Every once in a while I come across a business that has an incredible story to tell – and Canadian makeup brand Face Atelier is one of them.
President and CEO Debbie Bondar knew when she founded the company that if she could garner the support of professional makeup artists, their endorsements would be a huge catalyst in driving the brand forward. With an enormous number of competitors, and the high price of advertising and mass makeup giveaways, Ms. Bondar believed that the pros would be instrumental in getting the word out.
"Receiving a makeup artist's seal of approval is gold," Ms. Bondar says. "They are the ones whose daily bread depends on using the product, whether for a wedding, putting it on a television anchor, or Lady Gaga. Their approval gives the product credibility.
"Spokespeople only go so far. It can be contrived. People know that you're paying someone to say something."
So Ms. Bondar began to search schools and training programs online, with the aim of putting her products in the hands of artists at the beginning of their careers. Approaching dozens of schools, she eventually came across a new continuing education program in New York that was founded by Michael DeVellis, former MAC Cosmetics executive director of artist relations.
"I always say everything goes back to Michael, because he was very supportive," says Ms. Bondar, who developed a strong relationship with Mr. DeVellis over e-mail in the coming months.
Then Mr. DeVellis contacted Ms. Bondar with an opportunity. Renowned makeup artist billy b wanted product sent over for a Pink music video.
"Of course I was going to do it, but my first reaction was: 'Really? More free makeup and more shipping costs?'" she says with a laugh.
But this was the beginning of something big – billy b loved Face Atelier's foundation, and later praised it to a captive audience at New York's Makeup Show.
"After his lecture and demonstration there was a stampede to my booth," Ms. Bondar recalls.
Today, the brand has a pro gratis program: if makeup artists facilitate published credits for a Face Atelier product, they receive a selection of free makeup. She also offers a discount to both artists and students.
Face Atelier is found in the kits of makeup artists worldwide and it is worn by celebrities including Lady Gaga and Fergie, as well as the everyday woman. Its products have been featured in magazines such as People, InStyle, Elle and Marie Claire. The brand was even a sponsor for Madonna's Confession tour.
Ms. Bondar is humble and avoids overanalyzing the strategy behind her success. "I did not take a clinical approach to starting my business. I just shot from my hip. I followed my gut.
"Everything is a building block, even though you're not always sure if the next block you put on the pile is going to be a tipping point. Face Atelier was built on relationships. Through e-mails, and through this wonderful thing they call the Internet, you can build a business."
Ms. Bondar's story is a great one – with a lesson that all emerging businesses can benefit from. If you have a great product to share with the world, determine who your influencers are. Make connections, and don't hesitate to take a chance on your own success.
Special to The Globe and Mail
Mia Pearson is president of the Canadian region for Fleishman-Hillard Canada and its sister company, High Road Communications. She has more than two decades of experience in creating and growing award-winning communications agencies. Her experience spans many sectors, including financial, technology, consumer and lifestyle. She works in partnership with her clients to build brands, mitigate risk and shape communications strategies.