Doe Deere is the beauty world’s “Unicorn Queen” of colors. Born in Russia, she grew up in New York City and studied fashion design there before becoming the CEO and founder of Lime Crime Cosmetics. She was one of the first successful female entrepreneurs to launch her makeup company online back in 2008. Now the trendsetter operates from sunny Los Angeles, California and dedicates herself to creating boldly colorful and cruelty-free cosmetics, certified and vegan. Lime Crime now offers eye-shadow palettes, loose pigments, rainbow-colored liquid liners, nail polish, glittery lip gloss and “criminally coveted” lipsticks. Visit www.limecrime.com to see more.
How did you get started in this business? What inspired you to start this business?
I began with designing and making my own clothing designs, creating an independent clothing line online. I got the idea to create my own makeup to complement my outfits when I modeled them for the website, and since I couldn’t find the exact bright colors I wanted, I decided to start making them.
Now I have always been in love with two things: fairy tales and makeup. I decided to combine my two loves to make an imaginative, cruelty-free make-up brand that’s fun for everyone to wear. Lime Crime’s mascot is a unicorn, and it represents individuality, rare beauty and compassionate kindness to all animals. Naturally, the brand is purple because it represents creativity.
How do you make money?
In 2008, I created and launched Lime Crime’s intensely colorful, magically inspiring, cruelty-free and vegan cosmetics. They are now available for sale online and in many retail stores both in the United States and internationally.
How long did it take for you to become profitable?
First I started selling my new Lime Crime clothing designs online through eBay in 2004, and I created my first digital store there. In less than a year, I was already making steady sales.
My makeup line launched by 2008. The original collection had eye shadow, different kinds of blush, glitter, primers and fine brushes that started at $12. I promoted them with online makeup tutorials that became really popular. Then by 2009, the publicity really started taking off, and the rest is history.
When you were starting out, was there ever a time you doubted it would work? If so, how did you handle that?
Since my first idea was to be a clothing designer, I went to the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City, majoring in fashion design and illustration. It was fun, but I decided it was better to drop out early and go ahead and start my own clothing line. That’s when I first began using the brand name “Lime Crime.” It was a great experience because it taught me a lot about understanding the flow of fashion trends and how to use them in marketing. At this stage though, I had doubts about if the clothing line was really my final destination. Actually, I was in my experimental phase, exploring my creative side to discover what I really wanted in my career. By the time I started dabbling in making my own make up, I realized that I had hit the gold pot at the end of my rainbow. Ever since I got into make up, I have never looked back. All the people around me also noticed how passionate I was about the make up line, and they really responded much more than anyone had to the clothing line I’d started initially, so I knew I was on the right track. Now I’m so grateful because I feel like I created the best possible job in the world.
By the time I started dabbling in making my own makeup, I realized that I had hit the gold pot at the end of my rainbow. Ever since I got into makeup, I have never looked back. All the people around me also noticed how passionate I was about the makeup line, and they really responded much more than anyone had to the clothing line I’d started initially, so I knew I was on the right track. Now I’m so grateful because I feel like I created the best possible job in the world.
How did you get your first customer?
I started a new blog focusing mostly on showing makeup tutorials, which helped show off how to use my products in fun ways. I also held online contests like “Must-Be-Pink!” and other giveaways of makeup and fantasy-stlye accessories, like a strawberry princess cake necklace. Through this online exposure, I started building a solid fan base, and we now have 3 million followers on Instagram!
What is one marketing strategy — other than referrals — that you’re using that works really well to generate new business?
Always listen to the feedback that people give you online, in the office and everywhere else. Take any criticism in stride and use it as food to help you grow and develop your brand. People will tell you what they want, so listen to what they’re saying and respond appropriately in social media and in your advertising campaigns.
It’s also important to get out there and express yourself on topics that you care the most about. For example, I love giving talks about practical advice to follow your own ambitions, especially as a female entrepreneur. That’s why I spoke at PHAMExpo and Vegas Nay’s Stardust Tour.
What is the toughest decision you’ve had to make in the last few months?
Actually, I made one of my toughest choices more than a few months ago. One of the hardest challenges I’ve had was choosing the right laboratory to partner with to make my products. The chemists that I work with needed to be not just excellent at what they do, but they had to also share my vision and be able to work directly with me. After I settled on the right laboratory, I got the freedom to have a lot more fun with my color choices.
What do you think it is that makes you successful?
My business has always focused on one thing: Beauty should make you feel happy! There’s no point playing around with colors that don’t inspire you and transform you, just like if a magical fairy is waving a wand over your head. The colors in your makeup collection should bring out the best possible version of yourself.
Keeping that core value in mind, I focused early on to create a very specific niche for my brand. You always have to offer people something that no one else has to be really successful. My vegan-friendly cosmetics had a special fantasy twist that no one else was getting into, which is what inspired me to launch it in the first place and made it easy to distinguish my brand from other make-up brands.
What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
When the business took off enough for me to start supporting my favorite charities for animal-rescue operations, women, and children. I felt so grateful to really start making a bigger difference. As of today, we support Girls Inc., HOLA for kids in LA, Sanctuary For Families, the Bideawee animal shelter, Adopt NY and the Red Cross.
What does the future hold for your business? What are you most excited about?
I love creating new collections of colors based on my favorite themes, especially for Generation Z, who have all grown up online. I’m always chasing the feelings of new themes based on different fantasies, subcultures, and interesting mythical creatures. That’s how I got the idea for one of our latest collections called Alchemy. I envisioned swirling potions in vivid shades of burning coppers with swirling purples and those poisonous greens, and that’s what helped bring that color palette to life.
As far as the future goes, I’ll never stop daring myself to try new things. I’m always chasing bigger, brighter dreams to dive into new fantasies every day.
What business books have inspired you?
“War Paint: Madame Helena Rubinstein and Miss Elizabeth Arden: Their Lives, Their Times, Their Rivalry” by Lindy Woodhead is one of my favorites. It’s a dual biography of these incredible women who kickstarted the beauty industry. They were extreme rivals in New York and the queens of competing international beauty empires. The book shares their innovative business strategies and their wild personal lives too.
I also love reading anything by my idol: Karl Lagerfeld.
What is a recent purchase you have made that’s helped with your business?
I bought Facetune and totally love it for making my photos Instagram-worthy in a flash. Their handy editing tools instantly erase blemishes, whiten teeth and smoothen skin to create purely beauty-focused images.
Where did you come up with such an unusually fun name for your brand?
I was thinking about how in fairytales, a lot of times things will rhyme just because. To sound more whimsical, giving my brand the feeling of fantasy that I was trying to create, I just started playing around with words. I loved the way “lime crime” sounded when it rolled off my tongue. The Lime Crime brand always enjoys playing with words and creating as many fun puns as possible. One of our favorite names is “Airborne Unicorn,” for example.