own brand. By July of 2013, I had developed and launched my first product.
3). Where is your business based?
Kismet is based out of my hometown of Covington, LA. It is a suburb just north of New Orleans.
4). How did you start your business? What were the first steps you took?
I had developed many contacts throughout my career, so once I had the product idea in my head, I reached out to a few friends I had made to see if they could point me in the right direction of a manufacturer. I knew I wanted to launch a product that wasn't typical. It had to be eye-catching and create a dialogue. So I went with Opulent, a body bronzing lotion that doesn't contain DHA like self-tanners. Some have called it 'Liquid Gold'
5). What has been the most effective way of raising awareness for your business?
Obviously, the TV show skyrocketed us into a totally different category. But pre-television, I built my brand by getting out there and doing as many pop-up events as possible. From New Orleans Fashion Week to reaching out to brick-and-mortar stores, I slowly built my following by getting in front of people, social media, and quality products.
6). What have been your biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?
My biggest challenge is probably myself. The self-doubt that enters your head when you are in such a highly competitive market is probably the biggest thing that hinders me from moving forward. But this comes with the territory of owning a business. The dangerous rabbit-hole that makes it worse is social media. So don't compare yourself, stay focused on your goals.
7). How do you stay focused?
These days it is extremely challenging. I am a new mother to a beautiful daughter, Ruby James. So yes, she comes with me to work everyday. And I actually learned I was pregnant the week before we started filming the TV show. So by the time it aired, I was 7 months pregnant and life was changing personally and business-wise.
But my biggest tool is time-management. I schedule out certain blocks of the day for calls, emails, and business development. Plus I have a to-do list notebook that never ends.
8). How do you differentiate your business from the competition?
This is an extremely competitive market. Our key point-of-difference is our distribution method. We make it possible for smaller boutiques and salons to carry our cosmetics line. We also let our products speak for themselves. The quality is there. And that keeps customers coming back for more.
9). What has been your most effective marketing strategy to grow your business?
I would have to say our Pop-Up strategy has been key to growing the brand. Whenever a new store carries us, we set a date to have an in-store pop-up. The store owners can invite their favorite customers, and we can pamper them, inform them about the product, and have them leave with some in hand. The key is getting people to try it. Once they do, they love it!
10). What's your best piece of advice for aspiring and new entrepreneurs?
Ask for advice. Seriously, don't hesitate to reach out to other inspiring entrepreneurs. Odds are they have been in your exact same shoes and have advice for you. Experience is priceless in this industry. But don't be afraid to learn. I am learning new stuff every day.
11). What's your favorite app, blog, and book? Why?
I am a big fan of podcasts. I can listen to them while I work. Currently, I am a huge fan of Boss Girl Creative, while this is focused more on the business of being a blogger, it has tons of useful tips for a business owner. As far as a book, does an audio book count? I am really into 'Grace Not Perfection' by Emily Ley. Since having my daughter, it has been an adjustment of expectations. And this book helps me through.
12). What's your favorite business tool or resource? Why?
Asana has been a great resource for me with my growing team. It keeps tasks and to-do lists all in one spot. Also, don't even underestimate the power of YouTube. I am pretty sure that is how I taught myself Photoshop, Quickbooks, Photography and even how to create YouTube videos.
13). Who is your business role model? Why?
Kendra Scott is a 'Goals' brand and person I look up to very much. She started with hats at a mall kiosk and has built this boutique-brand that has taken over. She did it with class and originality. And I just want Kismet to be to cosmetics like Kendra is to jewelry.
14). What do you have planned for the next six months?
The next six months are our busiest time of year. We are working on a lot of gift items and sets, along with TONS of new products. Plus, I have an exciting partnership that I am ironing out with this major product that will disrupt the beauty world. Hoping to announce it very soon. We are also focusing on Dallas next for our next big market to open up. We like to spend about six months in a new city to really get to know and meet the consumers.
15). How can our readers connect with you?
As with most brands, we are available on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, SnapChat and Twitter with the handle @kismetcosmetics. Of course, you can learn more about the brand, and even send us a selfie and we will help you pick the right lipstick color, from our website www.kismetcosmetics.com.
I have worked with multiple brands, people, and bloggers and have built real connections to grow the brand. For example, I develop lip colors for collegiate dance teams, LSU, WVU, and SLU. That has been a really fun partnership and hope to continue to grow this part of my brand over the coming years. I have also partnered with local Kendra Scott stores to host beauty nights. And in regards to bloggers, this has been a hard territory, because so many want a lot of money just to post one time on one social media outlet. I totally get it. But I look more for bloggers who truly love the brand. We build a partnership and they get all of our products plus their own affiliate links. But I want them to truly embody and believe in what I am doing. So you won't ever find me paying a blogger to talk about us. If they do, it is simply because they love Kismet.