More than 12 million companies in the U.S are majority-owned, operated, and controlled by women, according to the 2018 State of Women-owned Businesses report from American Express. That's 58% more than a decade ago.
Celebrities like Rihanna and Jessica Alba are great examples of how women can make it work on a massive scale. Each of them launched what became a successful business, and they did it by identifying a problem and then drawing on their personal experiences, and their passions, to come up with an innovative and exciting solution.
Creating makeup in shades to match all skin tones was Rihanna's mission when starting Fenty Beauty. The brand "was created for everyone: for women of all shades, personalities, attitudes, cultures, and races," according to the company's website. The goal was for "everyone to feel included."
The brand has had a tremendous impact on the beauty industry because of the wide range of shades offered. "I never could have anticipated the emotional connection that women are having with the products and the brand as a whole," Rihanna told Time magazine in 2017. "Some are finding their shade of foundation for the first time, getting emotional at the counter. That's something I will never get over."
In 2017, Fenty reported $72 million in sales in just one month and about $570 million in sales in 2018.
While pregnant with her first daughter, the actress broke out in hives after washing baby clothes in a popular laundry detergent. Her negative experience inspired her business venture: "I wanted safe and effective consumer products that were beautifully designed, accessibly priced, and easy to get," Alba told Vanity Fair.
The Honest Company uses natural ingredients in its products and sells baby and household products including diapers, wipes, toothpaste, vitamins, and detergents. In 2015, just a few years after launch, it was valued at over $1 billion.
Celebrity entrepreneurs start with lots of advantages ordinary people don't, but there's a lot you can still learn from their and others' success when it comes to starting your own side hustle or building a business.
- Identify a problem that needs to be solved. Both Alba and Rihanna created products that had been missing or limited in the marketplace and for which there was an unmet demand. Just a few years after its launch, Fenty Beauty is changing industry standards. Thanks to the "Fenty Effect," other cosmetics companies are starting to offer a wider range of foundation shades.
- Follow your passions. Rihanna's "obsession" with makeup and perfume was inspired by her mom, who worked at a cosmetics counter and did makeup for weddings, the star tells InStyle. "Beauty was a natural fit because makeup is such a huge part of my career and image," she says.
The advice to pursue a side hustle that matters to you and you're excited about is echoed by other entrepreneurs. "If you have a passion for something, go for it," Joanna Rosario, cofounder of Vive Cosmetics told Grow earlier this year. "If you're authentically representing what you want to do, you're already at an advantage."
- Learn from your mistakes. Building a business from scratch means there will inevitably be ups and downs. Earlier this year, Fenty pulled a product after it was called offensive by a fan. The Honest Company has publicly dealt with lawsuits and recalls. However, the "most valuable lessons actually come from making mistakes and going down the wrong path," Alba said on Boss Files with Poppy Harlow, a CNN podcast.
"Now, making the same mistake three times, that's when you've some problems," she continued. "But, you know, figuring it out for yourself, sometimes you just have to go through it. You can't always learn from other people."
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