by Jenna Kutcher
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Dump out your makeup bag right now. I’m willing to bet you’ve got the creation of today’s guest bouncing around your beauty must-haves. The Beautyblender is iconic, but the backstory is even better. It started with about a million nos.
Having a hard time getting people on board with your business idea? My guest, Rea Ann Silva, can sympathize. But when her idea for the Beautyblender was shot down time after time, she learned how to make things happen on her own, fine-tuning her pitch along the way until finally she heard a YES. Actually, it was more like a “Yes, but…” I’ll let her tell the whole story.
Rea Ann is here to share her story of product development, of getting people to see her vision, and her advice for moving the needle forward even when life and distractions pull you away from your biggest goal.
From Makeup Artist to Product Designer
Rea Ann’s stories of the early days included earning a degree at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising to honing her craft of makeup and learning to sell at beauty counters in big retail stores. Her story includes pop artists and celebrities and red carpets. It includes raising a child as a single mom, her daughter growing up under the makeup counter in her trailer on set.
It all sounds so fascinating and glamorous, but Rea Ann remembers those days being exhausting, too. She was doing it all but hitting a wall with her balance of work and life. She wondered how long she would be able to sustain that lifestyle.
“I needed to find a way that I could have it all because I believe we as women can have it all. There’s time management and planning that goes into it, but if you have a vision and a goal, you can work the challenges in your favor,” Rea Ann encouraged.
So she was at a crossroads. What was next? She felt tapped out income-wise as a makeup artist. She felt tapped out time-wise. Her inner dialogue started to sound like a loop of soul searching questions: What are all of these experiences leading to? Where will these relationships and connections I’ve made at work take me? What higher purpose am I moving towards?
For Rea Ann, it was a little egg shaped make-up sponge. The idea was born out of necessity to create the life she wanted for herself and her daughter and it looked different than the life she was leading at the time.
Hearing No All the Time
When the idea from Beautyblender was born from a combination of techniques and hacks that she was using in her day to day makeup application for clients, Rea Ann knew she had landed on the idea that would boost her income and be her bigger purpose. Press play for the full story of how Beautyblender was born.
But once she had that idea, she had to win other people over. And it wasn’t easy. She started to check packages of makeup sponges wherever she went to see where they were manufactured. “I thought for sure [these manufacturers] would understand my journey and what I was trying to do. But that really wasn’t the case,” Rea Ann laughed.
Rea Ann was an aggressive cold caller. She tried reaching the product development teams at companies, pitching her idea and knew that it was what the industry needed at the time… But she heard no after no. And that made her angry. But she kept pressing on. She was trying to wear them down and when she finally got connected to the last person who took her call, she was in.
The First Yes
Rea Ann ended up pitching the idea for an edgeless makeup sponge to the woman who would continue to work with her on the development of the product for going on 15 years now, Cathy Bailey. In their first conversation, Cathy tried shooting Rea Ann down, saying they held over 150 patents for makeup sponges so there was surely something like her product already in their line-up.
Rea Ann challenged her on those patents. Who was even designing them? It turned out that engineers were designing the makeup sponges and they’d never actually worked with someone who used the sponges in the field every day and knew what they needed to better perform their job.
The Beautyblender prototype went out to Cathy who called Rea Ann back, calling the sponge a “forehead slap moment.” You know, like why didn’t I think of this? Cathy took it to her team and presented the idea. However, the team shot it down! So Cathy took it on as a freelance project, helping Rea Ann develop it on her own time.
Evaluate Your Passion
It’s clear that Rea Ann was motivated to get a yes. She believed so strongly in her idea that when she heard No a million times, it didn’t slow her down, it only made her that much more driven.
If you are hearing no in response to your big idea or goal and it’s starting to feel like you’re closer to a breakdown than a breakthrough, Rea Ann’s advice is to evaluate your passion. Are you truly as passionate about this idea as you claim and is it enough to keep you wading through the sea of nos?
Rea Ann felt like this idea for the Beautyblender sponge was a “lighting bolt from God” and she was meant to make it happen. When she heard no, to her it meant that they were just not the right people to help her.
If you keep hearing no, keep pushing until you find someone who shares your vision. “Walking through that journey with someone who shares your vision is like a beautiful walk through Eden’s garden, as opposed to walking through the Sahara Desert with someone who doesn’t.”
Consider this from Rea Ann: “No is your protection. When you are passionate about something and people tell you no, it’s God’s protection.” I think that is a beautiful way to think about rejection.
She’s frequently asked how she made her big dream happen. And she says, “It’s a very simple concept. If you have an idea and you start working on it, and then you stop working on it, it’s not gonna happen for you.”
More from this Episode
What is the most surprising part of the business for Rea Ann Silva? What is the easiest and best way to keep your idea moving forward? How does she view the imitators who have popped up since the birth of Beautyblender? Rea Ann’s story holds so many threads of inspiration whether you’re dreaming up your big idea for the next category-shifting product to launching an online business. Press play right not to hear the full interview.