SPELA Cosmetics: Maryam Behrouzi The Attorney- Turned-Entrepreneur Revolutionizing the Cosmetic Scene
Edited by Dhivyaa Chelvan
The founder of SPELA Cosmetics, Maryam Behrouzi has introduced a conscious beauty craze, inspiring people to embrace the fastest growing trends in cosmetics: clean, vegan, and cruelty-free. Her first steps towards the cosmetics journey began in high school. Maryam lived in a family where academics were given a priority. Though she had done formal art training when she was young, her high school days were focused on academics and could no longer pursue art classes - in consequence, experimenting with artistic makeup became her creative outlet. Her high school had a robust fashion design and drama program and facilitated a "Make-up crew" (in which she was a part of), and Maryam did the make up for all of the drama productions and fashion shows.
“It was around that time when I was 15 or 16 that I learned about Hard Candy Cosmetics, and how the founder was just a young woman who had started it on her own. At that time, I realized, 'Oh! I could start a makeup company and would love to do that'. That’s when the idea first came to me”.
Growing up, it was impressed on Maryam that she must seek a practical career with skills that people need. So, she went to law school and became an attorney. “So many things about the practice of law appeal to me as a person. I became a lawyer and I was working as a lawyer in Los Angeles – I liked it, but I didn’t love it”. As she desired for a little bit of variety in her day to day life and be able to pursue creative aspects, her father reminded her about the cosmetic business idea, and SPELA Cosmetics was born. SPELA currently carries Paint & Play Matte Liquid Lipstick (ultra pigmented formula) in 8 shades and 9-Free Nail Colorin 12 shades, inspired by the neutrals in our everyday life.
1. Where did the name SPELA come from? SPELA means "to play" in Swedish. The formula are EU compliant and the aesthetics are clean, bright, white, and modern line very similar to Scandinavian style. Really for me, makeup is a creative outlet and it is a form of self-expression and kind of tie into the rule of make-up. All the names of our liquid lipstick (our first product launched) are our favorite ways to play: Asana, Happy Hour, Spin, Spa Day etc.
2. What is the inspiration behind the brand values of SPELA cosmetics? The values behind SPELA cosmetics are really my own values as a person. I want to create a product that I love, I feel proud of, and feel proud to stand behind. And so the fact that its non-toxic, vegan, and cruelty-free is based on my personal values.
I did not want to have animal products as part of SPELA because, for the animal products that are used in cosmetics, there is no proper sourcing at all. You have no idea where these products came from, how these animals were treated during their life, and how these animals were killed at the end of their life. So SPELA is vegan, cruelty-free and always will be.
3. How do you formulate your products? I work one-on-one with our manufacturers and chemists to come up with a custom formula and they will source according to our guidelines. (People we work with never do any animal testing or source ingredients that have been tested on animals. That’s part of our initial vetting of who we work with)
I’ll usually come up with product idea including different qualities that I like and ask them to create the products based on SPELA’s guidelines, certain characteristics that we want in the products (we make sure that they are always an EU compliant formula, always vegan, always cruelty-free) and when they formulate something and send a sample, I’ll give feedback. I’ll look through the ingredient list, vet them, and determine if I like to swap something out.
4. Did your previous career as an attorney help your business in any way? Absolutely, I think there’s a lot of benefit of studying law. One of them is being able to prioritize time-line and communicate effectively. Those are the things that touch every aspect of your life and how you engage with other people. But I also do all of our own legal work so that has really helped me.
5. How do you support women and give back to the community? We work with a lot of contractor and independent businesses. Whenever possible, we hire women-owned businesses to work for us. Other than that, I’m also part of local a non-profit in Portland (womenled.org) where I’m one of the founding board members. We create peer mentorship groups and resources for women business owners and help them thrive.
6. What is the biggest challenge you encountered as you envisioned SPELA and how did you overcome them? Doing it for the first time, I had a lot to figure out. Especially there are so many elements and so many hats I had to wear. Being patient and persistent got to where I envisioned.
7.What are the next products in line for SPELA Cometics? A multi-stick with sheer buildable color. I am looking forward to it. It is super versatile and extremely flattering. Another product in its early stages is a tinted sunscreen with SPF 50. It’s very promising and I am really excited about the sunscreen that isn’t chalky.
8. What advice do you have for women who want to start their own businesses? Really just do it and ask for help. A lot of people think they don’t know. I think if you have something you really want to create, start doing it.