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Anastasia Soare on Millennials, Instagram and Starting With Nothing

Soare advised brands to have a genuine personality on social media.

Anastasia Soare is a Millennial at heart.

The founder of Anastasia Beverly Hills is not only open to sharing her life on social media, but also open to sharing it on stage, where she teared up Wednesday as she recalled a trip to the White House — when President Obama was still in office — and the opportunities that moving to the U.S. afforded to her.

“This is my dream…to take every opportunity that I see in this country that probably you don’t see it unless you are an immigrant like me….[At the White House],  I was under that seal, and I said to my daughter, ‘Can you please take a picture? Because if it wasn’t for this country, I would never be able to do what I [do] today’ — I started from nothing.”

Soare, the founder of Anastasia Beverly Hills, moved to the U.S. as a single mom who didn’t speak English and couldn’t get approved for a credit card with a $500 limit. Her business is said to have done roughly $250 million in sales for 2016.

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“I came from nothing,” Soare said. “Just a few years ago, I had zero Instagram followers, which in today’s social media world means that I didn’t exist.” But today, she has 14.8 million followers on Instagram, which she and her daughter, Claudia Soare, still control fully.

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Spending time with her daughter and her young friends when she first moved to the U.S. not only helped Soare learn the language, but the Millennial-heavy social environment gave Soare her footing in terms of understanding the generation, she said.

“I’m a Millennial at heart, I think I was born 20 years ago in this country — can you believe that? So, I want to stick with that. I think that’s one of the reasons my brand has been able to successfully navigate the changing landscape of marketing and branding,” Soare said, half joking.

Personally posting, liking and commenting on Instagram is something that helps her connect to her customers, she said. “Nobody else posts — just us,” Soare said.

It’s an element of personalization and authenticity that Soare carried through from the days when she was just focused on her Beverly Hills eyebrow salon. She described both social media relationships and client relationships as very authentic and personal — something that resonates well with the Millennial generation.

“They want to be able to connect with you on a personal basis,” Soare said. “It makes them feel they know you and you know them.”

“A brand needs to have a genuine personality they can relate to,” she said. “If a brand is naturally aspirational, Millennials are drawn to connect with it….They want to be part of that.”

Social media remains a key pillar to the businesses strategy — new launches get trailer videos for Instagram, and the brand actively works to relate to Millennial values like inclusivity and openness when it comes to gender norms. For Anastasia Beverly Hills’ Moonchild Glow Kit, for example, the brand exclusively used male models. “It was such a huge success,” Soare said. “It sold out.”

While Soare started as a brow salon and celebrity brow specialist — she called out Victoria Beckham and the Kardashians as clients — her brand evolved to include makeup, a project spearheaded by Claudia, who took the idea of shaping your face through shading and highlighting and translated into the brand’s highlighting kits, contour kids and liquid lipstick, Soare said.

When the business launched its makeup line, Soare knew that it would gain a following from her clients, she said. “The question was, how to expand that base.”

Retail was part of that answer. Today’s youth likes to visit the stores, Soare said, to get the feel for products even if they buy elsewhere. So, she started widening the distribution of Anastasia Beverly Hills. The brand is now in 25 countries and in more than 2,500 doors, including Sephora, Ulta Beauty, Macy’s and Dillards.