Alexandra Weinstein of August + Monroe: Five Things You Need To Know To Succeed In The Modern Beauty Industry
An Interview With Jilea Hemmings
I wanted to be innovative and create something of my own — I lacked the passion because I didn’t believe in what I was selling. Now that I created a product from scratch that I stand behind, the success followed.
As a part of our series about “Five Things You Need To Know To Succeed In The Modern Beauty Industry”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Alexandra Weinstein.
Alexandra is an entrepreneur, makeup artist, and founder of August + Monroe, a self-care company that focuses on clean, plant-powered skincare.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Growing up, I was always interested in starting businesses. In elementary school, I would make bookmarks out of glue for 25 cents. In 10th grade, I started a feather hair extension business and in 11th grade I sold beaded skull bracelets. I was always so fascinated about the business world from a hands-on perspective. It truly fueled me. My start in the beauty business even dates back to my younger years in 5th grade. Every Tuesday, my mom would go to work around 6 a.m. and I would be able to put on all sorts of makeup without her knowing. Think about the blackest eyeliner you’ve ever seen and tons of laguna bronzer from Nars! That was when my love began with makeup. Fast forward a few years, I went into film school and ended up dropping out after six months to pursue my makeup career. I actually owe it to my cousin Meghan. II was doing her makeup at my sister’s wedding and she asked me why I wasn’t doing this as my job. That’s when it all clicked. I then studied and graduated from Complections College of Makeup Art & Design in Toronto. While I started working in the field, I noticed that any job I went on, I had to leave them with my lipstick because they needed to reapply and I wouldn’t be there. So I started with a private label company, bringing 12 lipsticks of each color. I would sell them to all my clients. From that point on, I knew I wanted to be in the product development side of the industry.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
I actually worked with Justin Trudeau’s (Canada’s Prime Minister) to do his makeup for an interview. That is definitely something I will never forget as a Canadian myself! That is also one of the reasons I knew I wanted to target men with August + Monroe. As a makeup artist, we’re always grooming men from photoshoots, music videos and interviews. Not to mention our husbands! I found it equally important to make men feel confident in their own skin as much as women. That’s why men had a big role in the creation of Blemish Camouflage.
Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Are there takeaways or lessons that others can learn from that?
Yes, of course. I don’t define success as a monetary value, I think success is a feeling of accomplishment within yourself. That feeling of looking at yourself in the mirror and knowing you’re putting in everything you got. I strongly believe I never would have felt any level of success without the feeling of failure first. I started my own makeup line back in 2015 called Alexandra Jaye Inc. I rented a studio to do makeup and sell the products. I had put more than $25,000 into the business at 21-years-old and I unfortunately didn’t give it my all. Simply put, I failed. However, I will tell you it was the BEST learning experience. Some people spend $20,000 — $80,000 on college while I spent $25,000 on a failed start up that provided better knowledge than most classrooms.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person to whom you are grateful who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Yes, the men in my life! My dad, brother and boyfriend (who is also my business partner)!
My father and brother have been my business role models. Any questions I have, they are always there for me. I am forever grateful. However, my father had a big role in helping me with my first business, Alexandra Jaye Inc. When it didn’t turn out as I had hoped, I made a promise to myself that my next business would be solely funded by me and my partner. That fire of earning accomplishment made a huge impact on how hard I worked. That hard work turned into selling 8,000 units in less than six months. I’m still pinching myself!
Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. The global beauty industry today has grown to more than a half a trillion dollar business. Can you tell us about the innovations that you are bringing to the industry? How do you think that will help people?
Michael, my partner, and I have always wanted to bring innovation to the industry. We never wanted to create a product that is already out there — that’s why we launched with one single product, the Blemish Camouflage. The product took us more than two years to develop because it’s never been done before! Completely new to market.
Blemish Camouflage is a 3-in-1 blemish treatment that has the ability to conceal and heal at the same time. We focused on using color bursting technology to have one sku give up to 20 shade ranges. It begins white and with the heat of your finger it starts to change to skin tone. This helps people because it gives people confidence while covering up blemishes and knowing it’s guilt free and doesn’t make it worse.
Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the modern beauty industry?
- The brands that are transparent with marketing claims and ingredients. It’s so important to educate and build trust with the consumer. That’s why we focus on our ingredient dictionary and August + Monroe Skin School! We want people to understand the chemistry behind the formula. I even had a conversation with someone on our Instagram the other day about a certain ingredient and completely changed her outlook on things. She even thanked me for taking the time to have the discussion with her because a lot of brands wouldn’t. I felt sad hearing that, but hopeful all of us indie brands will go outside of the lines and do what’s necessary to build that trust.
- It’s 2021 and the time is now for each and every company to implement sustainability initiatives. At August + Monroe, we start with plantable seed thank you cards in every order. Less waste and less forest destruction all-in-one. Plus it makes us happy to know someone can grow a few beautiful flowers in their home from it. My partner Michael and I are very passionate about problem solving and innovation for sustainable practices. This June, we’re launching our first product with refillable technology. This product will help reduce waste and reduce our carbon footprint.
- Lastly, the level of acceptance is thrilling. I’ve been in this industry for almost a decade and what I’ve seen within the last two to four years has been incredible. There’s no more hiding who you are. It’s all about enhancing who you are. Even with blemish camouflage, we aren’t trying to hide your blemishes, our focus is to treat them. We’re not saying those blemishes should be covered, we’re saying let’s get that bacteria out and give your skin loving, nourishing ingredients with a super cool technology.
Can you share 3 things that most concern you about the industry? If you had the ability to implement 3 ways to improve the industry, what would you suggest?
- I think the market is supersaturated, which terrifies me. There’s so many ‘copy cat’ products. However, I believe that when launching a beauty brand, you need to have new to market ideas that will improve the industry as a whole. I don’t think we would’ve seen the success we have if it wasn’t for our innovative idea. If we just were launching a 3 step kit, it wouldn’t have caught anyone’s eye. Key is: think outside the box.
- Lack of education in the industry. As I mentioned above, transparency excites me but the misinformation to consumers is what also concerns me. We live in an online world and with that comes a lot of opinions you can find on the internet. I wish the industry tried to educate more on chemistry instead of focusing on one or two ingredients. For example, coconut oil is known to clog pores. But those testings are done on oils that are undiluted by other materials, so the online numbers do not account for the final products that make up a finished product, which is substantially less. Truth be told, I didn’t even know some of these things until I got into product development. But who’s to say you need to be in product development to learn these things?
- Retail. Retail is something that has seen a huge shift within the past year due to the pandemic. Lot’s of stores are closing, people are wanting to shop online and sampling isn’t really a possibility. Truth be told, I always liked the DTC e-commerce route, however there was always something so special about walking into a Sephora or Ulta and being able to try on makeup or skincare. But I believe the power of AI will be able to change that.
You are an expert about beauty. Can you share a few ideas that anyone can use “to feel beautiful”?
A good skincare routine. Seriously, it will change not only your skin, but will also change your outlook on the day. Self care will put a smile on your face and when you smile, you can’t help but feel beautiful.
Here is the main question for our discussion. Based on your experience and success, Can you please share “Five Things You Need To Know To Succeed In The Modern Beauty Industry”. Please share a story or an example, for each.
- Be true to yourself. Don’t focus on trying to create something that isn’t you. It probably won’t pan out anyways. If you have the passion and believe in it, you will succeed. For example, when my first business failed, it didn’t fail because I wasn’t interested in the industry. It failed because I was trying to be something that I wasn’t. I wasn’t interested in selling private label cosmetics that everyone could buy and put their logo on. I wanted to be innovative and create something of my own — I lacked the passion because I didn’t believe in what I was selling. Now that I created a product from scratch that I stand behind, the success followed.
- Marketing. Is. Everything. Have a good chunk in your budget put away for marketing dollars. Spend it on ads, not on fancy videos or photoshoots. Trust me, we spent more than $10,000 on videos that I wish we would’ve spent on Facebook marketing. I run all our digital marketing at August + Monroe and guess what? We see anywhere from 3–5x on our ads. The secret? No big production. Make the consumer feel like they are watching their friends. My partner and I were on the street taking out our iphone to send a video to our friends of the color bursting technology in our product and that brought us over 4x our ad spend. It was authentic, relatable and didn’t make the consumer feel like we were “selling” anything. The product’s technology sells itself.
- Authenticity. Just like I mentioned in the two points above, not only do you need to be authentic to yourself as an entrepreneur, but as a brand as well.
- Customer Service. We’re talking about the beauty industry here! Consumers need to know they can communicate with you to ask questions, discuss issues or even be able to say hello! At August + Monroe we strongly believe in the feeling of, “Did we just become Best Friends?”. We want you to be able to ask us anything without any fears. We actually use an automated texting system that sends a text to our customers three weeks after their purchases to ask if they have any questions. I actually have an app on my phone and get notified when someone texts back. Guess what? It’s me on the other end having a chat with them! We do have other members on our team who deal with our customer service emails. However, I wanted to have that personal connection with our customers via text. It’s brought such an amazing connection. It’s truly so special, and I’ve made promises to myself to keep this going even with our growth.
- Last but not least, you are never going to satisfy everyone on this earth so don’t let that stop you. To succeed in this industry, you have to be open to feedback, criticism, and ultimately have thick skin. It’s your choice with what to do with it. There is no ego in this business… (actually there’s a lot of ego) but to be at the top of this industry you have to check the ego at the door!. Think about this for a second. Ware in the beauty industry so one of our purposes is to make our customers feel a sense of inner or outer “beauty”. If you’re truly in this business to make people feel good, you can’t be selfish. You need to be caring, understanding and true to yourself. Don’t let a few comments or returns shift your goals. (That goes for life too!)
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
I’ve always wanted to bring out the good in PEOPLE. Give them a feeling of peace, happiness, inspiration and true self-love. Back when I started my career as a makeup artist, I loved that I had the opportunity to make people feel good within themselves. It was something so special, a feeling that I can’t really explain in words. Some people would walk in and just have this self-doubt or say “good luck on me today!” or “I’m breaking out so bad, I don’t feel good about myself” which ultimately meant they were bringing this negative energy on themselves. To be able to change that by the power of MY energy and my words, made my craft so special. I never wanted to make a client not look like themselves. I wanted to enhance what was already there. You asked if I could inspire a movement, I believe I’ve already had the ability to change the way a handful of people look within themselves with more self-love, but I wish to inspire more. Because If you’re nice to yourself, you will be nice to everyone else.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
This is one I keep in my notes and I always go back to it. It’s a quote from Oprah.
It got me out of a dark time and made me realize it’s okay. These moments don’t define you, but they shape you.
“Learn from every mistake, because every experience, encounter and particularly, your mistakes are there to teach you and force you into being more of who you are. And then figure out what is the right next move.”
How can our readers follow you online?
They can follow our company, @augustandmonroe or find me at @AlexandraJaye. Both on Instagram!
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.