Lockdown Economy Philippines in the Makeup Company with Miki Liuson

The interview was transcribed and adapted into an article by Danielle Hormillosa

Lockdown Economy: Interviews by think tank AlterContacts.org with real entrepreneurs sharing insights, challenges and successes during the COVID19 global pandemic to inspire, motivate and encourage other entrepreneurs around the world.

In this interview, we meet Miki Liuson, the founder of Hypergleam Cosmetics based in San Juan, Metro Manila. Miki, a certified professional makeup artist, shared what urged her to start the makeup business — a personal reason which is related to her roots as a performer. She also talked about the brand’s identity and what made its lip glosses special. Miki had a hard time restocking and delivering the products because of the restrictions implemented to counter the rise of COVID-19 cases in the Philippines. Due to this, the brand struggled to be well-known. However, she said that she aims to utilize social media at its full capacity and highlight the lip care benefits of Hypergleam lip glosses to solve these problems.

Hello Miki! How are you?

Miki: Hi Julie, thank you for having me today. I am great!

That’s good to hear. Tell us about Hypergleam Cosmetics.

Miki: Hypergleam is a cosmetics brand that I started back on July 25, so it’s quite recent. Right now what we offer is hydrating lip gloss. Currently, we have nine shades that are permanent. Every once in a while, we release limited shades that people can get for one stock only and we don’t restock those shades. We really give a really wide variety of shades, from clear to tinted to shimmer shades.

How long have you been doing this business?

Miki: I had a soft launch back in May 2020 to have my friends test the formula of the lip gloss and to see their feedback. Getting positive feedback from my friends, I decided to push through with launching two months later, which was on July 25. Since then, Hypergleam Cosmetics has been running consistently.

That’s good to hear! So Miki, where are you based? Do you have any employees and how many clients do you normally have?

Miki: Right now I’m based in San Juan City, Metro Manila and the “team” is actually just me. I do outsource for product photography. I got some help for the beginning of the graphic design. I also got some help with my order process and getting orders. Ever since I just always ask for help, in the beginning, to help me kick-start everything and I’ve been managing everything by myself.

So you’re a one-woman team! What urged you to start Hypergleam Cosmetics?

Miki: I have not been into makeup for a long time. I’ve been a performer since I was a kid and my mom would do my makeup every time I perform on stage. As I got older, I had to learn how to put on my own makeup because I was alone backstage and no one was there to help me anymore. That’s when I started exploring makeup and since then, I really enjoy putting makeup on myself. My mom was actually the one who encouraged me to take up makeup artistry last year.

In July 2019, I went to a makeup school and was able to become a certified professional makeup artist. After that, I took another short course for bridal makeup artistry and I was able to get a certification for that as well. Since then, I have been practising putting makeup on myself and others and delving into more creative looks. I was able to build a portfolio on my Instagram and that’s where I post my makeup looks.

I’ve been really interested not only in putting makeup on but also in how makeup is produced and manufactured, what goes into the makeup and how I can make my own at home. At first, I didn’t really want to make it into a business but when I started to research lip gloss and how to make it, I realized that I needed to make a lot in order to make my own. I thought, “I can turn this into something to sell.” That’s when I started my soft launch and tried out the branding. Since I saw that it was really successful, I proceeded to formally launch the brand.

So this is a business that started because you had to do your own makeup — amazing! Can you tell us what you have been doing during the lockdown in regards to your business?

Miki: I’m still trying to balance ordering the supplies, which takes a while because we source our supplies from abroad, and making the lip gloss — the mixing and putting it into the tubes. Everything is manual labour. Aside from that, I’m also taking orders. I believe that right now, the system is working as efficiently as possible. Even though I’m doing it alone, I don’t find it very tasking. I asked my friend for help to configure this excel sheet so that whenever someone places an order, I could just send an automatic confirmation message. After that, I book the orders with a courier then ship it out. I make the glosses in big batches so that I can keep a stock and don’t have to keep making the glosses again and again. I order the supplies, make the glosses and then send them out — that’s the current system of the business.

What have you tried to stimulate the business and attract customers?

Miki: Right now, our main platform is Instagram. Whatever I post on Instagram, I make sure to post it also on the Facebook page. I find Instagram more engaging because there’s a Stories feature where we can ask people to engage in an Instagram Story. I post questions and polls that people can answer and that’s how I’m able to really reach out to the customers. Through that, they also ask questions about the brand and formula and send in their own reviews of what they think about the product. Lots of people have also mentioned that customer service of Hypergleam Cosmetics is one of our strengths, so I just plan to push through with that. A lot of people are encouraged by our customer service.

You use mostly online marketing, is that so?

Miki: That’s right. Right now in lockdown, there are not really any other options available, so I’m just trying to make the most out of the online platform. It’s being used right now for all businesses, so I think that is very important to develop.

I agree. An online platform is the most feasible way right now. In general, how is your business doing?

Miki: The business is doing okay. We get around 100 to 150 customers a month. I think that is okay based on my current pace. Because of the budget and how the business is still growing slowly, I’m not able to get a lot of supplies. However, because of that, I can focus more on building my Instagram content. I make sure that each social media post has a purpose. I make the captions and really show people how the customers have experienced our product through reviews and share what Hypergleam Cosmetics has done for the benefit of the lips.

Are there any problems you have encountered during the lockdown while managing the business?

Miki: During the lockdown, there were some occasions when we had a hard time shipping because there were some areas that people cannot reach because of the General Community Quarantine (GCQ) or Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ). We wanted to ship nationwide, but a lot of couriers were not able to ship to some provinces or cities because of the quarantine.

Another complication was waiting for supplies because there were delays in the delivery. This was discouraging for me because there would be periods of time where I would not have any stock and people would be asking, “When are you going to restock?” or “Is this available?” Then I would have to respond that it’s not available at the moment. Now, I’m trying to adjust to the lockdown but I think things are getting better. Everyone else is also adapting.

Miki, do you know how your customers and your competition are doing?

Miki: A lot of people have mentioned that Hypergleam Cosmetics is underrated and deserves more hype. Honestly, I don’t really know how I can get out there because I’ve been doing my best to gain exposure and reach out to influencers, but it’s been a slow and steady growth. I’m looking for other ways to expose Hypergleam Cosmetics to people. At this moment, the rate is just right because of the stock I’m able to have. If there are too many customers, it might become unstable because I might run out of stock for too long and not have any supplies.

I started Hypergleam Cosmetics because I noticed that there were not a lot of lip gloss brands in the market at the time. However, as the months passed, a lot of people were quick to launch their own businesses that Hypergleam Cosmetics was not unique anymore in that there are now so many lip gloss brands to choose from. I believe that I have managed to stand out because Hypergleam Cosmetics is not just for makeup or glam, but that it’s also for lip care. A lot of people have testified that the product has really helped their lips, healing chapped lips and keeping it moisturized overnight and during the day. So that’s what I’m focusing on — to stand out and establish the product as really beneficial to the lips so that even those who don’t like makeup or don’t really like to glam up can use the product also.

Lip care — that’s what makes Hypergleam Cosmetics unique. Good to hear! What is the outlook in the coming few months?

Miki: In the coming months, I have a lot in store. I’m going to release new shades for Christmas that are limited edition. Aside from that, we are coming out with two variations of the hydrating lip gloss. It’s going to be really big because these were actually requests from others. I’m really excited because there won’t be any idle time for the brand and I have a lot of ideas that I want to get out there. It’s really exciting!

I’m also excited to see what you are going to launch! For Christmas — will the products feature yuletide season vibes?

Miki: Yes, something like that!

I look forward to that. Can you tell us about your work to support artists?

Miki: In one of Hypergleam Cosmetics’ posts, I mentioned what brand stands for. Hypergleam stands for sanitization because especially during this time, people need to be careful because the coronavirus is still around. We’re really careful about how we produce the glosses and send them out. Everything is sanitized.

Secondly, Hypergleam Cosmetics stands for a cruelty-free procedure. As a small brand, we don’t test on anything or have products that need testing. I wanted to make it known, in case the Hypergleam Cosmetics business gets bigger, we will never test on animals. I wanted to say this because there are surprisingly many big brands that do tests on animals.

Lastly, Hypergleam Cosmetics supports Philippine creatives. This is something I do intentionally. I collaborate with artists and showcase their work through Hypergleam Cosmetics’ platform. If you look through our Instagram, there are some artworks that we have posted by artists that we have collaborated with, who have made art based on Hypergleam Cosmetics, how we make our product and how they see the brand. It’s great to give exposure to artists because I believe that what is really underrated in the Philippine culture is our artists. People need to know how to value art and give all of their appreciation for the artists that we have.

I would like to hear your thoughts on this next question: Why use a lip product when you are always wearing a mask?

Miki: I actually thought of that when I first launched. I thought that people wouldn’t buy a lip product because it’s true — everyone is wearing a mask nowadays. However, since people are encouraged to stay at home, people dress up at home and want to share different makeup looks or outfits online. That’s how we’ve seen our glosses being used. Influencers are still posting and doing makeup looks. Despite everyone wearing a mask and since it is not recommended to go out, most people stay at home and are still able to use our product. It is also about lip care, not just for showing off but caring for your own lips.

About the Guest

Hypergleam Cosmetics is a handmade cosmetics brand that was created in hopes of producing accessible and affordable yet high-quality cosmetics. Bringing you hydrating lip gloss that is not only beneficial to the lips, but to your everyday touch of glam.

https://www.instagram.com/hypergleam

https://www.facebook.com/hypergleamph/

The UN-registered nonprofit social initiative that helps small businesses and self-employed professionals to overcome the challenges of the pandemic.