Some people have a natural talent. For Melissa Kues, who comes from a family of real estate agents, the profession runs in her blood. But she is no stranger to working hard to get what she wants. After getting her license when she was just 18, she moved to Morro Bay with her brother and worked three jobs while attending Cuesta College and eventually Cal Poly. While working one of her jobs, she received an offer from a local well-known real estate broker, Patrick Aurignac, to work at his company. This was the start to a successful 13 year career in real estate. Recently, however, an opportunity in the beauty industry had caught her eye. And while real estate may be her birthright, the entrepreneurial skills she gained during her career helped turn this opportunity into her current business venture.
A person familiar with makeup probably knows the trick of crushing down broken powdered makeup, putting it back into a compact or container and then pouring alcohol on it to dry out and re-solidify the makeup. Although this is a common solution, it is far from perfect. The alcohol is damaging to skin, and it can also affect the formula and color of the makeup which may result in the makeup being rendered useless anyway. Kues, like many other makeup consumers, was tired of this flawed solution. When she searched the market to find a better one, there was none to be found.
So she invented one.
People look at me and think I have it all. What they don’t see is the girl who has struggled her whole life with trying to be perfect, dying to be ‘accepted’ by everyone and chasing the unattainable. What does that get you? Body image issues, unhappiness, constantly wanting more, debt, anxiety.
Identifying this huge problem for consumers was the first step in her entrepreneurial process. Kues began the groundwork for her company over three years ago, and officially established iKue Beauty Solutions in October 2017.
“I want to deliver the products that [customers] are really needing. There’s a void in the cosmetics world[… ] I don’t think a lot of developers are listening. I want to actually listen to figure out how I can fill that void,” Kues said.
Investigating the market has been challenging, but it set the groundwork to ensure iKue’s future success. Kues has tapped into the invaluable resource of Cal Poly professors and students who have helped her to build out iKue. Her team includes seasoned entrepreneurs, marketing specialists and engineers who each offer a specialized skill set that has helped move the project along. For example, with the help of marketing specialists iKue was able to identify three main archetypes of makeup users: minimalists, enthusiasts and artists, each of whom use makeup for different reasons. Her team of engineers was able to turn her idea into an actual product.
Already off to a great start with the invention of something the beauty world hasn’t yet seen and a talented team to help her, she wants to differentiate her company even further. Kues wants to make sure that iKue Beauty Solutions releases products that allow people of all races, sexes, gender identities and sexual orientations to express themselves creatively.
“People look at me and think I have it all,” Kues said in an e-mail. “What they don’t see is the girl who has struggled her whole life with trying to be perfect, dying to be ‘accepted’ by everyone and chasing the unattainable. What does that get you? Body image issues, unhappiness, constantly wanting more, debt, anxiety.” In a world that is constantly demanding perfection, or at least the illusion of it, Kues wants to bring back makeup to be something purposeful for the individual. For Kues, iKue and real estate both offer her the opportunity to listen to a customer or client.
“I love the emotional aspect of it… it’s kind of like filling a void for people too. I get to find them what they want. There is a lot of gratification that comes with it,” she said. iKue will be joining makeup brands like Fenty Beauty and Huda Beauty that are starting to take the needs of their diverse customer bases seriously and tailor their products to those needs. As this market has only just taken off, iKue has poised itself to take advantage of the shifting culture within the makeup industry.
Our current culture demands new products at a pace never seen before, but many “hot” new products fall to the wayside after a couple months or years. Without conforming to the changing culture, new companies will continue to falter. Following one of the most important aspects of entrepreneurship, solving a problem in a novel way, is something that sets iKue Beauty Solutions apart from its competitors.
With her product slated to launch at the end of the year, it is a pivotal moment in Kues’ life. She knows that she wants to continue working in the real estate industry for the foreseeable future, but that she must give iKue as much of her attention as possible if she really wants it to succeed.
“I’m putting [real estate] on the backburner… and it’s scary putting this on the forefront, but I’m going to do it anyway,” she said. “I believe in this product, this company and my future customers so much. I am putting everything that I have into this. Everything is up in the air right now but it’s worth it. It’s really worth it.”
From real estate to business, Kues is a woman who knows how to apply her passions to her everyday life. By moving away from the old-generation illusion of being perfect and “having it all,” and instead embracing the individual, iKue is set to take on the rapidly changing world of beauty.
*Editors’ note: The name of Kues’ actual product and some compromising details have been taken out of this story in order to protect her business idea, as her patent is pending.