Sara Strand is a rare breed. By day, she’s a celebrity makeup artist and founder of POP Beauty. By night, she’s rocking out on stage with her band. I recently had the opportunity to talk to Sara about the ins-and-outs of the beauty business and how POP Beauty was born.
1. You started POP Beauty in 2002. Who and/or what inspired you to start your own line of beauty products?
In a way I was driven to it as a necessity. There was a big hole in the market for playful products of great quality. You either had the brands in the lab coats and black packaging or the cheap and cheerful throw-away stuff, but nothing in between. I needed POP for my work as a makeup artist and as a singer. POP was really created to update your makeup wardrobe, move away from the browns and beiges and get back to the playfulness and fun with makeup, bringing makeup artistry to the street. Bringing niche to the high street is what we do best.
2. Once you had made the decision to start POP Beauty, what was the process from deciding to launch your own brand to actual launch? How long did this process take?
Well, the idea and concept was lurking for a while before we decided to go for it. We had the perfect opportunity with Topshop; they asked if we could create a line for them to sell in their stores. At that point we already had the family business blooming with our shop on Carnaby Street in London, selling our brand Pixi*. They came to us and we thought, “What better way to launch then in Topshop?” From idea to fruition was maybe a few years, but it’s a constant work in progress. The line is still evolving every day, it’s always fresh. We also had seven years of creating products for Pixi, so we knew what it would take and the right manufacturing connections as well.
* Pixi is created and owned by Sara’s sister, Petra, and is available in Target stores.
3. What was the initial reaction after you launched?
People loved it. [They] had never seen anything like it before and it became an instant hit in London, sort of the buzz of the town. People really understood our concept and just went for it. Also, the products not only POP on your face, they really POP in-store, so people are drawn to it.
4. What do you have in store for POP beauty over the next few years? Any secrets you can let us in on?
Hopefully worldwide domination. Well, with the launch of the Lash Shop and our Gorgeous Faux Lash Collection, I feel POP is really moving into an exciting time. No one else is doing what we are doing at the moment so we want to continue to stay on the cutting edge of what we do and keep on top of the game. That, of course, demands great product demands, great product development, and we have a really strong team, so I have all the confidence that we will keep growing. We will continue to make innovative products to make you POP!
5. What is your average day like?
Every day is different, which is one of the things I love about my job! I might be in the office working on new concepts or out doing fashion shows, events and trainings. Every day is an adventure. My profession takes me all around the world so I have been able to see a lot of amazing and inspiring places and meet a lot of great, talented and creative people.
6. What has been the high point of your career so far? What has been the low point?
The highest point hopefully hasn’t happened yet. There have been lots of milestones in my career though, like being signed to Sony and getting paid to sing. That was huge. Being featured in UK Vogue and getting to work with them was also big for me, as it is kind of my beauty and fashion bible. I think UK Vogue is the edgiest, most spot-on fashion magazine in the world. Launching Pixi (before POP) in Henri Bendel in NY was big too; breaking into the Big Apple is such an amazing thing. Joining my band in London was big for me as well – I was able to play with some amazing musicians! Last but not least, of course, launching POP and being able to work with something I love every day is such a blessing. As far as low points go, I can’t really think of any. Obstacles are just there to teach you something and I have had a great time learning along the way.
7. Before you started POP Beauty, you trained as a makeup artist. You have also worked behind-the-scenes at runway shows and editorial shoots. What is that side of the beauty industry like?
Hysterical, hectic, intense, creative, passionate, glamorous, fun and, believe it or not, really hard work. You really have to have a strong passion for your job in order to thrive. Being talented is not always enough. You also need to have a great personality and put up with a lot before getting anywhere. I carried bags and washed brushes for a long time before I got to touch anyone’s face. You have to have the passion and not give in or up.
8. What advice would you have for people wanting to launch their own line of beauty products?
Stick to your vision and follow your instinct. If we listened to what a lot of people were saying we would be shut down today. Don’t compromise your passion and make sure you do it because you love it. It becomes a way of life and is so much more than just a job. Find a way to communicate your message clearly through your products. Remember that anything is possible. If I can do it, so can you!
9. Do you have any other ventures in the pipeline, and if so, what are they?
I am sort of a dual creature: makeup by day, music by night. At the moment I am recording new material and am busy putting a band together in LA to get back onto the scene (and stage).
10. Finally, what are your favorite POP Beauty products?
Who is your favorite child? Almost impossible to answer. If I had to pick a few I would say Face Magnet Primer, My One Liner, Lash WOW, Petal Jam Lip Balm and our new Lashes. Oh, our neon nails are doing incredibly well as well. The list could go on and on.