Harveen Dahliwal, a 24 year old Malaysian student at the University of Amsterdam, started Luxuria Cosmetics at the age of 20. She works with her partner, Diana Danielle, to develop and expand the brand through a number of platforms. The following interview on her inspiration, challenges and successes is one of a series of interviews with successful entrepreneurs providing valuable insights in answer to the question: ‘What does it take to be an entrepreneur?’
Hi Harveen, can you tell us a bit about Luxuria Cosmetics? What inspired you to start the business?
I wanted to come up with a brand that is ethical yet luxurious. Diana and I have always been animal lovers, and after learning about the extremities and cruelty of animal testing in the beauty industry, I was shocked to find that some of my favourite beauty brands were among the worst offenders. After that I did a lot of research to find products that were cruelty-free, and found very little that was affordable and natural. Diana and I often talked about the problem of animal testing because we wanted to make a change in our entire household, from beauty products to household products. We started voicing our concerns about animal welfare on our social media networks, but realised that we weren’t doing much to actually change things. That’s when we decided to take a chance and create our own line of makeup: Luxuria Cosmetics. A line of beauty products that is natural, cruelty-free, beautiful and affordable.
How did you go about setting up the business?
We first had to make sure that our plan would work in practice. There was a lot of trial and error in the manufacturing of the products, which were sent back and forth from New York for us to test them. We didn’t place an order until we absolutely loved the final products. It took a lot of patience and research. It might have been easier if I had had a chemistry degree, but after a lot of studying I learned enough about the chemicals used in products to make informed decisions on what was being produced. This was important, as we not only wanted cruelty-free products but also a more natural, paraben-free base. In the end we had to value our products higher than we originally planned but I think the result, high quality, predominantly vegan products, sits better with the image of our brand and the values of our targeted customer base.
Finding investors has been another challenge, particularly as neither of us had prior business experience. For those looking to start their own businesses, I would say that if you haven’t done it before or don’t have very deep pockets, it is best to ask a professional for help and advice.
What do you think is the reason for your success?
Our products speak for themselves. They are amazing: natural, lovely and good for your skin. People who have bought from us usually come back and they also give us great reviews, which helps! Luxuria Cosmetics provides women of all ages with a makeup line they can trust to be ethical and that brings out their natural beauty. We believe in a higher level of consciousness and focus on social and ethical responsibility in every aspect of the business, and I think that resonates with a lot of people. And of course, hard work and commitment were essential in making our dream a reality. We also have a great team of people helping us and wanting us to succeed. That support has been invaluable as the business has developed.
The beauty industry is very competitive, and is dominated by big companies. How do you beat the competition?
The fight has been long and hard but I think we are on our way. The cosmetics industry is pretty brutal, but we are starting to make waves. We’ve had many requests for products on consignment in stores, but as we are still looking for funding we only work closely with 2 boutiques on consignment and a number of others on purchased stock. At the moment our products are in stores in Malaysia and Nigeria, and we are working to expand our presence in South East Asia. This is a new scene for us as we originally planned to be an exclusively online retailer.
Currently we are busy expanding our online presence. It has gone very well in Malaysia as we have had many celebrity endorsements in Malaysia which has helped our sales tremendously and generated plenty of interest among magazines too. We have had a few features but we are used more often in fashion shoots in EH!, Cleo, Nona, Aquila and so on. We’re also focusing on building our Youtube presence through makeup tutorials and tips.
You’re obviously very close to your co-founder, Diana Danielle. Would you say partnerships are important in your business model? How did you develop these key partnerships?
Yes, partnerships are very important to your work ethic and story. Without my business partner and best friend, I do not know if I could have done this and come this far. We constantly push each other to be better. At the moment we are living separate lives miles away from each other, so it can be difficult but we try our best! Mutual support is necessary and important in building stable, strong relationships. We are also in partnerships with local businesses and have developed a strong social media network of people and groups who support our vision, such as local businesses and people who are as interested in the cruelty-free, natural beauty industry. If you identify others who share the same the goal and vision that you are striving for, you should form a partnership because teamwork and shared knowledge can be very beneficial.
Partnerships and business relationships need constant maintenance and development though. Sometimes a meeting might go really well and you’re already celebrating in your head, but partnerships can fall through as quickly as they are put together so it’s important not to get ahead of yourself.
Does one have to work hard to become an entrepreneur?
Oh yes, there is a lot of work required in being your own boss and creating something from the ground up. If you don’t have a real passion, quit. For me, without passion, I would have given up a long time ago.
What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
Consistency, punctuality and discipline.
What was the biggest hurdle you had to face during your entrepreneurial career?
There are always challenges when starting a business, and I believe there are plenty of challenges still ahead. At times it can be difficult to keep my eyes on the big picture, and there are moments when it would be very easy to give up. It requires a lot of patience and perseverance, but the challenges are one of the things I enjoy most about being an entrepreneur.
Did you ever think of quitting?
Once or twice, when I let myself care about what negative people around me thought and started to doubt myself. I got through it quickly, I just took a step back, looked at my surroundings and got my priorities straight. When I did that, I realised that there will always be people who don’t want to see you succeed and I wanted to prove them wrong.
More information about Harveen, Diana and Luxuria Cosmetics is available at http://www.luxuriacosmetics.com/