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How to make a cosmetic production line

2020-05-20

Interested in learning how to make a cosmetics line? Or are you curious how it’s done? 


From the time that I decided I was going to make a cosmetics line,  I typed vague searches like “how to make a cosmetics line” and “how to create makeup” into Google.


I am going to break this down as best as I can with insight into the steps I took to make a cosmetics line.


STEP ONE: NARROW DOWN YOUR BRAND, MARKET, AND GOALS.

Before you make any big decisions in terms of manufacturing, partners, and packaging, you need a crystal clear vision of what products you want to produce, your branding, and your target market. These details will influence every decision you make moving forward; if you forget this step or overlook its importance, you will sink a lot of money into a line that lacks cohesion and people to sell it to. Lastly, you need to determine your goal.


Do you want a small cosmetic production line that you run almost like a hobby?

Do you want to run a small business, online or with small retail partners?

Or, do you want to run a large cosmetics line that works with major retail partners?

I knew that I wanted to get a modern, pigmented, and affordable clean cosmetics line into the hands of as many women as possible. I also had a strong idea of who my ideal customer was. A vision board that I’d worked on for months helped me convey the physicality and aesthetic I was looking for, and a detailed presentation covering data points and market trends that I pulled from my own research pegged helped me make early decisions easily.


 

STEP TWO: DECIDE YOUR MANUFACTURING STRATEGY.

There are many different ways to get a product line out the door, but I’ve broken down the three main approaches below. There are pros and cons of each, but I find that the best way to order them is from the least control and customization to the most:


Private Label. This strategy involves finding a company that produces its own formulas of cosmetics that you purchase from them at extremely discounted prices and apply your own branding. Private labeling is really useful for small businesses such as studios/spas/salons as it is quick and low cost, but is also surprisingly common amongst big name brands. If the idea for your product and packaging is standard, finding a private labeler who fits your needs isn’t difficult. Sometimes these companies will even allow you to sort through their catalog and tweak products as needed in order to create a semi-custom experience. The main pitfalls to this approach are as follows: you lack flexibility and creative control, and in today’s internet-enthused world, most people can spot a private labeled product simply by googling the ingredient list.


In-House Manufacturing. This option has really taken market share in the last couple years; if you’ve come across brands that call themselves “hand poured” or “small batch”, they likely use this method. It is exactly as it sounds: they do R&D, ingredient sourcing, production, filling, packing, and labeling in-house. This option is awesome for smaller businesses that want total control, flexibility, and customization of their products without having to rely on a partner. (It also has a lot of marketing power – consumers love this concept!) However, this approach is not without its drawbacks: operations like this can be hard to scale if the line gains real momentum, quality control/batch consistency can be tough to nail down without a full-scale lab, and costs per item can be high since raw materials are purchased in much smaller quantities. It also requires a lot of logistics management.


STEP THREE: BUILD OUT YOUR PRODUCTS.

This step will vary depending on which manufacturing method you go with, but regardless, this is the time when you get to play with products, packaging ideas, etc. I am working with a packaging vendor and design agency to come up with the physical housing of each product. Samples are sent to our office for testing, then tweaked for perfection, and re-sent for edits. To make a cosmetics line is an iterative process that can take a long time if you’re doing contract or in-house manufacturing but it is worth every minute to finally get the perfect product that you were envisioning.


 


STEP FOUR: DETERMINE WAREHOUSING AND FULFILLMENT STRATEGY.

Where will you store finished products, and how will you get them to customers? Again, this is dependent on your manufacturing strategy. We order bulk amounts of products at a time in order to hit manufacturer MOQs, so we have a large warehouse facility. In the beginning, I did all of the packing and shipping myself. Now, I have a team who help hand-pick and ship orders to our customers and retail partners. You will want to think about this well in advance of launch to ensure a smooth workflow.



STEP FIVE: GROWTH VIA MARKETING AND SALES.

I know this is getting repetitive but go back to step one. Refresh your memory on who you wanted to make a cosmetics line for and why. Do a deep dive into who they are, what they like, where they live and shop, their struggles and pain points, etc. Now go find them – directly, or via retail partners they shop with – and show them why they need your products.


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