Michelle Beaudette, third-year business administration major with concentrations in finance, entrepreneurship and marketing, won last semester’s Husky Startup Challenge with her makeup and self-care business, Kaolin Beauty.
Raised in a family of entrepreneurs, Beaudette always felt inspired by their initiatives.
She first developed an interest in beauty during her senior year of high school, and she and a friend played around with the idea of making a business out of it — one through which they could create their own makeup for prom.
“It started from a point of just passion and fun,” Beaudette said. “When I came to Northeastern, I realized that there’s such an amazing ecosystem for entrepreneurs within the school that I thought I should maybe explore this and try to pursue it as a business.”
As she started to research more about the industry, she joined the Women’s Interdisciplinary Society of Entrepreneurship, or WISE, and the Sherman Center for Engineering Entrepreneurship Education. The two campus organizations assisted her with the initial market research, advised her on how to create a prototype, helped her figure out a plan for user testing and set goals for her business.
“Building a venture is both wildly exciting and incredibly challenging, particularly within the beauty space, but Michelle has been willing to take a critical look at her vision, roll up her sleeves and expand her personal knowledge of her product and materials — and seek help when needed,” said Ted Johnson, associate director of the Sherman Center and mentor to Beaudette throughout the process.
Kaolin Beauty finally took shape when Beaudette was accepted into the Sherman Center co-op, where she was able to work on her venture full time and receive funding from Northeastern to improve her business. Beaudette is now preparing for the official launch of her brand set for June 29.
“It was very nerve-racking and honestly a little terrifying to think about pursuing my business full time,” she said. “But it’s the most exciting thing that I’ve ever applied for and participated in.”
Raised on a suburban farm in Lexington, Massachusetts, Beaudette used her passion for animals and farming to design her products and business model. After educating herself about animal rights and sustainability, she developed a makeup formula that was all about giving back to the planet.
“I’m a farmer at heart, and I want to support the environment,” she said. “The best way to do that is to use regenerative herbs in my products because regenerative farming is essentially the greatest solution to the current climate issues we’re facing.”
Regenerative farming practices focus on creating and maintaining healthy soil, which absorbs carbon dioxide and helps mitigate the effects of climate change. In the last few months, Beaudette has participated in online programs that taught her how to formulate makeup and skin care that incorporates organic ingredients in her products — including natural butters such as cocoa butter, oils such as almond oil and coconut oil and herbs she grows herself.
She is currently the only person in charge of Kaolin Beauty and makes all of the products by hand.
Beaudette made sure her products were wrapped in environmentally-friendly packaging options. It consists of compostable seed paper that — after the product is finished — can be planted and used to grow flowers.
Continuing her mission to make her business as zero-waste as possible, Beaudette partnered with TerraCycle, a recycling company, to offer her customers subscription boxes. Soon clients will be able to receive new products monthly and send back old and used packaging to be recycled.
Beaudette also decided to participate in the Husky Startup Challenge, a pitch competition held every semester that gives students the opportunity to present their business ideas to an audience of over 500 people.
Although it was entirely virtual this year, Beaudette said pitching in front of a Zoom crowd was just as stressful and intimidating.
“I have a lot of stage anxiety, so the fact that I had to pitch in front of 500 people was already a huge accomplishment for me,” she said. “What a milestone.”
Kaolin Beauty was the only non-tech venture in the final and ultimately placed first in the competition. Along with the title, Beaudette took home a cash prize of $2,000 to invest in her brand.
Starting her business as a small online shop on Etsy, Beaudette has been able to participate in local farmers markets, pop-ups and even start selling at a retail location — her local hair salon, Hair by Terri. During the summer, she will have her own booth at Boston’s famous SoWa Market in the South End.
She plans to build a team as the brand starts to expand and take on new projects. As she prepares for the official launch later this month, Beaudette is ready to start incorporating more of her passion for wellness and self-care into the business.
Kaolin Beauty’s Instagram, @kaolin.beauty, currently hosts weekly “Face Mask Fridays,” a series where Beaudette is joined by other entrepreneurs to have conversations about a variety of topics over an evening of skin care. To expand this series, Beaudette is developing a website for the brand that will not only serve as an online catalog and store for her products, but will also function as a platform to host monthly self-care nights.
The monthly series will include yoga and meditation classes guided by professional instructors and workshops on how to do reflective journaling, among other wellness practices.
At the moment, Beaudette is focused on her crowdfunding campaign to raise money for more ingredients and the sustainable packaging of her products. The entire catalog, including face masks, cheek and lip tints, will be available starting June 29 with the release of the official website.
“I couldn’t be prouder of her ability and expertise, and expect continued growth and success for Kaolin Beauty,” Johnson said.