Breaking into the beauty industry is incredibly difficult, and it’s really easy to get lost and become ‘another lip gloss company.’ Research is so important to differentiate yourself. Every time I had an idea for a product, I researched what is currently on the market and how I could use different ingredients to set myself apart.
As a part of our series about “Five Things You Need To Know To Succeed In The Modern Beauty Industry”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Emilia Ramos, Founder and CEO of Agrestal Beauty, a luxury skincare company based in Baltimore, MD. Since founding Agrestal Beauty in early 2019, her goal is to carefully craft skincare products that work for ALL women — inclusive of age, race, background, gender identities, and abilities — and empower them to embrace individuality and self-love. Emilia graduated from Howard University with a Bachelor of Business Administration in Supply Chain Management. Prior to founding Agrestal Beauty, Emilia’s roles included supporting digital merchandising and marketing at Bluemercury and Macy’s corporate offices.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Asa kid, I always had an innate desire to start my own company, and I believe this entrepreneurial desire came from watching my parents create their own painting company. At ten years old, I used my entrepreneurial spirit to begin a ‘nail salon’ for my family and friends — charging them a few dollars to receive a manicure. My passion for the beauty industry never faded, and after college, the idea of starting my own skincare company formed. I soon discovered the harsh chemicals that are common in many beauty products on the market. I knew there could be a different way — and one that supports plant-based skincare ingredients. Soon enough, I was obsessed with skincare — researching the best ingredients, testing on my friends and family — and in the end, creating quality products that center around luxury and organic/vegan ingredients.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
My passion drove this brand during the past year and a half, and I pushed myself to work incredibly hard, and all of my efforts were, and still are, worth it. A few weeks ago, VOGUE named my company as one of the 84 Black-Owned Fashion and Beauty Brands to Support Now and Always, along with other renowned publications mentioning my brand. This was a defining moment for my company — I finally realized all my hard work and efforts were worth it.
Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Are there takeaways or lessons that others can learn from that?
I started to see a tipping point occur at the end of April. As people spent more time at home, it became apparent that they were also spending more time on a skincare routine. Additionally, this summer, black businesses were becoming the focal point for consumers and the media for the first time.
I also started doing things differently. I started looking at Agrestal Beauty’s long-term future. I wanted to look at it from the eyes of where I wanted to be. And then I started acting like it from that lens. I was able to forecast sales, increase exposure, and implement a success-driven mindset.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person to whom you are grateful who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I attribute all of my success to my two sisters and close supportive friends. When I mentioned I wanted to start my own skincare line, they were 100% supportive. From the beginning, it was never something that ‘I couldn’t do,’ instead, it was ‘ok, how are you going to get there and how can we help?’ They stood by my side even when I quit my job and had no income coming in for five months as I was working on launching Agrestal Beauty. They never doubted that I wouldn’t be able to do it — and I needed that early on as I started my company. Without their support, I would not be where I am at today.
Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. The global beauty industry today has grown to more than a half a trillion dollar business. Can you tell us about the innovations that you are bringing to the industry? How do you think that will help people?
Agrestal Beauty’s goal is to carefully craft skincare products that work for ALL women — inclusive of age, race, background, gender identities, and abilities — and empower them through a community that supports mental health, individuality, vulnerability and self-love.
We want to bring mental health awareness to the forefront of the beauty industry. Mental health is not talked about enough, especially within the beauty industry. Women continue to look to unrealistic beauty standards found on social media, and there needs to be a louder message within the industry to encourage women to love themselves as is. Agrestal Beauty brings this message to the table, and our goal is to develop a community that fosters vulnerability and the normalization of mental health. We advocate for women to begin their own mental health and self-love journey. Each product we develop is made very intentionally — with daily affirmations on each of the labels. We understand the correlation between skincare and mental health, and we hope that these daily reminders will help those find their inner beauty.
Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the modern beauty industry?
I have recently seen an increased level of diversity and inclusion within the modern beauty industry. There has been a stronger focus on highlighting individuals with different body types, sexual orientations, other stories and backgrounds. I hope that this is not just a moment, or trend, in time. This needs to become the standard for the industry. My goal is to encourage others, specifically black women, to enter into the beauty industry so that we can promote inclusiveness and embrace different cultures and races.
I also have enjoyed the convenience of having spa-level services brought to the home. At-home microblading and dip nail kits provide greater opportunities for people to try new things without costing time and money.
Lastly, there has been an increased use of technology within the beauty industry. Technology is now used to understand product ingredients and even help with acne removal and teeth whitening.
Can you share 3 things that most concern you about the industry? If you had the ability to implement 3 ways to improve the industry, what would you suggest?
While the beauty industry has made advancements towards inclusivity, my concern that it will only be a moment of a trend. We need to make diversity and inclusion in the beauty industry the standard. For example, trans awareness is celebrated heavily in June’s LGBTQIA awareness month. But what is stopping the beauty industry from celebrating trans individuals year-round?
I am also concerned with how social media is promoting perfectionist behaviors. Apps such as TikTok are allowing people to compare people to one another easier and encouraging body-shaming among users starting at an early age. This perfectionist behavior is not healthy and could negatively impact the mental health of users. My hope is that a new beauty ‘trend’ erupts on social media networks that promote honesty, vulnerability, and real beauty.
Lastly, many beauty trends are stolen from certain cultures. It is so important to attribute certain trends to the right cultures. Designers and celebrities need to be more aware of where specific beauty trends are coming from so they can give praise to the right resources, so nothing gets lost in translation.
You are an expert about beauty. Can you share a few ideas that anyone can use “to feel beautiful”?
Being in the right headspace is extremely important ‘to feel beautiful.’ Each day, I know I need to be in the right mental space, so I kick start my day by reading a daily affirmation and checking in with myself. It is also important to define your own beauty standards and remember to treat yourself. As a society, we need to standardize treating ourselves. Self-care and luxury shouldn’t be a treat; it should be normalized because you deserve that daily.
Here is the main question for our discussion. Based on your experience and success, Can you please share “Five Things You Need To Know To Succeed In The Modern Beauty Industry”. Please share a story or an example, for each.
Starting a business may seem like a daunting task, but being a black woman presents its own set of challenges — especially breaking into the half a trillion-dollar beauty industry. Along the way, I have learned many lessons that I would love to share with others.
As an Afro-Latina woman, my goal is to encourage others, specifically black and Hispanic women, to enter into the beauty industry to promote inclusiveness and embrace different cultures and races. While the beauty industry has come a long way — there is still much-needed improvement — and we, black women, need to lean on each other to succeed in this competitive industry.
Firstly, I advise anyone looking to break into the industry to find their purpose and why. Standing out in the industry is extremely important as you need to set your brand apart and make itself a differentiator. Luckily, mine came to me naturally. When I went on a mental health and self-love journey, I knew I wanted to inspire others to do this as well, and I knew I could do it with skincare.
When advising others about entering the industry, it is crucial not to get caught up in your business’s planning stage. Many times people get stuck. So it is vital to start small. I first started with seven products, and then from there, I expanded. That way, you can leave room for your company to evolve.
Another piece of advice is to leverage social media to create a following for your company. In this day and age, social media has become one of the most powerful marketing tools as it can easily create a community and following for any brand. Now, it is nearly impossible to have a beauty company and not have social media. Before launching Agrestal Beauty, I began a skincare blog on Instagram to connect with others passionate about skincare. Soon enough, I took the skincare blog that I created and used it for my brand. It gave Agrestal Beauty a jumpstart into social media, and I did that intentionally. Instead of waiting for my brand assets, I started with a skincare blog to grow a following.
Not only is it essential to understand the purpose of your brand, but it is also important for your company to differentiate yourself with physical products. Breaking into the beauty industry is incredibly difficult, and it’s really easy to get lost and become ‘another lip gloss company.’ Research is so important to differentiate yourself. Every time I had an idea for a product, I researched what is currently on the market and how I could use different ingredients to set myself apart.
Lastly, for those beginning a small company, I encourage them to do as much as they can with the resources that you have and then add more people. With so many skincare brands, it is important to build credibility for your brand early on. I did as much as I could on my own for the first year, then I realized the value of PR and how that could bring my company to the next level.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I would love to inspire a movement towards normalizing mental health by encouraging people to love themselves and love others. Often, mental health focuses on yourself, but when we encourage others to focus on themselves and give others love, we can promote a community to feel valued and empowered.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Macy’s former CEO, Terry Lundgren, once shared the quote, “Bloom where you are planted,” and it has served as a life lesson for the past few years. Many times, I get caught up thinking of the next thing or the way ahead. But the quote serves as a reminder that it is essential to take advantage of every moment. If you are not taking advantage of the moment, you can’t transcend to the next experience.
It is important to remember that you can learn something every step of your life — even if it isn’t necessarily where you want to be. Therefore, it is crucial to be the best you can be at every experience because even the smaller moments can help you build character. No one can take those experiences away from you. Look at every moment as an opportunity.
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Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.