How I Launched The First Russian Beauty Store In The U.S

Published: April 1st, 2022
Maria Karr
Founder, Rumore Beauty
Rumore Beauty
from New York, NY, USA
started February 2021
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My name is Maria Karr and I’m the founder of Rumore Beauty — the first Russian beauty store in the US. Before launching my own business, I was a beauty industry executive, spearheading PR, communications, and influencer marketing efforts for leading global beauty brands for the past 10 years.

I’m originally from Russia and I’ve been wondering if one day I would have an opportunity to bridge the gap between my American life and my Russian heritage. I created this opportunity through the idea of introducing skincare from my home country - which is rooted in our traditional botanical ingredients and homemade remedies - to fellow American beauty lovers. In just a few months since the launch, we’ve transformed the beauty routines of many people, giving them access to clean, natural skincare products from Russia that addressed their skin concerns and gave them the glowing, velvet-smooth, and healthy-looking skin they’ve been dreaming about.



What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

I was born and raised in Russia and have been living in the US for almost 15 years. New York has been a perfect place to explore what different cultures from around the world had to offer - food, fashion, art, clothes, and beauty products. I’ve been working in the beauty industry for a while, and I’ve been fascinated with global beauty trends and newness that were appearing on the shelves of my favorite stores. Every year more and more innovations from around the world were becoming available to US beauty lovers - from Australia to Iceland and everywhere else in between. While I loved seeing and trying all those products, it made me wonder about beauty products from my home country as there hasn’t been anything said about Russian beauty.

When I left Russia back in 2007, the beauty scene there wasn’t something that could’ve interested a sophisticated beauty lover from abroad. There were very few Russian-made products and they lacked the allure of modern-day beauty - think creams in plain aluminum tubes and harsh soaps.

So, I became curious - was the lack of information about Russian beauty the sign of a lack of actual products available, or was it something else? What is the beauty scene in Russia like these days?

I decided to investigate during my then-upcoming trip to Moscow and stop by a few local beauty stores. To my surprise, in addition to seeing familiar global brands, I also discovered many Russian-born and made products that I haven’t heard of before. Driven by my curiosity, I couldn’t resist squeezing all of the tubes and twisting jars open to try the formulas. I was in disbelief with everything that I was seeing - what I’ve found exceeded my expectations. I was looking at a broad variety of natural beauty products that looked amazing, smelled great, and felt wonderful on the skin. I became instantly obsessed and that left me even more puzzled as to why no one in the US talked about them.

When I got back to New York, I started paying closer attention to the global beauty conversation thinking that I might have missed something, but no, not a word about Russian beauty or all the great brands and products I’ve discovered. So, I thought that if no one was talking about it, I should start this conversation and share these gems from my home country, because they truly deserved attention.

That’s how the idea of launching the first Russian beauty store in the US - Rumore Beauty - was born.

Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.

When the idea was born, my co-founder (who is also my husband) and I wanted to execute fast and launch with an MVP as soon as possible so that we could start learning, testing, and seeing the demand for what we were offering. In addition to developing the site, we had to curate a product assortment and select a few brand partners for the launch.

Since both of us were still working full-time at our corporate jobs as we were building the business, we had to divide and conquer the tasks. So, given my experience in the beauty industry and natural passion for beauty, I was in charge of building relationships with brands, testing products, and curating our initial assortment. My co-founder took on more technical things, such as logistics and site development. We were fortunate to have complementary backgrounds - mine in PR, marketing, and beauty, and his in finance, operations, and management consulting. That’s been very valuable and detrimental to our launch and growth.

Since the initial launch, our site has undergone a couple of makeovers and we know that it will be a continuous work in progress. We’ve been working on updating copy, visuals, layout, and functionalities as we’ve been obtaining feedback from customers and analyzing what’s been resonating with them the most. The product assortment has always been meant to be fluid so that we could introduce new products, highlight new brands and categories.

Describe the process of launching the business.

Rumore Beauty started with a big and bold idea of introducing a new niche category that hasn’t been available before on the beauty market in the US. When we started approaching potential brand partners in Russia, all we had was a big idea and a vision of how we could bring it to life and make it big. Our website was in its early development stages so we had some mockups in our deck instead.

We didn’t have any direct connections to the brands, so my co-founder and I would wake up at 5:00 or 6:00 am to make cold calls to accommodate the time difference with Russia and still be able to start our working day at our jobs on time. We had our target list ready and were just going down the list, working hard to reach the right people across the ocean. After initial phone calls, we started scheduling pitch meetings that allowed us to share our vision and what we could offer, and also learn more about the brands, their philosophy, assortment, and operations. Later, we selected a curated assortment of products and tested everything to ensure quality and a pleasant experience with the product.

The site development was coming along a parallel path. By the end of 2020, we had a working site, agreements with brand partners, and our first product order arriving from Russia right before New Year’s.

In early 2021, we’ve been laser-focused on fine-tuning the platform and gearing up for the launch. As a bootstrapped business, we had to be very resourceful and strategic about using our funds and this is our strategy now - being selective with our resources.

Launching with an MVP has allowed us to learn what our customers might be looking for and adjust later based on the feedback and performance. One important piece of advice to consider for all brands that are getting ready to launch is to always think from a customer perspective and listen to their feedback. At the end of the day, your brand or company is not what you think about it, it’s what your customers think about it - they decide where to spend their money.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

We’re still in the first few months since the launch and we’re adjusting our programs and tactics as we continue to grow and nurture the business. Despite the testing phase, it’s always been important for us to find ways off the beaten path that may bring us results without overspending.

We’ve been experimenting across a variety of social media platforms, from TikTok and Instagram to Facebook, and Pinterest. In addition to creating content ourselves and working with our brand partners on getting visuals assets, we’ve executed a few influencer collaborations, including organic content creation on platforms of their choice and giveaways. The latter has helped us a lot in acquiring an interested, beauty-conscious audience.

Patience and the ability to persevere and push forward become increasingly important as that is what it takes to move from one point to another.

We’re staying connected to our audience through email communication, informing clients about our latest launches, new content on our blog, promotions, and discounts. Also, we’re no strangers to personalized communication - every order that goes out includes a personalized note and from time to time we reach out to our clients asking for their feedback via email. That helps us keep in touch with our growing community and keep a finger on the pulse of the overall consumer sentiment.

Working with the press and getting Russian beauty in front of a broader audience has been instrumental in raising awareness. Coming from a PR background, I understand the value of PR and how it can help grow a brand, especially in its early growth stages. We’ve been very fortunate to get recognition from ALLURE and NewBeautymagazines, as well as other publications with engaged beauty readers.

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

We’ve just started and we have a long way to go in raising awareness for the Russian beauty category. At this time, we’re an e-commerce store introducing a curation of brands and products that are new to the US. And we’re the only ones who are talking about Russian beauty so I anticipate that it will take time before it takes shape and becomes a trend or a category of its own.

However, we see many opportunities for growth and expansion. One of the directions is to expand the assortment beyond skincare, into haircare, body care, and makeup categories, and to continue adding more brands and products to the curation for a more comprehensive Russian beauty experience. Offering more touchpoints to the consumers where they could explore Russian beauty firsthand is another direction that we may explore in the future. I’d love to give it more time to start developing more comprehensive plans that would be sustainable for our business growth and would offer the most value to our growing client base.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

Things don’t happen overnight. The successes that we see in the media don’t usually happen overnight - we are witnessing the tip of the iceberg and have no visibility of all the work, effort, and investment of time and resources that have been going into the seemingly “overnight success.” When you’re just starting, it takes time to finesse the product, figure out what it takes to run a successful operation, and fine-tune other details. Patience and the ability to persevere and push forward become increasingly important as that is what it takes to move from one point to another.

You may have great experience behind your belt, but you will have to learn a lot and step outside of your comfort zone. It may sound challenging but it will be paying off in the long run. As a four-time marathon finisher, building a new business and taking it off the ground is similar to running a marathon: you need to be able to pace yourself, have a strategy in place, don’t compare yourself to others, stay positive and work hard along the way to cross that finish line.

For someone who has been transitioning from a corporate career to running a business, finding an effective way to manage time has been key. When you’re not going to an office, structuring your day and leaving room for breaks and personal, non-business-related tasks is essential. It’s important to carve out some time for exercise, maintain healthy sleeping and eating habits and get enough fresh air to give you the energy that is needed to push things forward.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

We’ve seen a lot of success with Upwork | The World's Work Marketplace for Freelancing - it’s a platform that connects companies with top freelance talent from around the world. You can find freelancers for any need and it’s very easy - create a job posting, browse their rich pool of candidates and either invite those who seem to match the required qualifications or wait for candidates to apply. It’s been helpful for both long-term projects and brief consultations, and you can find candidates that fit your budget and desired level of expertise.

Our store is on Shopify and the platform has a lot to offer! There’s a variety of apps that you can connect to optimize your store’s performance and there are many ways to customize the platform to better suit your needs.

Don’t underestimate the power of learning - take courses, listen to experts, read books, and tune in to podcasts. Thankfully, the digital world has created an abundance of resources that are accessible from anywhere and are free or affordable

Recently, we’ve discovered Share-A-Sale - it’s an affiliate network that gives brands access to an extensive list of affiliate partners. So far, we’ve just started to explore it and there’s so much to learn, but the system looks very promising when it comes to finding opportunities to promote the business and further establish our presence.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

I feel very inspired by female beauty founders who have started their businesses without much money and built their brands from the ground up. Recently, I read Believe It by Jamie Kern Lima, the founder of It Cosmetics. Her story has resonated with me and learning more about her journey gave me a boost of energy and a belief that everything is possible.

Another great book that I discovered earlier this year was Super Maker by Jaime Schmidt, the founder of Schmidt’s Natural. The tips she shared in her book laid the foundation for starting my own business and taught me a lot as a new founder.

My favorite podcasts about the beauty industry are The Glossy Podcast, from the editors of Glossy - one of the most regarded beauty industry publications, and Skincare Anarchy. I felt so honored to be invited to share my story of starting Rumore Beauty a couple of months ago and be featured alongside the leading figures in the beauty space.

You can listen to it here

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

Be patient: you can’t learn a foreign language in a week or a month. Sometimes, it takes years to be fluent and you have to be practicing and learning every day for the rest of your life. I like to compare starting a business to learning a foreign language - it may seem hard and even impossible at the beginning, but if you’re patient, persistent, and hard-working, it will pay off.

Stay passionate: if the challenges start getting in your way, go back to the moment when you came up with your business idea. What made you so excited about it? Why did you decide to leave a comfortable place and bring your idea to life? Think about all of the reasons why you wanted to do it in the first place and let them be your guiding stars as you’re continuing to push forward.

Be curious and continue to learn: I strongly believe that curiosity is key to succeeding - at school, at work, or in business. As a new business founder, I know that I have a lot of things to learn. While I have had strong experience in some areas of the business, other areas are brand new to me and it’s up to me to get to understand them and make them work. Don’t underestimate the power of learning - take courses, listen to experts, read books and tune in to podcasts. Thankfully, the digital world has created an abundance of resources that are accessible from anywhere and are free or affordable.

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

At this time, we’re not looking to hire full-time team members, but we’re working with many talented freelancers from around the world. Our expanded team is very multicultural!

Where can we go to learn more?

In addition to being an e-commerce store, Rumore Beauty is a platform to discover Russian culture through beauty. Our goal is to demystify my home country’s culture, one beauty product at a time.