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, as an afterthought in 2018.
“I learned a lot from my customers [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 how I came up with the idea of making something more universal and easy 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 only 5 years old. Even then, she had a huge love for makeup.
“When I was very young, I got a little 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 a following of over 160,000 people on Araceli Beauty’s social platforms.
A girl and a dream
During Ledesma’s high school years, she began to take her love of beauty seriously and wanted to take her school’s extracurricular cosmetology class. Unfortunately, it came with a hefty price tag.
“I was in 11th grade and I begged my mom to let me do this cosmetology program. It was a little pricey for us because we were on a low income. But I begged my mom to lend me $600 so I could do it.” pay And for a high school student that was a fortune. But my mother 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 the age of 18, she obtained her license and knew she wanted to pursue long-term beauty. She got a job in a salon as a hairstylist, which later grew into doing make-up in the salon.
Staying true to her 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 global cosmetics market was estimated to be $254.08 billion in 2021 and is expected to grow 5.3% from 2022 to 2028. But Ledesma says it won’t. “particularly a problem” , but a challenge” that allows her to think outside the box.
Inspired by her hometown of Jalisco, Ledesma pays tribute to her Mexican roots by incorporating regionally sourced ingredients into her formulas.
“Jalisco is the largest tequila producer in the world and I thought it was necessary to leverage that in creating Araceli Beauty,” Ledesma says on her website. “We infuse a little slice of Mexico into all of our products, from our packaging design to our formulas. For example, Araceli Beauty Eyeshadow Palettes, Tequila Highlighters and Las Flores Blushes contain 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’s migration to central Mexico. She says these “storytelling” opportunities have helped her be “unique and innovative in a highly saturated market.”
Tasting to Triumph
Araceli Beauty has enjoyed huge success since its launch, but it has not been an easy task. During the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, Ledesma’s makeup products were still an afterthought for her.
“I was still working in a salon… My brand was not my full-time job. I always had my barber shop to fall back on.”
However, 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 job. But during all the craziness that was going on, we well done.”
Ledesma took this opportunity to push its products even more online, bringing in a flood of new customers. Her small team of about five family members and friends helped her fulfill orders and grow the brand into what it is today.
Looking back, Ledesma says there are several things she would have done differently when starting her business.
“I already had my cosmetology license, so I didn’t have a university degree. And for a long time it was something that weighed heavily on me. As an immigrant I should have done it and made my parents proud.”
“I wish I had taken more business classes,” Ledesma says. “This experience was more like building the plane as you pilot it, which is the beauty of entrepreneurship. You learn along the way, make mistakes, fall and get back up. But I wish I had been a little more prepared for the business side of things.”
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