In an industry that is incredibly saturated right now, we spoke with Ima Asali, the founding director of Mellow Cosmetics, to gain some insight on her entrepreneurial journey in the makeup industry - how she lives her life by having a full-time hobby.
Asali is originally from Iran. She migrated with her family to New Zealand when she was just 11 years old. Starting school in Kohimarama Auckland - surrounded by strangers and a world she knew nothing about. With her English not being the best, it was a difficult time for Asali, however, in a short six months, the language barrier was no longer a problem, her friends and family who was by her side every step of the way made her felt at home. Now, living in Brisbane, Australia, Auckland is still home for Asali.
How Mellow Cosmetics began...
Mellow Cosmetics began in June 2014, and it was the best decision Asali has ever made. "It was one of those decisions that I made following my inner calling - my gut feeling if you will," said Asali.
Asali had her son in November 2013 and was due to return back to her corporate job mid-2014. During her maternity leave, she enjoyed spending time with her newborn son and watching him reach his milestones.
"I was thinking about staying home for longer and working for myself, I just didn't know how!"
One YouTube makeup tutorial video later, everything clicked. Asali thought, "hang on, I can start my own makeup brand", and the rest was history. Asali took the plunge and quit her full-time job to pursue her new project: Mellow Cosmetics.
Starting her brand back in 2014 meant the beauty/makeup industry wasn't as saturated as it is now. It allowed Mellow Cosmetics to fine-tune their brand without being severely overshadowed by household names. At the time there were an array of indie makeup brands that were emerging into the scene at the same time - however, this meant everyone was more or less on the same playing field. But, the catch was to stay relevant and for a prolonged period of time, something Mellow Cosmetics has worked hard on since the beginning.
This isn't to say starting Mellow Cosmetics was an easy task. Starting any company from scratch takes a lot of willpower. Asali followed her "inner calling".
"It was like someone was telling me this is the right decision, just do it!" said Asali.
"It wasn’t easy at the beginning, it’s still not easy to this date, I put a lot of hard work into it, I worked many nights and long hours".
Mellow Cosmetics is cruelty-free, vegan, paraben-free. Moreover, its affordable prices coupled with high-quality formulas and packaging, makes Mellow Cosmetics stand out against the crowd. The feedback Asali got was encouraging and the general word of mouth around Mellow Cosmetics helped increase sales in the early stages.
What has been the biggest challenge when launching Mellow?
"The first year was definitely a huge challenge, I had no experience in the beauty industry except for my love of makeup! I did not know how to market my products effectively and I had no entrepreneurial skills at all," said Asali.
It's important to believe in your project and to believe in yourself. Asali took it upon herself to upskill by taking an online master class in marketing and followed every step they recommended.
"I gained a lot of skills that I was never taught during my Business degree at university! It really helped with the success of my business, I started advertising on Facebook and Instagram, I started influencer marketing and changed my website around and took new product images and we were flooded with orders that we did not know how to keep up with! That was the next challenge…"
Introducing Mellow Cosmetics to Farmers
Farmers is New Zealand's most well-known department store. Introducing Mellow to Farmers meant everything to Asali.
"When the Newmarket store displayed over 74 SKU's for Mellow, it was a 'pinch me' moment for sure. I started the range with three products and to achieve so much in the past six years has made it all worth the hard work."
For those wanting to step into the beauty industry... prior experience, yes or no?
When starting a new project, job, anything - your level of experience is always graded by your employer, your peers and others in your industry. For Asali, she had been working in the beauty industry prior to Mellow, however, she did not have so-called 'industry knowledge'.
"You just need the drive and the motivation to start and to keep going! You would of course then need to educate yourself along the way and hire people that know more than you so they can help with the growth of your business."
Having a positive mindset makes all the difference.
There are definitely obstacles along the way, but that's okay they are all part of the process.
One of the main obstacles when starting Mellow Cosmetics, was when Asali first approached influencers to work with. Many of them declined as the brand was 'too new' and those influencers did not believe her brand would last.
It is important to not take these 'setbacks' to heart. These obstacles will always be there no matter how great your product is. A few years later, Asali now works with some of the top influencers in the game.
Good things take time.
What is the most important part of a beauty product in your opinion?
"A product needs to have it all. High-quality formulas are vital for Mellow. Packaging, on the other hand, wasn't such a big deal when I first started...now, it is becoming very important to consumers."
Great formulas in beautiful luxurious packaging... everything has to be Instagram worthy!
Multipurpose products? Yes or no?
I love using products that are versatile and multipurpose. A two-for-one, if you will.
"It's about making the most of what you have! Our liquid lip paints and lipsticks are a great example of this! The formula is so creamy and gentle, they can be used as a lip colour, a blush and on the eyes as eyeshadow! They are perfect for creating a monochromatic look which is super trendy right now. Our Blushes are another example, they can easily be used as blushes and eyeshadows!"