Updated: 22 March, 2022
As a founder of a beauty brand start-up, you’ll need a clear vision, a well-written beauty products business plan and to have put some skin in the game in terms of hard work, time and funds. But how do you go about getting started on that all-important business plan and what should it contain?
In this blog post, we summarise the 10 key steps new beauty entrepreneurs need to work through to write a business plan for a cosmetics company. This is essential reading for anyone wondering how to start a beauty business from home as it makes you aware of just what you will need to think through and start planning for.
Running a cosmetic business requires you to be very organised. You will need a strong business plan that leads you through all of the main components of your cosmetic business. The relief is that your business plan does not need to be the size of a thesis. In fact, the more concise it is the better as you will be able to tackle it and feel like referring to it in the future.
Our step-by-step video guide below is based on the business planning exercises we provide as part of our Diploma in Beauty Brand Business Management. The Diploma is an extensive, six-module course that takes you on an intensive journey from would-be entrepreneur to empowered founder armed with a structured business plan. Pre-enrol to find out more about this diploma and our other courses.
10-Step Guide to Your Beauty Products Business Plan
Step 1: Why your beauty business needs a plan
The first step is to set yourself a challenge: ask yourself why you are writing a business plan in the first place. There is no point in going through the motions of writing a beauty product business plan. You need to buy into the very concept of business planning.
We know that the thought of writing a business plan can seem daunting. However, your business plan is a necessary and very important strategic document as it focuses your energy, time and resources on a clear end game; not only that of launching a successful beauty business, but also of ensuring it has the potential to thrive longer term.
Your business plan isn’t just to show potential investors and otherwise hide away in a filing cabinet. It is a tool to refer to every time you are faced with important decisions. Your plan guides your decision-making and makes the everyday of running your beauty business simpler and smoother.
It will take time to write your business plan as it summarises the hard work you need to do beforehand in discovering your vision, working out your ‘why’ and what your brand stands for, what you’ll be selling, where you’ll be selling, who your competitors are and what your market gap is, and how you’ll fund your business. It also entails drafting a full financial plan, based on things like sales’ forecasts.
With this mindset challenge out of the way, let’s cover the key areas of your plan in the next steps.
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Step 2: Your beauty brand mission and vision
We’ve seen many start-up beauty entrepreneurs rush into designing their branding before they have even worked out why they are in business. Before branding, come your vision and mission. Often confused and easily ignored, these two statements are the guiding lights of your business.
First, let’s define them. Your vision is about your bigger dreams. It isn’t simply that you want to make organic formulations to sell to anyone. Your vision statement sets out how you want to make a difference with your beauty brand. At Formula Botanica, our vision, in brief, is to make natural formulation as commonplace as cookery.
Your brand mission statement says how you intend to achieve that vision. At Formula Botanica, our mission is to ‘teach the world to formulate’. As you can see from our example, the mission is practical and active and states how we accomplish our vision – through teaching and our online courses.
When you write your brand vision and mission statements, you’re not writing boring, bland, catch-all statements. Coming up with why your beauty brand exists and how it serves your customers is not a quick back-of-the-envelope exercise either. It may take you weeks to define your vision and mission, but this is time well spent as these statements are the heart of your beauty business. Don’t move on to the next steps until you have total clarity on them.
Step 3: Your niche and customers
It’s all well and good having your vision and mission, but if you don’t know your niche in the beauty market nor much about whom you are selling to, then you might not have a business at all. We’re sure you’ve heard this advice a hundred times, but you need to know exactly who you’re going to be selling to. You need to understand who this type of person is, how they live and how they shop.
Once you know who your target customer is, all of a sudden everything clicks into place and becomes easier in terms of selling. You know which marketing messages work best for your customer, you know what they’re looking for and you know how to sell to them. When starting your beauty products business, you need to have a niche and that niche cannot be ‘organic’ or ‘natural’. There are so many untapped niches in the beauty industry, for instance, skincare for women in their fifties, skincare for certain types of athletes (swimmers, runners, etc.), and skincare for teenage boys.
Jot down bullet points about your ideal customer; include where they live, what other brands they buy, how they holiday, what their key skincare issues are and so on. Be brief but on point. Home in on a single person – often called your brand ‘avatar’. It might sound tedious to do, but once you have that person clearly in your mind, everything in your business will work to meeting their needs. Just ensure that you really do have a niche that exists.
We reported on some trends from In-Cosmetics Global, in Paris (April 2019). We’re not suggesting you need to keep up with the latest fad in the beauty industry, but do your market research thoroughly so you can decide where to position your brand and products.
Step 4: Your beauty products
Your business plan needs to detail your initial product(s) and explain what their sales’ proposition is and how they meet your target customers’ needs. This sounds simple to do, but believe us when we say we have seen new beauty entrepreneurs incur huge expenses as they change their direction and minds on products just after launching. Bringing new products on board can often be a way of diverting yourself from the hard task of marketing and sales.
When you learn to formulate natural skincare, you create a diversity of products without much thought about how they fit together as a range or as a beauty routine for customers. When you think like a business, you need to understand very clearly what you are selling and what proposition your products offer your target customers.
It is possible to launch with a single product, and there are well-known examples of beauty brands with only a ‘hero’ product to their name. If you are creating a range, work out how the products complement each other. Also, given issues of sustainable consumption, think about how a single product can demonstrate a unique selling proposition by multi-tasking.
Your range has financial implications so you need to decide how many products to launch with and which create a minimal viable range that makes sense for your budget and for your customers’ needs. Above all, your cosmetics’ range will need to demonstrate it has a place in the market and how it improves your customers’ lives.
Step 5: Your competitors
Yes, your competitors most certainly have a place in your skincare business plan. You, as the founder, bring your individual perspectives and experiences to your brand, so in one sense you have uniqueness built into the foundations of your beauty business. That said, you need to keep a close eye on the movers and shakers in your niche and in particular at your product range’s price point. Knowing your competitors keeps you on your toes and is information any investor will ask for, up front and early on.
It can be frustrating at times to research your competitors as their websites might be PR speak and not give much away. Look for interviews with the founders and follow them on all their social media to glean more. Competitor research can help you identify areas where your brand can thrive and can show you more effective ways to grow customer loyalty – and build your business. See what they are doing so that you know what’s working for them and what isn’t. Write a list of their strengths and weaknesses to see how you can do better. You also need to know where to position yourself in comparison to your competitors.
Don’t obsess about your competitors, but check in on what they are up to every few months. Your aim is not to copy them, but to control your beauty products’ conversation. Again, if you have clarity on the earlier steps – mission, vision, niche and customer – then you are on solid ground. It is just good business sense to know what is going on in the market.
Step 6: Your manufacturing strategy
Your manufacturing strategy is a large part of your business strategy. You need to decide whether you will be producing your beauty products yourself in your own (home) lab – according to Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP), using a contract manufacturer or opting for private label products. You need to define also which route suits you at launch and mention any plans to switch model later on.
Each model has its pros and cons depending on your mission and vision, as well as implications for important aspects of your business such as distribution, logistics, financing, and contractual obligations to retailers who stock your brand. How many units of products do you envisage creating a year? Which model suits your entrepreneurial ambitions and lifestyle? As you can see, your business model and manufacturing model go hand in hand. Having an end goal in sight is critical to shaping your overall business plan, the amount of capital you need to raise and the way you conduct your day-to-day operations.
There is no right or wrong choice here, but ensure you know the implications of whichever route your opt for. It might sound perfect making your own products at home in small artisanal batches, but we do know of beauty entrepreneurs who find their business sky rockets faster than they imagined. They then play catch up trying to find and fund outsourced manufacturing so they don’t let retail stockists down. This is a critical area of your business plan and needs you to consider your vision and ethos, as well as think about your own time, hiring staff, and your overall financial situation.
Step 7: Your retail strategy
We’ve seen many indie beauty entrepreneurs think they can sell direct to consumer from their website alone. To do this successfully, you need to invest in becoming a proficient digital marketer – or outsource the role. It can be tempting at the outset to want to sell directly from your own website because your keep all the profit yourself. However, although you receive lower profit margins by having your products stocked in stores and e-stores, retailers can help get your products sold and your brand known as they have a ready customer market; whereas you are unknown and have to build awareness of your brand from scratch.
The work you have done so far in defining your niche, customers, competitors and product range should indicate which retailers suit your brand best. Will your brand fit into the mass, so-called ‘masstige’, premium or luxury retail categories? And which retailers do you hope will stock your brand? What are their likely margins and what implications does this have for your manufacturing model and financial forecasts? Will you also work with distributors in certain markets, especially overseas, and again, how do their margins affect your bottom line?
You must address all these questions and more in your beauty business plan. It is no good working out how and where to sell once your products are all stacked in boxes in your living room or at a warehouse!
Step 8: Your funding
We might have left finances to last, but finding the money to fund your business is an issue that dominates your entire business plan. As you’ve seen, each previous step has financial implications. As we mentioned in our post on how to start a cosmetic business from home, you won’t be able to run a successful beauty brand without having a firm grip on finances. Having sound plans for raising finance at various junctures in your business is sound business practice.
Your business plan needs to cover the different types of funding options available to you now and in the future, whether ‘love money’ loaned from friends and family, bank loans or other sources such as crowdfunding. it needs to look at short-term and long-term sources of finance. You need to understand and pre-empt what your potential investors will ask you about financing and demonstrate in your business plan that you and your business are worth investing in.
Step 9: Your financial forecast
If you are reading this, it is likely you are thinking of starting an indie beauty business. As business plans are best written in the first year of your beauty business, you may well be pre-revenue when you draft it – or need it when pitching to investors. You may not have sales yet, but you can still show some key figures on the size of your market and your brand’s potential.
To introduce your financial forecast, you should include a timeline showing your milestones, such as when you started, your key achievements, any brand or packaging development, what stage you are at now, i.e. do you have a product in creation and how much have you invested or fund-raised so far? If you are already selling, then you can show how much investment has gone into the company already, what returns and sales you have and what your financial projections are.
There will be a need for you to factor in expenses you hadn’t thought of. One such ‘hidden’ expense we see many beauty entrepreneurs fail to predict is the need to cover retailers’ promotions. Stores generally expect you to contribute to their promotions of your products. Cashflow is everything in a business, even one selling successfully. You may face shortfalls of cash while waiting for retailers to pay you. That time lag means your day-to-day business can grind to a halt if your cash is tied up in stock and you have nothing to cover buying in more raw materials to keep production going or to cover promotions or seasonal campaigns.
As you can see, financial forecasting is about your day-to-day business, and this alone is one reason you need to revisit your business plan frequently. You need to keep an eye on your profit and loss sheets and map the trends monthly. Learn as much as you can yourself about financial forecasting and measuring your business’ financial health. Having an accountant or financial expert assist with this information can help you be better prepared both day to day and when talking about your finances to potential investors.
10: What to do with your plan now
Congratulate yourself. You have made it through the first draft of your business plan – or roadmap. But, now comes perhaps the hardest step of all; that of doing something useful with your business plan, as opposed to archiving it in some filing cabinet. This is a plan to revisit and adjust, and to assess your business’ health and performance against. It is not a document to present to banks and potential investors at the start of your business journey and then forget all about.
So, what exactly do you need to look at it for, and how often? Let’s take just a few examples of areas you will need to review.
First, you need to revisit your financial forecast monthly. See how your budgeting is measuring up against actual sales and expenses. Are things on track? Either way, yes or no, you will have a benchmark against which to measure your current business health. This information will guide you as you go forward.
Then, revisit your competitors and the overall market situation. How have things changed and how might this affect your product range, pricing or development? Be aware that you need time to get established in your market. Knee-jerk reactions can be costly. But use your plan to monitor things.
Examples of areas to review annually are your mission, vision and niche. Was your research when drafting the plan accurate? Have you proved the concept of your brand and product range? Access to a mastermind group of like-minded business founders, even in different sectors, or a mentor can help you work through any changes you think are necessary to your core statements. Again, think these through basing decisions on financials too.
Pre-enrol in a Formula Botanica course and learn how to start a cosmetic business
We hope our points have given you the outline of what you need in to think through in starting a beauty business. If you have a mission to create a beauty brand that’s bigger than yourself – a skincare brand, haircare line or makeup range that changes people lives – we can help you learn how to formulate your own products and all about bringing a brand to market.
Pre-enrol now in our Diploma in Beauty Brand Business Management – the ultimate online training programme in starting or growing your indie beauty brand. We like to refer to it as a Beauty Brand MBA. It is a combination of award-winning teaching materials and a web summit with 30+ influential speakers drawn from the best in the beauty and business community.
Or why not pre-enrol on one of our formulation diplomas and courses in skincare, haircare and cosmetic science to change your life through natural formulation? All our courses are fun and empowering and can be career changing.
Your start-up costs with a beauty business vary according to where you set your sights and relate very much to your personal goals and circumstances and not only to current funds and cash flow. The ballpark figure you find is around US $20,000 or similar in Euros. If you wish to outsource, initial start-up costs are high as most contract manufacturers require large minimum order quantities. Similarly, your branding and packaging also rack up costs especially if you are aiming at the more luxury end of the market. Writing a business plan to help you think through all the variables can give you a clearer idea of your beauty business start up costs and help you plan finances as your business grows. You can start on a small budget by making product at home to sell at local markets. Work out your personal goals and lifestyle needs first to have an idea of what costs you will face.
Indie beauty is flourishing and ever more skincare entrepreneurs find a niche and enter the market. But, finding a niche that resonates with customers is key to defining what type of beauty business to launch. Being clean, green, natural or even organic is not enough these days to necessarily differentiate your potential beauty business. Think carefully about how your beauty products will resolve the issues and fulfill the needs of a clear segment of consumers. Do not be all things all to people. By researching for and writing a beauty brand business plan, you will shape your ideas and define a viable product offer, customer base and route to market.
Join us at Formula Botanica, where tens of thousands of students and followers take our free and paid online courses to learn how to formulate organic skincare and haircare for themselves or to sell and also how to set up a beauty brand and business.
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Liz is Formula Botanica’s Content Coordinator and joined our team in August 2020. Liz worked as a professional blogger, journalist and site developer for many years and was also part of the Formula Botanica student community. Read more about the Formula Botanica Team.