How lucky is Alicia Grande, Grande Cosmetics’ CEO and founder, to have a last name that works for everything—a brand, a world view, and a description of her outgoing, generous nature. This #ladyboss started GrandeCosmetics, a leader in “making things bigger”, and Grande herself was recently given a grand nod, being named the ICMAD (Independent Cosmetic Manufacturers and Distributors) Entrepreneur of the Year, at their annual awards program. ICMAD’s City Awards select the most innovative beauty brands and entrepreneurs who are pushing the boundaries with transformative products and solutions. Grande, from the beginning, has been all about discovering the right fix for beauty problems.
“I have been in the cosmetic industry since I was 16 years old, when I worked at a flea market in Rockland County, NY learning what excited and inspired people,” Grande shares. “I went to college for marketing and my goal was to be in sales because I knew I was good at it. After graduating, I had a job at a vitamin company, where I became very interested in ingredients and in understanding how cosmetics could be beneficial for health and beauty.” Grande also became skilled at identifying interesting products and dynamic spokespeople to represent them. She eventually started her own media company, GrandeMedia, and she shared her enthusiasm for skin care, health, and cosmetics on her own radio show, The Health Buzz, interviewing experts on the latest and greatest trends. In 2007, while immersed in the world of cultivating great brands, she came upon formula for a product that would become her hero, GrandeLASH-MD.
“I stumbled on this formula that actually delivers results,” she says. “It’s my signature product, a clear serum that is applied on your lashline.”We spoke with Grande from her New York base to learn more of her story and to find out what makes for a winning entrepreneur.
MS: You launched GrandeCosmetics in 2008—what did that look like?
AG: I was so excited about this product and I really felt that every woman needed to have access to it so it was priced very reasonably. I went out there with $25,000 and invested it all. I went from trade show to trade show, hauling these huge duffle bags all over the country. I would stay at cheap hotels and set up a booth by myself but because I knew I had gold, you better believe that I stopped everyone that walked by my booth to tell them about it.
MS: How did you convince the doubters?
AG: Well, there I was, up against the big guys who had these gorgeous, well-staffed booths, and I had myself and a couple women who used and loved GrandeLash. But what I saw is that people who came to our booth didn’t care what it looked like, they cared about the authenticity and the belief I had in what I was selling. If you don’t have that, don’t bother. The estheticians who came by and wanted to try would come back to me and say, ‘Look at my lashes!’ And they really became ambassadors for the brand, as it grew slowly but surely. I was selling direct for the first five years with no distributors and working out of my basement.
MS: And today?
AG: It has really changed. My biggest partner in professional is SalonCentric and we’re in all doors. They have a big standup display and 40 items from Grande. I so appreciate them as partners because they’ve helped me incubate my line. And I also work with independents like Paramount Beauty and Masello Salon Services. We’re also in Sephora and Ulta, and we’re in Macy’s, on a smaller scale.
MG: Where do you go now?
AG: I try to stay in a certain DNA—beauty solutions that work. My number one priority is that a product delivers and there is a checklist that it must meet. We will continue with products for eyes, brows and lips while also doing some hair serums. Anything that is making things bigger works for us.
In 2020, we have some new things coming out and there are others in the pipeline that speak to our brand DNA. We have another mascara that we’re going to be launching in 2020 (third quarter) and a leave-in lash conditioner with aloe and jojoba and ingredients that help make lashes healthier and more lustrous. It’s all about the lash health, that’s where we win.
MS: Any advice to aspiring entrepreneurs?
AG: Build your team by really observing the people you’ve hired. Identify their strengths and nurture them. People on my team, some started out answering phones. I met my CMO at a spa show in Philadelphia and she was looking to get back in the workforce. And create relationships with your people because it is a win-win; I enjoy these relationships and having a relationship with my team members makes them more engaged and interested in their work with you. Pay attention and always give people the opportunity to grow because you can’t do it alone.
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