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Annie Lawless’ Lessons for Entrepreneurs

The serial brand founder's Lawless Beauty line is entering Sephora doors in spring.

Annie Lawless started her first business when she couldn’t find what she needed.

The Suja Juice and Lawless Beauty founder has celiac disease, and adopted a gluten-free diet and daily juicing habit “back when there was no Whole Foods in my state.”

So when she couldn’t find organic cold-pressed juice for sale at her local grocery store, she went into business with her then-boyfriend and started bottling her own and delivering them to friends and neighbors in her native San Diego.

That business was a success. By 2015, the business was valued at $300 million and both Goldman Sachs and Coca-Cola had invested in it.

A similar thing happened when Lawless decided to start her second business, Lawless Beauty. Lawless, who is a fashion and beauty influencer behind the blog Blawnde and has an Instagram following of nearly 200,000, couldn’t find high-performance luxury makeup that was formulated with nontoxic ingredients.

“I like full coverage and high pigmentation,” Lawless said. “[In the makeup category] you either had NARS or Bobbi Brown or Laura Mercier, with high-performance products and beautiful packaging, or Whole Foods brands that were [all about] tinted moisturizers and earth tones. [I thought] ‘Why isn’t anyone doing heavy-duty high performance makeup — that young girls are wearing — without ingredients that aren’t good for us and our skin?”

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Thus was born Lawless Beauty, a venture Lawless and her husband launched in 2017. The line is sold in Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman, and will enter Sephora in the spring.

Lawless has learned more than a few things in the six years since founding Suja Juice. She shared them with the audience at BeautyVest. Below, some of the lessons Lawless has learned from her entrepreneurial experiences:

“It has to feel like me. I needed to have a unique perspective and show the consumer who I am through product — sleek, sexy packaging in the clean market, because I wasn’t able to find it.”

• “It’s a great time to be an influencer-backed brand. I bring my consumers into the back end and behind the scenes so they feel connected to my brand — it’s not a nameless, faceless brand.”

“Consider investment very, very wisely. When you’re young, it’s exciting when people want to throw money at your concept. It’s so much more than the money — you need to have a good relationship with your investors, you need to have a friendship and like these people personally. Ultimately if you want to grow the brand, everyone has to be on the same train.”

“Nothing goes according to plan. Even in [the beauty] business, I’ve had not one launch go to plan — whether it’s barcode problem, pump issues…it’s always something. Now I know to expect it.”

“Outsource and keep overhead low when you first start out. I don’t have a single employee on my payroll — it’s just me and my super-helpful husband. I outsource p.r., branding, external manufacturing. Make sure the people doing the work around you are super talented, but that you’re not responsible for them in the beginning.”

“Social media is more powerful than most forms of traditional marketing. I’ve seen the most [powerful] return from social.”

• “Listen to yourself, but keep your two feet rooted to the ground. With packaging lead times, distribution, testing — all those things take forever, so it’s really important to know you’re not going to have an idea for a product and get it done six weeks later.”