First launched in late March of 2016, Velvet Vanity began as one of the first few indie makeup brands in Malaysia and has since amassed a loyal base of customers. We spoke to the brand’s founder and managing director, 24-year-old Adlina Nadirah, about starting a beauty brand in Malaysia and the state of the local indie cosmetics scene.
What are some principles you adhere to while running your business?
There are a few basic principles that I adhere to while running a business. Never do monkey business, remember that time is money, and always do it from the heart.
Could you tell us a bit about your background and how you got into the cosmetics in the first place?
I’ve had an interest in business since I was young but didn’t see it as a career path. I graduated from architecture school with a major in architectural science. After graduation, I travelled around for a while and that was when I noticed that there were a lot of things Malaysia lacked that were available outside of the country. It made me think that maybe I should become a personal shopper.
When I came back to KL I had to decide whether I wanted to set up a business, which I had a passion for, or continue my studies. It just so happened that I had a friend who worked with a factory producing beauty products here in Malaysia, so I ended up working with her and eventually launching the brand.
The local cosmetics industry has been growing over the past few years. In your opinion, how does Velvet Vanity continue to set itself apart from its competitors?
I think Velvet Vanity produces lip colours that are unique from other brands and that is how we set ourselves apart from them. We work with themes as a guideline for our campaigns whenever we do a launch. The themes help make the names of our lip shades memorable.
Things have changed a lot since the conception of the brand, from marketing to the packaging to even the lip formula. What influenced these changes?
We definitely take our customers’ feedback into consideration to make improvements to the brand. We’re also influenced by how some of the bigger independent makeup brands internationally do their marketing, such as Glossier and Colourpop. But customers are always number one to us.
Some customers find our formula too slow drying, but it’s also a preference thing. In Malaysia, people have a preference for makeup that is easy to wash off and easy to remove when they do their prayers. One other thing I realised is that people are especially concerned about halal products in Malaysia, so I had to make sure that all my suppliers are halal certified.
How big is your team?
We have 6 people: myself, an admin, and of course customer service. We do take interns as well; I currently have an intern who does our accountancy work.
Have you faced any challenges in starting a business as a female entrepreneur?
Gender has not been an issue for me, as female entrepreneurs have become more common nowadays. However, as a general entrepreneur, yes.
Did you have any struggle when it came to pricing Velvet Vanity products?
We do a lot of research to come up with an appropriate price for our products. The local beauty scene can be divided into three tiers: there’s middle, independent, and drug store. When it’s independent, the price can’t be too expensive — but not too low either.
Velvet Vanity may be considered quite expensive to some but we try to deliver the best quality. When you look at high-end makeup brands like Mac and compare the price difference, it’s quite affordable and reasonable. Local brands are becoming even better than international brands, or are at least on par with them.
I think local brands are going to be playing a big role when it comes to price point. Most college students now can’t afford to pay RM100 for a tube of lipstick, but they do have quite a few local brands to choose from as cheaper alternatives to that.
What motivates you to keep on going?
My family. They helped me a lot when I was first starting.
Where are some of your hopes for the future of the local cosmetics industry?
I hope that Malaysia will come out with beauty fairs to celebrate local beauty brands as well as other brands from the Southeast Asian region. In the US you see a lot of events like that and I think we have the potential to do that in Malaysia.
Velvet Vanity has been featured previously on MissMafia, in our list of cruelty-free gift ideas for your BFFs.
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