MN: Madame C. J. Walker used sales agents to showcase and sell her beauty products. Mary Kay earned an attractive living selling beauty products via a network of consultants. Have you or would you consider building a network of consultants/agents to sell your products to their colleagues, family and friends? Why or why not?
VM: We initially had consultants selling our products to hair salons. However at that time, hair salons were more focused on hair and had not gotten into retailing products. We eventually decided to open up our own stores in malls.
MN: You were the first African American owned business to lease space at New York City’s Green Acres Mall. Why did you select that spot as your business’ first brick and mortar location, and what five key features would you advise business owners, particularly entrepreneurs operating in the beauty industry, to look for when selecting a business location?
VM: In 1979 Vera Moore Cosmetics integrated Green Acres Mall as the first black tenant in the 50 year history of the mall. We selected that mall because of the demographic profile. The household income was comparable to meet the demands (price points) of the product. The mall was centrally located to Long Island and Queens yielding high traffic, easy access and free parking accommodations. We also benefitted from co-operative advertisement and marketing. For instance, Green Acres mall did many community ads for all the tenants’ benefit which I could not afford to do on my own at that time. I knew where I wanted to be. I knew my target audience, what price points I had to meet and how I could best achieve a return on my investments. My advice to other business owners looking for a store location is to look for an affordable space. However, a major consideration is not to forfeit traffic for price. What’s the sense of being somewhere where the rent is cheap, but there is no traffic? As a new business owner, you may not financially be in the position to advertise or promote. Therefore, opening up in a mall with major anchor stores and constant traffic may be a key to your success as it was key for the success of Vera Moore Cosmetics even though it was expensive. We benefited from all the traffic in the mall, servicing our existing customers in a beautiful engaging environment. We also gained new customers that never heard of Vera Moore Cosmetics but were leisurely shopping in the mall. It was expensive but it paid off.
MN: How many stores do you currently operate and what states are your stores located in? Also, do you operate any beauty salons or spas?
VM: We are currently located in 38 stores in the “New” Duane Reade/Walgreens locations. Duane Reade’s/ Walgreens’ new concept is a store within a store. This new destination of choice for beauty, is located in an upscale high-end environment called the “LOOK boutique.” Vera Moore Cosmetics is not currently in beauty salons/spas. We are currently continuing to position ourselves to grow the brand as we are opening in a location Puerto Rico in May 2012.
MN: In its June 2011 “Economic Snapshot of the Salon and Spa Industry” report, the Professional Beauty Association (PBA) reports that the “salon and spa industry registered steady growth over the last decade, with the strongest gains seen in the non-employer sector.” Why do you think this segment of the beauty industry has continued to experience growth, especially at a time when businesses in other industries struggled to remain viable?
VM: Women want to look great! It doesn’t matter if it’s a celebrity, a mom or a working woman. Woman always want to look great. Women don’t mind sacrificing for what they want. Even women on a very tight budget squeeze out something in that budget to purchase a new lipstick color. It’s great for the self esteem. Women walk, talk and act differently when they feel and look good. Women work hard and deserve to look good. Women also realize they have to take time out for themselves, and just stop and exhale, do nothing for a few minutes. We have learned to say “No. It’s my time. I’m going to the spa.” It’s no longer a luxury but a necessity; I love it!
MN: You speak publicly to create buzz around Vera Moore Cosmetics. Tell us about three to four other marketing strategies you use to build consumer interest in Vera Moore Cosmetics?
VM: I love to speak because it not only gives me an opportunity to grow the brand, it also gives me a chance to see my customers face to face. Trade shows, church events, community events, beauty columns in magazines, the Vera Moore Cosmetics website, Twitter, Facebook, blogs, Constant Contact blasts; for me, all forms of social media are marketing keys. Today it’s possible to reach the world with just a click of a finger.
MN: What’s the process like doing cosmetics for movie and television productions like the Antwone Fisher Story, starring actor Denzel Washington, the Bill Cosby Show and Saturday Night Live? Are you on set all day? Do you have to apply makeup to each main actor and actress on set, etc.?
VM: We not only work on major motion picture sets, sometimes we go on set to do videos, etc. Sometimes we’re on the set all day. Makeup application is individual because everyone’s features and complexions are different. There is no cookie cutter with makeup. It’s like your fingerprint. No one person is the same. When you’re working on a set you must have patience as you can be there all day just for one scene.
MN: Please share two to three beauty tips with Madame Noire readers, tips that can help them keep their skin young and healthy for years.
VM: Vera Moore Cosmetics is known for advocating Clean Up vs. Cover Up. My husband, Billy, was a cosmetologist and a licensed esthetician. My daughter, Consuella, is a licensed esthetician, so healthy Skin was always first and foremost. It’s simple although many still don’t cleanse, tone, moisturize daily or exfoliate twice a week, as might be needed for cellular turnover depending on a person’s skin type. For that extra boost, use Vera Moore Cosmetics Vitamin C Serum or, for more mature skin, use Peptide Serum followed by the appropriate moisturizer. Visit http://www.veramoorecosmetics.com for more information on how to properly take care of your skin. Don’t forget to cleanse your skin with water!