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Latina Lista: News from the Latinx perspective > Columns & Features > American Dreams > A cosmetic approach to business yields glamorous success

A cosmetic approach to business yields glamorous success

Entrepreneur Gabriela Hernandez combines her love of romantic design, old-world simplicity and product purity into a new cosmetic line for the 21st century woman.

LatinaLista — Design lies at the heart of the success experienced by Besame cosmetics creator Gabriela Hernandez. A graphic designer, photographer and art director by training, Hernandez’ eye has always focused on dissecting the intricate details that comprise an ordinary object and make it extraordinary.

It’s a talent that the 42-year-old mother of two says lead her to see her grandmother’s old 1940’s-era cosmetic containers in a new light. The containers, crafted during the period when romanticism and femininity exemplified old world beauty, intrigued Hernandez and underscored the realization that these products of a bygone era were what was needed to reprise an old-fashioned concept for 21st century women — glamour.

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Besame cosmetics founder Gabriela Hernandez


 

“These beautiful pieces needed to be remade, to bring this kind of femininity and beauty to the next generation of women,” Hernandez said.

Yet, Hernandez wasn’t just interested in the packaging, she wanted to take her artistic vision to a higher level and create a whole new cosmetic line.

“Cosmetic ingredients get more complicated every year,” Hernandez said. “I wanted effective formulas that were simple and pure. I looked to the past for guidance and inspiration to create my products.”

Hernandez got busy identifying the products she wanted to carry in her line — lipsticks, powders, eye shadows, moisturizers, mascara — and started reading old books that explained how the cosmetics of yesteryear were created. With no chemistry background, she forged ahead.

She researched modern ingredients like anti-oxidant green tea, anti-aging marine collagen, sweet almond oil and other ingredients that were not harmful to the skin and thought of ways to combine the two different eras of cosmetics into a modern product.

With the help of her husband, Hernandez poured through directories finding the right suppliers, production facilities and chemists to make the dream a reality.

While creating the cosmetic formulas was not Hernandez’ expertise, design was. She drew on her artistic background to emulate the elegant, colorful and functional packaging used during the Art Deco movement to create shiny lipstick tubes and palm-sized powder compacts. To add her own touch, she created an unique flower motif that graces each container.


A sampling of the cosmetics available in the Besame cosmetics line.

However, while the business idea was taking shape, Hernandez still faced the hardest part of the process — naming it. She needed a name that reflected glamour, a bygone era and her Latina heritage.

Finally, it came to her in the form of the old Spanish classic Besame Mucho (Kiss Me A Lot). For Hernandez, the song encompassed timelessness and global appeal — two factors she strove for with Besame Cosmetics.

With the product complete and ready for sale, Hernandez’ next big hurdle was where to sell it.

Knowing that they needed to build a reputation for salability before approaching big-name retailers, the couple decided to first launch the cosmetics in 2004 on their web site, and later in stores.

It was a strategy that eased costs but not for long.

“The most difficult part is always financing and distribution,” confessed Hernandez. “In a start-up company, all the money generated goes right back into development to produce and market new items. If that cycle is off in the timing, cash flow issues arise. That is the most challenging part of growth. Also, reaching enough stores to have the product more available to consumers is just as challenging.”

The budding entrepreneur has enough business sense to know that she will have to keep investing in Besame until she reaches that vital tipping point in the market where she can finally claim her share.

But she knows she’s close.

“I knew I had made my mark when I saw my (cosmetic) line center aisle in the posh 5th Avenue store, Henri Bendel — and it was surrounded by beauty reporters wanting to know more about Besame.”

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