Yolanda Webb struggled every morning when it came time to put on her makeup. The former model was living overseas, and the department stores didn’t offer makeup for women of color. “I couldn’t find things to match my skin, and just being unhappy made me mix and match things myself,” she says.
After returning to the U.S., she connected with a pharmaceutical/cosmoceutical company in Los Angeles and began E’LON Cosmetics, a full line of makeup for women of color. She opened a store in Cincinnati in 2003, and it wasn’t long before Macy’s took notice and approached her about doing business together. “That wasn’t in my original business plan because the model was set up as a stand-alone store,” Webb says. “We were talking distribution channels, so I knew I needed a different business model as we got further into talks.”
Webb got in touch with Sherrie Human, Castellini chair for Xavier’s entrepreneurial center, who turned Webb’s business struggles into a class project. Students visited the store, tested products, researched the competition and made financial predictions.
“I was honored, excited about the opportunity, but also very cautious because I know the competition and the market, and I didn’t want to get so far over my head that I couldn’t handle it,” Webb says. “A part of the plan the students showed me was how I could have controlled growth.”
After two successful trunk shows at Macy’s, Webb closed her store and now operates exclusively through the company’s makeup counters. More important, she expects to turn a profit in the next couple of years.