Top Women in Focus – Maureen Kelly

Thursday, December 7, 2006

Today is the last day of Top Women in Focus and I hope that you have enjoyed learning more about these successful business women – I know I have. To close the series Maureen Kelly is our woman “in focus”.

Maureen Kelly is the CEO & creator of tarte. Maureen started her company in 1999 from a one bedroom apartment in New York and now it is one of the most well known cosmetics companies in North America.

When you were a little girl, what did you want to be?
I’ve always had a love for makeup. When I was probably no older than 5 years old, I decided to “make up” my younger sister’s Holly Hobby doll. I snuck some of my mom’s makeup and turned Holly into a real tarte (haha). Years later when I was in junior high, I was still very much into makeup. I’d have makeovers with both of my sisters and my best friend.

Where did the idea for tarte cosmetics come from?
To be honest, I was really frustrated that makeup lines were so focused on makeup artists rather than real women like me. While I might be a beauty junkie, I’m no beauty expert. I was never able to recreate the look I received at the makeup counter because they used an excessive amount of brushes and all different products to achieve it. It’s hard to believe, but I literally spend 5 minutes doing my makeup in the morning and I wanted to create a line that would cater to women like me.

What was the first product that tarte produced?
When I started the line, I wanted to focus on one product and put everything behind it. That product was our cheek stain: a water-based push up gel stick that’s perfect for all skin types. In fact, our cheek stain still remains to be our best-selling product!

When did you first realize that tarte was a success?
It would definitely have to be the first time I saw tarte in Henri Bendel being sold! Just walking into the store and seeing people buying our cheek stain made me so proud! As far as success goes, I think reading about us in magazines, hearing celebrities use our products or reading the blogs our customers write about our brand brings a smile to my face.

What sets you apart from your competitors?
We really listen to our customers. We represent the real women, and steer clear of the trend to cater to the makeup artist. It’s really important that the everyday woman is able to re-create the look she gets at the makeup counter when she gets home. Our products are easy-to-use, but still chic and luxurious.

What is your favorite tarte product?
Do I have to pick just one?! I’d have to say tickled cheek stain—I wear it every day! Another favorite of mine is Lights, Camera, Lashes! mascara (along with picture perfect our eyelash curler). I’m also addicted to our rise & shine plumping lip stain in pink! And my favorite eyeshadow palette of all time is little black dress…I could go on and on!

What beauty staples do you use daily?
I’m constantly experimenting with all beauty products—from makeup and skincare products to the latest haircare and teeth whitening products! Right now, I’m obsessed with L’Occitane Shea Butter Hand Cream, Aquaphor (for me and my little one, Sully), Mario Badescu Olive Eye Cream, Calypso Mimosa perfume, Prive daily shampoo and conditioner, GoSmile tooth whitening on-the-go and nail polishes from the lippmann collection.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
That’s a tough one! Right now, I have a newborn and in 10 years, I hope to have more children. Family will always be a major part of my life. As for the business, we’ll never stop creating the easy-to-use products women know us for, but moving forward I could see us experimenting more in the world of skincare and perfume.

Who are you influenced by?
I’d have to say that so many of the women in my life inspire me and have influenced the way I live. My mom raised 5 kids on a very small income and always managed to look stylish and focus on what’s important in life-family and friends. My older sister Veronica juggles a full time job and 3 kids and still manages to bake cookies and be a class mother. My grandmother who raised 4 kids alone after her husband passed away and always managed to volunteer. It never fails to amaze me how much one woman is capable of.

What makes you smile?
There are so many things—my baby boy Sully, my husband, my family and friends! I also love to watch women’s reactions to trying tarte—it doesn’t matter if it’s as simple as a new shade of lipgloss or a completely made up face-their whole attitude changes. To me makeup is like magic, and I love to help women feel good about themselves. That makes me smile. Oh yea, and the beach!

What keeps you going every day?
My family and friends—they’re all so supportive! Not to mention our customers!! I love hearing new ideas from them and how our new product was exactly what they needed. That’s a great feeling! Also, I love the challenge of owning my own business. That definitely keeps me going.

How do you juggle a career and a personal life?
As any working mom knows, it’s tough! It’s all about prioritizing and scheduling the time right. I love my job, but I do need time for myself sometimes, too. I always try to give myself time to exercise in the morning before I tackle the day’s work.

How do you keep up with beauty trends?
I’m constantly speaking with our makeup artists in the field—they are on the frontline with our customer and they see what’s literally out there all of the time. Not to mention, everyone in the office is always reading the latest in the media—whether it’s a blog or magazine article. It’s all about current events and gauging the next big thing.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to start their own business?
I think the best advice is to do what you love—life’s just too short! As far as the beauty industry goes, do your homework! Internships, apprenticeships, makeup counter positions… are definitely a good start. When you are ready to launch a company think about your customer—define who it is and then meet their needs! After that it’s all about research, research, research!!

What part do you think blogs play in the beauty industry?

I think blogs play a major role in the beauty industry. They are an un-biased medium that gives you the honest truth. Several show different looks, explain how to use a product and give reasons why they might’ve not liked a product but you could. That said we’ve created our own online community on our website, “tarte talk.” It allows our customers to blog and gives them a chance to interact with us. We link to other blogs that we feel give good reviews.

Thank you to Maureen for taking the time to answer my questions. I would also like to thank Sarah Bancroft, Trish Lucarino and Jennifer Massaro for taking part in this series.

I’d love to hear what you all thought about this series and if it is something you’d like to see more of. Who would you like to see interviewed? Email me your feedback.

I have absolutely loved this series. Thank you for doing it! I would like to see you interview some more head of cosmetic companies.

Keep what you are doing!!

Anonymous said on December 7, 2006 4:11 pm

her skin looks amazing. i guess that makes her the perfect salesperson for her own line.

Haute Girl said on December 10, 2006 11:49 am

It seems like a real inspiration story until you consider that she had been at school for so many years (at what cost?) and that she put her “life’s savings” into the business. What college student (who can afford to go to school as a profession) has a life savings???
I’ll admit I’m being a hater, but what PR Rep put this story together?? And Tarte is adding her rich husband dying in 911 to her press junket? I am offended as a struggling entrepreneur.

Anonymous said on March 5, 2008 11:05 pm

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