Cassandra Mills is a seasoned businesswoman. She had a successful career as a music industry executive, having worked for the likes of Time Warner Entertainment. Then she built her own entity, Cassandra Mills Entertainment.
Now she has ventured into a whole new arena—the beauty industry. Mills has launched Haute Face, a lush line of makeup geared to literally every hue. Mills said the idea was prompted from her own need. For years she searched in vain for makeup foundation to match her skin tone. Nothing worked, as most makeup colors on the market have a pink tone base, which does not work for people who have skin with darker pigmentation. Haute Face works for an array of women, from white to Asian and Black to Latina. There have been similar cosmetic lines introduced to the market over the past decade, such as Iman Cosmetics. And even some of the large name companies, suddenly realizing that women of all colors need makeup too, have introduced cosmetic lines for women of color. Still, Mills feels Haute Face stands apart from the competitors because the key focus is meeting the needs of all women.
Although currently available only through its online store, hauteface.com, the company offers makeup artists who can assist customers in selecting the correct color choices for their skin tone over the Internet.
Q: Why enter the beauty business?
A: There are several reasons why the beauty business makes sense to me. Foremost on that list is a desire to solve some obvious issues, that I feel are still falling through the cracks for women of color in the premium brand cosmetics market. Add to that, a desire to build an American beauty company in the new millennium that can provide “women of color” consumers with quality products that will make their morning beauty regimen quick and easy, and you have a significant reason for entering the industry.
Q: How did you fund the venture?
A: The company was funded with everything from plastic bottles to gold sales (laugh), not really … I actually contributed a major share of the funding with personal proceeds from my career in the music biz. I also had the benefit of a select group of private investors, but the real story here is the number of contributions and loans from friends and family who believed enough in my vision and purpose for the company, to put their money on the line with me. As with most start-up businesses, funding is always the most difficult part of the puzzle.
Q: What has been your biggest obstacle and how did you overcome it?
A: When your goal is to build one of the nation’s premiere beauty brands in the industry, I don’t know if you ever ‘overcome’ all of the obstacles, but to get where I am with this vision, I’ve learned not to allow what I don’t have to prevent me from using what I do have to achieve my goal. I wasn’t born with a ‘silver spoon.’ Leading the list of challenges has been acquiring funding to execute at the highest level. Creativity and ingenuity in designing the brand has allowed us to execute without cutting corners on the quality details that make Haute Face capable of playing ball with the best of the best in the business. Having assistance from friends, family and vendors who also want to see me win has been an extremely valuable element in this equation as well. But, the most important element in overcoming the obstacles and challenges in raising this business up has been my faith in God and my belief that if God is for you, He’s more than the world against you.
Q: What are your goals for this year?
A: To get our brand message out with such vigor that we convert millions of new-makeup-wearing-women into HAUTE FACE users. We want all women wearing our cosmetics brand and telling other women how much they love our products. I believe it takes a committed team working together to build the type of company that we are aspiring to raise with this brand. Every new customer is a victory for us that puts us one step closer to our overall goal of making HAUTE FACE the preferred prestige brand of women around the world.
Q: Long-term goals?
A: On the surface our initial objective is to have HAUTE FACE on the faces and ‘on the lips’ of millions and millions of women the world over. In achieving this, a second layer goal for the company and brand will also be accomplished – which is, to build a Beauty Corporation that is counted in the top three of its industry…My personal objective with this company and brand is to build an American-owned beauty business that can provide much needed jobs, contribute to the re-development of our nation’s middle class and help educate our children. It’s time for corporations to truly give back to the communities that support them in this kind of fashion.
Q: What has the industry response been?
A: The industry response to HAUTE FACE has been wonderful. The idea of a premium cosmetics brand that has focused its attention on the development of a line for the underserved ‘women of color’ consumer does two things: first, it provides a much needed product to a highly overlooked and poorly serviced customer. Secondly, it brings a disenfranchised but vitally important consumer group into this sector of the retail market. That’s a win-win for everyone concerned – customer, brand and ultimately, retailer.
Q: What is the consumer response?
A: Consumer response has been fantastic. Women of color have truly embraced the brand. I have heard nothing but praise from women thanking me for taking the initiative to create a premium brand cosmetics line that “honestly” addresses the unique issues that Blacks, Latinas, Asian and Middle Eastern women face when trying to find a perfect foundation and powder. I love that we can bless women with an efficient answer to an important concern in a fashion that others have not.
A: We are now in talks to determine who our retail partners will be when we roll out into stores in 2013. Our goal is to have a highly active e-customer base established when we announce our retail launch next year.