How I Started a Successful Company
to Assist Makeup Application On The Go
Hi! Who are you and what business did you start?
My name is Ashley Piszek and I am the CEO and Founder of MISS SWISS. MISS SWISS is a trademarked and patented makeup case that helps makeup wearers apply their makeup on the go and prevents makeup spillage due to friction. I crafted the idea for MISS SWISS while in college and MISS SWISS has been my full-time job since graduating in 2019.
What is your personal story and how did you come up with the idea?
Since an early age, I have had a dream of becoming a successful businesswoman. From Lemonade stands to crafting doll furniture, I have been driven to launch a business. Education has always been really important to me since I have a parent who didn’t complete college. I majored in accounting and marketing and decided I didn’t want to go the traditional route of getting my CPA. I chose to take every business class available, even some MBA courses in preparation for starting my dream business and graduated Cum Laude in 2019 with 170 credits.
My inspiration for MISS SWISS formed after my own “purse catastrophe.” When my makeup was damaged and my purse destroyed while attending a concert, I quickly realized I was not alone. Other makeup cases were too large to fit in a purse or did not allow for proper spacing to prevent spillage, so I invented a makeup case that solves a few problems makeup wearers have.
I conducted research studies with makeup users and learned about their issues applying makeup on the go. The three major issues that were consistently raised were that makeup gets lost inside purses, makeup spills, and makeup is difficult to apply on the go. Our original MISS SWISS only took into account makeup getting lost and spilling so we adjusted our prototypes to make the holders pivot so the makeup wearer can leave the base of the makeup in the holder during application.
MISS SWISS, which is manufactured in the U.S.A., has four holders inside a heavy-duty plastic shell that comes in five colors: Princess of Monaco Pink, Silhouette Black, Blue Hydrangea, Fiolet Purple, and Summertime Shandy Yellow. MISS SWISS is 7.25 inches long, 4.25 inches wide, 1.25 inches deep, and comes with a large shatter-resistant mirror inside.
What challenges did you face when creating your product/service?
When I came up with the idea for MISS SWISS, I had no clue how much it would cost to bring my vision to market. Since there are many moving parts to MISS SWISS and the holders expand to fit a large variety of makeup products, we needed to create two injection molds which were very expensive.
In order to afford the molds, I flipped a house in-between classes at DeSales University. In order to make as much money as possible, my mom and I did as much of the work as possible so we could make a larger profit. We demoed, designed it, tiled, grouted, spackled, painted, and staged our flip. The only part of the house we didn’t work on was electrical and plumbing work.
Launching in a pandemic was more difficult than I could have ever imagined. I was responsible for purchasing all of the assembly parts for MISS SWISS which included the mirrors, screws, nuts, hinge pins, and packaging while finding a manufacturer and having the injection mold made. Each part of finding suppliers and getting samples during the pandemic added its own set of issues.
Starting a business, in general, is difficult but the pandemic added a new level of uncertainty and delays. We were supposed to launch in late August or early September but due to the pandemic, we didn’t have the product until late December and launched at that time.
The US beauty industry is estimated to be 97 billion dollars in 2020 but is mostly controlled by a few key corporations. Breaking into the industry with a new innovation has been a challenge but our influencer campaign has successfully introduced MISS SWISS to tens of thousands of makeup wearers.
Who is your target market?
Our target market is makeup wearers on the go, who touch up their makeup throughout the day and or transition their makeup from day to evening while preventing makeup spillage in their bag, briefcase or purse. We purposefully designed the 4 holders to fit round diameter cosmetics from drugstore brands to designer products. Interestingly, I envision our customer applying their makeup while riding the subway, bus, parked in their car, or in the hallway in between classes. It is also convenient for the busy parent on the sideline, during rehearsal, or applying makeup while in carline. I believe the MISS SWISS customer loves cosmetics and enjoys the protection and ease of application our case provides.
How do you market your business and which approaches have been the most successful?
We have utilized both paid advertising and influencer marketing.
MISS SWISS launched with an influencer campaign in which I wanted to include my love for supporting nonprofits together with my new business. I took inspiration from my go-to holiday gifts for my friends and family which is a donation to their favorite charity. I obtained a quote for fancy packaging and took that amount and donated it to influencer’s favorite charities. The influencer campaign was very successful and allowed us to donate to over 50 amazing non-profits.
We are currently using Facebook advertising featuring 30-second videos. MISS SWISS has a strong presence on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and has recently started TikToks. We also send three weekly email newsletters.
Since you launched, what has worked in not only attracting but retaining customers?
Our weekly newsletters keep our current and potential customers informed about MISS SWISS, our new products, innovations and keeps our brand fresh in their minds. After a customer makes a purchase, we send them an email letting them know if they post about MISS SWISS on their social media platforms and tag us, we will send them 15% off their next order.
We also have a brand ambassador program that allows customers and influencers, no matter the number of followers an opportunity to share MISS SWISS with their friends and family while earning a commission of sales they bring in. We also make sure to be active on social media and like and comment on influencers and customer’s photos who follow and support our brand. This shows we appreciate their support and they are more than a number to us.
What kind of culture exists in your company, and how did you establish it?
As I am currently the only MISS SWISS employee along with an intern, who is my brother, I work long hours but try to keep it fresh and fun. After an especially long week, I treat us to “Friday movie nights at the warehouse!”
I have strategically aligned MISS SWISS with an amazing bi-coastal PR firm, and an outstanding east coast social media company. Communication is the key to my success. If I have a meeting with one company, I inform the other of what transpired so the flow of information and ideas is open. Often one builds upon the ideas of the other.
What software, services or tools do you use within your business?
MISS SWISS uses Shopify to host our website, track inventory, and handle transactions. Our emails are controlled through Klaviyo, which allows us to keep track of customer segments, email campaigns, and newsletter analytics.
We use Google Analytics in conjunction with Klaviyo to track newsletter signups from our website. Facebook Business manager and Facebook ad manager allow MISS SWISS to host ads through Facebook and view the analytics of the ads.
What are the most important lessons have you learned on your business journey?
The biggest challenge I have been facing during the pandemic is communication issues and learning that I am the only person who will follow up on expected deliveries and maintain quality control on assembly parts for MISS SWISS. Being organized as a woman in business is key during a Pandemic.
Having multiple suppliers and shipping delays makes things challenging at times. I have a plastic manufacturer who also assembles the makeup cases, but I am required to supply all of the assembly parts. Although it seems easy to purchase mirrors, screws, nuts, packaging, and hinge pins, I have learned the hard way that it isn’t! Even if you explicitly state product requirements, it does not necessarily mean that is what you will get. For instance, I have gone through three hinge pin suppliers before I found the perfect supplier. Just because a website says their product will be a certain size, that doesn’t mean that is what you’ll get.
I have learned that I am the only person who will advocate for MISS SWISS 24/7. Other businesses are not as concerned about me getting my parts on time or about sending me faulty products. I have learned the hard way to test a large sample of assembly parts as we receive them to make sure they are within the required tolerances that are agreed upon. I make sure to have at least three backup plans for every assembly part needed for MISS SWISS. This lesson can translate to many aspects of everyone’s lives, especially during the pandemic.
What is your favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
My favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur is having the opportunity to create something that started as a rough sketch and nurture it into an exciting new business and innovative product in customer’s hands. I enjoy being able to create products that solve problems that have never been thought of before. It is an amazing outlet for my overactive creativity.
What is your LEAST favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
I think the only downside to being an entrepreneur is having full responsibility for MISS SWISS. I find myself speaking to people around the world at all times of the day and evening. I have to work normal working hours from 9-5 and I do some business on the west coast so I’ll find myself having meetings until 8pm eastern time.
Having a few suppliers in China where there is a 12-hour time difference means I often stay up past midnight talking to suppliers and have to be ready for work the next day. It can take a toll after a while but I am trying to create a more manageable work-life balance.
What books, podcasts or other resources have inspired and influenced your business journey?
My grandfather, who was a successful entrepreneur, passed when I was eight years old. His memoir “Some Good in the World A Life of Purpose” is one of my favorite books. It taught me the lessons that he wasn’t able to tell me himself. His story is like many successful businessmen and women, full of challenges and triumphs. I have felt his entrepreneurial spirit in my blood since I was a kid.
His story inspired me to create and make MISS SWISS a successful brand in the beauty industry. I modeled my life and influencer campaign after his philanthropic pursuits and am proud of the results. Instead of excess packaging that typically comes with product gifts, we took the money that would have been spent on packaging to influencer’s favorite charities. We were able to support over 50 amazing charities even before we launched.
Where do you see your business 2-3 years from now?
In 2-3 years, I envision the MISS SWISS product line and distribution expanding exponentially. I would like to increase the number of employees allowing me time to focus on product development. Once you acquire one patent, it becomes addictive, and I am already working on my second one.