10 questions for Michelle Doan, Founder and CEO of Emani Cosmetics
Last weekend Emani Makeup and Dr. Spiller invited me to the Beauty Trade Festival in Utrecht. At the festival I felt really honored to meet and interview the CEO and founder of Emani Cosmetics, Michelle Doan. She is a very inspiring and strong woman, who talks very passionately about her company and the way she creates makeup. The most important thing for her is not the company or the makeup, but the message behind the company that she wants to spread.
Michelle started the company in 1998 after suffering from cystic acne for over 12 years. She put all her life savings into starting this company, to create products that are great for each skin type, even the most sensitive skin. The company is now entering its 19th year and they are selling their products in 23 different countries. She says that it’s very rewarding that costumers write to her, telling her about their acne stories. They also write to her about their love for the Emani products. She really made something positive out of 12 years of suffering from cystic acne. I had the chance to ask her 10 questions which she answered with a lot of passion and interest.
How did you come up with the name of the brand “Emani”?
When I first started the company I thought about a name that would make sense to me. I didn’t want to use a word that already existed in a dictionary. Emani spelled the way it is has the word ‘man’ in the middle, if you remove the first and last letter of the word. I believe that all females are as strong as our male counterparts. Women are strong from the inside, but soft on the outside. The logo of Emani, with the four e’s, is often mistaken as a flower, which actually represents the pillar of the company. It is a bridge of who we are as a company: empowerment, innovation, clean, dream and performance.
How did you start the brand?
I went to school for fashion design and was a fashion designer. During that time I had cystic acne and no matter what you wear or how great your hair looks, your skin is really important for how we feel. So it was quite a struggle for me, because from the age of 15 I had cystic acne. It was very deep, swollen and tender, which was a constant battle for me. I spent a lot of time at the dermatologist and I was very insecure about the way my skin looked. I did all kind of treatments like acutene, peelings etc., but at some point you give up and suffer in silence. You don’t feel there is a solution for you. By trying new products every time you learn along the way what works for you skin and what doesn’t. One day I went to a salon and met an aesthetician who changed my life. She taught me about common ingredients that clog your pores and she gave me a list of ingredients not to have in my makeup and skincare. I went shopping and couldn’t find anything, which was very frustrating. That’s when I decided to create just one product for myself, which was the birth of Emani Cosmetics.
If you think back to the first moment Emani started in 1998, how has the brand evolved over the years?
We have been growing by leaps and bounds. When we first started out we only had a couple of products and a couple of colors, which was very limited. Costumers kept asking for more products, because they liked what we produced. So we tried to figure out how to come up with products that are not so irrelevant, because if you look at the cosmetic industry at the moment there are so many brands. So I thought what can we do to be different and bring value to the costumer that picks up the product. I have a thirst for knowledge and I really want to learn about new ingredients, new combinations etc. How can we use fewer ingredients? How can we take out the junk? I really challenge the team of chemists that I work with every single time. In 2001 I read an article about parabens, how they test these on animals and how it could cause cancer. So I asked myself why do we use these products? That’s when we went paraben free. After that we went chalk free and about 10 years ago we went vegan. I feel like we are always upfront and way ahead. I believe that knowledge is power, but what you do is what is most important.
What is your favorite Emani product and why?
Oh no, that’s like asking who of your children is your favorite! Well, in the last few years I’m obsessed with our concealer like most of our clients. When we develop a product I look at what was wrong with it and the feedback of the costumers, then I try to fix it. Some of the complaints were that it was drying, too light and it cracks. So I thought what kind of ingredients can we use to make the product better? We want something that is highly emollient, corrects, is smooth, has high coverage and moves with the skin. From that aspect we work backwards and we created a concealer that in my opinion is phenomenal. Our concealer has vitamin C in it, instead of using bleaching ingredients like they are in the BB and CC creams. Vitamin C is great for the skin and essentially where we put the concealer is where the vitamin C is needed most, for example under the eyes, on blemishes and discolorations. So we created a concealer with a function and treatment in one.
Is there a particular kind of product that you would really like to create/make, but haven’t been able to do yet?
We have been trying to make a gel based lip and eyeliner, but the problem we are having is temperature control. We want the product to be really soft so it glides on very well, but it has such a low melting point that it breaks a lot. It has been a thorn in my side that we don’t have a gel liner in our line. All the eye and brow products that we have are either powder or creams. I asked her if this would be something for the future? Michelle answers: “I hope so! It has been very challenging and we won’t release it until it’s perfect!”
What really stood out to me was that you have one liquid foundation and I was really fascinated how one product can fit all kind of different skin types.
Yes that’s right! We have one liquid foundation, one pressed powder, one loose powder and a concealer. We try to build products to fit a women’s lifestyle and I think an average women, doesn’t matter if you are a professional, mum, entrepreneur etc., you may only have 7-10 minutes to do your makeup in the morning. Not everyone has 20 minutes to put on their face of makeup, because you have to do your skincare too. So I thought about how we can make the best products for those 7 minutes. And besides that, I also thought about how we can make products that even novices can use, that only know how to put on a moisturizer. The foundation that we created works on your skin and looks its best without the need of a lot of blending, tutorials, special tools etc. You can just use clean fingers and put it on like a moisturizer.
Are there any exciting upcoming launches that you want to tell us about or give a sneak peek/little hint?
One of our favorite products and the product that our costumers love is the perfect 10 primer, with 10 different organics. It’s basically a primer and serum in one. I know that other brands have multiple primers for different uses, which is usually something like color correcting etc. We want to take it one step beyond. So for the last year and a half I’ve been working on a 7 in one primer, which is a base primer, moisturizer etc. This would possibly launched early or late spring 2018.
Would you consider expanding the brand with, for example, skincare products?
We have been doing makeup for 19 years and I believe that you should stick with what you know. There are many skincare brands that try to make makeup and are not very good at it, which is something I think about all the time. I’m deeply passionate about skincare and a lot of my costumers ask what kind of products I use. Usually I use products that are not even in store, because I’m always mixing and blending to try out new combinations and products. So my desk usually has a lot of samples on it that I mix and blend. Maybe a very abbreviated functioning skincare product could be something for the future. I think with the new primer that we are doing we’re kind of leaning towards that direction already. The primer is skin perfecting and already does a lot by itself. You can also wear it by itself or underneath your makeup. I don’t think we wouldn’t launch a full blown skincare line, but just key products that you can incorporate into your system.
Where do you see the brand in 5 years time?
I think even though Emani just became 19 years old we are still very niche. So I would call it the 18 year startup. Though we have hard-core fans and that’s what I love. We may not have a massive amount of market share, but the fans that we have are very passionate about the brand. All I’m looking to do is finding those new passions in people and be relevant. I rather be important to a few people than just another commodity to a bunch of people. The way we feel about sharing information is really important. I still believe in the personal touch and the personal recommendation, which only takes one Emani costumer to tell one friend about their favorite product. When we talk about the line I don’t need to be trendy (talking about colors), but as far as the formulation and ingredients go, we as a company, are very ahead of the curve. We really try to use different ingredients and think outside the box.
What would be your ultimate dream to achieve with Emani Cosmetics?
The ultimate dream is not about Emani, but it’s about a movement. That movement is having women take power of what they are putting on their body and introducing to their families. A lot of people don’t read the labels of their products. We are very health conscious about what we eat, but I feel like a lot of us are a little bit behind in reading what they are putting on their skin and body. So to me it’s creating a movement and making people aware of what it is. Emani is a great vehicle to demonstrate that it can be done, that you can be green, innovative and provide glamour at the same time. Glamour has never been associated with natural cosmetics and that’s what we want to change. We want to close that gap.
I had a great time interviewing Michelle! She’s a great and powerful woman, with a lot of passion and consideration. Thank you so much to Emani Makeup and Dr. Spiller for giving me this opportunity!