For 25 years, Christina Bellas was a traveling saleswoman. Running from city to city for meetings and presentations, it was important that she always appeared polished. Like many modern female professionals, she experienced the frustration of looking good on-the-go. She was constantly juggling cosmetics that often got damaged in all the hustle and bustle and touching up her makeup in all sorts of places—cars, cabs, planes, bathrooms, hotel rooms, etc.
One day, as she checked into a hotel and started getting ready, she opened up her suitcase to grab her makeup bag (hoping this time nothing had melted or broken) and then proceed to put everything in a vanity cup on the bathroom counter. This was a common habit for her and for many of her friends, but why? Thinking about it, it seemed silly to take her makeup out of one container and put it back into another. She realized the vanity cup made everything so easily accessible—no digging or searching!
Wouldn’t it be even easier if her makeup carrier was just like that vanity cup? Wouldn’t it be easier for all women on-the-go? In that moment, an innovative idea sparked in her mind.
CREATING A VISION & A BRAND
Christina first took on the idea of inventing a traveling vanity cup for makeup as a hobby and started by doing extensive research. This was a passion project her friends and family admired, but never imagined she’d turn into a reality. But Christina had big plans and she was ready to make them happen. So, she hired an attorney to help navigate how to build this passion project into a business initiative.
The first challenge was designing a product around products that already existed. There are a million different makeup brush sizes and compacts in the marketplace. At the time, refillable makeup also started to become a trend to meet the needs of the conscious consumer. In fact, Christina discovered that 50% of all plastic packaging waste in landfills was created by the cosmetic industry!
Her invention would be reusable, eco-friendly and eliminate the need to buy plastic compacts. Additionally, it would accommodate industry-average brush and refillable makeup sizes. In her research, she also discovered that 65% of women surveyed say they do their makeup in the car for the natural lighting. So the product would need to be a convenient size everywhere it goes—from cup holders to cubicles to carry-ons.
Once she had a vision for what the physical product was going to be, she needed a brand. And what better name for ‘makeup in a cup’ than “Make-Cup”? From there, she started sketching out a logo and creating messaging. “I had this idea inside of me and started writing it all out,” Bellas said. Her brand was always beautiful, never wasteful and the ease and accessibility of her innovation would empower women to achieve a “5-minute makeover” on the go.
BRINGING AN INNOVATION TO MARKET
Christina worked through eight different prototype designs before finalizing the structure and look and getting a design and utility patent. From there, she brought on Ani Schroder as a serial entrepreneur and they applied for the Macomb Innovation Fund through JPMorgan Chase and got awarded $25,000 to get Make-Up manufactured and on the market.
Christina was passionate about sourcing all manufacturing in Michigan and interviewed 50 companies over 10 months to find the right vendors. Quality Cavity tooling company in Wixom would make the molds and PolyOnes Michigan office would manufacture the material Tritan by Eastman. Tritan is the safest plastic on the market and known for its durability. Tritan has temperature resistant properties that help prevent makeup from melting and it’s also BPA, which helps prevent cross contamination caused by common makeup bags.
Further, Christina engaged with the LTU Collaboratory to help get her business initiative off the ground. The LTU Collaboratory helped Make-Cup establish a roadmap strategy, make some prototyping tweaks and get plugged into local entrepreneurial events.
“There is so much happening in Southfield, it’s almost overwhelming,” says Bellas. “There are so many things you can do—events, networking, pitching. There are startups here and there is the opportunity; you have to look alive in the market.”
BUILDING A STARTUP, EMPOWERING WOMEN, WHAT’S NEXT?
Christina Bellas is a strong female professional leading the way for other female entrepreneurs and empowering women in the workplace with her invention. “I’ve always wanted to lead, transform, and inspire…that’s my why [behind my brand],” says Bellas, “If I can do that in the biggest of ways or smallest of ways daily, I will have achieved one of my most important goals.”
So, what’s next for Make-Cup?
After successfully launching in November, the startup began working with Alchemy Brand Strategy in Royal Oak to conduct focus groups and figure out how to talk to target audiences. Their goal is to create a new voice and elevated brand that will help their product go national.
To learn more about Make-Cup, visit www.make-cup.com