Ms. Michelle Phan changed the beauty industry by accessing social networks.
She originally thought she was about to be fired when L’Oréal called her, but she soon realized what was actually happening, Ms. Michelle Phan said in recalling the most surreal moment of her career. She called her mother to say she - her mother - no longer needed to work as a pedicurist. As she told her what had happened they both shed tears of joy.
“I am a digital pioneer and entrepreneur,” said Ms. Phan, a young Vietnamese-American with her own cosmetics line, called em Michelle Phan with L’Oréal, and co-founder of ipsy, a beauty sampling service she got off the ground in 2011. She’s also recently entered into a partnership with Endemol Beyond USA via ICON, a premium boutique talent network.
Thanks to her YouTube channel and social networks she can constantly create in the beauty industry, she said, though every day her focus shifts between her different projects. “I don’t want to do the same thing everyone else is doing,” she said. She creates a story and adds a theatrical element to her videos, which is an important factor in remaining relevant despite posting make-up videos for eight years. She pointed out that pop culture icons like Rebecca Black or Gangnam Style lasted for a year and then were gone. She believed that she, however, could stay relevant by evolving and growing with her audience.
She not only used social networks as a tool for her creations in the beauty industry, she used them to promote her idea of expressive beauty, which is an outer reflection of inner beauty. Instead of the traditional approach of using fashion models with unattainable physical beauty, as perpetuated by mainstream media, she thought it was time for the world to see beauty in one another as everyday people, celebrating uniqueness and diversity.
“The internet has connected the world, which has allowed everyone on the planet to express themselves,” she said. Everyone can show their beauty and inspire others with their own unique style and personality. Online social communities were her way to discover new people, looks and products that were inaccessible not too long ago.
Proud and pressured
Earning over $100 million from ipsy, Ms. Phan is extremely proud of its growth and especially that it has become a destination for beauty devotees to network, try new products, and watch beauty care tutorials. ICON, the first worldwide Premium Lifestyle Network she launched recently in partnership with Endemol Beyond, is another source of great pride.
Her pride stems from her contribution to establishing a venue for creators to build their brands and work with each other in a collaborative environment. “It’s a place where they can be mentored and create something that is bigger than what they could do on their own,” she explained. Moreover, she believes that a creator’s audience can find inspirational and entertaining content on digital media.
With a strong Vietnamese culture in her household as she grew up, her mother didn’t want her to fail at anything. “There was unspoken pressure, where I had to be the perfect daughter, the perfect student, the perfect sister, and, one day, the perfect wife,” she said. She understood, though, why her mother pushed her and she can comprehend the meaning of failure. “Failure is a tool, like a compass,” she said. It sent her in the right direction. “It also teaches you humility, which in my opinion is what a true leader should possess.”
It’s important to judge the “lay of the land” when starting any business venture, she said. In Vietnam, for instance, where the land is lush and the climate tropical, she would love to open a holistic healing retreat. “Not every business can be transported from one country to another,” she believes.
Her advice to those looking at a business start-up is to be driven by passion. “Chase the dream and enjoy the journey rather than just focusing on the prestige,” she said. She knows that not every start-up can be a success, but more knowledge can be gained by trying. “Try and try again until your goals are accomplished and don’t be afraid of failure,” she advised.
- Michelle Phan