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(Photo: Linkedin)

(Photo: Linkedin)

There’s a science to choosing the right makeup. And if you’re not a scientist — or even a makeup artist — you might need a little help. This is where a new makeup recommendation mobile and web-based app comes in — Plum Perfect, created by Asmau Ahmed to help women find the perfect makeup colors.

The app is easy to use. You just upload a picture of yourself to Plum Perfect, which scans your photo to detect your coloring. It determines your Color Signature–lip, eye, and skin color. From there you will be given recommendations for the perfect eye shadows, lip sticks and glosses, and foundations/bronzers for you. Plum Perfect features more than a dozen makeup brands, including Lancome and Shiseido. The app, which has been used by people from more than 150 countries, has become so popular Ahmed signed a deal with Iman Cosmetics, and she also started an educational tool to complement the app called beauTV and the Girl Seeks Sample program, which helps users find samples.

Ahmed, who is of Nigerian descent and lives in New York City, knows a thing or two about science. She used to be a chemical engineer after all. Ahmed holds an MBA from Columbia Business School and a BS with Honors in Chemical Engineering from the University of Virginia. We talked to her about how she developed this color-matching beauty technology. (MN): What led you to create Plum Perfect?

Asmau Ahmed (AA): The power of a photo, plus my curiosity to innovate! I love beauty and fashion but hate shopping. I dreamed of being able to take a photo to instantly find my perfect lipstick or the perfect shoes to match my dress, so I built it.

MN: How did you fund the app?

AA: A lot of meetings with Angel investors and VCs (venture capitalists)!

MN: What makes your app different from other color-matching apps?

AA: Today there are no other color-matching apps that provide the level of personalization and features that Plum Perfect does, all based on a consumer photo. Most of our competitors are actually try-on tools that render makeup on the face in real-time, whereas Plum Perfect is a personalized beauty assistant that actually knows what you look like and helps you find the best shades of makeup for your skin tone.

MN: What has been the biggest challenge in launching the app and how did you overcome it?

AA: There are so many possible applications of our technology, our challenge was to focus on a few things that would give us the biggest bang for our buck. We listened to our users and they let us know what they enjoy using.

MN: What prompted you to leave your chemical-engineering career to go back to school at Columbia Business School?

AA: I operate best at the intersection of business and engineering. I always knew I wanted to build something innovative, but also figure out how best to keep it going by monetizing it.

MN:  What was the best part of that decision?

AA: Exposure to the possibilities to create my own career path through entrepreneurship. The marriage of engineering and business gave me the ability to develop a technology and then create and build a brand that brought my vision to life.

MN: How did the deal happen with Iman Cosmetics?

AA: We both had a mutual thirst for innovation and our partnership made sense on more than one level.

MN: Tell us more about beauTV?

AA: beauTV is where you can get matched to your individual makeup colors while watching YouTube or Instagram makeup tutorials. Normally, when watching your favorite bloggers you discover new brands, products, tips, etc., but when it comes to knowing if a specific makeup shade they are using is right for you, it’s your best guess. When you watch on beauTV, however, you see your personalized color recommendations for every single product they use in the tutorial–all while you’re watching. It’s broken down step-by-step and we provide a tip for using the product with each step.

MN:  What are your goals for 2016?

AA: To reach millions of users and disrupt the sampling market with our new Girl Seeks Sample program. Girl Seeks Sample is the closest that any company or any app has come to an on-demand beauty sampling. It’s been called the Uber of beauty sampling because of its on-demand sampling interface. Our app lets you seek and receive beauty samples that you actually want, color-matched to your skin tone. You can request any samples you like, even if they are not our top recommendation for you. There is no other technology that knows what their shoppers look like and can take them from selfie to seeking makeup samples in seconds.

MN: Do you feel major cosmetic companies are paying more attention to their customers of color?

AA: I feel they are, because beauty shoppers of color are a huge percentage of the market. Brands have to pay attention to these shoppers to stay relevant and competitive.

MN: What do you like most about what you do?

AA: My team. Working in a startup means you are surrounded with passionate entrepreneurs. It’s not for the faint of heart. We work and play hard.

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