Life & Business

Putting Yourself First and Going For What You Want With Kristen Elise Brown

by Sabrina Smelko


In many areas of life, we’re taught to ask permission, wait our turn, and follow the rules. But as many successful business owners will tell you, it’s sometimes only when you trust your instincts, question the status quo, and go for what you want that you’ll find your real footing.

For Kristen Elise Brown, the founder of Gold Label Cosmetics, she had to miss out on one too many opportunities before she learned that the most important person to please in life and in business is yourself. After working as an employee and freelancer on various sets as a makeup artist, Kristen realized that the only way her ideas would be fully heard was if she was the boss she reported to. So in 2012, she launched GLC, offering both classic and trendy color cosmetics and makeup — including gluten- and paraben-free formulas.

Today, the strong-willed and wise-beyond-her-years Kristen is joining us to share more insight into her path to entrepreneurship, the problem with asking for permission, and how not finishing can be a thing of beauty. –Sabrina

Why did you decide to start your own business, versus work for someone else?

I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit. As a youngin, I was selling fuzzy pens and bracelets at my church and to my schoolmates. Even in college, I paired up with my (now ex-) boyfriend (terrible idea, btw), to create a t-shirt line. The entrepreneurial spirit runs heavy in this woman’s veins!

Of course I’ve had plenty of jobs, but there’s no glory in making someone else rich. I’d see the profit margins, the lackluster customer service, among the variety of qualms an employee witnesses. I’m a terrible employee, unfortunately, because I see the output and input not to be worth it. It just didn’t add up, so I took myself and my passion for entrepreneurship more seriously than I had in the past. I studied makeup artistry and cosmetic formulation for about a year and a half to two years before I thought, (dramatic horns play) I’m ready!

Can you remember when you first learned about your field of work? How did you discover what it was, and how did you know it was what you wanted to do?

I was at a college fashion show and I saw a few ladies setting up for the event, one of them being the owner of the brand. I was too shy to inquire, but the lightbulb turned on then.”Of course, why hadn’t I thought of owning my own?” Being a business owner, I knew I was capable, but I hadn’t quite connected that with my passion for beauty and colors just yet. I obviously did copious amounts of research on owning a business in this industry, along with hand-making many of the products. What’s in my favorite blushes? I had to know it.

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What was the best piece of business advice you were given when you were starting off?

The show must go on. This is a personal struggle for me because I take following steps seriously. I will dwell on an unfinished step for hours and, in the name of business, time is money. This was reiterated and solidified in the book, How Google Works. They expressed that finishing an app or program isn’t necessary, and that it’s actually preferred to leave wiggle room for the customers to mold the final components.

It’s not easy to have an insouciant air about your business, but [in] leaving a bit of perfection to chance, or to your customers, rather (surveys and feedback), you can create sellable products and services.

Can you name the biggest lesson you’ve learned in running a business?

Being punctual about my forms. 40% of my time is spent filling out forms. I’m not a fan AT ALL! Procrastinating is all fun and games until you can’t participate in something lucrative because your long-overdue form is still overdue.

To combat the issue, I fill out these forms either as soon as I get it or start it, then place it somewhere obvious and borderline inconvenient. If it’s not in my way, it’s procrastinate-able.

Can you name a moment of failure in your business experiences that you learned from or that helped you improve your business or the way you work?

I was offered an internship at a TV network and the dean of my department was so unsupportive. He didn’t see how the internship correlated with my curriculum. I’m not a “no” person, but by time I convinced him this was the direction [in which] I needed to go, the position had been filled within the hour.

[In] that very moment, I realized asking for permission isn’t going to work for me. My spontaneous opportunities need me to have a free schedule. As a business owner, you can write a timeline for launches, you can make a business plan, sales strategies etc. but don’t be so caught up in the schedule that you’re not open to the perfect, unexpected move for your brand.

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If you were magically given three more hours per day, what would you do with them?

 I get so lost in my fiction novels and business help books. If I was given three more hours per day I would set my yoga mat out, put my Audible on, and do some vinyasa with my puppies.

What has been the biggest sacrifice you’ve made in starting your business?

Traveling. The amount of money I spend to set the groundwork for Gold Label Cosmetics and making some operational mistakes can be pretty exhausting. I COULD be in Paris or Maldives.

Can you name your greatest success (or something you’re most proud of) in your business experiences?

Connecting with my PR team (First and Last PR). They found me, actually, but I had to make the conscious decision to invest more into my business. I put my “big girl” pants on and I couldn’t be happier. We were recently on The Wendy Williams Show and in countless magazine articles. It’s important to revisit your investments and make sure they’re aligned with your big picture.

What business books/resources (if any) would you recommend to someone starting a creative business of their own?

The Creators Code and How Google Works have shifted my paradigm tremendously. Also, the Art of Mindfulness is helpful for EVERYTHING. Being mindful, I can use any task as an opportunity to meditate. When I’m alone in my apartment, with my laptop, I get such a good rhythm, for example.


Has failing at something or quitting ever led to success for you? Walk us through that.

Always. The saying, “a failure is a lesson” couldn’t be more accurate. It can also ring true that failure is feedback. As far as quitting [goes], I was working at a retail location AND onscreen makeup artists for the TV show, B.O.R.N. to Style as well. I was missing scenes, or sometimes my schedule would conflict with other talents. You have to trust that more available time equates to more opportunities.

Also, I knew I would never apply my complete energy toward this retail company. I quit, and soon after, the company started closing store after store. I’m sure I would have been laid off in the consolidation of staff.

After quitting, I immediately found an investor for my business. Once again, I just can’t put even 70% effort into building someone else’s wealth It’s just not pragmatic for me.

In your opinion, what are the top three things someone should consider before starting their own business?

1. I believe in the Law of Attraction, so I would suggest a business owner have some sort of optimism and grander goals. That’s the fume that keeps the engine running when you’re at the brink of giving up or taking a break from biz. Remind yourself that there’s a positive result to every outcome in life and then meditate on where you see your business in the future.

2. The next ties into the first. Are you prepared to invest your money and energy into this 24/7? I have a hard time with staying on task, but what snaps me back on [my] path is the reality that no one will pick up the slack. 100% of my actions directly effect my business’ progress.

3. Lastly, someone should be open to learning. To cut down on costs, you have to be a multi-tasker.

What’s the first app, website or thing you open/do in the morning?

Mailbox. Then I turn on a business podcast. That gets the wheels turning enough for me to make it out of the bed.

What’s the hardest thing about being your own boss that isn’t obvious? 

Justifying charging more for a service or product. Even now as I embark on doing international business, I’m more concerned about the consumers’ reaction to the price of something, more so than my profit margin. Shame on me.

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