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WWD Beauty Forum: Former Model Creates Natural Line

Josie Maran Cosmetics was born out of concern for how makeup affects our health.

“At every critical juncture of my life, there’s always been someone there who says, ‘There’s no way you can do this,’” Josie Maran, founder and chief executive officer of the cosmetics company bearing her name, told the audience at WWD’s Beauty Forum. “‘You can’t be a supermodel, you’re too short.’ ‘You can’t run your own company, you have no experience.’ ‘You can’t create that line of high-performance and natural products. It’s impossible.’”

Rather than listen to the naysayers, Maran took them as a challenge, becoming a successful model and in 2007 founding Josie Maran Cosmetics, a line of high-performance natural cosmetics.

The seed for the line was planted, Maran said, in her “humble” upbringing in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she was taught from a young age to “conserve, reuse and recycle.”

“My parents also gave me another gift: saying no,” said Maran, of requests that involved money. So Maran started up her first business enterprise: a lemonade stand outside of a local vegan bakery. “That was key, because I had access to an existing consumer base, and I could offer them something unique, since the bakery only sold coffee,” she recalled. She also polled her customers for market gaps, discovering that most preferred a choice of sweeteners — so the budding entrepreneur began offering a choice of rock sugar, honey and agave. “I learned that it was really important to have a great product, and I learned the art of selling.”

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Maran drew on all of these lessons when she founded her cosmetics company, she said: “Relationships, teamwork and a good attitude are the backbone of everything I do.”

Maran noted that while she had always been concerned about how the makeup she put on her skin affected her health, the concern moved front and center after she became pregnant with her daughter, and Josie Maran Cosmetics was born.

“I figured a good idea, hard work, passion, a lot of life lessons and some seed money would do it,” she said. “Little did I know I’d end up running my business out of my house, infant in hand, packing up boxes and having my mom label them.”

While she admits that there were many challenges — “I went from having it all to having my business manager tell me I had three months to figure it out or my house would be repossessed” — the upside has made it all worth it. “Especially in the last year, I’ve had success with Sephora and QVC, but what touched me the most was getting a call from the head oncologist at Cedars-Sinai [Medical Center, in Los Angeles] and having him tell me that his patients were using my Argan Oil and that he’d never seen such skin healing from chemotherapy treatments. It’s sold at Cedars-Sinai now. That’s what it’s all about to me: doing well by doing good.”