Ashley Peterson is used to doing it all. The former model and mother of two is married to NFL star Adrian Peterson. And since November 2018, she’s also the CEO of her own company, Elizabella Cosmetics.
Black Enterprise caught up with Peterson to talk about how she turned her longtime passion into her entrepreneurial “baby,” fulfilling a lifelong dream in the process.
How did your passion for makeup start?
I’ve always enjoyed playing in makeup and trying new and different looks. My parents bought me my first makeup kit when I was, maybe, 5, for Christmas. And I’ll never forget it. My dad came in and said to my mom, “Have you seen Ashley? She did her makeup and it actually looks good.”
My mother always enjoyed makeup as well. She did sell Mary Kay for a while. I was able to help her with her inventory, we were able to sample all her products, and it was something fun that we were able to do together.
Why did you decide to start your own company, and why did you chose to do it when you did?
It’s been a dream of mine since I was a young girl. I’ve always had a vision board, and owning my own cosmetics company has always been on that board.
I started Elizabella Cosmetics after my second son was born. As a woman, when you’re married and you have kids, I feel like you can lose yourself so easily. Being a wife and mother is absolutely amazing, but once my second son got to a certain age I began to look inside and ask OK, now what’s going to make you happy, Ashley? And in that journey of finding myself, I began to explore starting my own company and going after the other dreams that I had put on the back burner.
What skills did you take from your modeling career that have been able to translate into what you do now?
Modeling is so much more difficult than one would imagine. And I learned a lot of valuable lessons. You have to have an amazing work ethic; you have to learn to be fluid and versatile. I also learned how to work with different people—in those environments, you’re meeting people that same day and you’re expected to collaborate with them and work really well with them.
Also in that industry, I learned how difficult it can sometimes be for makeup artists with women of color. They didn’t always have the shade that looked good with our skin tone. I was able to learn a lot of different techniques from so many amazing makeup artists, even from photographers. And I was also so inspired by makeup artists and how I would see them mixing and blending colors. Those are things I think about when choosing shades for Elizabella; I try to choose shades that will look good on all women.
You helped your husband with some of his businesses before you became an entrepreneur yourself. What lessons did you pick up?
I learned a lot of things: being hands on, having open lines of communication, learning how to make people accountable so that when you’ve given them direction and walked away you can make sure that it’s done. Also learning things like accounting, how to look at the books, how to look at the money. Because math is not my strong suit. I’m actually a super creative individual. So learning the business side was extremely helpful to me.
But I would definitely say the biggest and most valuable lesson I learned is that no one is going to run your business how you would run your business.
How has being an entrepreneur been different than your expectations?
When I started this I was just so, like, head in the clouds. I thought I was going to launch my website and everything would be gone, you know, in 24 hours we’re selling out. Yeah, that’s not how it happened it all.
It’s not just about beautiful colors. I may have the most amazing colors, the most amazing longwear formula, but the branding and the social media have got to be on point as well. When we go to trade shows, we sell out—like our booth is full the entire time. However, that doesn’t necessarily translate when you go to online sales. Online sales and online marketing are totally different.
I was expecting it to be a lot easier and I got a rude awakening. I had to work 10 times harder than I ever would have imagined, had a lot of sleepless nights. So I had to learn so much in this process but it’s been a lot of fun learning as well.
What sets Elizabella Cosmetics apart from all the other cosmetics companies?
I think of Elizabella Cosmetics as more of a boutique lip brand. I’m a lipstick girl; I’m all about lips and lashes. A bold lip has always been my thing, which is why I gravitated to just lips when I started this company. I really wanted to be true to myself and to what makes me tick.
I wanted to create a product that was versatile, that looked good on all women, and that was also affordable. You get a lot of product for the price point—actually double the product of some of these other companies, which was super important to me because when I buy a lipstick, I want to make sure that it’s worth the money, that it lasts.
We truly care about how long you’re going to be able to wear your lipstick because you’re a busy wife, you’re a busy mother, you’re busy businesswoman, you don’t have time to keep reapplying all day. Not only that, but that $26 lipstick is going to last you for months, because you only have to apply it one, two times a day.
How long did it take you to get to that perfect longwear formulation?
I tried so many different formulas, and I actually tested mine out for months.
I was always a wearer of this certain red lipstick before—it was my absolute favorite; I would not deviate from it. When I first tried our signature red, Bella, I immediately fell in love, and have not used any other red lipstick since.
That was really a huge test for me because I’ve tried all kinds of reds, and I am true to my red lipstick. But as soon as I tried our formula and I saw how it felt on my lips… . I knew that it also had vitamin E oil, so it was really hydrating. And I was able to see how long it lasted even with me eating or drinking. If this red lip could stay all day like this, I knew that this was the formula I had to go with.