Sheryl Espinal operates a small business with lofty ambitions. A native New Yorker and nurse by profession, she exudes a passion for hair and makeup which she hopes to spread across the U.S. through her Detroit-based company, Muse Cosmetics. “I want to be a national brand, but Detroit is where I want to start,” Espinal said.
Espinal long aimed to start her own business to help destigmatize the use of beauty products in the black community. She said her own mother frequently used makeup, but a lack of products for black women left her with few choices.
“In the last six years, a lot of indie brands have come up that cater to the darker- and medium-skin tone market and have more variety for them,” Espinal said. “So that’s something that I wanted to create, but I wanted to create something that was affordable.”
Despite a vision for her company, Muse Cosmetics struggled to find success following its founding. Espinal admits a lack of proper research prior to starting her business led to impulsive decisions and a poor choice of location. After Espinal reached out to a Law School faculty member for advice, DNEP paired Muse Cosmetics with a team of students from the Ross School of Business’s undergraduate capstone course. Espinal said her business rebounded after connecting with DNEP.
“[The students] did some very expensive research to further identify who my consumer is and where I should be,” Espinal said. “I trusted everything that they told me.”
The students revamped Muse Cosmetic’s operations – they convinced Espinal to close her unprofitable brick-and-mortar shop and developed a new marketing plan for the company. And, in the spirit of DNEP’s multidisciplinary approach, students from across the university joined the effort. Stamps School of Art & Design students redesigned the company’s logo and updated the company’s packaging to develop a visual brand for Muse Cosmetics, and Law students conducted trademark research through the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
The business students also researched potential markets into which Muse Cosmetics sales could expand, mapping locations across the U.S. where the company’s products would most likely succeed. Espinal said the data confirmed Detroit is the right location in which to headquarter her company, but opportunities to expand her Muse Cosmetics exist beyond Michigan’s borders.
“This map shows that Detroit is the only northern city where I would murder it in hair sales. Everywhere else, I would do well in the southeastern part of the country – Florida, Alabama, Mississippi,” Espinal said. “So what I’m going to do is turn my Detroit location into my online mecca to reach out on social media to get to those other regions.”
Espinal said she plans to increase the production of her products within Detroit and eventually reintroduce more profitable brick-and-mortar shops. After receiving a Motor City Match grant for her company, Espinal is optimistic about the future of Muse Cosmetics.
While she acknowledges her expertise in hair and makeup is important to her business, Espinal said DNEP developed an entrepreneurial skillset necessary to succeed in business and created new opportunities which she called a “blessing.” “I’m 110 percent better than I was. … I did the work, and [DNEP] gave me the path, they showed me the blueprint.”