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WIE Symposium 2011: Spotlight on Sonia Kashuk: The Business of Beauty

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Thanks to the WIE Symposium and Target, I got to spend a little bit of time attending to matters of beauty at the Symposium on Sunday morning. I picked up a couple of tips from cosmetic wizard and painter, Adir Yotam. Many thanks to Adir for making me feel like a million bucks.

Target set up big booths with lights and mirrors featuring cosmetics by Sonia Kashuk for the free makeovers. As the first designer to develop a line for Target, Kashuk has consistently focused on quality and affordability. That was 12 years ago and the relationship continues.

Kashuk took part in the WIE Symposium panel titled, "The Business of Beauty" on Sunday morning. Kashuk joined moderator Mikki Taylor of Essence Magazine and others for the discussion. We spoke afterward about the challenge of sustaining a business and vision after the start up period has ended:

"I almost feel like a new brand compared to who I sell against. But ... [since] I've been on the shelf for 12 years, compared to these brands that are just trying to get started and launching ... it's very different when you're established and hearing the stories of the difficulty in the beginning. You have this certain fire when you first launch and then I think it actually gets harder because [the business] is like what's new, what's new, what's new."


The challenge in finding the next thing, the new thing is a different process when you're out of the start up period and not capturing the initial buzz. Kashuk is realistic about this part of the business. She said, "Even being in stores, all I live with is what's next. You're as good as your last collection. You know, what you've done in the past doesn't matter. It's what you're going to do in the future."

But even in the fashion and beauty business, you have to get to "what's next" one step at a time. Keeping her vision fresh, keeping her energy up means taking good care of herself. She feels blessed and grateful to have a house to go to outside the city. Taking long walks on these weekends away is her way of "bringing things back to something very pure. You take things in and let them percolate because [the ideas] don't start manifesting until you can take that one step away from it."

As aware and nurturing of the creative process as Kashuk is, she's also a businesswoman. "It's crazy. I was just saying to Target that ... from when first I launched to ... being in business today, the business is so different. We just had to hire another person in my office to handle the social media ... We use social media to speak about the product every day. The people write in and ask questions. The thing is that is so cool for me is because of the way in which I have sold and the environment in which I sell in, I never had a voice. I can have a voice."

The use of social media allows Kashuk the chance to enhance her understanding of her customer base:

"Trend is more for publicity than it is for the consumer. Because you'll have a season and it's so much about color, but I'll always look around the room and go, 'How many women are wearing turquoise eye shadow?' You have to understand that balance of having it on shelf to create visual eye candy, but ... when you look at most brands, the ten top selling brands are beige."


She went on to talk about the benefits of creating a dialogue with her customers through social media. This feedback leaves Kashuk feeling as though she's been in conversation with her customers to hear what they need and want. And alternatively, she can go back to Target and let them know what customers are asking for that needs to be addressed: "When you're working with a large corporation, it's hard to be an entrepreneur. Their area of expertise is retail and distribution. I bring my expertise in makeup and beauty." In the end, a big part of what makes it work is the clarity of Kashuk's vision.

Click here to see what Kashuk's envisioned for us this season.