Masters Touch Minerals – Part 1

May 19th, 2009 by | Print

mtmphotoStart with a base of a self-proclaimed business novice; add in a desire for healthier makeup products, a serving of self-doubt, a double dose of ADHD, integrity, trust, and humility; then blend in a belief in divine inspiration – and you have the makeup of Master Touch Minerals.

 

Most companies that create a winning secret formula protect it with patents and keep it under lock and key. Yet, Carol Norris, the solopreneur creator / operator of Master Touch Minerals has been gracious enough to allow us the inside scoop on her home grown business.

 

 

TSG:     What was your inspiration behind Master’s Touch Minerals?

 

MTM:     Master’s Touch Minerals did not really begin like most businesses do…with some inspiration and a desire to establish and grow a business. I actually had a successful business selling collectible books and antiques online at the time I started.

 

I never found a makeup I was really, truly happy with. I tried a brand of mineral makeup I bought on eBay and fell in love with the medium of minerals. Because I had a background in chemistry and naturopathic medicine studies, I knew I could make something much better if I made my own – so basically, I did. It was not long before I was making it for others, and they all loved it.

 

My formulas were very different from most other mineral makeup brands at the time, so once somebody tried mine, they were hooked.  I use some of the pricier ingredients because they make such a dramatic difference in the end result and performance of the product. I also added pure silk powder to all of my formulas, which is really what most people think of when they think about Master’s Touch…the fact we have silk in ours.  The silk works much like skin care in that it will actually improve the condition of your skin with regular use.

 

We were one of the first brands to focus on creating formulas that not only look great, but are truly good for your skin and improve its condition.  Truly, the rest of the industry caught up with that concept well after I did. Just today, I was reading one of the leading mineral makeup company’s ads (the one you always see on TV), and their new ad says “where makeup acts like skincare”. So, five years later, they are finally thinking like I do.

 

Anyhow, to try to make a long story short, I had such demand, I closed the online sales businesses I already had because I simply could not do both and opened a website to offer my minerals to the world.

To be brutally honest, any success I’ve had has truly been an accident, miracle and blessing I feel I have not earned or worked for… and I absolutely would NEVER recommend anyone start a business as I did, not having a clue where you are going or what you are doing, but rather hanging on for dear life and trying to keep up as success just happens to you. That is pretty much what it has been like.

 

I did not plan to have a business. It just happened to me and ever since, I have been working at least twice as hard as somebody who did take time to plan and do it right. Trust me; this is not fun at this stage.

 

I have learned a valuable lesson from the experience though and will never enter into any kind of business again without having a clear plan of where I am going, how I am going to get there and figuring out, ahead of time, what I need to learn FIRST to be successful.

 

 

TSG:     Can you give percentages to the following four items as contributing factors in your decision for creating your business: previous work experience, personal strengths, a love for the type of business and the perceived amount of money that you could earn?

 

MTM:     The amount of money I could earn was not a factor at all because of the way the business started. It was not until I was making money that I even realized what could be made in the industry. The other three factors I would put at:

 

       Previous work experience: 10%

       Personal Strengths: 65%

       Love for the type of business: 35%

 

I did consider my past experience with being a successful business owner, once it started becoming obvious this was very popular with friends who tried it, and it looked as if a business was evolving. Had I not had any experience at all, I might not have had the courage to even consider offering the products to others.

 

Then, when it was very obvious a business was developing almost without me, I accepted that and began actively working on it because of my personal strengths and love for the type of business. The strengths I considered, and still consider, very important are my ability to quickly bond with people, earn their trust and confidence, as well as the ability to formulate top-notch cosmetics.

 

While it is true that the right type of sales person could take an inferior product and likely make a success with it, having such outstanding products is THE big difference for me. Without superior products, the business would not have started evolving on its own. Had I simply taken a national brand of makeup and started selling it, I would not have accomplished much of anything.

 

Yes, people usually bond with me quickly and that is important in sales, but I am also brutally honest and cannot and will not represent something as more than it is. So trying to sell anything but the best product I know of would never work well for me.

 

Love for the type of business. Hmmm. That one is interesting because of how my role in the business has changed. At first it was simply making really awesome products and having them available. There was not really much “running a business” to it, outside of doing a lot of shipping. As it grew and became successful however, that has changed for a couple of reasons.

 

First, and most obviously, the business grew and started needing some type of management, pitiful though mine may be. Secondly, the industry has changed quite a bit. Mineral cosmetics were just catching on back then, and now there is probably not a cosmetic company on earth that has not jumped on the mineral makeup bandwagon.

 

When I first developed my product and offered it for sale, it literally was enough to simply have it available and it sold like hotcakes. There was competition, but my formulas were so much better at the time, if I could just get somebody to try them, they were hooked. At the time, the industry was in its infancy and the products were mostly designed to just make the customer look great. Today, the scene is much different, as it seems a large percentage of the industry has caught on to the marketability of cosmetics that perform like skin care and all of a sudden, I am not the rare company with products like that, but I now have too much competition doing the same thing and I am at a definite disadvantage because of my lack of knowledge and ability when it comes to marketing, getting traffic to my website and then convincing them to purchase our brand and not brand X….not to mention I am definitely a poor David in a land of wealthy Goliaths.

 

 

TSG:     I’m a big believer that certain customers are better served by the “David’s” than the “Goliaths”. Is this not possible in the cosmetic industry?

 

MTM:     I wholeheartedly agree with you. The issue is getting it through to the potential customer that I can serve them better and earning their trust so they will try us.

 

One example of how we do that is our Shade Satisfaction Policy. If a customer orders a shade that is not quite what they wanted once it arrives, or when they get it home, we will send out free minerals (and even pay the shipping) to mix with it to achieve a shade more to their liking. That is something none of the Goliaths in cosmetics do.  We also offer free personal consultations for women trying to make the best choices for themselves with their makeup. The huge nationally known brands are not in a position to do that. I recall back when I was curious about mineral cosmetics and I called THE big name brand for information and help making my selections. The woman that answered the phone was totally helpless to give me any assistance at all, outside of being prepared to take my credit card information. Needless to say, I did not order from them.

 

 

TSG:     How much time did you spend on research and planning prior to opening for business?

 

MTM:     Essentially none, except for a little bit of time working on my original makeup formulas, but, beyond the development of my product, ZERO. When I realized I had a need to open a website to offer it to others, I just drew upon my experience with the book and antiques businesses, got a very simple website service and opened it. I have never done anything to work at driving traffic to it…and until recently, would not have known how to anyway.

 

 

TSG:     But, in essence, you were able to test your products out on friends, family and the local market before opening up to a much larger market – all while you held another job that brought in income to support you through this transition. Was there a point where you saw sales significantly increase or did your business grow gradually?

 

MTM:     I went from giving it to friends and family to offering it online and did over $2000 in sales the first month. I  did both the book and antique sales along with the makeup business for about 6 months before I realized I had to pick one or the other.

 

After that, it grew pretty gradually until the local paper did an article on us and we started offering it at a local boutique. Then we had another huge increase that immediately brought in another $2000-$3000 a month just from the local sales at that one shop.

 

From there, it grew slowly, but steadily, for the most part until the economy started taking such a downturn.  That’s when I had to stop running on grace and start learning how to market it on the internet…because, at that point, I really had no clue about how to work at making sales with the makeup. All of my success had simply happened to me…it hadn’t been created by me. All I had done up to that point was to create the formulas and offer them the only way I knew how and the rest was pure miracle, luck, or whatever you prefer to call it.

 

 

TSG:     What was the thought process behind naming your business?

 

mtmlogoMTM:     The name came from two concepts. First, my products are masterfully formulated. I do not just throw the basic mineral makeup ingredients together – recipes for which can be found all over the internet. I spent time considering very carefully what end results I wanted and what ingredients, in what proportions, would get me there. Then, I mill the daylights out of them until they are the fluffiest, finest consistency possible. I consider the formulation process, when done right, to be much like creating a unique masterpiece.  So, masterful formulation was one concept I waned to capture.

 

Second, in my opinion, I can do nothing well were it not for the gifts, talents and graces God blesses me with. To me, He is THE master and any success I have had is due to His gracious touch, not because I am anything special. I wholeheartedly believe that. I’ve had inspirations for formulas in my dreams and as a result I keep a notepad nearby to write them down as soon as I wake up. I think those inspirations come from Him. I pray about the steps I am to take with Master’s Touch and count on God to see me through whatever I face and give me direction. I wanted to honor Him somehow with the name of the company and Master’s Touch just seemed to fit.

 

 

TSG:     What type of customer are you a perfect fit for?

 

MTM:     Probably 75% of my regular customers are women between the ages of 45 and 70 who are concerned about looking younger, improving the condition of their skin, and don’t want to pay a small fortune for their cosmetics.

 

 

TSG:     If you had to take the Tweeter challenge of describing your unique value proposition (UVP) for your target market in 140 characters or less, what would you write?

 

MTM:     Geesh. This is a killer question….and the reason I am still not Tweeting. I have ADHD and we are typically about as wordy as wordy can be and I am surely the worst of all. Okay, here goes:

 

I manufacture and sell high end cosmetics with a goal to help mature women feel better about themselves without spending a fortune.

 

Yuck. I am very unhappy with that. It might be awhile yet before I have a twitter account!

 

 

TSG:     What surprises have you encounter since launching your business?

 

MTM:     Wow. Probably, I now realize that all that I do not and did not know when I started in the area of marketing it on the internet. With both the book and antiques shops, and Master’s Touch, I was the silly-nilly that thought you could just slap a website up on the internet and make money…and by pure coincidence, it worked. It has only been since the economy has taken such a downturn and reflected in my sales that I have had to start learning how to properly market the line. I am frankly blown away by all I did not know…and am still learning.

 

I was also amazed at how well received and well loved my products are. I knew they were good, but in over five years, we have not had anyone NOT love them. I know someday, it’ll happen, and I am such a sap I will likely cry over it, but so far, if somebody tries the products, they are hooked. It still amazes me.

 

 

TSG:     Did you change anything in your business due to these surprises?

 

MTM:     Oh yes! I feel like I am back in college learning all I can about internet marketing.

 

For so long, I was kind of just along for the ride as success simply happened. Now that the economy has affected my sales, I am – for the first time – having to work at it. When the realization of that first hit me, I was lost…not knowing where to start, who to listen to and of course, like most people starting off in internet marketing, suffered tremendously from information overload.

 

It was absolutely overwhelming. It has taken me a good six months to sort through it all and get to the point where I feel as if I know what my plan is, where I am going and how I’ll get there. I so feel for anyone like me of the baby boomer generation (because many of us are definitely technologically handicapped!), who decides to try their hand at internet marketing and is lost and overwhelmed. I would like very much to help that specific type of person wade through it and be a success…once I have figured it out myself. A double major in biochemistry and math was easier for me than this has been.  I would just about give my right arm to be a computer geek or have a mentor.

 

 

TSG:     Why did you decide to go solo?

 

MTM:     There was really no decision to that. I did not plan on building a business when I started. I must admit though, had there been a decision making process, I would have chosen going solo because I’ve had my own businesses for the better part of 30 years now and like it that way.

 

I enjoy knowing that any success is all mine and that a failure cannot be blamed on someone else either. I enjoy that responsibility and I like to do things my way, on my terms and my schedule. I guess that makes me a bit of a control freak. I am independent and like making my own choices, but I am also wise enough to ask for advice and opinions when I feel the need (which in some areas can be a frequent thing), so I am not so bullheaded that I do not listen to anybody else.

 

 

TSG:     I see that you have listed a contact other than yourself under “Sales Department” on your site. Is this person an employee or an outside contracted consultant?

 

MTM:     I do use outside contractors now that we have grown to the point where it is impossible for me to do it all, and continue to grow, without some help. I believe if you are not growing and going forward, you will quickly slip back and fail. So I work on finding good help to get me through this stage where I need assistance, but am not ready yet for employees and all that it entails. Outside contractors provide the perfect solution for us at this stage.

 

 

TSG:     Do you have any plans to take on partners or employees in the future?

 

MTM:     I would like to.

 

Ideally, I would love to get to the point where I am the mind behind the formulas, give input about the direction of the company, and have the final decision about big issues while somebody else runs the business.

 

There are two reasons for that. Number one is, honestly I feel somebody else would be infinitely better qualified than I am to manage it as it continues to grow and the second reason is because my true passions lie elsewhere. I will enjoy having the time to pursue other things. I do care deeply about the cosmetics company though and am somewhat driven about helping women feel better about themselves so I do not ever want to sell it. I do want to keep the company in the family. With five daughters, hopefully one of them will want to inherit it someday.

 

 

TSG:     Have you ever engage in any joint ventures?

 

MTM:     Not yet.

 

There is another mineral makeup company located within a couple hours of me and we are very likeminded, get along marvelously and want to work cooperatively on some things. I get excited about that because the mineral makeup industry seems so cutthroat. The different companies typically tend to show quite a bit of animosity towards one another as “competitors” (you will not find one example of any working cooperatively on anything).

 

But I am more the flower-child, peace-loving personality that just hates conflict and discord, so that does not sit well with me. The owner of this other company and I both would love to show the world that competitors can not only work well together on some projects, but benefit from doing so. If I have my way that is something we will be shouting from the rooftops, not for the publicity, but to encourage others to work together instead of being so against one another. It may be asking too much, but we are going to give it our best shot.

 

 

TSG:     Do you only sell through your site or do you have any retail stores that carry your products, too?

 

MTM:     We only sold from our website until last January when a local paper did a story on us and the demand locally quickly became so incredible, we started offering it for sale in salons, spas and boutiques in the southeast. I also have an independent contractor working on getting the line to distributors outside of the US. Right now, we have strong interest from wholesalers in over 15 countries.

 

Ever since it became obvious that we had a business going on here, I have struggled over which type of sales we wanted to focus on…retailing, wholesale or having a multi-level consultant program (direct sales). People love the convenience of having it available in local shops, but on the other hand, especially with the economy as it is, I can’t help but think about how many people we could help financially if we had a consultant program like Mary Kay and BeautiControl have.

 

It just weighs on me that there are so many people out there desperate for jobs, and I have products that so far sell 100% of the time when they are presented face-to-face. So, we have recently decided to do a little test and try out a consultant program on a limited basis and see how that goes. Again, I am limited right now with my lack of knowledge as to how to set up a multi-level consultant program…but like I said, it is like I am back in college. I am learning and praying a lot.

 

I think if we could open a factory to manufacture the products (creating plenty of jobs locally in an area where unemployment is over 15%) and then market them through a consultant network, I would be very pleased with how many people we could help.

 

 

TSG:     Have you thought about adding an ecommerce solution to your site?

 

MTM:     We do have an online catalog and order processing through CityMax, the service we use for the site. I must make a note to make that more obvious since you had not noticed!

 

I think we get so used to seeing our own sites over and over and often need “new eyes” to look at it for us and point out big issues like that. That certainly makes me wonder how many people make it to the site, think it sounds like a wonderful product line but do not know how to get it. See????

 

That is exactly the sort of thing I mean when I say I am so clueless about how to market online. The fact that you can purchase it through the site should be more than obvious even to somebody quickly scanning it. My bad.

 

 

TSG:     I see that visitors to your site can sign up for a free newsletter. How often do you send it out?

 

MTM:     Not nearly as often as I should. My intentions are good, but they end up remaining as not much more than that. I would love to have a newsletter that offers real value with makeup tips and tricks, links to worthwhile resources etc…but in reality, I do well to keep up on sending one out to announce the latest sale or new products. It is simply a matter of too much to-do list and too little of me to go around.

 

 

TSG:     What is the importance of having a polling booth on your site?

 

MTM:     Now that is something I care very much about and wish more people would participate in.

 

It is there to help me give people what they want and need. I love people and care very much about our customers and want to give them what they need…but I cannot do that accurately if they do not share their opinions with me. All I can do otherwise is guess and go off of what our sales results tell us.

 

Both on the site, and face to face locally, I am constantly asking folks what they want…not so much to increase sales, but to provide the products and services that fulfill their needs. Over the years, I have found it to be so true that when you focus on simply serving people to the best of your ability, the sales pretty much take care of themselves. This is just another way of trying to do that more effectively.

 

 

TSG:     Who inspires you?

 

MTM:     Now that is the easiest question of them all. Without a doubt it is Mary Kay Ash.

 

She had been a single mom working hard to support her children for years. She was older than I was when she started her company with her very meager life savings. She had been advised not do it. Frankly, family and friends thought she was off her rocker. But she had a vision and did it anyway. In one year she went form a showroom the size of my studio to her first factory. We all know the story of her success from there.

 

She chose to do a consultant program because she herself had been in direct sales all of her life and wanted to be able to provide opportunities for other women to build their own businesses and create their own successes. I admire her guts, determination, her belief in herself and her total dedication to the rule of family first and business second. She not only preached life by the Golden Rule, but lived it as an example.

 

I would have loved to have had an opportunity to meet her. They say she always made time for the “little people” in her organization, sincerely cared for all of them and had a heart of gold. I would love to be known someday as half the fine woman she was.

 

I have a great deal of respect and admiration for other great women in the cosmetics industry like Helena Rubenstein and Estee Lauder, who paved the way for the rest of us. But, none come close in my mind to Mary Kay.

 

 

Thank you, Carol, for your time and complete exposure to Master Touch Minerals.

 

You can reach Carol at:

 

Master Touch Minerals
Carol Norris
http://www.masterstouchminerals.com/silk_perfection_minerals.html

 

  

While I find Carol’s business journey exciting, her second interview is inspirational. All solo-entrepreneurs face challenges; the economy probably being a frontrunner for most. But, it still pales in comparison to chronic health issues.

 

Check back in to part 2 of this series, when Carol, graciously reveals her battle with sporadic well-being while running a business on her own.

 

All The Best,

Doug Dolan
The Solopreneur’s Guide

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5 Responses to “Masters Touch Minerals – Part 1”

  1. Aaron Wakling Says:

    I’ve been reading along for a while now. I just wanted to drop you a comment to say keep up the good work.

  2. Annemarie McArdle-Dempsey Says:

    i just wanted to say that i love your interviews. this interview in particular has me excited. i have been feeling like i will not succeed or have my business grow to the point that i do not need a seperate full-time income in an area that is unrelated to what i love to do. reading this first installment is inspiring to me. i will continue to look forward to your inspirational stories that are posted and i thank you carol for sharing details that other buisness owners would rather not speak of when talking positively about the growth of their business. congrats to you and your business!
    p.s. my step-sisters are both mary kay reps and have expressed the same love of mary kay ash and how inspirational her life story is! i hope that maybe one day your customers(and consultants) will say the same of you!
    annemarie mcardle-dempsey

  3. Douglas Dolan Says:

    Annemarie:

    Thank you for the feedback. You comment encapsulates the reason why I thought that it was necessary to conduct these interviews with various solopreneurs. Success can be a curtain of perception blocking visibility of the many struggles that go on day to day with running a business. I believe it is invigorating to know what other solo entrepreneurs are going through and just how closely their obstacles and actions match our own.

  4. Debbie Says:

    Carol is a friend of mine and an amazing woman! I am so proud of her! Where can I find Part 2 of the interview?

  5. Douglas Dolan Says:

    Debbie:

    I agree that Carol is amazing. Unfortunately, I haven’t heard back from Carol on the follow up interview yet. Hopefully, she will be ready to do Part 2 soon. I know she has quite a bit going on. Maybe you can prod her for me.

    Doug

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