Conventional wisdom isn’t what’s carried Alicia Grande to success. Rather, it was her unshakeable resolve, paired with a debut stock keeping unit so universally resonant it set a firm foundation for a robust product lineup that, 15 years later, is still growing. Here, the entrepreneur discusses her journey from bootstrapping Grande Cosmetics, to finding — and upholding — momentum.

What has your trajectory in beauty been like?

Alicia Grande: I started in beauty when I was 16 years old and worked at different cosmetic booths in a flea market, and then at Macy’s. I wound up doing a radio show focused on the best in beauty called “The Health Buzz,” and that led me to this trade show where I met the chemists who had created a formula to enhance your natural eyelashes. I was skeptical — because it was 2007 — but I used it myself, and it was just a game changer for my postpartum hair loss. With my last name being “Grande,” too, it was just such a “wow” moment that I realized I had to bring the formula, and Grande Cosmetics, to the world.

What’s one thing about founding and building a female-led business that nobody tells you?

A.G.: Being a female founder, being a mother of two boys and being a wife — you don’t get the same breaks that a man does. We take on so many roles as women, and so trying to be involved in the kids’ school, carpooling — it fell on me, and it wasn’t easy. For the first 10 years of the business, I didn’t take a salary. I’m a big proponent of, “You need to spend money to make money,” so that’s what I did. I think people who start businesses, they’re very cautious about what promotional things they do, but I was one of those who was screaming from the rooftops, “Everyone needs to hear! GrandeLash-MD!,” and that is truly what I attribute a lot of my success to.

Which steps are you taking within your organization to ensure women’s voices are heard?

A.G.: I recruit women: Out of the 55 people who work for Grande Cosmetics, two are men. I feel that, especially in beauty, when you see the enthusiasm of women for what we’re selling, I want to hear them and they want to be heard. That’s the reason why I work mostly with women — it’s not that I have anything against men, but it’s what works best for Grande culture.

Grande Cosmetics is 15 years old. What has continued to fuel your love of innovating?

A.G.: I have a curiosity to break the mold. The brow laminate product we just made, for example, was two years in the making — and it wasn’t working. It’s a gel, but it’s also meant to enhance your brows, and so getting that texture and consistency right was difficult. Landing a product that works — it’s like climbing to the top of a mountain and looking down and seeing the best view. That feeling, that’s what keeps fueling me.

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