Spela Cosmetics is Proof that a Cruelty-Free, Vegan, Nontoxic Cosmetics Brand Can Succeed
Scaling quickly isn’t Maryam Behrouzi’s priority if it’ll compromise her company’s core values
Maryam Behrouzi is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Spela Cosmetics, a Portland, Oregon based cosmetics company committed to creating cosmetics that are vegan, cruelty free, and nontoxic. After leaving a career in law, Maryam launched Spela in October 2016 with a line of Matte Liquid Lipsticks that have seen widespread success, reaching both small boutiques and national retailers including Credo Beauty, Anthropologie, J. Crew and Free People.
Take me back to the first moment you realized you were serious about launching Spela Cosmetics. What inspired you?
The first moment I thought about starting a cosmetics line was when I was about fifteen or sixteen and still in high school. I was very into cosmetics and the artistry of it, and learnt of Dineh Mohajer — the founder of Hard Candy — and realized that you didn’t have to be a huge company to create a successful cosmetics line. And I loved the idea of creating a cosmetics company since it seemed like a wonderful balance between using your left and right brain.
Years later, after following a very different path (I was practicing law in Los Angeles), I was not totally satisfied. So, I talked to my dad about wanting to start a business and he reminded me of that spark years earlier of wanting to start a beauty company. I decided to look into it and it snowballed into what Spela is today.
I love that Spela Cosmetics is vegan, cruelty free, made in the USA and non-toxic. How are you able to keep these great standards while scaling your business?
Thank you! Keeping our products vegan, cruelty free, non-toxic, and made in the USA has always felt like a no-brainer to me. I know that I wouldn’t be able to do what I do if I didn’t fully stand behind our products, and so that has been and will always be my priority. If I were to cut some corners, I might be able to scale more quickly, but then I wouldn’t feel great about what we stand for as a company. (Editor’s Note: Check out this HelloAlice resource for scaling your business.)
If I were to cut some corners, I might be able to scale more quickly, but then I wouldn’t feel great about what we stand for as a company.
What is something most people don’t know about you?
Oh there’s so much people don’t know about me! One tidbit is that I was a strict vegetarian for thirteen years — from the age of fifteen to twenty-eight. I now eat meat, but I am very conscious about sourcing, and I’m still a huge advocate for animal rights.
Who is inspiring you right now and why?
At this stage in my life, I’m really inspired by the other entrepreneurs I know. I love watching people take an idea and turn it into reality without a road map, especially when they are doing good in the world along with it. For some, it’s that they are creating an amazing service or product, for others it’s creating jobs and teams of employees that are all joyful in and find purpose in what they do. And for some it’s that they use the money they make and reinvest it in their communities and those in need. (Editor’s Note: Register to helloalice.com to connect with entrepreneurs in your area.)
If you had a genie in a bottle and you could get three wishes, what would they be?
This is such a hard question! I think my biggest wish would be to constantly be able to tap into the positive energy around me. There is always good and bad, and the moments that I’m able to tap into the good, I am so energized, fulfilled and content. I would love to be in that state always.
I’d also love to be able to just teleport anywhere I want. Sometimes I really miss my friends and family, or just need a little sun, and it would be so nice to be able to be somewhere else in an instant. and lastly, I would love to be at a place with my business that I could take a full month off every year to go to vacation and really immerse myself in another country and its culture.
Where do you see Spela Cosmetics in 5 years?
I would love to see Spela have a full range of high performing clean beauty products. I want to be a brand that consumers feel that they can trust — something that even the most informed consumers would feel comfortable buying without having to check every ingredient. I’d also like to play a role in helping to change federal policy regarding cosmetics including banning testing on animals for beauty products, and creating greater restrictions on allowed ingredients and labeling.