Headshot of Esmeralda Hernandez, founder of Beauty Creations.
Esmeralda Hernandez, Founder, Beauty Creations. — Beauty Creations

Why it matters:

  • The beauty industry is booming with sales dominated by multinational powerhouses. Entrepreneur Esmeralda Hernandez grew her brand Beauty Creations into a projected $60 million dollar business by pinpointing overlooked opportunities in the market to serve people of color.
  • Hernandez bootstrapped the business, building her brand without any outside investors.
  • Beauty Creations is now expanding into new categories including skin care and licensing to develop multiple revenue streams.

The Barbie movie is having a moment, but the iconic plastic doll has a bigger meaning for Esmeralda Hernandez.

Born in Mexico, Hernandez moved with her mother to the U.S. when she was only nine. To earn money, she purchased and then resold Barbie dolls that she enhanced with beautiful handmade Mexican dresses at swap meets. That was the beginning of her entrepreneurial journey.

“I grew up with three families in one apartment,” she recalled of her childhood, where money for luxuries like makeup was tight. “In high school, I wanted a MAC lipstick, but it was $18, so it was, buy a lipstick or a pair of shoes.”

When she was 19, Hernandez started selling perfume, eventually raising funds to launch a business selling hair “stringers,” colored and metallic extensions under a company she called BeBella. Her next move was to launch Beauty Creations in 2016 with nine items.

A business shaped by listening to consumer needs at swap meets begets beauty products conceived by, and made for, people of color

Hernandez recognized a demand for beauty products crafted by and tailored to people of color, which were both premium and reasonably priced. “At that time, everyone was trying to be MAC with black packaging. I wanted a look that stood out and was affordable but cute,” she said, about why it was important to be so different from the brand she once coveted. Beauty Creations prices range from $6 to $25.

Even as she opened her own stores in Los Cerritos and Torrance, California, she kept boots on the ground at swap meets to learn directly what shoppers wanted.

With just loans from family and no outside financing, Hernandez has expanded into more than 1,000 SKUs with sales expected to top $60 million by the end of the year, up from $40 million in 2022.

[Read: Why Amazon, Google, and Other Big Businesses Have Launched Accelerators to Help Minority-Owned Startups]

Hernandez recognized a demand for beauty products crafted by and tailored to people of color, which were both premium and reasonably priced.

Recently, the brand branched into skin care via the launch of Beauty Creations SKIN, with nine items adhering to her philosophy of top-quality ingredients at reasonable prices —$4 to $25. Circling back to her early days of selling perfume, she also has scented body mists in the pipeline.

Beauty Creations has forged collaborations with beauty influencers, including Jasmine Orlando (known as Shawty Bae), Louie Castro, Luis Torres, and, YeriMua, to name a few. The brand scored the role of being the designated makeup brand for the Los Angeles Clippers Spirit Team. Hernandez said she also has licensing deals in the works.

Beauty Creations products are sold at major retailers including Urban Outfitters, Walmart, H-E-B, Forever 21, and Aerie, among others.

[Read: How To Turn Deinfluencing Into a Marketing Opportunity]

Tapping trade shows to boost brand exposure and crack big retail

Despite the sizeable investments required, trade shows have proven to benefit to Beauty Creations. Urban Outfitters found Hernandez at CosmoProf North America, one of the largest beauty expos in the industry. The alliance is paying off. Beauty Creations’ Sweet Dose Lip Oil is one of the top sellers at Urban Outfitters, according to the retailer. Through international tradeshows, she also broadened her reach into 38 countries.

Hernandez hopes to add more distribution. One of her dreams is to be able to sell to Target, a vision she shares while shopping with her daughter. She also doesn’t rule out franchising her store concept.

To keep up with demand, Hernandez just acquired a manufacturing facility in Sante Fe Springs, near its current location in Pico Rivera, California which will become the headquarters for its 80 employees. In addition to serving as a manufacturing hub, there will be a lab to develop new products.

"Beauty Creations has defied the odds in its ability to grow and expand in an increasingly competitive space. Cosmetics is one of the most difficult beauty categories to gain household penetration. There are high barriers to entry, including high SKU count, high consumer loyalty to existing brands, and retailer entry fees," said Raina Vaughan, a beauty industry expert with experience gleaned from nearly a decade in buying and merchandising roles at Walmart as well as Coty.

“By focusing on price, consumer trends, and expanding into high growth categories like skin care and licensing, they are well positioned to capitalize on future growth — especially as consumers are increasingly seeking lower prices,” she said.

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