Araceli Ledesma, founder and CEO of Araceli Beauty, is a master at building a successful business from the ground up while staying true to her culture and values.
As a freelance makeup artist, Ledesma launched Araceli Beauty, a “Mexicana-inspired” beauty and cosmetics brand, in 2018 as a sideline.
“I learned a lot from my clients [about makeup]”, she shares with CNBC Make It. “I learned how they were confused, why they were confused and what could make their lives easier. And that’s what gave me the idea to create something a little more universal and easy for everyone to use.”
Born in Jalisco, Mexico, Ledesma, who prefers not to share her age, and her family moved to California for a better life when she was just 5 years old. Even then, she had a huge love for make-up.
“When I was very young, I got a small sample of lipstick. And I would take the bus home,” says Ledesma. “I remember putting it on and as soon as I got home I just threw it out the window because I was afraid I’d get in trouble with my mom for wearing lipstick, but I’ve always loved makeup.”
Now, four years after starting her business, she has earned over $2 million in revenue and amassed over 160,000 followers on Araceli Beauty’s social platforms.
A girl and a dream
During Ledesma’s high school years, she began to get serious about her love of beauty and wanted to take her school’s extra cosmetology course. Unfortunately, it came with a hefty price tag.
“I was in 11th grade and I asked my mom to let me do this cosmetology program. It was a little expensive for us because we had low incomes. But I asked my mom to let me borrow $600 so I could pay for it And for a high school student, it was a fortune. But my mom still lent me the money.”
Ledesma then spent the next few years working at Taco Bell to pay off her debt, while still taking cosmetology classes. At age 18, she got her license and knew she wanted to pursue beauty long-term. She got a job at a salon as a hairdresser, which later “evolved into doing make-up in the salon as well.”
To be true to one’s roots
Many experts agree that the beauty and cosmetics industry has become oversaturated in recent years, making it difficult for brands to differentiate themselves from others. According to Grand View Research, a US-based research and consulting firm, the size of the global cosmetics market was valued at $254.08 billion in 2021 and is expected to grow by 5.3% from 2022 to 2028. But Ledesma says this is not “particularly a problem “. , but a challenge” that allows her to think outside the box.
Drawing inspiration from his hometown of Jalisco, Ledesma pays homage to his Mexican roots by incorporating regionally sourced ingredients into his formulas.
“Jalisco is the largest tequila producer in the world, and I felt it was necessary to take that into account when creating Araceli Beauty,” Ledesma says on her website. “We pour a little bit of Mexico into all our products, from our packaging design to our formulas. For example, Araceli Beauty Eyeshadow Palettes, Tequila Highlighters and Las Flores Blushes include tequila leaf extract from the agave plant.”
Ledesma’s products also use ingredients such as avocado, prickly pear and cactus oil, all sourced from Mexico. Her mascara, Monarca Mascara, was also inspired by the monarch butterfly migration to central Mexico. She says these “storytelling” opportunities have helped her be “unique and innovative in a very saturated market.”
Trials to Triumph
Araceli Beauty has enjoyed tremendous success since its launch, but it was no easy task. During the start of the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic, Ledesma’s makeup products were still on the sidelines for her.
“I was still working at a salon… My brand wasn’t my full-time job. I always had my hairdresser to fall back on.”
But due to covid-related regulations, the hair salon was forced to close. However, Ledesma says she now sees this as a “blessing in disguise”.
“I had no other option. It was my time to cut the cord and go full-time. I was really scared because of the pandemic and everyone losing their jobs. But during all the craziness that was going on, we did well.”
Ledesma used this opportunity to spread its products online even more, bringing in an influx of new customers. Her small team of about five family members and friends helped her fulfill orders and grow the brand to what it is today.
Looking back, Ledesma says there are several things she would have done differently when starting her company.
“I already had my cosmetology license so I didn’t get a college degree. And for a long time it was something that weighed heavily on me. As an immigrant, I should have gotten it done and made my parents proud.”
“I wish I had taken more business classes,” Ledesma says. “This experience has been more like building the plane as you fly it, which is the beauty of entrepreneurship. You learn as you go, make mistakes, fall and get back up. But I wish I had been a little more prepared for the business side .”
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