Some say variety is the spice of life. For Izabelle Villafuerte, the desire for more options when shopping for cosmetics was what led her to start Empresaria Cosmetics.
After graduating from college, Villafuerte wanted to treat herself by purchasing her first high-quality cosmetics brush. She was disappointed by the lack of creative designs and high prices.
“When I look at the brushes (in stores), a lot of them look so similar and none of them look like what we make,” Villafuerte said. “I came across YouTube videos of people making their own wooden shaving brushes and I was like, ‘Hey, that’s almost the same exact thing.’”
Together with her dad, Miguel, Villafuerte started building brushes out of scrap wood in the garage of her family home.
Prototypes the duo initially created involved cutting the heads off other makeup brushes. Once they became more proficient in woodworking, they were able to fully handcraft their own brushes. It took about two months until they sold their first set.
“Neither of us had any experience so we started at the same level, just from YouTube and things like that. I guess my dad just kind of has a gift for it. He just completely surpassed me in a couple of months,” Villafuerte said.
One of Empresaria Cosmetics’ most popular brush designs mimics the pattern of a bolero toy, something that ties into Villafuerte’s background as a Latina woman. The company has expanded to include other designs, ranging from products with butterfly designs to others that resemble the patterns of popular candy like Pocky. Each brush is hand made with recycled wood and is also vegan and cruelty free, meaning it does not include any animal-derived ingredients and was developed without doing tests on animals.
Since being on Project Pitch It, the company has gained more local interest from customers. TikTok and Instagram are the biggest drivers of sales for the company now, but Villafuerte hopes to get her products in some local stores.
“Especially as the holidays come, we’re looking at different local, especially Latino-owned, shops because our audience and customers are definitely younger Latinas,” she said.
She is in talks with a local gift shop to have some of Empresaria Cosmetics’ brushes kept in stock.
Currently, ramping up production is Villafuerte’s main goal. To that end, she and her father have purchased a CNC machine. Outside of a $10,000 cash prize from Project Pitch It and $15,000 from the University of Wisconsin Ideavance Seed Fund accelerator, the company has received no other outside funding.
Founder: Izabelle Villafuerte Website: empresariacosmetics.com What it does: Creates custom-made, sustainable cosmetics brushes Founded: 2020