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How to Start a Makeup Business

Updated on June 21, 2022

How to Start a Makeup Business

How to Start a Makeup Business

If you’re a beautician or have always wanted to help people look their best, starting a makeup business could be a great fit for you. The beauty industry is nearly a $50 billion market in the US and you could get in on the action and make a good living. 

Of course, getting started won’t be easy — you’ll need to work hard and gather the necessary information. Lucky for you, this step-by-step guide lays out all you need to know to develop and launch a beautiful business.   

Fast Facts

Investment range

$10k-$28k

Time to build

3-6 months

Industry trend

Growing

Revenue potential

$77k-$3.9m p.a.

Profit potential

$50k-$1.2m p.a.

Commitment

Full-time

Step 1: Decide if the Business Is Right for You

Not everyone is cut out to be a beauty entrepreneur. So, the first step is to understand the makeup industry dynamics inside out. Start by evaluating the following factors:

Pros and Cons 

Launching a makeup business has its upside and downsides. By assessing each side of the coin, you can decide if pursuing the idea is worth your time and effort.

Below is a rundown of some pros and cons of this business:

Pros

  • Grow into a major beauty brand
  • Ingredients are readily available
  • Great potential to diversify products

Cons

  • Establishing a beauty brand takes time
  • High startup costs

Industry trends 

The US beauty and cosmetics industry saw revenue of just under $50 billion in 2021, increasing more than 7% from the previous year. [1]https://www.statista.com/topics/1008/cosmetics-industry/#dossierKeyfigures 

Cosmetics is the 3rd largest segment in the US beauty industry, with nearly 15% market share, and the global beauty market is worth half a trillion dollars.[2]https://www.statista.com/statistics/550657/beauty-market-value-growth-worldwide-by-country/

As of early 2022, makeup trends include lip contouring, fluffy eyebrows, more gentle skin creams, all-natural products, and more colorful, high-impact eye makeup.  

How much does it cost to start a makeup business?

You’ll need at least $10,000 to start a makeup business, and could spend as much as $28,000. Your big expenses will be inventory, building a website, and marketing. You should also expect to spend good money on research and producing the first batch of products.  

Start-up CostsMinMaxRangeAverage
Licenses and permits$500$1,000$500-$1,000$750
Insurance$300$600$300-$600$450
Marketing and advertising$2,000$10,000$2,000-$10,000$6,000
Website$1,000$3,000$1,000-$3,000$2,000
Software$300$500$300-$500$400
Equipment$2,000$4,000$2,000-$4,000$3,000
Product Development$2,000$5,000$2,000-$5,000$3,500
Inventory$1,500$3,000$1,500-$3,000$2,250
Miscellaneous$400$900$400-$900$650
Total$10,000$28,000$10,000-$28,000$19,000

How much can you earn from a makeup business?

The cosmetic industry is comfortable with markups as high as 400% on retail sales, one of the highest in any industry. Products that cost $1.50 to make will sell to customers for $6, giving you a profit margin of 75%.  

A small, home-based makeup business can expect to sell 10,000 units per year. These sales will generate $60,000 in revenue and a profit of about $45,000. As your business grows and production capacity increases, you can expect to sell 100,000 units per year and generate $600,000 in revenue. But you’d need to hire staff and open a production facility, cutting your margin down to just over 30%. You’d still make a tidy profit of $200,000. 

What barriers to entry are there?

Barriers to entry in the cosmetic industry include strict regulation from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Food and Cosmetics Act. Your products will need to meet the safety requirements of these two regulatory authorities, and at the start, you may have a hard time clearing their hurdles in terms of ingredients and testing.  

The second barrier to entry is cutthroat competition. The market is awash with makeup products, making it hard to make inroads and establish a new beauty brand. 

Make up business

Step 2: Hone Your Idea

You now have an overview of the makeup industry. The next step is to refine your vision in preparation to enter a competitive market. 

Why? Identify an opportunity

Even on a budget, you can launch a makeup business, manufacture at home and sell online. Joanna and Leslie are perfect examples of entrepreneurs who started small and turned Vive Cosmetics into a multi-million dollar company.

Research other makeup companies to examine their products, price points, and customer reviews, and to see what sells best. You’re looking for a market gap to fill. For instance, maybe there’s no company out there focusing only on eye makeup or all-natural skin creams. 

You might consider targeting a niche market by specializing in a certain aspect of your industry, such as lipstick or eyelashes. This could jumpstart your word-of-mouth marketing and attract clients right away.

What? Determine your products or services 

One of the essential phases of starting any business is deciding what you will sell. Ideally, you want to offer unique products and services. That way, you can stand out from your competition and attract the right customers. 

For a makeup business, some products you can sell include:

  • Lipstick
  • Lip colors
  • Bronzer
  • Foundation
  • Face powder
  • Highlighter
  • Eyeshadows
  • BB cream
  • Rouge or blush
  • Contour powder/ cream
  • Lip liner pencil
  • Eyebrow pencil/powder
  • Setting spray 
  • Concealer
  • Blush-on
  • Primer
  • Eyeliner
  • Mascara

How much should you charge for makeup products?

Your prices will vary depending on production costs, product type, and your target profit margin. Most makeup items cost from $6 to $10, and it’s important to be competitive. 

Once you know your costs, you can use this Step By Step profit margin calculator to determine your mark-up and final price point. Remember, the price you use at launch should be subject to change if warranted by the market.

Who? Identify your target market 

Your target market will be determined by your level of luxury. If you offer more affordable makeup products, you should target younger women, who might be found on TikTok and Instagram. If you go for more of a high-end look, your target market will be established professional women you could find on Facebook and LinkedIn. 

Where? Choose your business premises 

In the early stages, you may want to run your business from home to keep costs low. But as your business grows, you’ll may want to rent out a shop and production facility. Find commercial space to rent in your area on sites such as Craigslist, Crexi, and Instant Offices.

When choosing a commercial space, you may want to follow these rules of thumb:

  • Central location accessible via public transport
  • Ventilated and spacious, with good natural light
  • Flexible lease that can be extended as your business grows
  • Ready-to-use space with no major renovations or repairs needed

Should you start a makeup business

Step 3: Brainstorm a Business Name

Your business name is your business identity, so choose one that encapsulates your objectives, services, and mission in just a few words. You probably want a name that’s short and easy to remember, since much of your business, and your initial business in particular, will come from word-of-mouth referrals.

Here are some ideas for brainstorming your business name:

  • Short, unique, and catchy names tend to stand out
  • Names that are easy to say and spell tend to do better 
  • Name should be relevant to your product or service offerings
  • Ask around — family, friends, colleagues, social media — for suggestions
  • Including keywords, such as “___” or “___”, boosts SEO
  • Name should allow for expansion, for ex: “Jim’s Bakery” over “Jim’s Cookies”
  • Avoid location-based names that might hinder future expansion
  • Use online tools like the Step by Step Business Name Generator. Just type in a few keywords and hit “generate” and you’ll have dozens of suggestions at your fingertips.

Once you’ve got a list of potential names, visit the website of the US Patent and Trademark Office to make sure they are available for registration and check the availability of related domain names using our Domain Name Search tool. Using “.com” or “.org” sharply increases credibility, so it’s best to focus on these. 

Finally, make your choice among the names that pass this screening and go ahead with domain registration and social media account creation. Your business name is one of the key differentiators that sets your business apart. Once you pick your company name, and start with the branding, it is hard to change the business name. Therefore, it’s important to carefully consider your choice before you start a business entity.

Step 4: Create a Business Plan

Every business needs a plan. This will function as a guidebook to take your startup through the launch process and maintain focus on your key goals. A business plan also enables potential partners and investors to better understand your company and its vision:

  • Executive Summary: Brief overview of the entire business plan; should be written after the plan is complete.
  • Business Overview: Overview of the company, vision, mission, ownership, and corporate goals.
  • Product and Services: Describe your offerings in detail.
  • Market Analysis: Assess market trends such as variations in demand and prospects for growth, and do a SWOT analysis.
  • Competitive Analysis: Analyze main competitors, assessing their strengths and weaknesses, and create a list of the advantages of your services.
  • Sales and Marketing: Examine your companies’ unique selling propositions (USPs) and develop sales, marketing, and promotional strategies.
  • Management Team: Overview of management team, detailing their roles and professional background, along with a corporate hierarchy.
  • Operations Plan: Your company’s operational plan includes procurement, office location, key assets and equipment, and other logistical details.
  • Financial Plan: Three years of financial planning, including startup costs, break-even analysis, profit and loss estimates, cash flow, and balance sheet.
  • Appendix: Include any additional financial or business-related documents.

If you’ve never created a business plan, it can be an intimidating task. You might consider finding and hiring a business plan specialist at Fiverr to create a top-notch business plan for you.

Step 5: Register Your Business

Registering your business is an absolutely crucial step — it’s the prerequisite to paying taxes, raising capital, opening a bank account, and other guideposts on the road to getting a business up and running. 

Plus, registration is exciting because it makes the entire process official. Once it’s complete, you’ll have your own business! 

Choose where to register your company

Your business location is important because it can affect taxes, legal requirements, and revenue. Most people will register their business in the state where they live, but if you are planning to expand, you might consider looking elsewhere, as some states could offer real advantages when it comes to makeup. 

If you’re willing to move, you could really maximize your business! Keep in mind, it’s relatively easy to transfer your business to another state. 

Choose your business structure

Business entities come in several varieties, each with its pros and cons. The legal structure you choose for your makeup business will shape your taxes, personal liability, and business registration requirements, so choose wisely. 

Here are the main options:

  • Sole Proprietorship – The most common structure for small businesses makes no legal distinction between company and owner. All income goes to the owner, who’s also liable for any debts, losses, or liabilities incurred by the business. The owner pays taxes on business income on his or her personal tax return.
  • Partnership – Similar to a sole proprietorship, but for two or more people. Again, owners keep the profits and are liable for losses. The partners pay taxes on their share of business income on their personal tax returns.
  • Limited Liability Company (LLC) – Combines the characteristics of corporations with those of sole proprietorships or partnerships. Again, the owners are not personally liable for debts.
  • Corporation – Under this structure, the business is a distinct legal entity and the owner or owners are not personally liable for its debts. Owners take profits through shareholder dividends, rather than directly. The corporation pays taxes, and owners pay taxes on their dividends, which is sometimes referred to as double taxation.
  • S Corp – An S-Corporation refers to the tax classification of the business but is not a business entity. An S-Corp can be either a corporation or an LLC, which just need to elect to be an S-Corp for tax status. In an S-Corp, income is passed through directly to shareholders, who pay taxes on their share of business income on their personal tax returns.

We recommend that new business owners choose LLC as it offers liability protection and pass-through taxation while being simpler to form than a corporation. You can form an LLC in as little as five minutes using ZenBusiness’s online LLC formation service. They will check that your business name is available before filing, submit your Articles of Organization and be on hand to answer any questions you might have.

Step 6: Register for Taxes

The final step before you’re able to pay taxes is getting an Employer Identification Number, or EIN. You can file for your EIN online or by mail or fax: visit the IRS website to learn more. Keep in mind, if you’ve chosen to be a sole proprietorship you can simply use your social security number as your EIN. 

Once you have your EIN, you’ll need to choose your tax year. Financially speaking, your business will operate in a calendar year (January–December) or a fiscal year, a 12-month period that can start in any month. This will determine your tax cycle, while your business structure will determine which taxes you’ll pay.

The IRS website also offers a tax-payers checklist, and taxes can be filed online. It is important to consult an accountant or other professional to help you with your taxes to ensure you are completing them correctly.

Step 7: Fund your Business

Securing financing is your next step and there are plenty of ways to raise capital:

  • Bank loans: This is the most common method but getting approved requires a rock-solid business plan and strong credit history.
  • SBA-guaranteed loans: The Small Business Administration can act as guarantor, helping gain that elusive bank approval via an SBA-guaranteed loan.
  • Government grants: A handful of financial assistance programs help fund entrepreneurs. Visit Grants.gov to learn which might work for you.
  • Friends and Family: Reach out to friends and family to provide a business loan or investment in your concept. It’s a good idea to have legal advice when doing so because SEC regulations apply.
  • Crowdfunding: Websites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo offer an increasingly popular low-risk option, in which donors fund your vision. Entrepreneurial crowdfunding sites like Fundable and WeFunder enable multiple investors to fund your business.
  • Personal: Self-fund your business via your savings or the sale of property or other assets.

Bank and SBA loans are probably the best option, other than friends and family, for funding a makeup business. You might also try crowdfunding if you have an innovative concept. 

Step 8: Apply for Licenses/Permits

Starting a makeup business requires obtaining a number of licenses and permits from local, state, and federal governments.

Federal regulations, licenses, and permits associated with starting your business include doing business as, health license and permit from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), trademarks, copyrights, patents, and other intellectual properties, as well as industry-specific licenses and permits. 

For a makeup business, you will need the following licenses and permits:

  • A cosmetology license if you plan to apply makeup to your customers 
  • Manufacturer license if you intend to develop your own makeup line 
  • Esthetician license if you want to offer skin care services

You can read this FDA fact sheet for more insights on cosmetic industry regulations.

You may also need state-level and local county or city-based licenses and permits. The license requirements and how to obtain them vary, so check the websites of your state, city, and county governments or contact the appropriate person to learn more. 

You could also check this SBA guide for your state’s requirements, but we recommend using MyCorporation’s Business License Compliance Package. They will research the exact forms you need for your business and state and provide them to ensure you’re fully compliant.

This is not a step to be taken lightly, as failing to comply with legal requirements can result in hefty penalties. If you feel overwhelmed by this step or don’t know how to begin, it might be a good idea to hire a professional to help you check all the legal boxes.

Step 9: Open a Business Bank Account

Before you start making money, you’ll need a place to keep it, and that requires opening a bank account.

Keeping your business finances separate from your personal account makes it easy to file taxes and track your company’s income, so it’s worth doing even if you’re running your makeup business as a sole proprietorship. Opening a business bank account is quite simple, and similar to opening a personal one. Most major banks offer accounts tailored for businesses — just inquire at your preferred bank to learn about their rates and features.

Banks vary in terms of offerings, so it’s a good idea to examine your options and select the best plan for you. Once you choose your bank, bring in your EIN (or Social Security Number if you decide on a sole proprietorship), articles of incorporation, and other legal documents and open your new account.

Opening bank account

Step 10: Get Business Insurance 

Business insurance is an area that often gets overlooked yet it can be vital to your success as an entrepreneur. Insurance protects you from unexpected events that can have a devastating impact on your business.

Here are some types of insurance to consider:

  • General liability: The most comprehensive type of insurance, acting as a catch-all for many business elements that require coverage. If you get just one kind of insurance, this is it. It even protects against bodily injury and property damage.
  • Business Property: Provides coverage for your equipment and supplies.
  • Equipment Breakdown Insurance: Covers the cost of replacing or repairing equipment that has broken due to mechanical issues.
  • Worker’s compensation: Provides compensation to employees injured on the job.
  • Property: Covers your physical space, whether it is a cart, storefront, or office.
  • Commercial auto: Protection for your company-owned vehicle.
  • Professional liability: Protects against claims from a client who says they suffered a loss due to an error or omission in your work.
  • Business owner’s policy (BOP): This is an insurance plan that acts as an all-in-one insurance policy, a combination of any of the above insurance types.

Step 11: Prepare to Launch 

As opening day nears, prepare for launch by reviewing and improving some key elements of your business. 

Develop your website

Website development is crucial because your site is your online presence and needs to convince prospective clients of your expertise and professionalism. They are unlikely to find your website, however, unless you follow Search Engine Optimization (SEO) practices. These are steps that help pages rank higher in the results of top search engines like Google. 

You can create your own website using services like WordPress, Wix, or Squarespace. This route is very affordable, but figuring out how to build a website can be time-consuming. If you lack tech-savvy, you can hire a web designer or developer to create a custom website for your business.

Essential software and tools

Being an entrepreneur often means wearing many hats, from marketing to sales to accounting, which can be overwhelming. Fortunately, many websites and digital tools are available to help simplify many business tasks.

You can industry-specific software like Cosmetic Product Manager, BatchMaster, or ProcessPro to manage formulation, R&D, compliance, manufacturing, inventory, and sales. 

Online Marketing

Some of your business will come from the casual passerby or online visitor, but still, you should invest in digital marketing! Getting the word out is especially important for new businesses, as it’ll boost customer and brand awareness. 

Once your website is up and running, link it to your social media accounts and vice versa. Social media is a great tool for promoting your business because you can create engaging posts that advertise your products: 

  • Facebook: Great platform for paid advertising, allows you to target specific demographics, like men under age 50 in the Cleveland area. 
  • Instagram: Same benefits as Facebook but with different target audiences.
  • Website: SEO will help your website appear closer to the top in relevant search results, a crucial element for increasing sales. Make sure that you optimize calls to action on your website. Experiment with text, color, size, and position of calls to action such as “Buy Now”. This can sharply increase purchases. [fit to your article/business idea]
  • Google and Yelp: For businesses that rely on local clientele, getting listed on Yelp and Google My Business can be crucial to generating awareness and customers. 

Focus on USPs

Unique selling propositions, or USPs, are the characteristics of a product or service that sets it apart from the competition. Customers today are inundated with buying options, so you’ll have a real advantage if they are able to quickly grasp how your makeup meets their needs or wishes. It’s wise to do all you can to ensure your USPs stand out on your website and in your marketing and promotional materials, stimulating buyer desire. 

Global pizza chain Domino’s is renowned for its USP: “Hot pizza in 30 minutes or less, guaranteed.” Signature USPs for your makeup business could be:  

  • The most colors you’ve ever seen
  • All-natural makeup for all-natural you 
  • Luxury makeup at discount prices 

Kickstart Marketing

Take advantage of your website, social media presence and real-life activities to increase awareness of your offerings and build your brand. Some suggestions include:  

  • Post a video – Post a video about your makeup. Use humor and maybe it will go viral!
  • Limited edition – Offer a one-time version of your makeup.
  • Email marketing/newsletter – Send regular emails to customers and prospects. Make them personal. 
  • Influencer marketing – Pay people with large followings to promote your makeup. You can find micro-influencers with smaller followings and lower rates.
  • Do a webinar – Share your makeup= expertise online with a video seminar
  • Case studies – Post case studies about how your makeup helped a customer

Networking

You may not like to network or use personal connections for business gain. But your personal and professional networks likely offer considerable untapped business potential. Maybe that Facebook friend you met in college is now running a makeup business, or a LinkedIn contact of yours is connected to dozens of potential clients. Maybe your cousin or neighbor has been working in makeup for years and can offer invaluable insight and industry connections. 

The possibilities are endless, so it’s a good idea to review your personal and professional networks and reach out to those with possible links to or interest in makeup. You’ll probably generate new customers or find companies with which you could establish a partnership. Online businesses might also consider affiliate marketing as a way to build relationships with potential partners and boost business. 

Accounting

  • Popular web-based accounting programs for smaller businesses include Quickbooks, Freshbooks, and Xero
  • If you’re unfamiliar with basic accounting, you may want to hire a professional, especially as you begin. The consequences for filing incorrect tax documents can be harsh, so accuracy is crucial.

Woman applying make up

Step 12: Build Your Team

If you’re starting out small from a home office, you may not need any employees. But as your business grows, you will likely need workers to fill various roles. Potential positions for a ____ business would include:

  • Sales Lead: Selling your products to retail outlets, customers 
  • Marketing Lead: SEO strategies, social media, etc.
  • Safety and Compliance Manager: Ensuring compliance with federal standards 
  • General Manager: Hiring and firing, inventory and maintenance  

At some point, you may need to hire all of these positions or simply a few, depending on the size and needs of your business. You might also hire multiple workers for a single role or a single worker for multiple roles, again depending on need. 

Free-of-charge methods to recruit employees include posting ads on popular platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, or Jobs.com. You might also consider a premium recruitment option, such as advertising on Indeed, Glassdoor, or ZipRecruiter. Further, if you have the resources, you could consider hiring a recruitment agency to help you find talent.

Step 13: Start Making Money!

Congratulations. You’re now ready to begin your entrepreneurial journey into cosmetics and beauty! But you might want to bookmark this page, just in case. 

References

References
1 https://www.statista.com/topics/1008/cosmetics-industry/#dossierKeyfigures
2 https://www.statista.com/statistics/550657/beauty-market-value-growth-worldwide-by-country/

Makeup Business FAQs

How do I start my own makeup brand?

The first step to starting a makeup business is learning and understanding the FDA regulations. Also, learn how to manufacture the products you want to sell. You will then want to determine your target customers and lay down your marketing strategies.

Is starting a makeup business profitable?

Yes, it is. In fact, the makeup business has one of the highest markups of any industry. With margins of up to 80 percent, you can generate a net profit of 30 to 65 percent based on the size of your business.

How do you price makeup products?

You can use the cost-plus method to price your makeup product. The strategy involves estimating the cost of production and adding a markup that can take care of your expenses and leave you with a reasonable profit. It would be best to consider what your competitors are charging to ensure that you’re within the industry standards when pricing your products.

How do I start a makeup line with no money?

It is not entirely possible to start a makeup business with no money. The best approach would be to start small. With $5,000 to $10,000, you can get your business up and running. Look for startup capital from angel investors, family, and friends or crowdfunding platforms such as Wefunder.