Women's History Month: Celebrating Female-Founded Beauty Brands Part 1

Written by Maureen SheenMar 10, 2020

Read time 5 min


The future is female. The phrase―emblazoned on t-shirts, splashed across signs, invoked by political campaigns, and popularized as a hashtag―has re-entered the mainstream in the past few years to become a rallying cry among women and feminists advocating for more female everything. And when it comes to the beauty industry, the future is most definitely female. Just look at the growing number of women-founded and women-run beauty brands occupying prime real estate on the shelves these days. Here, two inspiring female entrepreneurs who have blazed the beauty trail to create breakthrough brands dedicated to helping women everywhere look and feel their best.

Suzi Weiss-Fischmann
OPI Co-Founder and Brand Ambassador
Suzi Weiss-Fischmann Headshot
Source: Courtesy of Suzi Weiss-Fischmann

On why she started her brand...
OPI started as a small dental supply company in Los Angeles where we noticed that nail technicians kept coming in to buy our products. Realizing that dentures and artificial nail extensions share a similar chemistry, we saw an opening in the market and went for it.

On early challenges...
Of course, there were financial challenges. We were self-funded and didn’t have any investors, so we had to be extremely careful in how we spent our dollars. Housing our business also presented a lot of challenges due to the nature of the product―nail polish is flammable and hazardous. Financing and facility were definitely the biggest hurdles we faced in getting our business off the ground.

On advice for other female entrepreneurs...
First, make decisions quickly and confidently. Setting a course of action will always serve you better than waffling in indecision. Second, be patient. Practicing patience will lead to an open-minded approach to business, and will help you nurture relationships, overcome challenges and stay committed to a long-term vision. Third, be passionate. Without passion, you’ll struggle to give your business the time and attention it needs to succeed. Finally, work hard. You’ll need to make sacrifices, but as long as you prioritize what’s most important to you, the sacrifices will help pave the way for other, more important things in your life.

On her favorite part of being a female founder...
Being a mentor is something I value greatly. I’ve loved being able to take so many other women along with me on my amazing journey. In my role as a female founder, I’ve been able to employ other women who bring something new to the table. By giving them autonomy and allowing them to flourish, they’ve gone on to find success of their own that ultimately enriched all of our shared goals.

On what it means to be a female founder...
When I started as a founder in the professional beauty industry, so many of the top executives were men. But today, many of these roles are held by women. I feel honored to be part of an industry that has paved the way for female entrepreneurs and female executives, and I’m proud of the small role I’ve played in inspiring and paving the way for other women.

Alexis Thurston
Pulp Riot and Butterfly Loft Salon Co-Founder and VP
Alexis Thurston Headshot
Source: Courtesy of Alexis Thurston

On why she started her brand...
The idea for Pulp Riot was the convergence of 2 different elements: Butterfly Loft and Butterfly Circus. First, our salon Butterfly Loft was becoming well known for turning people into mermaids, but we weren’t happy and felt uninspired with the products available in this color category. Second, during the same time we had also created an independent education team called Butterfly Circus, and were traveling all over North America educating and using products we weren’t satisfied with. Because of these two factors, we set out to create colors that were more vibrant, faded better and housed in packaging that inspired artists. Treating and thinking of stylists as artists is at the core of our brand. That’s why all of our packaging celebrates different forms of artistry from graffiti to tattoos to photography and more. The common thread has been the idea that stylists are artists, hair is the canvas and Pulp Riot is the paint.

On the moment she decided to go for it...
The moment we decide to go for it was just after Butterfly Circus was taking off and we saw a shift in the beauty industry. There was this movement of the beauty community becoming more influential than the giant product companies. And we were part of that movement and shift both as a salon and independent education team. Suddenly, we weren’t just speaking to Los Angeles, we were speaking to the world. That’s when we knew we had a great idea. Stylists were ready for something different and something that resonated with them.

On early challenges...
Some of the initial challenges we faced starting up was something every co-founder faces: money. We didn’t have a lot of it. We needed to raise capital because it’s really expensive to create a color line. That’s when we connected with Luxury Brand Partners (owners of R&Co, Smith & Cult, V76, IGK, and former owners of Oribe and Becca). They invested in Pulp Riot which gave us the capital we needed.

On the challenges female (co)founders face that male (co)founders don’t...
A lack of women founders or co-founders...that’s the challenge. There’s no lack of male founders or co-founders. We need more women to create companies in the beauty industry, and the great news is there are! It’s happening. I’m seeing more and more women create companies and it’s fantastic.

On her favorite part of being a female founder...
I love the beauty community and industry with every fiber in my body. It’s given me a bigger family, more fulfillment, joy, adventure and growth. The beauty industry is about 83% women, and I love being an example of what’s possible and tangible.

Want more inspiration? Hear from more beauty bosses in Part 2