Style Biz: Chemist Carves Niche with Eco-Friendly Cosmetics

Like a typical teen, a young Kimberly Riley was hooked on beauty products. With an early interest in being her own boss, she decided she would take what she loved and create her own path. After earning a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering–and finding it difficult to get a job in the cosmetics industry–she founded FSL Cosmetics, offering “feel good, smell good, look good” eco-friendly products she creates from scratch. talked with the 26-year-old chemist and entrepreneur about her passion for natural beauty goodies, her use of exotic ingredients to carve a niche, and why Web commerce was the best option for her startup. What inspired you to start FSL Cosmetics, and why use natural ingredients?
Riley: I have always been fascinated with cosmetics, since I was an adolescent. I went through the dreadful acne stage as a teen and into my young adult years. The first time my mom introduced me to a loose powder to help conceal blemishes, I instantly fell in love with the cosmetics industry. It is amazing to see how a few ingredients come together to enhance a woman’s beauty. In addition to my love for makeup, I have always wanted to be an entrepreneur.

How were you able to incorporate eco-friendly concepts into your product?

I have incorporated many natural and organic ingredients into all of FSL Cosmetics that will give a smooth and luxurious feel to the lips. Some of the natural emollients I have incorporated include cupuacu butter, acai extract, avocado oil, organic jojoba oil, and meadowfoam seed oil. All of the lip gloss containers are recyclable.

As I was formulating [the product], I considered the physical and chemical properties of each ingredient. By doing so, this allows me to use minimal energy to heat my ingredients.

How much did it cost to get your business running? And what did the funds cover?
Roughly $12,000. This included operating supplies, raw materials, packaging supplies, testing fees, and legal fees. Since I formulated all of my products, I saved a lot of money!

What marketing strategies have you used for your cosmetics company that you’ve found to be successful?
One of my niches is that I use pure, exotic Brazilian super-fruits: acai and cupuacu. I love to travel and learn about other cultures. In the future, as I launch more products for the line extension, [my customer] will find other exotic fruits from Asia, Africa, and other countries incorporated as well. I like to show how common ingredients used in other areas of the world can be incorporated into our day-to-day products.

I also sponsor plenty of events by donating products for VIP/guest bags or setting up makeup bars. These options allow me to get my name out there and it allows others to try my collection for free before they make a purchase.

What social media tools do you use to gain clientele and promote your brand and how do you use these tools?
Twitter has been so great to me and is truly a part of my life. Where else can you network and connect with potential business partners while you sit comfortably on your couch?

I use Twitter to promote my brand but I also use it for what it is–social media. Your followers on Twitter want to connect with you on a personal level. It is important that you socialize and build relationships with your customers and clients. Twitter is one of the best alternatives to connect with someone in real time.

However, regardless of how casual the atmosphere is, you must always keep it professional. You represent your brand at all times. Do not curse, and be nice to your fellow followers. First impressions are important, and you just never know who is following you.

You sell your products almost exclusively via the Web. Why did you choose to do this?
I decided to have an online store because it’s convenient for technically savvy customers who make up most of my target market. Aside from selling FSL Cosmetics in my online store and on Peppermint Park‘s site, I am in the process of solidifying retail locations in New York … I have to build FSL Cosmetics step-by-step.

Riley’s Quick Tips for Industry Success:

Networking is free. Take advantage of it. It is key to building your brand. If others do not know about you, then you will not grow.
Hire a skilled Web designer. Having a modern website is important for your business and convenient for your clients.
Keep your site up-to-date. Customers love to see updates and what’s new with a brand.