This is an episode of the Glossy Beauty Podcast, which features candid conversations about how today’s trends are shaping the future of the beauty and wellness industries. More from the series →
Sravya Adusumilli, the founder of Mango People, never thought she would become a makeup brand founder. But, after spending her academic career in a chemistry lab, she found she preferred being an entrepreneur.
Mango People is Sephora’s first Ayurvedic-inspired makeup brand, selling via Sephora.com. Mango People products include a bronzer stick, a highlighter stick and a multi-stick for cheek, lip and eye application. After becoming unsatisfied with the lipsticks she used, Adusumilli developed the brand around 2017 while she was a college student studying chemical engineering. After a series of experimentations, which included accidentally dying her mother’s kitchen pink, Adusumilli finally created the Multi-Stick, which sells for $27.
“Being a broke college student, I could barely afford to like get one makeup product, let alone several,” said Adusumilli. “That’s how the idea of the Multi-Stick came to be; I focused on having safe ingredients on your eyes, cheeks and lips. And all you need is five minutes to look put together, which is all I had at the time.”
The hero ingredient, mango butter, helped inspire the name, as did the popularity of South Asian countries, many of which practice Ayurveda. Ayurveda is an alternative medicine system with historical roots in the Indian subcontinent. Popular therapies include yoga and therapeutic oils and ingredients like ashwagandha, ginger and turmeric.
Adusumilli joined the Glossy Beauty podcast to discuss how she created the brand, how her chemical engineering background is a boon to entrepreneurship and what it means to be the first Ayurvedic makeup brand at Sephora. Below are excerpts of the conversation, which have been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
Getting the brand off the ground
“Launching the brand itself was the hardest part. After I graduated, I spent a whole year trying to do the website design, the branding and figure out packaging. I was pretty young at the time, and I didn’t have a lot of money or resources. It was easier for me to learn how to do these things than to hire someone because I unfortunately didn’t have that budget. Thank God for all the technologies we have today because it’s almost turnkey. Then, in September 2020, we launched the brand.”
Learnings from the Sephora Incubator program
“We were honored to be in the program last year, in 2022. I applied in Nov. 2021. I found out about the program through Sephora’s social media. It was a tough process. I think they had thousands of applications and only selected a few brands. It was an incredible program. I went in a little skeptical because so many times you see things for tokenism; they’re just there for marketing. But with Sephora, every single member of the team genuinely cared about the brands and was trying to support us through every step of the way, even with our launch. I remember our initial conversations [about launching as Sephora] were, ‘When you launch at Sephora, these are things that you have to keep in mind.’ And they soon turned into, ‘If you launch at Sephora, these are some things you need to consider.’ But later — a few months into the program — it turned [back] into, ‘When you launch at Sephora.’ They’ve been there every step of the way trying to help us get to this place.
We had never had a retail partnership before. The program talked about what it is like to partner with Sephora. [It covered] simple things like inventory management software and electronic data interchange setup, as well as how [purchase orders] are placed, how things are delivered, what kind of marketing you need and what kind of [sales] numbers they expect.”
Fundraising as an indie brand
“We’ve been fortunate to be profitable since the third month because we invested such little money initially. Our growth has been completely organic, so we didn’t have to spend so much on ads. We have a very healthy cash flow and do not need to raise any money. My current plan is to focus on the Sephora launch for the next few months and make that a very successful partnership — and, hopefully, learn what I need to do or what we need to do to get an in-store launch. That’s when we would need that capital injection, and I’ll pursue fundraising. I think that [is when] it will be a much easier pitch for me, rather than fundraising right now.”