In 2012, Melissa Butler started making lipstick in her kitchen at home. She had no background in cosmetics chemistry. Now, she has a thriving beauty business and is in over 400 Target stores all over America.
Have you ever wondered what it takes to be a top entrepreneur? How can you start from scratch and work your way to the top? Is it even possible?
Melissa Butler has shown us what hard work, dedication, and a whole lot of hustle can do for a business. Our interview with Melissa will give you insight into her top tips for entrepreneurs, and what got her where she is today.
The History of Lip Bar
In 2012, Melissa Butler was working on Wall Street. She started making lipstick in her kitchen in her spare time. Unfortunately, she was not a chemist, so had very limited knowledge of this process. But that didn’t stop her; she decided to send detailed questions to chemists that she found on LinkedIn until she had perfected her formula.
Isn’t it cool how many people out there are willing to help a total stranger?
A Bold Start
How do you stand out in such a crowded space? Melissa knew the typical makeup line had three colours; red, pink, and nude. She wanted her company to be different. She wanted to stand out with her innovative ideas.
So, to be different, she made something that was different. She launched her company, The Lip Bar, without the traditional color scheme, instead going with bold choices like blue, green, and orange.
Melissa knew she wanted to take her beauty startup into the mainstream, and she set her sights on one of America’s biggest retailers – Target. Melissa cold emailed as many people at Target as she could find on LinkedIn until she was put in contact with a cosmetics buyer. She emailed this buyer every week for 6 months. It worked, The Lip Bar got into Target, starting with 40 locations. It is now in over 400 Target locations. Hustle pays off.
Action Step: Do you wish you could network like Melissa? You can! Check out our networking guide.
Tips for Success
So what does Melissa attribute all this success to? What wisdom can she share with you to help you on the path to achieving your dream as well? Our interview with Melissa opened our eyes on many of the ways an entrepreneur can get started, even in a crowded space.
Here are some key insights from our interview with Melissa:
Find the Right People for Your Business
You can’t be everything to everyone. But you can be the right person for your target customers.
Above all, this starts with a deep knowledge of your target market, or ideal partner, or ideal employer. You can use this idea for any goal.
- What do they worry about?
- What are their goals (not yours)?
- What TV shows do they watch?
- Where do they grocery shop?
- What do they eat?
You need to know this group inside and out before you can know how to market to them effectively.
The Biggest Problem is NOT Money
Most entrepreneurs think their biggest problem is funding. How am I going to afford this big order? How am I going to scale without any inventory? Well, if you don’t even have that big order, that question isn’t really all that relevant. Your biggest problem might be something else entirely; creativity, innovation, or working with the right people.
You only need money when you need money. And if people are already lining up to buy your product, then that problem becomes a lot easier to solve.
Smart Money vs. Any Money
It can be tempting as an entrepreneur to take any funding you can get. It is obviously very nice as an entrepreneur when someone is willing to invest money in your business.
Melissa believes you should want more from investors than just money; you should want to partner with people who truly want you to succeed. If someone invests money in your business, they should be someone you can work with, and someone who will share your vision and help you toward a common goal.
Don’t Wait for a Seat at the Table
Early in The Lip Bar’s life, Melissa couldn’t afford the (thousands of dollars!) entry fee for a trade show. This did not stop her; she set up a booth in the entry hall so she could sell The Lip Bar to everyone walking in.
As an entrepreneur, there will always be roadblocks. There will always be things you can’t afford and places you don’t think you can be. But you don’t have to wait around for these opportunities to come to you, go get them! If you don’t have a seat at the table, pull up a chair!
Action Step: If you have a trade show or conference coming up, know how to work it with our Conference Guide.
Fail to Succeed
Melissa didn’t have many resources when she started out. She wasn’t a cosmetics chemist, and she didn’t have the money or inventory to fill a 400 store order from Target. But she had hustle, she knew what she wanted, and she knew how to apply her skills to sell her idea. She was a “scrappy entrepreneur” as she puts it.
Scrappy Entrepreneur: Willing to hustle, work, and even fail in order to succeed.
Her advice to entrepreneurs in this position? Don’t be afraid to fail if it is going to stop you from succeeding. Melissa had all the reasons in the world not to go for it, but she knew that she had to put herself in these situations to learn and adapt. She knew that she would rather fail than to have regret.
Action Step: Are you a scrappy entrepreneur? I was too! Here are all of my favorite tips for Entrepreneurs.
Number One Advice – Be Honest with Yourself
What does Melissa say is her number one piece of advice to entrepreneurs? It’s simple, be honest with yourself.
Stop accepting things that you know you don’t like, stop going places that you know you don’t want to be. Find out what it is you actually want from your life, and then you will finally create a standard for yourself. And once you have this standard for yourself, you will know what direction you should be going. Then you can go in that direction honestly and with confidence.
We hope our interview with Melissa has inspired you as much as it inspired us!
There are many things to be learned from Melissa’s success story, and hopefully this article has opened your eyes to the many ways you can succeed as an entrepreneur, even when it seems like the odds are stacked against you. Success is about creating something that aligns with your vision and what you want out of life, and the only way to find this is by first being truly honest with what it is you actually want.
Establish a standard for yourself, find out how you can get there, and go toward it with confidence!
About Vanessa Van Edwards
Lead Investigator, Science of People
I’ve always wanted to know how people work, and that’s what Science of People is about. What drives our behavior? Why do people act the way they do? And most importantly, can you predict and change behavior to be more successful? I think the answer is yes. More about Vanessa.
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