Isana Sebastian started IA GLAM, a small beauty business, at the age of 20. Having recently dropped out of college and feeling lost in life, it seemed fate had a plan in store for her. After coming across serendipitous posts on the internet and with no previous experience, Isana decided to start her own business. Within a month of this decision, she was launching IA GLAM. Read about why she’s glad she started young, how social media has been integral to her brand’s growth, and why sales aren’t the best measurement of success.
Give us a summary of your business in 200 words or less.
IA GLAM is a small black-owned online business founded in Columbus, Ohio in January 2020. IA GLAM offers an affordable line of strip lashes, lip gloss, lash glue, and more! We care about the environment, so we offer all-natural and cruelty-free products. Our mission is to leave everyone feeling more confident than ever before for life’s everyday moments! Our vision is to provide products and services that uplift and empower diverse populations across the entire beauty world.
How did the idea for your business come about?
I have always loved makeup and beauty and making myself look and feel good. The makeup and beauty industry brought out my self-confidence. When you look good, you feel good!
I was constantly going to the beauty supply store to buy $2 lashes that you could only wear once. The lashes I was buying clearly didn’t last and had no value. I thought to myself, What if I started a beauty business and provided products to others who have the same problem as me? I could offer long-lasting lashes that could get up to 25-30 wears! And so IA GLAM was born!
Who were your first clients? How’d you get your foot in the door?
My first clients were my friends, Arielle, Amelia, and Sierra. Since I didn’t tell anyone close to me about my business and just posted about it on Instagram, on launch day everyone was pretty shocked and excited.
I stared at my website when it launched and watched as names popped up. Then there were names I didn’t recognize. Instagram is really the star of IA GLAM’s show. Reaching out to other people in my niche to work with them is really what got our foot in the door, along with Instagram ads.
What was the turning point for your business? When did you realize you had something special?
I’ve always known this business venture was special because I came up with IA GLAM when I lost pretty much all motivation with life at 20 years old. I dropped out of college and was headed down a weird path, pretty lost. One day, I came up with business names with the intention of starting it later in life, before I knew anything about running a business.
Then a few weeks later, in 2019, I came across a video that told me 2020 was the “year of money.” The next day I came across a video on how to build your own website. The video wasn’t even related to my niche specifically, but I used all those resources to make IA GLAM come to life. All the signs to start were there so I took them and ran with it.
I started reading a lot of books and watching tons of videos, educating myself. I was researching and focusing on IA GLAM for a month straight, and I ended up starting it within that timeframe while working a 9-to-5 job. I’ve never had a bigger drive to do something than I’ve had with this.
Are you still working your 9-to-5 job?
I don’t work a 9-5 job anymore! Luckily and thankfully, I currently work for IA GLAM full-time, with a few side hustles.
What does it mean to you to be an entrepreneur and business owner?
For me, it means being a leader and inspiring others. You are your own brand. Do it to help yourself and influence others. Creating your own income for yourself while benefiting others is an important thing.
What does the city of Columbus mean to your business?
Columbus means a lot to me because it’s my home! The home of my business and where I was born and raised. I spent a lot of time trying to grow here and have connected with lots of other entrepreneurs here. Columbus has helped IA GLAM become as big as it is today.
What’s the number one piece of advice you’d give to anyone wanting to start a business?
Just go for it! If you have a passion for something or a drive, just start and do it. You may not have everything you need now to start, but start with what you have. You can do anything you set your mind to. If you start now you have a headstart for the future!
What do you wish you knew about entrepreneurship before starting your business?
I wish I knew that success doesn’t happen overnight and that you have to keep promoting and putting your brand out there. When I first started IA GLAM, I kept it a secret when I should’ve been shouting it out the windows and letting everyone know GLAM was on the horizon.
What’s the most challenging part of your business?
Not achieving the set revenue goals and not making the money back I invested. Abandoned checkouts really get to me, so I try to find out what I can adjust so people are confident and secure with their purchases when they come to the website.
What’s been one of your strategies for decreasing cart abandonment?
Our biggest strategy is emailing and texting the customer 10 hours later, to make sure they haven’t forgotten about us. We will even send a discount to put icing on the cake and seal our sale!
Every business owner has a flaw. What’s yours?
I think my flaw is that I expect things to be perfect all the time. If it’s not, I’ll do something over and over again until I feel it’s right. It can be pretty time-consuming and detrimental to any task.
Why do you think most business owners fail? What has made you different?
I think most business owners fail because they give up too easily. You have to stick it out with your business throughout the good and the bad in order to be successful. Failure is not always bad in that sometimes you need to fail in order to succeed. I have learned these lessons along with many others to help set me apart from those owners who lose the will to push forward.
What was your biggest mistake and what did it cost you?
Early in my business startup, I made a costly mistake where I messed up the code error on the checkout portion. This was huge because it cost me customers, caused site errors, etc.
What tool has helped you the most for your business?
The biggest tool that has helped my business was the Shopify website builder. They make it so easy to make a website and it’s very inexpensive. It really helped me in the long run. It was easy to market to my customers.
When did you know it was time to expand your business?
I knew it was time to expand when I couldn’t do everything myself. I had started getting overwhelmed with making content myself, photoshoots, and finding models. I needed to get a small, set team together for my peace of mind. In order to grow, I had to bring in other hands to help.
What is something that you did that was a game-changer for your business?
I started partnering with influencers and that really got my name and brand out there. Partnering with other people who just want to promote brands really helped take IA GLAM to the next level.
How do you find/choose the influencers you want to work with?
I look at the engagement, likes, and comments the influencer has, and I look for influencers within the same niche as me. I also look for small influencers as much as big influencers because as a small brand or influencer, you don’t get as much recognition as you would being bigger so I feel that’s really important.
What was an idea that you spent a lot of time on or thought would make a big difference in your business that didn’t pan out?
I spent a lot of time on my Halloween-themed lash boxes. The sales weren’t as big as I thought they were gonna be. It was a new idea I had never seen in the beauty industry.
What is something that your business spends a lot of money on that’s worth it?
We definitely spend a lot of money on the merchandise. The merchandise is what makes us, also marketing. We frequently give back to our supporters! We want to make sure all our customers come back.
What is something you’re working on now that you’re very excited about?
I am currently working on partnering with other small businesses to create marketing content. I want to bring other people who want to grow their business together.
What form of marketing is the most valuable for you?
Social media marketing is very valuable to IA GLAM because everyone is on it. Without social media marketing, IA GLAM wouldn’t be where it is today. It’s so easy to connect and promote to various people on the internet. You have access to so many people in other countries/cities/states. Social media marketing really helps us grow and branch out.
How do you compete with all the other beauty brands out there?
We’re all trying to find what’s hot. I try to keep up with the latest trends and follow the same marketing tactics. What IA Glam offers that’s different is that yes, we try to compete, but we still stick to being original and having diversity within our products. If you come to IA GLAM, you’ll see there’s something for everyone, no matter what.
Who do you vent to when you have a business problem?
I actually vent to my mom. She knows quite a lot about business even though she doesn’t have one. She’s really intelligent when it comes to giving advice, whether regular or financial.
What was the single worst decision you made regarding your business and how’d you recover?
I invested a lot of money with other companies to help my brand grow and signed lots of contracts I shouldn’t have signed. Recovery was pretty hard because I had to get all the money and time I lost back.
When you’re stressed or overwhelmed, what do you do to overcome this feeling?
I usually pray, read, or do some other forms of self-care. I love yoga and listening to podcasts when I’m stressed and anxious.
What other entrepreneur do you look up to most?
I really like Conna Walker! She’s the owner of House of CB and was on the Forbes “Under 30” list. Rihanna, Kylie Jenner, and Kim Kardashian are also boss women who are really inspiring and big in the beauty world.
If you started the business when you were 20, how old are you now? Do you struggle with people not taking you seriously since you’re so young?
I am 22 years old, soon to be 23! I struggle all the time with people not taking me seriously. People have said, “Wow, she’s 22, she doesn’t know what she’s doing.” But then others will talk to me and say, “Wow you’re so young yet so mature.” “How did you do it?” “I wasn’t doing that at 22.”
I don’t get as many opportunities as someone older than me would, but I look at it as a good thing. I’m happy that I started something so young. My motto was always, “Work hard now so I can enjoy later.”
What’s one component of entrepreneurship that’s much different than what most people think?
I think most people think when you start a business you’re gonna have a lot of money all the time. Business money goes up and down, so you shouldn’t be in it for the money. You should do it cause you love it. You can’t be quick to give up when sales are low – some days I make a lot of money and some days I don’t.
Where do you see your business in the next 10 years?
I see IA GLAM venturing into a studio/storefront where we also provide beauty services and sell our products.
What’s your end goal with the business? Is this something you want to pass down to your kids or would you like to eventually sell?
My end goal is to have storefronts nationwide. I would definitely like to pass this down to my future kids so they can always have something of mine with them. But if they didn’t want the business and I didn’t want to be the owner anymore, I definitely would sell it.
If you had to tell a visitor one thing to do/see/eat in Columbus, what would it be?
I would tell them to go to Short North to explore a mini town of its own – lots of small businesses, food, and shops.