Melt Cosmetics Co-Founders Dana Bomar & Lora Arellano Talk Building a Makeup Empire (Exclusive)
By Latifah Muhammad
Doug DeFelice/Stage 13
Dana Bomar and Lora Arellano are building a Lipstick Empire!
The 30-year-old CEOs and co-founders of Melt Cosmetics have millions of followers on social media, and fans are getting an even closer look inside their busy lives on a new 13-episode digital reality series from Stage13.com, Lipstick Empire, which gives a day-to-day look at the work they put into running their successful brand.
“We were really scared to put it out there,” Arellano told ET last month during an interview at the Melt Cosmetics headquarters in Chatsworth, California. “There had been other production companies that came up to us to try and start a show based around makeup artists, or the business, but we never wanted to be put out there in the wrong way. We weren’t going to do catfights, we weren’t going to talk s**t about each other behind each other’s back, that’s not even what we do. We just wanted it to be fun and inspiring for other girls our age, or for women who feel stuck in their job that have a dream to do something bigger. We’re proof that your dreams can come true.”
In addition to running a multi-million dollar company, Arellano doubles as a celebrity makeup artist, whose clients have included Rihanna, Iggy Azalea, Nicole Scherzinger, Serena Williams, and Viola Davis. Bomar has worked in the makeup industry since she was 18 years old, but five years before they founded Melt, the then-aspiring entrepreneurs were employees at Nordstrom’s, where they became “instant friends” while working for competing makeup brands.
“I would always vent to her about how I didn’t like the position. I wasn’t able to be as artistic as I wanted to be or have artistic freedom,” Arellano, who went to school for makeup, recalled. “We sat down for lunch one day and I told her I always wanted to start a makeup brand, and she said, ‘I’ve always wanted to start a lipstick brand, let’s just do it!’”
It seems that fate may have also played a part in bringing the two together.
“The first week that I started working at the makeup counter, some random old man came up to me, he was looking at the [makeup] and was like, ‘You know, you can make these and you sell these and make tons of money,’” revealed Arellano. “I said to myself, ‘No I can’t, you need money for that,’ and he said ‘It’s cheaper than you think. One day you should try it.’ He told me that the first week I worked at the counter.”
“I was cleaning lipsticks,” she remembered. “He came up and said that to me and walked away. I worked at that counter for five years, and I didn’t even think about it until recently, that somebody came up to me and said that and it actually happened five years later."
Bomar had a similar experience with a customer when she worked at a Neiman Marcus in Las Vegas, Nevada.
“A lady came up to me and said, ‘What are you doing here?’ And I told her ‘What do you mean?’ and she was like, ‘You need to be in Los Angeles, why are you here?' and I was like, ‘OK’ and I moved.”
After Bomar moved to L.A. and became friends with Arellano, the two started talking about launching their own line. Arellano admits to being a little apprehensive after they discussed the business idea, because she had conversations with other friends who weren't as serious as she was about the idea. But within two days, Bomar had already researched start-up costs and would eventually reach out to labs potentially interested in working with them.
"From my perspective, it didn’t seem like a casual conversation and I took it and ran with it instantly,” Bomar said. “People ask us a similar question all the time which is, ‘How do you start? Where do you begin?’ and the truth is I just started Googling labs in our area and just started trying to set up as many meetings as possible. It’s really time-consuming, we heard so many no’s before a handful of people said ‘OK, come in we’ll listen to what you want to do.’ That beginning part was really challenging, but we started from that conversation and just started moving, instantly.”
While Melt was in its early stages, Bomar kept her day job as a makeup artist with Smashbox Cosmetics.
“I held on to my job, because I didn’t know what [Melt] was going to be,” she shared. “It was before anybody made any sort of online social media direct-to-customer brand. Nobody did it that way before. We had a decent amount of followers [on Instagram] when we launched the brand, but we didn’t know what that meant, so I was nervous to quit [my job].”
The first line from Melt Cosmetics (which began with bold lipsticks and has expanded to include an array of colors as well as matching lip liners, stackable eyeshadow pallets, and more) sold out instantly. Arellano and Bomar were then faced with a new task: producing enough inventory to fit the customer demand.
Things were starting to take off. After getting recognized around L.A. for her work with Melt, Bomar finally left Smashbox, while Arellano's social media presence landed her an "amazing" and "inspiring" gig as Rihanna’s makeup artist, which took her on tour with the superstar.
“She’s fearless,” she said of the “Wild Thoughts” singer. “Every celebrity that I work with is fearless and so amazing. It’s very cool being a part of this world, being a CEO of a brand, and being a makeup artist. It’s really awesome.”
Celebrity clients have become a focus group of sorts for the Melt brand. Arellano tests out different samples on her clients, and typically puts her products next to other brands to see which one they go for first.
“I always love the stories after your jobs where you’re like, OMG this person loves this lipstick they wanted to keep it!’” Bomar gushed.
“That’s always a good sign,” Arellano added. “If they gravitate towards the strange thing or the thing that they’ve never seen, it’s a good sign that I’m doing something right.”
Although working with friends can be tricky, Bomar and Arellano say they “totally balance each other out.”
“We always have the same vision, but our approaches to the vision are different," Bomar said, before noting that Arellano is her biggest cheerleader. "Sometimes we don’t agree on the little things, or how to get there, but it always makes us stronger,”
“The best thing about working with Dana is she’s really supportive and positive all the time, because I’m not. Sometimes I’m a drag to be around because I’m like, ‘Oh my god! Something’s going wrong, the [makeup] line is dead. Everything is over,’” Arellano joked. “She’s always the positive one who's like, ‘We’re going to be okay, we’ve done this before.’ In the end, she’s right. We figure it out.”
Looking forward, Bomar and Arellano will soon expand the brand to the U.K., and plan to open Melt Cosmetics stores one day.
They also want to continue inspiring women and girls to chase their dreams. "What’s the worst that can happen? If you take a chance and you completely fail, at least try to make your money back," Arellano advised. "If not, then you can go back to your 9-5. But if you take a chance and it’s great, like what happened to us, then it’s the best thing you could ever done."