Araceli Ledesma, founder and CEO of Araceli Beauty, is a master at building a successful business from scratch while staying true to her culture and values.
As a freelance makeup artist, Ledesma launched Araceli Beauty, a “Mexican-inspired” beauty and cosmetics brand, in 2018 as a sideline.
“I learned a lot from my clients [about makeup]He shares with CNBC Make It. “I learned how they were confused, why they were confused, and what could make their lives easier. And that’s what gave me the idea to create something a little more universal and easy to use for everyone.”
Born in Jalisco, Mexico, Ledesma, who prefers not to share her age, and her family moved to California for a better life when she was just 5 years old. Even then, she had an immense love for makeup.
“When I was very young, I received a small sample of lipstick. And I would take the bus home,” shares Ledesma. “I remember putting it on and as soon as I got home I just threw it out the window because I was afraid I was going to get in trouble with my mom for wearing lipstick, but I’ve always loved makeup.”
Now, four years after starting her company, she has earned over $2 million in revenue and amassed over 160,000 followers on Araceli Beauty’s social platforms.
A girl and a dream
During Ledesma’s high school years, she began to take her love of beauty seriously and wanted to take her school’s extracurricular cosmetology class. Unfortunately, she came with a hefty price tag.
“I was in the 11th grade and I begged my mom to let me do this cosmetology program. It was a little expensive for us because we were low-income. But I begged my mom to lend me $600 so I could afford it. And for a high school student, that was a fortune. But my mom still lent me the cash.”
Ledesma then spent the next two years working at Taco Bell to pay off her debt, while continuing to take cosmetology classes. At the age of 18, she got her license and she knew she wanted to pursue beauty for the long haul. She got a job at a salon as a hairstylist, which later “evolved into doing makeup inside the salon as well.”
Staying true to its roots
Many experts agree that the beauty and cosmetics industry has become oversaturated in recent years, making it difficult for brands to differentiate themselves from others. According to Grand View Research, a US-based research and consulting firm, the global cosmetics market size was valued at $254.08 billion in 2021 and is expected to grow by 5.3% between 2022 and 2028 But Ledesma says this is not “particularly a problem.” but a challenge” that allows you to think outside the box.
Drawing inspiration from her hometown of Jalisco, Ledesma pays homage to her Mexican roots by incorporating regionally sourced ingredients into her formulas.
“Jalisco is the largest producer of tequila in the world, and I thought it was necessary to take advantage of that by creating Araceli Beauty,” Ledesma says on her website. “We pour a little piece of Mexico into all of our products, from our packaging design to our formulas. For example, Araceli Beauty eyeshadow palettes, tequila highlighters and Las Flores blushes include tequila leaf extract from the agave plant.
Ledesma products also use ingredients such as avocado, prickly pear, and nopal oil, all sourced from Mexico. Her mascara, Monarca Mascara, was also inspired by the monarch butterfly’s migration to central Mexico. She says these “storytelling” opportunities have helped her be “unique and innovative in a very saturated market.”
tests to succeed
Araceli Beauty has been very successful since its launch, but it was not an easy task. During the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, Ledesma’s makeup products were still a side job for her.
“I was still working in a salon… My brand wasn’t my full-time job. I always had my hairdresser to support me.”
However, due to regulations related to Covid, the hair salon was forced to close. Ledesma says, however, that he now sees this as a “blessing in disguise.”
“I had no choice. It was my time to cut the cord and go full-time. I was really scared about the pandemic and everyone losing their jobs. But through all the craziness that was going on, we got it right.”
Ledesma used this opportunity to push their online products even further, attracting an influx of new customers. Her small team of about five family members and friends helped her fulfill orders and grow the brand into what it is today.
Looking back, Ledesma says there are a number of things she would have done differently when starting her business.
“I already had my cosmetology license, so I didn’t pursue a college degree. And for a long time, it was something that weighed heavily on me. As an immigrant, I should have done it and made my parents proud.”
“I wish I had taken more business classes,” says Ledesma. “This experience has been more like building the plane while you’re flying it, which is the beauty of entrepreneurship. You learn as you go, you make mistakes, you fall and get back up again. But I wish I had been a little more prepared for the side business of things.
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