Beauty junkies and makeup enthusiasts out there can attest to the trials and tribulations that come along with hauling around a large collection of cosmetic products. They can end up scattered at the bottom of the purse or even worse leave unsightly crumbles from broken eyeshadows or powders compacts. Fortunately, thanks to innovative concept of UNII, a magnetic makeup palette that allows you to store multiple brands of makeup pans, we can say goodbye to clutter as getting organized is now simpler and may I add, more stylish.
UNII is the brainchild of Minna Ha and it is a product that has gained a lot of notoriety in the beauty community. One quick search for UNII palettes and you come across a plethora of rave reviews on YouTube videos and blog posts. I had the opportunity to chat with Minna in a candid interview to get deeper look into the business and the story behind how it all started.
Minna designed the first concept of a makeup palette as a college student at MIT while in her early twenties. Her parents were living in Southern California around that time period and frequent back and forth trips made her realize the inconvenience of carrying out so much makeup.
So with some creative thinking, natural ingenuity, and inspiration from a palette she had purchased, she created a makeshift palette for herself and friends. Minna eventually went on to design school at Harvard to complete the program in architecture, product manufacturing and engineering. Talk about beauty and brains.
During her late twenties, she began contemplating the idea of turning her prototype into a real business, she also noticed a trend in the beauty industry in which a lot of makeup companies were moving to refillable products. Leveraging her background in architecture and engineering, she designed her first palette prototype and officially launched the company in 2010.
When designing the original UNII palette, Minna factored every aspect of the user experience into the design. For example, she added a gasket which functions as a mechanical seal to prevent crushed makeup from spilling all over her purse. She also included a rubbery grasp for thumb after her fingers kept sticking into the makeup in her prototype, added a latch which functions as a clasp over the top so when the palette fell over it would not open, and made the palette deeper to fit shorter brushes. Personally, I cannot get enough of the aesthetics and the great attention to detail that go into every element of the UNII packaging.
Today, the UNII palette has grown to be a well recognized product worldwide with distribution spanning all over the globe. In my interview with Minna, she shares a lot of insight into her startup experience and offers some helpful tips to budding beauty entrepreneurs who wish to follow in her footsteps.
Interview with founder of beauty startup, UNII, Minna Ha
1) How did you stay motivated throughout the entire process of launching the product?
I love the startup phase, so staying motivated to launch wasn’t an issue. After launch – transitioning to marketing and selling – this was a struggle. Juggling that with manufacturing issues at times wore away at my motivation.
During these moments I realized how valuable a cofounder could be. Working with a co founder is another topic altogether. But what kept me going was the excitement and reward of shipping my product and watching people use it!
2) What was the greatest hurdle you faced while launching this product and what steps did you take to overcome it?
Manufacturing was the biggest challenge because we had quality and design issues. I knew very little about plastic manufacturing when I started. I found it necessary to learn as much as I can about the processes – to know how to better design for smooth manufacturing.
3) How did you obtain financing to launch UNII?
Most of it was from my personal savings and the rest was through family members.
4) There are so many rave reviews about the UNII on the web, what promotional method did you use to spread awareness about the product and what method do you find is the most effective?
In the beginning, I started with mainly YouTube ‘guru’s’ and beauty bloggers. This was a great way to inexpensively get the word out about my product. It’s a targeted audience, and the YouTube videos were a perfect way to introduce/educate their audience about how to use the product.
5) What sales channels do you currently use to distribute the UNII?
Currently we mainly sell through our website until we completely iron out manufacturing issue, and this way we stay in touch with the end consumers. There are some boutiques and stores that carry our products, but no major retailer. We hope in the near future to get our products into larger beauty retailers like Sephora.
6) What is your vision for UNII?
To move the industry in the direction of more universal refills. The way makeup is sold now is not in the best interest of the consumers because it is not convenient. The concept of universal refills is better to reduce packaging waste. It is also more efficient for the consumer to use. I hope to design products that are consumer friendly, easy to use, environmentally conscious, and beautiful.
7) Finally, what advice would you give to aspiring beauty entrepreneurs out there?
Trust your instincts, but also listen to your customers! This can be a tricky balance, as sometimes the two don’t align. In addition, find a partner who complements your skills. You can look for someone who you have worked with in the past and known for a while, but whatever the case might be sure to discuss exit strategies and what would happen in case of life events.
What are your thoughts on this beauty startup? Please share in the comment box below