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Tata Harper: From Beauty Outsider to Booming Brand

The luxury natural skin-care founder said her lack of industry knowledge was her greatest strength as an entrepreneur.

Tata Harper might be a self-proclaimed beauty industry outsider, but that hasn’t stopped her from creating one of the better-known luxury brands in the naturals space.

Harper thinks her outsider status helped her, rather than serving as a hinderance.

“I started with no background — no formulation background, no beauty background. I had no idea how to sell a beauty product,” said Harper.

An engineer by trade, the Colombian-born Harper was inspired to create a completely natural luxury skin-care line after her uncle was diagnosed with cancer. At the time, she could buy basic natural personal-care products, like body wash and shampoo, at Whole Foods, but wanted more high-tech offerings for eye creams and serums.

“I just had this urging desire to make this happen,” said Harper. “I approached it from the perspective of a consumer. Ignorance was really bliss. Sometimes it’s a key component for an entrepreneur because it allows you to do things differently. Having absolutely no experience was one of the biggest things I had happening for me.”

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She first bucked beauty industry tradition by eschewing pre-made lab bases in favor of manufacturing her own that would be completely devoid of synthetics. “I didn’t want on principle to put out products that were made for other companies and maybe change one ingredient.”

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Harper said she has also deviated from the norm via packaging, pricing and sales. Her green and yellow bottles, packaged in sustainable glass, stand out from traditional white and metallic luxury beauty. Instead of launching on QVC, like many in the industry suggested, she instead introduced her range on her own e-commerce site. Her pricing is on the higher end — her Elixir Vitae wrinkle serum is priced at $400.

“The price wasn’t a function of strategy, but what the products ended up being,” said Harper. “I never formulate bottom-up — this is the benefit I want to provide to my consumers, and let’s see what it ends up costing.”

Not all of Harper’s products are that expensive — her star Resurfacing Mask retails for $62. Despite selling primarily in the luxury channel, she make her products accessible by hosting Master Classes around the country — inspired by “beauty parties” she hosted with friends at the beginning of her brand.

Despite facing backlash from the beauty industry at the outset, Harper’s conviction has driven her brand. “I always thought, ‘I can’t be the only one looking for this type of product,'” she said. She sees her success as a “byproduct of the wellness movement.” Said Harper: “I believe that’s not a trend, but an evolution of consumer behavior.”