The Inception of LIP INK
Celebrating the Entreprenurial Spirit
Rose Nichols' girlhood dream was to be an astronaut. Although she never made it into outer space, she did become an explorer of sorts, one who appears to have discovered the Holy Grail of makeup: truly smear-proof lip color.
LIP INK® Semi-Permanent Lip Color began as Nichols' senior project when she was a student at the Fashion Institute of Los Angeles. She says she looked at a graphic marker and wondered what it would take to make a lip color that worked in the same way. The concept, lip color that wouldn't smear, fade, or rub off until the wearer was ready, was a hit with professors. Making it happen took another four years of research, trial and error. I'm a born inventor, says Nichols when asked how a former accountant with no training or experience in chemistry found a solution that had eluded the cosmetics industry for years. She did her research in unconventional ways and unusual places. There was the hardware store, the grocery store, and the art store, she says, taking her inspiration from things like the polymers in an aspirins coating. In her mind it was no different than what she'd done since she was a little girl: taking apart and putting them back together in different ways (including, once upon a time, her families television set). From the beginning, LIP INK's technologies were unique enough to be patented; the products packaging carries five U.S. and foreign patent numbers.
Gaining acceptance in the marketplace wasn't so easy. Nichols says she realizes that her products (and there is now a complete cosmetic line in addition to the lip color) represent a real paradigm shift for cosmetics users. Many doubted the companies claims or were suspicious of the ingredients. According to Nichols, that began changing about six years ago, when companies like Revlon, P&G, and L'Oreal starting promoting long lasting lipsticks. The technology wasn't the same, she says but the cachet of the big name brands trickled down to help her products gain enough acceptance for customers to try them. Nichols claims that is all she needs to get a customer for life.
Distribution was another hurdle. We weren't well-accepted in the retail world,
Nichols admits. It's basically owned by four major companies and they don't let you in. So the born inventor created her own markets, promoting her products through sports clubs, doctors offices, yoga parlors, and the companies on website www.lipink.com. More traditional retail outlets followed, as customers who became converts requested the products at their local salons and beauty supply stores.
The company has no outside sales reps, which Nichols says is by design. She describes LIP INK® as, first and foremost, a technology company, and she uses technology not just to create new products and new markets, but to support the cause she believes in, like environmentalism.