Six teen beauty brand founders tell us about going back to school. (Photo: Chris Craymer/Trunk Archive)
For many teenagers, summer is the perfect opportunity to relax, maybe earn a little pocket change with a summer job or get prepped for the school year. For a blossoming crop of teenage beauty entrepreneurs however, summer means ramping up their beauty brands. These teens are making profit, building brands, and giving back too. So how did they do it? We talk to the founders of Willa, Beauteque, Emi-Jay, Nudestix, and Man Cans to find out.
Willa Doss, Willa
Willa Doss and her mother, Christy Prunier. (Photo: Willa)
Willa Doss founded her beauty brand, Willa, when she realized all the options for girls were bubblegum-scented, emblazoned with cartoon characters, or too heavy or too perfumed for a young girl. “I thought it was an injustice!” Doss tells Yahoo Beauty. She was only 8. “It’s a time in your life when you’re going through so many changes. I don’t think people recognized how ready our generation is to take ownership for ourselves.” Now 15, her eponymous all-natural, sulfate-free, cruelty-free beauty line is designed to encourage girls to take care of their skin at an early age. Doss uses the Acne 3 Step Kit ($35) and 3 Step Daily Routine Kit ($35), both of which come with a cleanser and moisturizer, on a rotating basis. The brand also makes concealer pens, lip shimmer, and lip balm — all with ingredient transparency and developed closely by lab scientists and dermatologists under Doss’ young watchful eye. Willa also makes tinted sunscreen to combine sun protection with makeup. “My mom [Christy Prunier] was diagnosed with skin cancer on her face at [age] 29,” Doss says. “When she was growing up, she didn’t have the same awareness and information that we have today. A lot of lasting damage happens before you’re 18.”
“I think it’s about effortless beauty with our age group,” Doss says. “It’s about looking like your best self even with six hours of sleep.” (Oh, to be young and to think six hours of sleep is not enough!) While Doss sticks to cleaning and moisturizing her face as the basis for her beauty routine, she will swipe a bright blue eye shadow for special nights with her friends. Most days, she needs to save the extra time for school and work and Model UN, on top of after school office sessions to work on PR, marketing, and product development for Willa. “Right now, she’s also taking charge of training girls to sell Willa products themselves. Willa used to be sold in major retailers like Target, but recently transitioned to a direct social selling model in which teenage girls and their mothers are the salespeople. “[Willa] used to be sold in Henri Bendel. Every week, I’d go in front of my products and try to sell them, and it was terrifying,” Doss says. “I felt super vulnerable, but now, I’ve gained so much confidence. I want other girls to gain the sort of confidence I have.”
Elina Hsueh, Beauteque
Elina Hsueh, founder of Beauteque. (Photo: John Burton)
Three years ago, 18-year-old Elina Hsueh saw a niche in the market after seeing Korean brands make a successful entry into the U.S. market. Beauteque is an e-tailer that sells Asian beauty products beyond the major ones that you find at Sephora and Space NK, at very affordable prices. (Sheet masks for $3 each!) Lucky for Hsueh, her mother, Josephine Hsueh, s a serial entrepreneur who was eager to start something new and happy to collaborate with her daughter. “One of my best friends came back from Korea and brought me back some products,” Hsueh says. “I had horrible acne and only the Korean products worked!” In March 2014, Beateque was launched. Her mother works as head buyer, sourcing the products from Asia, while Hsueh works on the marketing side. “It works out perfectly because my mother is very old-school business, while I’m all about social media,” she says. Hsueh is a freshman at Babson College in Wellesley, Massachusetts studying entrepreneurship but she’s making the trip home to New Jersey every Wednesday evening to spend a few days at the Beauteque office, where she now manages 15 employees. “Beauteque has been a really huge part of my life since I was 15,” she admits. “It’s very hard and stressful; you’re doing all these crazy things while applying for college, but I’m very happy about all that’s happened.”
For Hsueh, learning marketing and website design was easy. “I thought of the learning process as another class,” she says. One of the most difficult aspects of running Beauteque for Hsueh has been learning how to manage employees twice her age. “I didn’t know how to show that I was capable,” she says. In spite of her expertise on Korean products, she doesn’t follow the infamous 10-step Korean skincare routine. “My routine takes 10 to 15 minutes,” she says. She applies a BB cream, like Lioele Waterdrop BB Cream SPF 27 ($23) and a neutral eyeshadow from Shiseido. Between starting freshman year of college and running a full-time company, she needs her beauty routine to be incredibly quick.
Taylor and Ally Frankel, Nudestix
Taylor and Ally Frankel, founders of Nudestix. (Photo: Nudestix)
Toronto-based sisters 19-year-old Taylor Frankel and 16-year-old Ally Frankel have made a huge splash in the beauty world with their Nudestix products already sold at Sephora and Space NK. The blunt pencils and crayons are easy to use and and designed to blend seamlessly into your face. “Basically, our philosophy is about natural beauty and being the better version of yourself,” Ally says. “It’s about lifestyle makeup, especially if you don’t have enough time before school.” She admits to doing her makeup on the bus before class, if she doesn’t wake up in time. “We want to empower girls to just embrace their natural selves,” Taylor adds. “It’s not just superficial beauty.” Their mother Jenny Frankel was a beauty executive for over 20 years, and liked the idea of partnering with the girls on a more understated beauty line. “There was nothing out there that was saying it was okay to wear less makeup,” Taylor says.
During the school year, Taylor runs the Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, while Ally, who is still in high school, runs the Twitter and helps out with marketing. Both of them do press for Nudestix and serve as the models and spokespeople for the brand. That’s a lot of pressure for two full-time students — but the brand is their family business, after all. “We never really stop talking about the business, not even at dinner,” Taylor admits.
Emily Matson, Emi-Jay
Emily Matson and Julianne Goldmark, founders of Emi-Jay. (Photo: Emi-Jay)
20-year-old Los Angeles native Emily Matson started hair accessories line, Emi-Jay, with her BFF Julianne Goldmark in 2009. Like many teenage girls, they obsessed over Blair Waldorf’s fancy (and expensive) headbands in Gossip Girl—but unlike most teenage girls, they decided to do something about their style lust and tight budgets. While they started making the accessories on the bedroom floor, they now have a headquarters with over 25 full-time employees, and they’re stocked at major retailers like Nordstrom. Emi-Jay has also expanded into apparel, such as printed tees. In spite of its Gossip Girl influences, it has a distinctly laidback West Coast vibe. The brand is also heavily dedicated to philanthropy, with a substantial 20 percent of profits donated to charity. “With Emi-Jay, I had no choice but to learn the fine art of prioritizing and using my time wisely,” Matson tells Yahoo Beauty. It’s a typical teenage trait to procrastinate sometimes, but Matson conquered this obstacle by aggressively making lists. “I can hardly recall a time that I didn’t have to balance my academic workload with Emi-Jay,” she says.
Hart Main, ManCans
Hart Main, founder of ManCans. (Photo: Instagram)
18-year-old Hart Main doesn’t look like the stereotypical demographic for fancy scented candles — he’s a guy, first of all. His scented candle company, ManCans, makes scented candles in tin soup cans. They come in scents like Grandpa’s Pipe, New Mitt, Santa’s Beard, and Memphis Style BBQ. He also launched a sister SheCans line with more traditional scents inspired by his grandmother. Main came up with the idea to make “manly” scented candles in eighth grade after doing a fundraiser and realizing that all the scents were “girlie.” His mother, Amy Main, encouraged him to give it a shot. “I saved 100 dollars and started making the candles,” he says. By the end of eighth grade, he was getting a decent amount of national press, and he started outsourcing to a production facility nearby in Ohio.
The charity aspect is ingenious, because it is tied in with the actual product. Main buys canned soup and donates the soup to the local soup kitchen. The can is cleaned, and the label is removed. Then the candle is made in the can. Suitably, Main is a freshman majoring in Economics in college this year. “I’m interested in politics,” he says. “I’ve also always wanted to be a sports agent.” He admits that his personal interest in candles has waned. “I’ve been smelling them so much that I got sick of them,” he admits. “But I hope to keep up ManCans in college. It’s shown me the importance of giving back to the community.”