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A conversation with: Beauty brand founder Nevena Tomic

Within two years of launching, cosmetics brand La Beaute Fatale sold over a million units. The brand was recently seen on the runways of New York Fashion Week with designers Cynthia Rowley, Bach Mai and Badgley Mischka. The backbone of the brand and its success? Clean ingredients. 

Founder Nevena Tomic, an Oak Park Native, went from using cosmetics for beauty pageants to working as a corporate buyer in the cosmetics industry. Tomic got tired of telling brands that their ingredients were harmful to consumers, so she decided to build her own brand dedicated to providing high quality cosmetics with clean ingredients. 

What inspired you to start the brand?

For the last couple of years when I was working in beauty and cosmetics, it became really apparent to me that a lot of consumers were focusing on their overall health and people were moving more towards gluten free, vegan, dairy free. What I realized was that the cosmetics industry was really populated with a lot of harmful chemicals. So me starting the company was really just about bringing to the market a brand that had more of those natural ingredients and really educating women and men about a lot of the harmful chemicals that are found in color cosmetics. 

What prompted you to pivot from buying products to producing them?

When I was a buyer, really the only thing I could control was the way that I responded to brands. If a major brand came forward with a product that had harmful chemicals in it, I was able to advise them on why they should focus on different ingredients, but there was really not that much control that I could put forth on the retail side. By starting my own brand, that allowed me to be one of the first brands in the market to be disruptive and to really push the other brands in the market to start making changes. So essentially, I went from being on the retail side as a buyer to really moving the needle in terms of market share and becoming a major competitor for some of those other consumer packaged goods brands.

On your brand’s website it mentions your past in pageants, has that impacted how you’re running the brand? How has that helped you as an owner?

I think when I was competing in the pageants, and I still continue to do so today, it became really apparent that beauty was continuing to be at the forefront of the competition. But while you’re competing, I think one of the main things that makes a really good contestant is making sure that you’re involved in some type of organization, charity or company that’s making a difference. Back in the day when I was competing, I kept thinking to myself “How can I not only be a good contestant but also contribute to the community?” My brand, the way that I run the overall company, the main thing is that we want to give back to the community, whether it be by having clean products or making sure we’re educating women and men. But also another way I give back to the community is by hiring interns from local colleges, like fashion schools. I’m hiring from like Parsons School of New York, Tricoci, Aveda and other makeup schools so that people have the opportunity to learn how to start a company, how to run your own brand and really just provide them with mentorship services so that they can contribute to our society in a positive way.

What has been your biggest challenge as a founder of a brand?

Just overall, the social media presence is really challenging because what you’ll notice is there’s this really high saturation of cosmetics brands that are currently out there. I think for me, the biggest challenge is just finding ways to differentiate ourselves, but also to make sure that people who are on social media are not paying attention so much to just the overall impact of a first impression but making sure that they’re looking for authentic brands, authentic products that have a mission or some type of purpose. I think one of the things that’s challenging out there is that the new generations are focusing on beauty in a very first impression way. It’s really just trying to make sure that people are thinking outside the box, as beauty is on the rise.

Can you talk a little bit more specifically about how you are challenging these views of beauty and encouraging consumers to look a little bit deeper rather than just a 15 second TikTok video?

One of the things we’re doing to try to challenge not only consumers but also the market is we did come up with skincare products. I think that really helps us differentiate ourselves from other brands that are out there on social media because there’s a really strong affinity between using the right skincare that’s clean, and then on top of that applying the right cosmetics products. If you look at other cosmetics brands, a lot of them focus only on color cosmetics like lipsticks, eyeshadows, foundations, but there’s really not many people out there who have eye creams and moisturizers and things that have the same affinity to the color cosmetics. That’s the way that we’re getting ahead of what’s going on on social media with color cosmetics brands who have really trendy looking lipsticks. But are they taking it an extra step and making sure that people are leaning into their skincare as well?

Can you describe how you felt as you saw the brand start to build more and more success? 

One of the things that hit me the most was that I had never anticipated that the brand would grow that fast in the first two years. So for me, it was really exciting. It was a justification for anyone out there who has a dream or a passion that you should definitely go for it. Sometimes as an owner or an entrepreneur, you set really small goals for yourself, but it’s really amazing when you can manifest a dream or a goal and then you see it come to fruition in such a large form. That brings a lot of excitement and it brings this addictive passion to keep going and to keep growing your brand.

How did the opportunity come about for the shows at New York Fashion Week?

Fashion Week was such a great opportunity for us. We really hit the ground running by reaching out to all of the fashion houses that are partnered with CFDA. We were told that we were actually one of the biggest brands that was the official sponsor for makeup across all the fashion shows. The way we did that was essentially by coming up with really creative partnerships that we presented to the fashion houses. We actually turned down quite a few houses only because we didn’t anticipate that we would get that much interest. It was really just about relationship building and making sure that our brand had a clear connection to high fashion and couture so that the houses would be interested in partnering with us.

Looking forward now that you’ve hit all of these big milestones, where do you see the brand going from here?

Right now we just launched skincare and that’s been really great because that’s the first time that we’ve leaned into moisturizers for the day and night creams. But furthermore, we are going to expand our partnerships with fashion week and we are planning on going to London and Paris in 2023, along with increasing our partnerships with New York Fashion Week by at least three times what we did last season. Then as you think about the next three to five years I mean, ideally, we’re going to continue looking at different categories that we can disrupt outside of color cosmetics and skincare that may be aligned more with lifestyle type products.

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