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What Fuels Beauty Entrepreneur Sonia Kashuk to Bring Her A-Game

Sonia Kashuk shot by Richard Burbridge low

“I was always big into makeup – a little too much in my younger years!” exclaims makeup artist and founder of Sonia Kashuk Beauty, Sonia Kashuk. As she grew up, however, the beauty entrepreneur – who has created hundreds upon hundreds of items for Target over the years –says she learned how to use cosmetics to enhance, rather than mask, and there within lies her beauty philosophy. “Now I keep my makeup minimal and simple with glowing skin and natural lips as the main focus, adding depth to eyes for meetings or office outings.” But where did her drive and passion stem from and how did Kashuk make the leap from makeup artist to sitting atop a veritable beauty empire? We spoke with Kashuk to find out.

"In the early 80s, you had to be licensed to be a makeup artist, so I did go to school, but on-the-job training is definitely the most valuable," says Kashuk, who adds that you have to be fearless and enduringly passionate to succeed in anything. "Nothing happens overnight; it’s blood sweat and tears." It also helps, she says, when trying to make the jump from being a makeup artist to building your own brand to be a bit crazy! "But what really drove me to start my own line was as a makeup artist, I wanted to bring the best in beauty and make it affordable so that everybody could have access to great beauty products."

More specifically, her brand vision came about in 1997 when she was in stores promoting Cindy Crawford’s Basic Face and felt overwhelmed by the scale of most mass cosmetic companies. She felt that if she was overly confused, what must the average woman be thinking? At the time, in the mass market, packaging was a complete throwaway and there was a huge division in quality from mass to prestige. "I wanted to blur that channel conflict and knew there was an opportunity to bring great quality combined with great design, partnered with affordable prices," explains Kashuk.

Clearly, Kashuk has achieved this with her long-running partnership with Target, which all came to be with a simple phone call. "I picked up the phone and told them I had a great concept. I knew they would understand my aesthetic and allow me to develop the best possible products, so that all women could have access to high-quality, affordable cosmetics. There was no compromise because I was going to mass and I loved being the first makeup artist at mass with truly luxurious products." It's no small feat that Kashuk went mass when it was far from trendy to do so and she clearly has paved the way for countless others to follow suit. "I believe strongly that I am a unique, one-of-a-kind brand that has truly been one of the pioneers in bridging the gap between mass and prestige. I think whenever there is success, it triggers interest for others to go into that space, so I view competition as a compliment and am honored to be a part of the amazing revolution of mass."

As for what drives her passion to continually build her empire, Kashuk explains that what she pays the most attention to is “never believe your own press. There is always something better to do. Never rest on what you’ve already done, always move forward, think about what you can do next and how you can push yourself even further. Success is so yesterday and what you have achieved becomes irrelevant. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done, it's what you’re going to do next. There is always that pressure driving me to stay relevant, new, and innovative."

Career-wise, Kashuk has a lot on her plate, but she's also a wife and a mother. "My office is in the same building where I live so it helps to just be an elevator ride away," says Kashuk. "My son is currently at college, but I do my best to spend as much time with my daughter as I can. She often comes by to the office after school, even helping out on new projects." She underlines that balancing family and work is not an easy task, but that women shouldn't be too hard on themselves. You can't do anything besides try your best. "I often refer to my brand as my third child because I have put so much of myself into it but I think that passion makes me a more whole, developed person — my work is so much a part of me. So as you do with most things in life, you figure it out as you go along."