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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 October 2018

Make-up artist Lilit Caradanian opens up on how she built her empire 

The 29-year-old may have one million followers on Instagram and a successful beauty company to her name, but none of it came easy

Lilit Caradanian    will speak at the Simply Stylist conference in Dubai. Courtesy Lilit Caradanian
Lilit Caradanian    will speak at the Simply Stylist conference in Dubai. Courtesy Lilit Caradanian

Bronzed, sun-kissed skin, with glittery, rose-gold eyelids, bold brows and striking lashes, is the beauty look you’ll be able to emulate after watching a 29-­minute make-up tutorial by Lilit Caradanian on YouTube. This one in particular was posted earlier this year, inspired by one of celebrity make-up artist Scott Barnes’s looks for Jennifer Lopez.

And while Caradanian’s knack for applying make-up, and the subsequent 10,000 views of her video, might seem impressive, this Los Angeles entrepreneur, who has more than one ­million followers on Instagram, is more than a mere beauty blogger. She has practised make-up artistry for 10 years, opening her own beauty studio in California in 2012, before officially ­shifting her focus to running her ­beauty brand, Elcie Cosmetics, (which is a combination of her initials) last year.

Although she enrolled in make-up school when she was 17, she realised the importance of diversifying her work experience quite early on. “I worked in different fields, in property management and finance, and I was also going to school full time and got my master’s degree in business, before making make-up my full-time career,” Caradanian reveals.

She is in Dubai, along with celebrity stylist Law Roach, for today’s Simply Stylist conference, which is part of the Mall of the Emirates' World of Fashion Event. She will be headlining as a keynote speaker, discussing social media and entrepreneurship, and is a fitting choice for this region’s conference, where social media- savvy beauty ­fanatics will gather to hear how her brand has achieved such success in a short period of time.

It all began with her realisation that there was no single, universal foundation that she could use on her clients, who would book her services six months to a year in advance. “Every client had a different skin type and a different coverage need, and I’d have to interview them to see if their skin was oily or dry, if they wanted high or low coverage – it was such a process,” she tells me.

“I couldn’t find one type that worked for all skin types, so that’s when I had the idea to create my own brand, starting with a foundation that’s not mattifying and not shiny, and has buildable coverage – just a very consumer-friendly product.” The resulting creation was her Micro Silque foundation, which launched with the brand in 2015, and won a Cosmopolitan Beauty Award the following year.

In 2016, Caradanian launched two more products, and the year after, ­introduced another six to the range. “It has pretty much tripled every year,” she tells me. “Every ­product I’ve ­created since then is what I feel should be an essential in the ­average girl’s make-up drawer. Things that will make their skin look great ­without ­putting too much on.” Today, a range of powders, ­concealers, ­primers, ­eyeshadow ­palettes, mascaras and even ­application tools like brushes and sponges form part of the brand’s beauty offering.

The entrepreneur says that her diverse background in ­finance and business ­certainly helped in setting up Elcie ­Cosmetics. “I have ­managed everything from the beginning, ­whether ­marketing, ­financing or budgeting,” she explains. Last November, the ­increasing demands of the project pushed ­Caradanian to officially hang up her make-up artist hat. “My brand had grown so much and it required a lot of my attention; I also had a baby,” she says.

“A fast-growing business and a baby was just too overwhelming for me, and it was hard to commit to clients a year in advance.”

She channelled this extra time into expanding her line in a market that she says can be difficult to break into. Brand loyalty is a key factor for success, particularly in the beauty business, and ­Caradanian says that one of the most difficult parts of launching Elcie Cosmetics was building awareness and ­winning over new customers. “I think the challenging thing about being a new brand in a very saturated world with very well-known brands, is ­breaking that threshold, and still standing out,” she says.

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Social media has been a key tool for the business, as well as for marketing her own personal profile. But while she says there are plenty of positive aspects to using social media to grow your portfolio, collaborate with brands and increase your following, sometimes people expect too much. “I think the challenging part is if you don’t grow as quickly as you expect to, you start to get disappointed. But everything takes time, so you just have to stay committed to it,” she says. “The more you grow, the more you expose yourself to opinions, including negative ones, and I think that’s the hardest part.”

Nonetheless, the message she wants to project at the Simply Stylist conference, which is taking place at Kempinski Hotel Mall of the Emirates, is one of hope, which she believes is ­waning in the beauty market. “I really want to be able to show ­people that no matter where you are in the world you want to be in, there’s always room for growth. It’s just a matter of work ethic, being ambitious and not giving up. I never thought I’d have my own studio and my own brand,” she says. “I was a ­regular girl who loved make-up and I just kept doing it over and over until doors started opening up for me.”