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Industry Experts on Breaking Into Beauty

Professors and executives talk the requirements and entry points to the industry in the first learning module from Yellowbrick, WWD Beauty Inc and Fashion Institute of Technology.

There may be countless ways to enter the beauty industry, but according to experts, they all require similar qualities.

In Yellowbrick’s Beauty Business Essentials course, academics and industry leaders outlined the various means of breaking into beauty, starting with the differences between entrepreneurship and intrapreneurship.

Starting with beauty business founders, Mark Polson, associate professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology, said that “you have an entrepreneur, who is usually the founder of that company,” adding that “they have to wear many hats.”

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Conversely, different types of business savvy are better suited for corporate roles. “On the intrapreneur side, you have someone working inside a company. They’re not starting with a blank sheet of paper, but they are creating newness. They can be at any level, from an intern to a vice president,” Polson said.

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For those forging their own paths, beauty founders can identify white space in the market in many ways, said Elana Drell Szyfer, chief executive officer of RéVive.

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“The first thing you need to create a brand is an amazing idea,” she said. “An idea, incredible product or service, something differentiated of better than something that’s out there today. That’s where the genius really starts. The DNA of a great brand is that genius. Sometimes, that really comes and needs to happen outside any structure, and it often comes from the deepest passion. If you read the history of Estée Lauder herself, that’s where it started.”

Business experience pays off when starting a brand, but the course reasoned that there are other ways to ideate innovative businesses. It gives the example of Rea Ann Silva, who founded makeup and accessories brand Beautyblender out of a need she saw as a professional makeup artist. Scores of influencers, too, have been able to parlay knowledge of the market into successful businesses, such as Makeup by Mario and One/Size by Patrick Starrr.

Executives in other facets of the industry also started their careers on the ground, not in business school. “There are a lot of ways to enter the industry and you really don’t need an MBA. A number have come in through the retail channel, starting at the counter,” Drell Szyfer added. “You need a vision, and you also need the wherewithal to stick with it, whether you’re an entrepreneur or working in a larger company.”

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