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Coral Springs mom creates organic cosmetics

A makeup enthusiast since her teens, Mindy Perez of Coral Springs loved to experiment with dramatic colors and looks. Then one day, she pulled out her products to make up her 3-year-old daughter’s face for a dance recital. Suddenly, she felt guilty.

“When I was putting my makeup on her, I had an epiphany. I should have been using natural, organic products,” Perez said. “It didn’t phase me on my own skin, but I felt differently when it was hers.”

Perez went on to create Evoke Elegance, a line of natural skin care items for children and adults, and a suite of all-natural cosmetics. Here is how she did it.

The big idea

Evoke Elegance is a line of handmade skin-care and beauty products that are organic, all-natural and chemical free. The makeup line includes foundation, blush, eye makeup and lip glosses. The skin-care line includes body polishes and moisturizers, plus products for babies and a men’s line. Prices range from $5.25 for cosmetic glitter to $120 for a complete skin-care collection.

Background

Perez is a mom of three: stepson, Julius, 13; son, Isaiah, 9; and daughter, Leilani, now 7. Born in Miami, Perez has an associate’s degree from Broward Community College. She has worked as a back office manager for stock brokerage and mutual fund firms, and as a human resources director and office manager for a clean energy firm.

Research

After losing both parents to cancer, Perez said she began using more all-natural products. Leilani’s dance revue led her on a hunt for natural, organic beauty items. “Google was my best friend,” Perez said.

She found products, but didn’t like the consistency and colors. “I liked bold colors, and I found a lot of neutrals,” Perez said. She read product reviews to see what consumers liked and disliked, and studied ingredients. She learned what made products thicker, and what improved texture.

A friend from church introduced Perez to a retired chemist. Perez learned what ingredients made a product last longer and what ingredients would be hazardous if mixed. She sought out suppliers with sustainable and fair-trade practices, and found packaging that was recycled or was recyclable.

Perez said she felt like she didn’t need to research the makeup industry. “I was so familiar with it, because I had been a makeup freak since I was 16,” she said. “I was always very creative with it. I looked at it as an art form.”

Product development

Perez started with simple mixtures: powdered masks that could be mixed with water or yogurt by the consumer, and lip glosses. She also tried powdered foundations and blushes, things that her daughter needed for dance.

She experimented with pigments and colors, and tried them out on her own and Leilani’s faces. “It was hilarious. I started with way too much pigmentation, and we looked like clowns,” Perez said.

Over time, Perez learned what each ingredient did and how to best combine them. She wanted eco-friendly packaging, so she got samples from Miami manufacturers, as well as from suppliers around the country.

“I wanted to test them, to make sure the pumps worked correctly, and they didn’t break the first time you dropped them,” Perez said. She found a supplier who could work with her small initial inventory, and who could grow with her.

She initially tried printing labels herself, but “it didn’t work; the ink rubbed off.” Perez found a Colorado printer who used all-natural dyes and paper.

For the initial inventory, Perez started with four basic foundation colors, but found it wasn’t enough. “There are so many variations in-between.” She developed colors that let the underlying skin tone show through and could complement a bigger variety.

“In the beginning it was a mess. Nothing was uniform, and the containers and labels didn’t match,” Perez said. “But I learned.”

Perez converted her garage into a home laboratory, to mix, package and ship product, and launched her first product two years after the initial idea. She now has created more than 100 products, which she mixes in batches to order, because of varying shelf lives.

Marketing

The Evoke Elegance website was created through www.shoppepro.com, a mom-business friendly site that offers templates. “They were wonderful to work with,” Perez said. The website went live in 2010 as an eCommerce site, and also sells lines of other natural beauty products that Perez has tried and liked.

Perez’s line is sold on Amazon and on www.abesmarket.com. The mom tried church craft shows, green markets and farmers markets, but found her products to be more high end than consumers were looking for at those venues. She uses Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to share health and beauty news, sales and product launches. Perez has distributed fliers and used her website to solicit subscribers to her email newsletter, which boasts subscriber-only sales.

Perez approached a salon to carry her products, and was told having UPC, or barcodes, would help her in finding retail distributors. “It looks more professional than having a handwritten sticker on the bottom,” she said.

The company has applied to the Home Shopping Network and to QVC, but was turned down because its social media channels didn’t have enough followers. “There was not enough buzz,” Perez said. “But that’s the problem. I need them to create a buzz, but you need the buzz to get on them.”

Initial capital outlay

About $5,000 was spent on research, ingredients, an initial inventory, packaging and website development. The line sells about 50 items per month and is not yet profitable.

Challenge

Convincing people to make the change to organic products, which cost more, is a challenge, Perez said. Knowing where to invest marketing dollars also is challenging.

“I don’t have a marketing background, and I’m not sure how to do it,” she said. “I don’t have a marketing plan, and don’t have the capital to invest.”

Next step

Perez would like to expand distribution of her products to salons, spas, boutiques and chains like Whole Foods. She also would like to get onto websites that sell all-natural products.

Typical day

Perez rises at 6 a.m. and gets the kids dressed, fed and off to school. She arrives back home at 8:30 a.m. and checks emails, packs and fills orders. At 11 a.m. she switches to graphic design duties, designing ads, writing her newsletter or posting to social media.

Perez recently passed a test to become a real estate agent, and will use the income to infuse capital into her business. She plans to spend afternoons on real estate duties, before picking up the kids at 4 p.m. Then she will head to ball practice or the dance studio with the kids. Perez will return home to cook dinner and spend time with the kids before baths and their 8 p.m. bedtime.

She spends time with husband, Milton, before jumping back on the computer at 10 p.m. to check emails and prepare orders for the next day. She goes to bed at about 1 a.m.

“It’s really hard. I’m so thankful my husband believes in what I’m doing,” Perez said. “One thing I do is when my kids come home, for that couple of hours I completely separate from the phone and computer.”

Advice

“Just do it. For so long I talked about it. I always wanted my own business,” Perez said. “Take the chance. Don’t just stand still and not go.”

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