Mellow Cosmetics was born with founder Ima Asali's first child. Asali, 30, discusses the beauty industry and juggling a business and two young children.

Briefly describe your business

Mellow Cosmetics is a guilt-free, vegan and paraben-free makeup line which started in 2014 and offers a selection of beauty products such as lipsticks, eye shadow palettes, and gel eyeliners.

What inspired you to start this kind of business?

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I gave birth to my first son and half way through my maternity leave realised I didn't want to go back to work and leave him at daycare full time, so I combined my passion for makeup and the beauty industry and created Mellow.

When did the business begin?

We started in June 2014 and are based in Remuera, Auckland. We have a warehouse where our products are stored and shipped from but I prefer to work from home so I can take care of the babies at the same time.

How big is your team?

There are three of us working on the business, working long hours.

Tell me about your background?

I was born in Iran, came to New Zealand when I was 12 years old and studied human resources and management at AUT University. Before and while I was at University I was in retail and spent quite a few years working at clothing store Supre, in a management role, and at Glassons.

Once I graduated I worked for a couple of HR companies before working in insurance and I did that for a few years before I fell pregnant.

How easy or how hard is it to run this kind of business?

It is hard. It took me a long time to learn what to do, how to advertise, where to advertise, how to get our products seen and how to get people interested in buying our products. In that sense it is hard, but I believe in doing what you love and I always wanted to do this. It gets stressful at times but I've learnt to prioritise and that helps me get through my day, especially with two young children.

I love what I do so it's not really that hard - I find it is a hobby as well.

What does your work schedule look like?

My work schedule is all over the place with a toddler and a baby, my first son goes to daycare three days a week and I get some free time to work when he is away and when my newborn is having naps or some play time, which is about 20 hours during those three days and I work another 20-30 when the kids go to bed at night.

I work past midnight most days and currently only take Saturdays off.

A crushed eye shadow palette by Mellow Cosmetics.
A crushed eye shadow palette by Mellow Cosmetics.

Where are your products made and how much do they the cost?

Our products are designed in New Zealand by myself, and manufactured in China.

The products are high quality, but I like to keep the prices at a level in which the everyday woman can buy. A lipstick for example, they're sold on our website for US$13 which is $19 here. Our pricing is placed in the middle of spectrum.

What does your design and manufacturing process look like?

The main focus is keeping up with what's on trend. We draw inspiration from magazines, fashion shows, YouTube, etc, so as soon as a new colour hits the market we start working on it. We work with a lab in China to get the colour that I want which involves sending products back and forth until we get exactly what we want.

After that I place an order with the manufacturer. Within four to six weeks the product is here - from when we start working on it to the time it hits the website.

Starting any business is a risk, but if you decide to give it a go it could turn out better than you expected.

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How much emphasis do you put on products packaging?

People pay a lot of attention to the packaging produced these days, they want to purchase what's pretty on the shelf and on their vanity so I focus quite a lot of attention and time into the packaging. Of course quality is very important - that's first, but packaging is also very important.

We aim for something that is attractive and grabs people's attention.

How many sales do you make a week, month, year?

On a daily basis we receive 30-50 orders depending on what day it is. With more focus on marketing and advertising, I would like this to be increased to 200 sales per day in the following year. Most of these sales are from the US and Australia as we focus most of our marketing in those countries.

Mellow Cosmetics founder Ima Asali at work in her home office.
Mellow Cosmetics founder Ima Asali at work in her home office.

What's the best thing about being a business owner?

The best thing about being a business owner is the fact that I get to spend time with my kids every day and watch them grow, I get to be there for every single one of their mile stones and that is the most rewarding thing for me.

If I didn't have my own business and didn't work from home I would have had to do a 8.30 to 5 [job] like I used to and be stuck in traffic for 2 hours every day and would only get to see my kids for one to two hours per day. The financial freedom and flexibility of course follow after.

What are your words of wisdom for others wanting to start a business?

Go for it. It can get scary at times, and of course starting any business is a risk, but if you decide to give it a go it could turn out better than you expected.

I believe in being positive, it contributes quite a lot to succeeding in your business.