Makeup Company Finds Success By Targeting Afro-Latina Market
By Geri Stengel
During the early days of the pandemic, the social unrest focused attention on Afro-Latina and multicultural brands. Their communities supported them by buying their products. Corporations beefed up their diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives which included providing training to diverse women entrepreneurs and selling their products.
Two sisters, Mabel and Shaira Frías, founded and launched their makeup brand, Luna Magic, in 2019. They benefit from their community purchasing their product and big-box retailers who want to reach this market. The sisters were part of Target’s accelerator program, and Luna Magic makeup is sold nationally by Target and Walmart. They appeared on Shark Tank, though ultimately, they didn’t take the deal.
Cosmetic companies have long ignored the Afro-Latina and multicultural market’s taste preferences and price points. The Frías sisters saw this as an opportunity. Their parents are Dominican immigrants and they grew up speaking Spanish at home and English in school.
“Beauty is a deeply cultural experience,” said Mabel. “There are a lot of rituals around putting on makeup. “Our culture is everything that has to do with vibrancy, bold colors, and being unapologetic in our color choices,” said Shaira.
The sister cofounders are proud to be Dominican Americans pursuing the American Dream through entrepreneurship. The brand reflects and celebrates the culture and energy of the Caribbean and Latin America along with the hustle and bustle of New York City—where the sisters were from—with a dash of glamor from L.A.—where they now live. Shaira explained that “it’s about the three Bs:
- Bueno—it has to be good [quality].
- Bonito— it has to look good.
- Barato—it has to be value priced.”
She creates affordable, gorgeous, luxurious products that look good on diverse skin tones.
The company launched in 2019. The pandemic could have caused the collapse of the company. Instead, it accelerated the company’s growth and not just because of corporate DEI initiatives. Buying makeup is an inexpensive way to treat yourself during hard times. Mabel understood how to reach the market through social media, especially Instagram and TikTok videos. However, it is Shaira who loves celebrating everything, from National Lipstick Day to Saint Patrick’s Day, and dresses for the occasion.
The pandemic caused lots of headaches for the sisters. Shaira is in charge of product development and the supply chain. A journalist by training, she used her investigative skills to source ingredients and packaging worldwide. It was a balancing act getting shipments to arrive when needed. There were setbacks. Mabel is in charge of business development and has found that when setbacks happen, over-communicating is critical.
Building a brand and a company culture during turmoil and remote work was difficult. Having conversations around working from home and employees feeling safe to come to work were critical, said Mabel. “In a small company, every employee matters and is a key team member. I had to put myself in their shoes and show empathy and grace. I also had to provide a lot more structure and talk about the company’s vision.”
Suppliers need to be paid on time. That can be hard when you have to have inventory on hand for retailers, and it can be anywhere between 30 to 90 days after delivery until you get paid. Walmart has been very proactive in this area, providing low-cost financing. They were also responsive when Mabel asked for better payment terms. “But I have to give myself credit for not being afraid to ask for better terms,” said Mabel.
The sisters also had to get comfortable with exploring debt financing. “There’s this fallacy that taking on debt is bad,” said Mabel. “Debt can work for you as a financial tool when you understand how it works. Make sure you ask the tough questions about interest rates and the implications of payment terms.” Mentors and her fractional CFO educated her on how financing can be critical to fast growth.
Are there cultural aspects to your business that you should showcase to grow?