Childhood dreams so rarely see the light of adulthood, but when they do, they’re often unstoppable.
A young Cara Brook would tell you that her dream is to own a makeup company one day. “I noticed that all my friends’ moms had makeup, but it seemed like they all complained that they didn’t know how to use it,” says the Maskcara Beauty Founder. “I thought, ‘Someone just hasn’t made an invention that has made this easy enough.’”
With her fifth-grade science project due date approaching, Cara grabbed her modeling clay and got to work. “I form-fitted the clay to my face and then let it dry, so it became a mask,” she explains. “Then I put makeup on it at night so in the morning, all you had to do was smash it to your face. I thought that this was the best of both worlds. You can sleep in; your makeup’s done for you.”
Headquarters: St. George, UT
Top Executive: Cara Brook
2017 Net Sales: $15 million
Building the Business in Her Mind
Cara held fast to her dream, even as she discovered how hard the path to entrepreneurship could be. “You can’t just Google how to start a makeup company,” she jokes. She worked cosmetic counters, became a makeup artist and continued to build the makeup business in her mind. Becoming pregnant with her first child would be the tipping point.
“I was terrified,” Cara shares. “But I thought, ‘If I’m going to be someone’s example, I need to do this thing that I’ve always dreamed of doing.’ So even if I couldn’t do the most obvious thing (find money and have a product made), I just needed to do something. That’s when I started the blog.”
“I noticed that all my friends’ moms had makeup, but it seemed like they all complained that they didn’t know how to use it.”
— Cara Brook, Owner & Founder
From 2009 until 2013, Cara ran her blog sharing beauty tips, tutorials and product recommendations. In her day job as a makeup artist, Cara had always used highlighting and contouring, a makeup technique she calls “HAC,” to accentuate a client’s best features and give an airbrushed look. As the technique went mainstream, Cara saw what could be her big opportunity.
Right Coverage in the Right Places
“Every time I would do someone’s makeup, she would want to know how to recreate what I’d just done, and it was a really frustrating moment because I knew it was a hard thing to do—lots of products and layers of makeup,” Cara says. “I just thought, ‘We’ve got to make this easier. Why are we doing all these layers?’ That was an epiphany moment for me. I realized we just needed to put the right coverage in the right places the first time; then we can do the highlight and contouring as coverage so you don’t need foundation.”
“That was an epiphany moment for me. I realized we just needed to put the right coverage in the right places the first time.”
— Cara Brook
This lightning bolt moment inspired Cara to start mixing her own formulations with cosmetic ingredients and pigments. She was onto something. Meanwhile, the blog was garnering over 3 million hits a month, and every mainstream cosmetic product Cara would recommend would sell out on Amazon. It was time to harness her newfound selling power and apply it to her own makeup line. The dream was about to become a reality.
A Just-in-Time Family Investment
By 2013, Cara had the idea, the audience and some basic color science under her belt, she just needed capital. She’d begun a relationship with a cosmetic manufacturer but didn’t have enough funding for the first run of her product—a palette of various shades of foundation that would make contouring easy for the everyday woman.
“I’d saved $30,000. My parents had agreed to lend me $30,000. I thought, ‘Okay, we’ll probably be able to pay for the first order,’” Cara shares. “I got that first invoice, and it was $180,000, due in two weeks.”
Having already shared the product with her blog followers, Cara knew she had to find $120,000 within the next fourteen days or lose the momentum she’d built for four years. Within days, help had arrived. Cara’s father-in-law had recently retired and his 401k was worth exactly $120,000. “He said he wanted to invest,” Cara says. “I thought then, ‘If this doesn’t work, we have just bankrupted my family.’”
A Long Six Months
Cara and her family would have to wait another six months to find out whether their risk had paid off—the makeup palettes were to be manufactured just in time for a Black Friday release. “I remember thinking, if we can just sell 100, I know we’ll sell them all,” she says. But when Black Friday arrived, Maskcara’s product release crashed their e-commerce vendor’s server and customers were staying up until all hours of the night to get their hands on the palettes. Within 48 hours of the release, Maskcara’s initial run of 12,000 palettes had sold out. The family was in the black.
Watching from the sidelines was Cara’s sister-in-law and future Maskcara Creative Director, Randi Brook. “Honestly, I’m not a super optimistic person,” she says. “I don’t think I’m a pessimist, but I’m pretty realistic most of the time. I was genuinely just so excited. I thought, ‘This is something that doesn’t exist—this is going to be such an exciting thing for people.’”
A New Business…A New Business Model
After selling out of their first product launch, Cara had to wait a year before Maskcara was ready to sell again. “We had to find a new manufacturer, so we were out of the product for a year which was terrible,” she says. “When you don’t have any clout and barely enough money, nobody really pays much attention to you.”
“I thought, ‘This is something that doesn’t exist – this is going to be such an exciting thing for people.’”
— Randi Brook, Creative Director
Sales continued to grow, despite the wait. In its first year in business, Maskcara had $1 million in sales, which grew to $1.5 million in sales the following year. The product line evolved as well, from a pre-built palette of two colors to customized palettes of different sizes with refillable magnetic tins that can hold a variety of colors of foundation, lip and cheek colors and eye shadows. “You just pick out the colors you like, and you swap them out as you run out,” Randi explains. “I’m really pale naturally, so as I tan or as my tan fades, I can swap out my highlight and contour as needed and I don’t have to buy a whole new palette each time. It’s such a time-saver and a game-changer when you don’t have to buy a new palette every time you want new colors.”
More and more customers were trying Maskcara, sharing it on social media and trying it on their friends at impromptu makeup parties—with no financial incentive, just a love of the product. Friends and family suggested Cara consider transitioning the company into direct sales. “A lot of people had recommended it because it’s such a demonstrative product,” Cara says. “I was super against it but soon realized how incredible the direct sales model is and how the party plan was a perfect fit for us.”
Maskcara launched the direct sales side of the business in January 2017, empowering Maskcara consultants called “Artists” to share both the product line and business opportunity. The company maintained its original e-commerce site but began encouraging customers to work with Maskcara artists for personalized color matching and customer service. In its first year of operating as a direct sales company, Maskcara saw sales jump to $15 million with an anticipated $25 million in sales for 2018.
The first Maskcara Artists were simply customers who loved the product and were ready to share it. Today, there are 10,000 Artists across the country, sharing the Maskcara line of products through in-person demonstrations and home parties, as well as social media events and tutorials. New Artists can choose from a Basic Artist Kit or expanded Pro Artist Kit that include foundation shades, brushes, marketing materials and other business supplies. “We wanted the kit to be comprehensive,” Cara says. “We wanted [new Artists] to literally do anyone’s makeup in front of them or shade match anyone with their kit. I want Maskcara to be a real job, so I want people to have everything they need when they sign up.”
New Artists have access to training through the Maskcara app, as Cara and her team found that mobile training was the best fit for the company. “We try to focus everything onto our app,” she explains. “A lot of people don’t even have laptops anymore. They don’t have desktops. They don’t need the computer. They just do everything off of their phone or their iPad.”
Social media is a significant aspect of Maskcara’s success—from the initial blog in 2009 to the online parties held by today’s Maskcara Artists. “We’ve noticed that our most successful Artists have a social media element to what they do,” Cara says. “We try to do a lot of training on becoming an influencer and growing your social media, and we find that if they share stories, share themselves, and they open up, that’s really where the connection comes in.”
Philanthropy That Hits Home
Connection is everything to Cara and her team—from nurturing relationships with her blog followers to encouraging an environment of support and inspiration amongst the Artist community. “The sisterhood we have is so strong and powerful,” Cara shares. “They’re so generous. We just don’t have a super competitive culture. We have a really generous sisterhood that they want to help each other.”
“The mood of Maskcara is such a generous, kind, loving, creative, optimistic, wonderful place to be.”
— Randi Brook
Randi echoes that sentiment. “There’s so much heart and so much genuine soul in what Cara’s doing and her vision for Maskcara,” Randi says. “The mood of Maskcara is such a generous, kind, loving, creative, optimistic, wonderful place to be.” That sense of connection and heart is also the inspiration for the Maskcara’s philanthropic side—3D Foundation.
“It’s centered around foster care,” Randi says. “Our main goal is to flip the number of homes that are open to bringing in a child in need—to overwhelm the system so that there are more homes than there are children that need to be placed.”
Maskcara offers two eye shadow colors whose profits go directly to the foundation—to date, those sales have raised $68,000, which has gone towards the production of a documentary titled Love is Never Wasted. “The film is meant to open hearts and change minds about the way foster care works and how love is never wasted,” Randi shares. “If you bring a child into your home and they end up being reunified with their families, that doesn’t mean that love you gave was wasted. It just enriches your life. That’s something we’re excited about.”
Beauty Today, Beauty Tomorrow
As Maskcara has grown, Cara, Randi and their team have taken a slow, intentional approach to expanding the product line. “We’re very picky about anything we create,” Randi says. “We have a handful of questions that we ask ourselves before we bring on something new.”
Does it improve our routine in some way?
Does it exist? If so, can we improve it?
Is it necessary?
Can it fit in a compact?
Does it multitask?
“And lastly, we always want everything we make to look pretty,” Randi concludes. “We want you to be sad to throw the packaging away. If you’re not sad to throw it away, it’s not pretty enough.”
So, what’s next for Maskcara, now that Cara’s dream has been realized? New products are on the horizon, along with enhanced training and incentive programs for new Artists and improved technology to keep making running a business easy. Because young Cara’s vision for fun, simple beauty is alive and well.
“It’s nice to make someone feel beautiful, but it’s amazing to make someone know that they are beautiful.”
— Cara Brook
“It’s nice to make someone feel beautiful, but it’s amazing to make someone know that they are beautiful,” Cara says. “We believe that you can have your cake and eat it too, with enough creativity, optimism and hard work rather than compromising in your life. And that’s kind of what the makeup is. You can still look like a movie star, still look like you’re so put together and enhance all the gorgeous elements on your face, but you don’t need to take all day and a bunch of products and a bunch of money to do it. It’s about finding that third option that you never thought of.”