Meet Sigma Beauty Founder Simone Xavier: A Former Scientist Who Started a Cult-Favorite Makeup Brand in Her BasementJuly 22, 2020
Sigma Beauty started as a small makeup brush brand with a cult following. Eleven years later, the brand not only offers an expansive range of high quality brushes, but innovative makeup tools, lip products and eyeshadow palettes, too. Plus, the company is reinventing with the goal of becoming one of the cleanest beauty brands on the market.
One thing that has always set the brand apart is co-founder Simone Xavier, who has a PhD in infectious diseases (NBD!) and experience working for vaccine companies. Her unique background has allowed her to think outside of the box, develop inventive products and expertly handle the coronavirus pandemic from a business perspective. So how did she take her career from the world of science and academia to the world of makeup? We chatted with Xavier to find out. Read on for our full interview.
Before you founded Sigma, your career was focused on science. Tell us about life pre-Sigma Beauty.My career path before founding Sigma Beauty was heavily academic. I have a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree, a Master of Science in Veterinary Pathology and a PhD in infectious diseases. Afterwards, I worked for vaccine companies and then worked at the University of Minnesota as an assistant clinical professor.
Was beauty always a passion for you? Did you ever imagine you'd have your own brand?When we first started the company, I was your regular makeup user. My passion is really trend analysis and solution-driven product development. Both subjects are heavily associated with my field of research during my PhD and later as a researcher at the University of Minnesota. These skills allowed me to study the beauty market, identify trends and needs from cosmetic users and to develop solutions tailored to their needs. It does not matter if I am analyzing color trends or needs for solutions, my product development process is always centered around the clients’ interests. As I think back to when I was working at the University of Minnesota, my research subject — infectious diseases — was my brand. In that case, my clients were field veterinarians and my product was diagnostic tests and vaccines. Did I ever imagine I would own a beauty brand? No, but I can see how the skills I acquired during my academic career have broad applications in a variety of businesses and have definitely helped in running a beauty company.
What inspired you to start the brand and switch career paths?The inspiration really came from noticing a niche in the market and a need for affordable beauty tools. That need, combined with my husband’s background in sourcing and developing painting tools, resulted in our first business venture. Once we identified the opportunity in the market, I started my research and trend analysis on YouTube to understand what the makeup users' wants and needs were. Then, I proceeded to associate what I was observing with my own needs as a regular makeup user. My conclusion was that selecting the right makeup brushes was an overwhelming task if you were a beginner in makeup application. There were several brushes that existed for different functions, and choosing which ones you needed to get started was a daunting task. My job was to find a solution. I created a 12-piece brush set that included brushes that experienced makeup users regarded as holy grails. This way, I removed the guesswork for beginners.
How did you grow your brand to become more than makeup brushes?We innovated. After we launched our first set 11 years ago, I started to use different kinds of brushes, and my husband started to pay more attention to how they were built. Again, being very function-oriented, I started to create new brushes with never-before-seen shapes and assigned new functions to them. Immediately, we became more than just an average brush company.
From brushes, we evolved to creating a whole new product category in brush care. We were the first company to develop brush-care tools and solutions. Before we created this category, brushes were being washed using the palm of your hand. We have been awarded over 60 patents on our innovative products, and we became known for our high-quality and solution-driven product engineering.