Founder Interview: Stephanie Lewis Unmasks the Glamour Industry
Stephanie’s Journey into Entrepreneurship
5 or 6 years ago, after she graduated from Cosmetic School, Stephanie got her first-ever retail job in makeup… and she hated it. After she graduated, she realized sales wasn’t for her, even though she loved socializing and doing peoples’ makeup. Throughout the whole experience, she felt like she needed to be doing something more, and it pushed her to change her career path and start her own social media brand.
When she first started her Instagram, Stephanie was posting pictures every single day. She was passionate about the entire process, from doing makeup to taking pictures and thinking of a feed layout. As she continued with enthusiasm, her following started to grow steadily; that’s when Stephanie realized that this could be a potential career.
Now at the time, she would never post pictures of her makeup brushes because they were so “black and boring.” It was the one thing she wanted to hide since it didn’t go with everything else’s aesthetics. She started to slowly get frustrated at the market gap until she realized she could fill it herself. She had the idea that our beauty brushes should be just as GLAM as our makeup collection.
When Stephanie was still working in retail, she spent every spare minute trying to figure the brand out, down to the look and feel. Stephanie had been “girly” since she could remember and always loved jewels, so when the idea struck her, she knew she hit gold — her brushes were going to have twin jewels on them. In fact, she is proud that today her brand stands out as jewelled beauties from the rest. And when she had twins, years later, Stephanie knew it was all meant to be.
She began creating her collection of glam beauty brushes out of love for all things pink and jewelled. The brushes started in 2014, and in that first year, they were featured in Ipsy’s glam bags. As for her social branding, Stephanie always loved posting glam photos and videos on social media. Within no time, she built a strong following, amounting to around 300,000 followers each, on Instagram and YouTube.
Taking that Leap of Faith
Stephanie always knew she wanted her own brand someday but never knew what it was going to be.
“I honestly leaped faith… When you’re in a place where you’re unhappy, or you don’t like your career path, or you feel like you should be doing something more, most likely, you should be doing something more. You should be doing something you’re passionate about and that you love.”
She can still vividly remember just how miserable she was; she couldn’t stand working in retail, didn’t like where she was going, and just felt like she was nowhere near her potential. So when she planned to go her own way, she put her all into it. She started tested her samples and got her product going; it all clicked in place. Looking back, she doesn’t even like her first set brush set anymore; Shepthanie states that each step, everything is a learning curve.
“Your first product isn’t going to a niche product that lasts for 10–15 years. You’re going to expand on that, and you’re going to get better over the years.”
Stephanie spent a lot of time finding the right manufacturer before actually developing the brand. She states that the beginning stages are the longest, but it’s also what will drive and motivate you to where you want to be. Once she found the perfect match of manufacturer and product, it was time to leap.
Stephanie quit her job and started working full-time on her business. Even though social media drove it at the time, she knew that her 10,000 followers would believe in her, purchase the product, and follow the brand. And that’s exactly what happened.
“Every piece of my brand has been a milestone and a stepping stone to where I want to go. I never forget where I was.”
When she started, 5 years ago, Stephanie invested every dime she saved on the launch, and she will never forget her climb from anything, giving her all to reach success. Throughout her journey, her husband has played a vital role, and he helped her pursue her brand to the fullest mentally and financially; he even invested in her when she needed it. When Ipsy approached Stephanie to add her brushes to their glam bags, she was ecstatic. She invested all her own money into production, and the sales were huge.
With its success, Ipsy placed an even larger order opening a huge window of opportunity for her brand, but this was something she could never afford independently. This is where her husband invested in the brand, and the project was a success, and now Stephanie continues to work with them, providing for their 20 million+ subscribers.
Starting SL Glam
When she first started, Stephanie offered both lashes and brushes, along with other products. But one thing she learned throughout the years is to focus on one product and give it your all; Stephanie chose what she was most passionate about — brushes.
“When you have too many things, it can kinda take away from really focusing on your product line.”
This is when she really started expanding her line into brush books, brush kits, and sets. After that, Stephanie slowly went into makeup bags; She states that once you start on a few different lines, you’ll be able to expand on it.
Dealing with the struggles of first-time entrepreneurship
When you’re shipping a product, and it’s traveling either by air or sea, countless factors could go wrong. In fact, when Stephanie was sending a shipment out, the shipping company went bankrupt, and her heart stopped. That was the first time she ever doubted her brand’s potential, but in the end, everything was sorted, and all the products were shipped respectfully.
“Having your own business is an amazing feeling, but also it has a lot of stress to it as well.”
Stephanie started uploading on her channel when she still worked in retail, her first video featured her makeup collection, and it grew from there. When people ask about starting a YouTube Channel, her only advice is “just start, and it doesn’t matter what you’re doing.”
“My first video is not up right now because it was terrible, but at least I got there and made a presentation and got going. That really is what it is, even with your own business; you need to start today and try.”
Another hard-hitting event for Stephanie and her brand was a huge fraudulent order on her website. Towards the beginning, she received a large wholesale order, and she was excited, to say the least. But it was not legitimate, it was done through a stolen credit card, and her advice to all the people who have Shopify is this.
“Look into the high, fraudulent orders, and if it pops up, do not ever accept it.”
Similarly, other instances taught Stephanie exactly what to look out for in the future. These were situations she never knew could happen; in the beginning, she was excited to start and watch her brand grow, and she never realized them until it happened.
“It’s a learning experience… I’ve learned to look out for myself and look out for those that have been there since the beginning.”
Growing a following, and its influence on the business
Stephanie’s followers have been a huge part of her life since the beginning, and she even knows a lot of them by name. Her biggest priority is being interactive with them, unlike major brands that take months to respond; Stephanie makes sure that her followers, subscribers, and customers, all the people who have been there since the beginning, feel appreciated.
“It’s a big thing for me, knowing I’ve had followers since the day I started, that have been turned into my customers, and have been with me for the last 6–8 years. It’s just crazy to think that no matter what I launch or do, they are still supportive.”
Stephanie states that no matter what following you have, you need to appreciate and give lots of time to those people. She believes that’s how she was able to grow so rapidly on her platforms. Stephanie also made many friends in the industry, other YouTubers who had started where she was from. They all supported each other and grew together; they did collaborations and helped each other’s brands grow.
“No matter what you do, I think you have to support other people… that’s how you really get your name and grow your business.”
With YouTube alone, there’s an organic presence where people get to know the real you more than any other social platform. In fact, Stephanie believes it’s the number one platform globally because people can see you face to face: they know and feel your pain and watch your journey. This is another factor Stephanie states is vital for your business; if you want to be your brand’s face, people need to really know you genuinely.
Having your life on social media
Stephanie started with a love for social media, so of course, she loves being on Instagram, scrolling through the app, and looking through people’s feeds. She does, however, also go through those peaks when she needs a break, but to her, it’s more peaceful than most; her following understands that and gives her the space she needs.
Stephanie almost feels like she’s running two businesses side-by-side to grow SL Glam while raising twin girls. So the occasional breaks from social media are much appreciated to get back into a motivating rhythm.
“It’s a love, hate relationship.”
Many people don’t realize the amount of work that actually goes into having and growing a personal brand. Just coming up with new content every day is not easy. As Stephanie gets up and prepares her latte, it’s become a routine for people to follow along with her morning routine.
“It gets exhausting cause you always feel like you need to be on.”
That being said, ever since Stephanie has been more open about her stresses and real-life situations, people have been more understanding towards her not being present 24/7.
Stephanie’s Struggle with Alopecia
Stephanie has had Alopecia since she was 5 years old. She states that it’s straightforward to hide it from the public. Personally, she has used hair extensions, clip-ins, and everything imaginable for 15 years + to hide it. Stephanie never really accepted the situation until she had her twins, when she had postpartum hair loss on top of her Alopecia, so during that time, she lost almost all of her hair.
“People need to know that, even if people have the most stunning brand, the gorgeous presence on Instagram; they all have their own struggles, that they deal with behind closed doors.”
That’s why Stephanie feels it’s necessary to be as real and organic as she can be on Instagram. The majority only see social media in one way — the positive, utopian side of reality, but that’s not always the case.
“People crave vulnerability.”
When Stephanie came out, she could tell by the response (from emails, DMs, and messages) that people appreciate someone with her following opening up to the world, showing her insecure side, something she struggles with daily. The amount of response she got from people who suffer from Alopecia and other diseases and struggles was truly overwhelming for Stephanie. It really is a normal thing to be human.
The whole experience of putting herself out there was one of the hardest Stephanie ever had to do in terms of being on social media. In fact, when she made the video, she battled back and forth for days, contemplating whether she should post it. But once she did, it was a sign of relief.
“I’ll never forget that feeling during the first 5 minutes of people’s positivity and the love I got from that. I would do it a hundred times over again. That’s why I’ve been so open… I want people to realize no life is perfect.”
It’s easy for pictures to look a certain way, to look perfect. And when it does, Stephanie knows it’s time to be more real and talk about the things she deals with daily. She believes that this is where YouTube plays a vital role. It’s practically a whole different world for her; it’s a place she can talk and express what she’s feeling, whether it’s about her Alopecia struggles or daily struggles of being a mom.
Finding the balance between work and family
Stephanie states that to date, this has been her biggest struggle — finding a balance. Stephanie manages to keep her passion alive by learning and working on things she’s passionate about in her business and YouTube channel. On the other hand, she spends as much time devoted to her children, when she can and when they need it. She continues to find the right balance between being the best mom and the best businesswoman.
Read the rest of the interview at https://logo.com.