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This Local Beauty Brand Is Helmed By A 17-Year-Old

Meet the young founder of Candela Cosmetics

What do you think of when you hear the word ‘boss’?

Our minds tend to conjure up images of seasoned, authoritative female and male superiors but, now more so than ever, young entrepreneurs (like fashion designer Rebecca Minkoff, who started out at 25 years old) are taking the leap of faith and carving their own paths. 

One such young entrepreneur is Erin Alessandra. 

The 17-year-old, who fell in love with makeup and started her own YouTube channel when she was just 10 years old, turned her passion into her very own beauty label, Candela Cosmetics. Below, we speak to the young entrepreneur for what it really takes to start your own business before even reaching adulthood.

How did Candela Cosmetics come about?

ERIN ALESSANDRA I have always loved makeup, since I started my YouTube beauty channel, BeautyWithErin, at age 10. As a beauty vlogger I tried hundreds of different products from dozens of different brands, but even after six years I had still not found a “holy grail” product. 

Everything that I had tried was too harsh for my sensitive skin, and natural options lacked the colour pigmentation I was used to. In June 2015, I sought to solve this problem by creating a line of highly pigmented, skin-friendly cosmetics that promote the positive messages of empowerment, action, and eco-consciousness. 

How did you find the courage to set up your own business at such a young age? 

EA I’m really lucky to have a supportive family that believed in me and was even willing to help me out financially in this endeavour. I was always told that I could do whatever I set my mind to, and I think growing up with that mentality gave me a sense of confidence in my abilities that was vital to my success. I also was used to being the youngest one in the room and having to prove myself when I attended blogger and media events as a YouTuber, so the thought of having to prove myself in the business world did not really intimidate me — in fact I saw the challenge as something exciting.

“As a woman, I was seen as too emotional to be capable of leadership and decision-making.”

What were some of the challenges you’ve faced setting up your own business, especially as a young woman? 

EA Because of my age and lack of experience, I was unable to legally set up the business on my own, and many people thought that I would be too irresponsible to handle entrepreneurship. As a woman, I was seen as too emotional to be capable of leadership and decision-making, and my ideas towards the beauty industry as a promoter of confidence, empowerment, and economic opportunity were seen as trivial and superficial. 

What are some advantages young entrepreneurs have when it comes to setting up a relevant, modern business? 

EA I think the main advantages young entrepreneurs have are a positive attitude and an understanding of market trends. Young entrepreneurs typically choose to go into something that they are passionate about and they are optimistic about their businesses. Older entrepreneurs, who might have more expenses and even families to take care of, are typically more skeptical and see their work as simply a source of income rather than a passion project. Young entrepreneurs also are more in touch with up and coming market trends — they know what’s hot and what’s selling. 

At the beginning, what did you think it was going to be like starting your own business, and how has that changed now? 

EA To be honest, I thought it was going to be much easier than it actually has been. I thought that product development would happen faster, and I expected the cost of acquisition of customers to be lower. Now, I’ve learned to be a bit more realistic with my goals, and I have learned to split up the work between people so that I am not doing everything alone. 

“Understand that entrepreneurship is risky and come to terms with chance that you may fail. Don’t let your fear of failure hinder your progress!”

What should all young entrepreneurs know before setting up their own business? 

EA Spend time researching the market before you start your business. It’s really important to know what you’re getting yourself into, know who you’re competing with, and fully understand consumer trends.

Make sure you figure out all of your administrative and logistical needs before starting your business. As a young entrepreneur it is very easy to overlook things that might not be familiar, like taxes, legal fees, and rent.

Understand that entrepreneurship is risky and come to terms with chance that you may fail. You can always gain knowledge from a failed attempt by studying what went wrong and taking it as a lesson learned. Don’t let your fear of failure hinder your progress! 

What are your future plans for Candela Cosmetics and for yourself personally?

EA I am currently working on my Bachelor’s degree at a university in Los Angeles, California, USA. I am studying economics and chemistry and I plan to run Candela Cosmetics full-time upon graduation. I also hope to pursue a PhD later on. As of now we are keeping operations small and manageable, focusing mostly on research and development — though I hope to expand into retail throughout North America and Asia in the years to come. We will be releasing a limited amount of our new liquid lipsticks at pop-up sales in Singapore and the USA this summer, so look out for that in Singapore in July! 

Find out more about Erin and shop Candela Cosmetics here.

Photo: @candelacosmetics via Instagram

Feeling motivated to get your hustle on? Find out what smart women should do to rise to the top of their careers or find out why Singapore is the best country for female entrepreneurs