You Can Do It! Here's How To Turn Your Idea Into A Business

It’s no mean feat, running a successful business. Everything from the images you use to show your product, to how fast you respond to customer queries can make all the difference for a startup. It seems like everyone – from Sophia Amoruso to Phoebe Lovatt – is taking control of their career. So what’s the next step for your eBay, Depop or Etsy shop? Just how do you turn your passion project into a money-making brand? ZOEVA makeup founder Zoe Boikou is the right woman to ask.
Back in 2008, Boikou, having spotted a gap in the German makeup market for high quality, affordable brushes, began selling a handful of tools on eBay. Making a profit, she continued her commerce until 2010, by which time the brand had grown so considerably that she needed to hire a team and a warehouse to expand. Now, ZOEVA employs 70 people, offers a range of 260 products, from brushes to eyeshadow palettes, and sells in 80 countries. A pretty outstanding venture, no?
Boikou, who describes the ZOEVA woman as “contemporary, individual and proud”, schools us on trusting your taste, how to keep going after setbacks, and the importance of being hands-on every step of the way.
Look at what’s already out there to find out what’s missing
“I was looking for great makeup brushes at affordable prices in Germany, but couldn’t find any. The only ones available at the time were either from MAC or Estée Lauder, or cheaper products but bad quality. I googled manufacturers, found one, and tested their powder brush. It didn’t lose its hair, didn’t break or end up on your face. The quality was its selling point. I bought 10 pieces and set up an eBay page. They sold quickly with profit – that’s when I realised there’s a gap in the market.”
Take it slow; growth comes naturally
“I was very conservative because I didn’t want to rush into things. From the profit I ordered the next 10, then the next 20, then I reached 100 before selling brush sets. That was the moment when makeup artists started purchasing from my eBay shop. In 2010 YouTube became very popular for makeup tutorials and customer reviews. That helped grow the business tremendously, because people would test and recommend them, and their followers would buy the products, which would end up selling out.”
Own it
“I chose to manage everything by myself for the first three years. I’d pack the orders, send them out, answer customer emails and phone calls, write product descriptions, take the photos in my living room. I didn’t have any investors, and even today we’re completely independent, so we have no bank loans. When you start doing everything by yourself, you know what’s going on with your business and you know what your customer expects from you. You can react quickly. You have to be deep into the business if you want to get things done. I did a lot by myself because I didn’t want to lose control.”
Believe in evolution
“A lot of ZOEVA’s design has changed. I expected my brand to be something special from the beginning but over the last year it’s definitely evolved. I saw the beginnings of the rose gold and copper trends in interior design but no one was doing that with brushes, so I started doing tests and product development with my manufacturers. It was a huge success, and those brushes are still one of our bestsellers.”
Listen to your audience
“The move into makeup came from the customers. They loved our brushes and asked for colour cosmetics. I saw that in Germany nobody offered eyeshadow palettes, and I believed in that category.”
Have faith in your own taste
“The makeup always comes from my personal point of view – I make colours I would want to buy. I also look around for inspiration in music, theatre, or a movie. It comes from everywhere. If I fell in love with something, I tried to create a theme and tell the story with the eyeshadow palette.”
Social media is your friend
“I think Instagram is a great platform for every business. We use it to express ourselves and to set a standard in the visual presentation of products. We do all of our pictures in-house, but we don’t post something for the sake of it. It has to have value. We also give inspiration to a lot of our followers – I’m so happy to see young women using Instagram to express themselves and to get educated.”
Sort the legal stuff
“You need to take care of the brand name, your trademarks, and the legal sides of your business. Someone starting a new business should take care of that early on.”
Keep on keepin’ on
“Listen to your heart. Be really passionate about what you’re doing. There will be challenges to overcome, but when you reach that challenge, do not give up. Try to get better every day. Don’t be satisfied, always strive for the next level. Get into the game and don’t be disheartened when people turn you down – find someone who believes in you.”
You can buy ZOEVA’s latest eyeshadow palette, The Basic Moment, here.

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