A woman in a beauty supply store smells perfume on her wrist. Shelves in the background and foreground hold bottles of perfume and other cosmetics.
From makeup and skincare products to perfume and essential oils, beauty supply stores offer a variety of goods aimed at lovers of quality cosmetics. — Getty Images/Tempura

New shipping and manufacturing methods make beauty supply businesses more accessible than ever for prospective small business owners.

Here’s how to go from drafting financial budgets to finalizing your first sales.

Define your mission statement

Create a mission statement for your beauty supply store. This is your primary goal. What cosmetic products will you sell? Who is your target demographic? Be as specific as possible for both questions. When someone asks about your store, you should be able to clearly explain your purpose in two sentences or less.

Find your niche

As a small business, you won’t be able to offer the widest range of products from the outset. You will have to differentiate from competitors by specializing in one product type or source. Consumers should identify your brand with a specific tagline that summarizes your business goals, whether that focus is one facial feature or the manner in which your products are acquired and created. This specificity will determine business strategy that maximizes the value of your core service.

Establish your budget and business model

All businesses need a detailed overview of expenses and projected income before they launch. Budget plans will guide long-term company strategy and inform all future financial decisions. Financial information specific to beauty stores might pertain to visual marketing and advertising design more so than other businesses to best showcase their cosmetic products.

The physical location of your store also has unique requirements. Customers typically require demos and interaction before purchasing beauty products, and a well-lit, comfortable atmosphere is essential. You should also consider a location near other beauty stores. However, a physical location that meets all these criteria might be expensive.

Some retailers can forgo a physical location entirely and sell exclusively online. Your beauty store can follow several online business models:

  • White label: A single company creates the product and allows other businesses to package and distribute it themselves within their own branding. This solution allows small businesses to distribute a high-quality good without being responsible for its manufacturing. However, this detracts from the uniqueness of your brand. It can cause beauty stores to become too dependent on outside suppliers for their own products.
  • Dropshipping: Avoid warehousing and storage costs entirely with the flexibility of dropshipping. Fill customer orders by purchasing and shipping their requested products directly. Profits are earned in the margins between your discounted acquisition and their direct payment, minus the expenses of a storage facility. This is the simplest method for new small businesses. It requires the lowest upfront cost, but it likewise offers the narrowest profit margins.
  • Manufacturing: The most expensive option, but the one that grants your business the most control. Manufacture the products yourself and be fully aware of all their ingredients, costs, distribution practices and any other relevant factors. This requires the largest upfront expense, but provides the greatest long-term return.

Financial information specific to beauty stores might pertain to visual marketing and advertising design more so than other businesses to best showcase their cosmetic products.

Buy and store inventory

Wholesale distributors used in any of the above methods can be large or small. When choosing which products to stock and sell, request samples from distributors that you and your associates can try. Ask suppliers as many questions as needed. The quality of your product lineup is the most important aspect of your business. You need to be confident in the quality of your products and trust the reliability of your suppliers.

These items should be stored in a controlled environment free of smoke or fluctuating temperatures. Options include storage space in physical store locations or, if budget allows, a specialized storage facility.

Acquire permits and licenses

All retail businesses require a business license and seller’s permit. This should be included in your initial budget forecasting. These licenses differ depending on city and state, and are essential to conduct business. Be sure to also claim your EIN (Employer Identification Number) for payroll and taxes.


Marketing for beauty products emphasizes visual advertisement. The products are used to improve appearances; naturally, their effects require a visual demonstration. This photogenic element is more of an advertising focus than in many other industries, and it may be more resource-intensive. Professional models and photography will likely be needed, and social media plays a massive role in all marketing efforts. The prominence of “influencer advertising” to best reach your target demographics will dictate the typical structure of most beauty marketing campaigns.

Your marketing plan should capitalize on the social media platforms that best promote photography and other relevant subject matter. These include Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube. Be ready to hire experienced photographers and videographers to capture your subjects in the best light一figuratively and literally.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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