By Marisa Reidy
SHE is one of the beauty industry’s most famous faces, with her self-tanning range ‘Cocoa Brown’ selling all over the world and being endorsed by some of the world’s top celebrities!
But the woman behind the range, the stunning Marissa Carter, says that the idea to develop the world’s first one-hour tan range came about from a rather ‘mortifying’ mishap while feeding her first born!
Having recently celebrated the expansion of her business to include her own extensive beauty line, Carter Beauty, Marissa tells CONNECT that the success and growth of her beauty empire has been a real labour of love – beginning with her first salon in a spare room of a rented house in Dublin!
Marissa explained that her career in beauty began when ‘two wonderful Irish women’ Lorraine and Careena Galligan agreed to let her take their Beauty Specialist Diploma course in the evening while working in the office of their college during the day.
“I could never have afforded to study beauty otherwise. They gave me a leg up which resulted in me opening my first salon, Carter Beauty Salon, in a house I was renting at the time,” Marissa explained. “The business soon outgrew the spare room and I opened my first official premises. Once the salon was off its feet I decided to develop my beauty education at the Circadia Institute in the US with a certificate in Cosmetic Chemistry and Skin Histology which resulted in the birth success of Carter Beauty.”
While that Cocoa Brown ‘Eureka’ moment didn’t exactly happen by accident – Marissa had been dabbling in product creation for treatments in her salon – she does remember exactly what triggered its development.
“I was running my own salon, Carter Beauty in Blackrock, and had been dabbling in product creation for our treatments. It was something I felt passionate about so I decided to upskill, travelling to Philadelphia to study Cosmetology,” Marissa tells CONNECT.
“When I returned, I fell pregnant with my first child, Charlie. Once I’d given birth I wanted to feel more like myself so I snuck into the salon for a quick spray tan. I came home, fed Charlie and once I was finished his little face was golden brown on one side from the transfer of the tan – I was mortified. I’d read an article on the use of an ingredient called DMI which could be used to speed up chemical processes and had a lightbulb moment – it’s where the idea for the world’s first one-hour tan was born.”
While developing a new product is exciting and nerve wracking in itself, always hoping it will be a hit, Marissa says she still pinches herself at the extraordinary success of Cocoa Brown:
“There have been so many pinch me moments. We recently listed with one of Europe’s largest and most prestigious beauty retailers, Douglas. I think at the beginning we had an advantage in that we were able to get our foot in the door with some larger retailers as we’d worked with them previously and they knew what we were about. Once we were in the door, Carter Beauty really spoke for itself,” Marissa explained.
“As our customers will attest, the brand is one that you fall in love with immediately. Our mantra is effortless, empowered, every day and that really comes across from first use.”
In recent years, Marissa has celebrated huge expansion of her business, developing the exciting Carter Beauty by Marissa Carter range. This, she says, was another dream come true.
“Carter Beauty is something that I’ve wanted to do ever since starting in the beauty industry. Cocoa Brown took off so stratospherically that there was never time to get into cosmetics. We expanded our team and got the ball rolling – and once we got started there was no stopping,” she explained.
“There is always an element of nerves in starting something new, but I’m a firm believer that if you’re feeling too comfortable then you’re probably not reaching your full potential. Carter Beauty is something that I’ve wanted to create for such a long time so it was really just a case of getting started.”
Marissa adds that taking a stint away from social media for a period in 2018 certainly helped with the creative process. It was a decision that certainly worked for her, she says.
“The beauty industry is such a creative one, especially when it comes to NPD, and sometimes with all of the noise on social media, it’s hard to sit back and have the head space to come up with creative, original ideas,” she explained. “We launched with over 100 products with the Carter Beauty range, each created from scratch. The quiet time I gained from logging off was essential in making sure each product was given the right amount of attention.”
Like all businesses across the country, Covid19 turned Marissa’s work and home life upside down. But on a positive note, she admits that it has allowed her to take stock of the important things in life. It has allowed her to slow down and spend more quality time with her children – a welcome change that she is relishing.
“The pandemic has really forced me to slow down and to create a work-life balance. When your home is your office, the classroom and your recreation space it becomes essential to create boundaries,” she tells CONNECT.
“Covid19 has given me the opportunity to slow down and spend time with my kids, doing all of the things I’ve always wanted to do but haven’t had time for. I’m teaching my
daughter Isabelle to play the piano, we’ve been doing Frozen yoga, painting and candle making. We’re all enjoying the quality time.”
But of course work has to go on too, and Marissa admits that Covid19 has offered her and the Marissa Carter team important and valuable time to pause and evaluate.
“For Carter Beauty, the focus has pivoted from a largely in-store based model to almost 100% online. As a brand, we’ve upskilled, learning more about digital and social media marketing. The pandemic has shown that everyone on the team needs to be somewhat tech savvy as that is the space our customers are inhabiting,” she explained.”
As someone who has seen her business grow from a small beauty salon in a rented spare room to one of the most successful beauty brands out there, Marissa has every right to be proud. And with such a wealth of experience gained over the years, we had to ask what advice she would give to anyone with a good business idea but who may be afraid to take the next step?
Unsurprisingly, she is very much a believer in always giving it a go!
“My advice would be to take the plunge. As the saying goes, nothing ventured, nothing gained. No one knows everything and the time is never right,” she said.
“In my opinion, the most important first step is to build a team around you that you can rely on and whose strengths are your weaknesses. From a more practical perspective I would say that in these changing times, staying flexible is key. Focus on building your mailing list and online community so that you can get straight to your customer base when needs be.”
So what’s next for Marissa Carter?
“Our mantra at CB HQ is, “What’s new? What’s next? What’s never been done?” The most important part of our business is the customer and we invest a lot of time in engaging with our customer on every level,” she says.
“For us, customer service is key. Being so close to the customer means we can react quickly and create the products that they ask for. Carter Beauty was largely created from customer feedback. Who knows what our customer will want next – you’ll have to watch this space.”