Who are you and what business did you start?
My name is Maria Karr and I’m the founder of Rumore Beauty – the first and only platform dedicated to the discovery of Russian beauty brands in the US. Prior to launching Rumore Beauty, I worked in the beauty industry, spearheading PR, communications and influencer marketing efforts for leading global beauty brands for the past 10 years. Born and raised in Russia, I’ve been living in the US since 2007. In addition to my career in beauty, I have been teaching a signature course on PR and Communications at Baruch College, mentoring students, and running marathons in the US and abroad.
What’s your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
I was born and raised in Russia and have been living in the US for the past 14 years, 10 of which I spent working in the beauty industry in New York City, leading PR and communications efforts for world-renowned and up-and-coming brands. Throughout my career, I’ve been fascinated with newness from around the world – products from Australia, Asia, Europe and other parts of the globe were easily accessible in the US. Although I loved seeing and trying all of those products, it made me wonder about beauty offerings from my home country. I felt that I’ve known so much about global beauty trends and innovation, but there hasn’t been anything said about Russian beauty.
When I left Russia back in 2007, the beauty scene there wasn’t something that could’ve interested a sophisticated beauty lover from abroad. Very few Russian-made products were available, and they didn’t have an appeal of beauty products we know and love today – think creams in plain aluminum tubes and harsh soaps. So, it made me curious – was the lack of information about Russian beauty the sign of lack of actual products available or was it something else? I couldn’t stop wondering what the beauty scene in Russia was like these days.
I decided to investigate during my then-upcoming trip to Moscow and stop by a few local beauty stores. To my surprise, I discovered many Russia born and made products that I haven’t heard of before. Driven by my curiosity, I couldn’t resist squeezing all of the tubes and twisting jars open to try the formulas. I was fascinated with everything that I was seeing and what I’ve found absolutely exceeded my expectations. I discovered a broad variety of natural beauty products that looked amazing, smelled great and felt wonderful on the skin. While I was excited about this eye-opening discovery, that left me puzzled even more as to why no one in the US talked about Russian beauty.
When I got back to New York, I started paying closer attention to the global beauty conversation thinking that I might have missed something. After a few months of research, leaving no stones unturned, I came to the conclusion that there hasn’t been much said or written about Russian beauty and modern brands that were popular in my home country.
That’s when I got a thought – if no one was talking about Russian beauty, I should start this conversation and introduce these and other beauty gems from my home country to the US consumers. And that’s how the idea of launching the first Russian beauty store in the US – Rumore Beauty – was born.
Describe the process of launching the business.
Rumore Beauty started with a big and bold idea of introducing a new niche category that hasn’t been available before on the beauty market in the US. When we started approaching potential brand partners in Russia, all we had was a big idea and a vision of how we could bring to life and make it big. Our website was in its early development stages so we had some mockups in our deck instead.
We didn’t have any direct connections to the brands, so my co-founder and I would wake up at 5:00 or 6:00am to make cold calls to accommodate the time difference with Russia and still be able to start our working day at our jobs on time. We had our target list ready and were just going down the list, working hard to reach the right people across the ocean. After initial phone calls, we started scheduling pitch meetings that allowed us to share our vision and what we could offer, and also learn more about the brands, their philosophy, assortment and operations. Later, we selected a curated assortment of products and tested everything to ensure quality and a pleasant experience with the product.
The site development was coming along in a parallel path. By the end of 2020, we had a working site, agreements with brand partners and our first product order arriving from Russia right before the New Year’s.
In early 2021, we’ve been laser focused on fine-tuning the platform and gearing up for the launch. As a bootstrapped business, we had to be very resourceful and strategic about using our funds and this is our strategy now – being selective with our resources.
Launching with an MVP has allowed us to learn what our customers might be looking for and adjust later based on the feedback and performance. One important piece of advice to consider for all brands that are getting ready to launch is to always think from a customer perspective and listen to their feedback. At the end of the day, your brand or company is not what you think about it, it’s what your customers think about it.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
We’re still in the first few months since the launch and we’re adjusting our programs and tactics as we continue to grow and nurture the business. Despite the testing phase, it’s always been important for us to find ways off the beaten path that may bring us results without overspending.
We’ve been experimenting across a variety of social media platforms, from TikTok and Instagram, to Facebook and Pinterest. In addition to creating content ourselves and working with our brand partners on getting visuals assets, we’ve executed a few influencer collaborations, including organic content creation on platforms of their choice and giveaways. The latter have helped us a lot in acquiring an interested, beauty-conscious audience.
We’re staying connected to our audience through email communication, informing clients about our latest launches, new content on our blog, promotions and discounts. Also, we’re no strangers to personalized communication – every order that goes out includes a personalized note and from time to time we reach out to our clients asking for their feedback via email. That helps us keep in touch with our growing community and keep a finger on the pulse of the overall consumer sentiment.
Working with the press and getting Russian beauty in front of a broader audience has been instrumental in raising awareness. Coming from a PR background, I understand the value of PR and how it can help growing a brand, especially in its early growth stages. We’ve been very fortunate to get recognition from ALLURE and NewBeauty magazines, as well as other publications with engaged beauty readers.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
We’ve just started and we have a long way to go with raising awareness for the Russian beauty category. At this time, we’re an e-commerce store introducing a curation of brands and products that are new to the US. And we’re the only ones who are talking about Russian beauty so I anticipate that it will take time before it takes shape and becomes a trend or a category of its own.
However, we see many opportunities for growth and expansion. One of the directions is to expand the assortment beyond skincare, into haircare, bodycare and makeup categories, and to continue adding more brands and products to the curation for a more comprehensive Russian beauty experience. Offering more touchpoints to the consumers where they could explore Russian beauty first hand is another direction that we may explore in the future. I’d love to give it more time to start developing more comprehensive plans that would be sustainable for our business growth and would offer the most value to our growing client base.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Things don’t happen overnight. The successes that we see in the media don’t usually happen overnight – we are witnessing the tip of the iceberg and have no visibility of all the work, effort and investment of time and resources that has been going into the seemingly “overnight success.” When you’re just starting out, it takes time to finesse the product, figure out what it takes to run a successful operation, and fine-tune other details. Patience and ability to persevere and push forward become increasingly important as that is what it takes to move from one point to another.
You may have great experience behind your belt, but you will have to learn a lot and step outside of your comfort zone. It may sound challenging but it will be paying off in the long run. As a four-time marathon finisher, building a new business and taking it off the ground is similar to running a marathon: you need to be able to pace yourself, have a strategy in place, don’t compare yourself to others, stay positive and work hard along the way to cross that finish line.
For someone who has been transitioning from a corporate career to running a business, finding an effective way to manage time has been key. When you’re not going to an office, structuring your day and leaving room for breaks and personal, non-business related tasks is essential. It’s important to carve out some time for exercise, maintain healthy sleeping and eating habits and get enough fresh air to give you the energy that is needed to push things forward.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
We’ve seen a lot of success with Upwork | The World’s Work Marketplace for Freelancing – it’s a platform that connects companies with top freelance talent from around the world. You can find freelancers for any need and it’s very easy – create a job posting, browse their rich pool of candidates and either invite those who seem to match the required qualifications or wait for candidates to apply. It’s been helpful for both long-term projects and brief consultations, and you can find candidates that fit your budget and desired level of expertise.
Our store is on Shopify and the platform has a lot to offer! There’s a variety of apps that you can connect to optimize your store’s performance and there are many ways to customize the platform to better suit your needs.
Recently, we’ve discovered Share-A-Sale – it’s an affiliate network that gives brands access to an extensive list of affiliate partners. So far, we’ve just started to explore it and there’s so much to learn, but the system looks very promising when it comes to finding opportunities to promote the business and further establish our presence.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
I feel very inspired by female beauty founders who have started their businesses without much money and built their brands from the ground up. Recently, I read “Believe It” by Jamie Kern Lima, the founder of It Cosmetics. Her story has resonated with me and learning more about her journey gave me a boost of energy and a belief that everything is possible.
Another great book that I discovered earlier this year was “Super Maker” by Jaime Schmidt, the founder of Schmidt’s Natural. The tips she shared in her book laid the foundation for starting my own business and taught me a lot as a new founder.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
Be patient: you can’t learn a foreign language in a week or in a month. Sometimes, it takes years to be fluent and you have to be practicing and learning every day for the rest of your life. I like to compare starting a business to learning a foreign language – it may seem hard and even impossible at the beginning, but if you’re patient, persistent and hard-working, it will pay off. Stay passionate: if the challenges start getting in your way, go back to the moment when you came up with your business idea. What made you so excited about it? Why did you decide to leave a comfortable place and bring your idea to life? Think about all of the reasons why you wanted to do it in the first place and let them be your guiding stars as you’re continuing to push forward. Be curious and continue to learn: I strongly believe that curiosity is key to succeeding – at school, work or business. As a new business founder, I know that I have a lot of things to learn. While I have had strong experience in some areas of the business, other areas are brand new to me and it’s up to me to get to understand them and make them work. Don’t underestimate the power of learning – take courses, listen to experts, read books and tune in to podcasts. Thankfully, the digital world has created an abundance of resources that are accessible from anywhere and are free or affordable.