tonya thompson: building a beauty empire
by Emily Merrell, photography by Amy Long & Kayla Macomber
Be A Bombshell Cosmetics might be one of Jonesboro’s best kept secrets. Unbeknownst to many, the multi-million dollar company created by Tonya Thompson produced more than 10 million units in 2016 and has doubled in size every year since its inception in 2011.
In addition to running this successful business, Thompson also owns three other beauty brands, Hikari Cosmetics, INT Cosmetics and South Mane, as well as Adara Boutique in Downtown Jonesboro. Thompson gracefully oversees all four cosmetic brands, collectively called Thompson Beauty Brands, and her boutique, all while raising two children under the age of 5.
For Thompson, balancing work and home life can be challenging, but she says it’s possible because of a helpful staff and an organized schedule.
“I believe that we currently have the strongest and most efficient teams that we have ever had,” said Thompson. “I am very fortunate to have two amazing teams both at Adara Boutique and Thompson Beauty Brands. They all give 110 percent, and I could not run both businesses successfully without them.
“I have also had to put myself on a schedule. As a business owner, you always have things to do, and everything is easily accessible on your phone, iPad and even your watch. I have learned to not answer any work emails or calls from the time I get home until I put my kids to bed. Also, weekends are all about our kids. If you are on a schedule, you are not tempted to check your email. That could easily snowball into a couple of hours of work.”
Thompson got her start at Dillard’s as a buyer for Clinique, working her way up to brand manager. Then she and her husband, Josh, both traveled extensively, decided they wanted to settle down in Jonesboro and start a family. In order to have more control over her schedule and travel less, Thompson set out to start her own business. With a background in product development and a passion for makeup, she decided that she wanted to own a cosmetics company. Thompson spent a year creating the brand and developing the line, and Be a Bombshell launched online in September 2011.
From the beginning, Be a Bombshell Cosmetics worked with Ipsy to sell products. Ipsy is a makeup subscription service that provides more than 2 million customers with monthly deluxe samples and full-size beauty products. Thompson says her company’s partnership with Ipsy has been very beneficial for Be a Bombshell.
“When we did our first product with Ipsy; it was a black felt tip eyeliner, and 10,000 pieces of that went out,” she said. “And then we got orders online like crazy, because it was the new kind of eyeliner—everyone loved it. Then we had tons of bloggers that blogged about it, because this was when beauty subscription boxes were just starting. It was a huge trend. It still is. Now there are over 2 million people who get Ipsy. So we worked exclusively with them at first, and then we got all these requests from other boxes. So that’s just how we grew.”
As Be a Bombshell Cosmetics experienced more success, Thompson and her team realized there was another type of customer they could reach with a new brand.
“We developed Hikari for the more sophisticated customer,” said Thompson. “Not necessarily more mature, they just like a more neutral color palette. They like more matte colors, more subdued names. So, we launched Hikari in 2013 with Ipsy, as well.”
Thompson was especially busy in 2013—besides the launch of a second cosmetics brand, she also opened Adara Boutique in November. Thompson initially bought the building, located in Downtown Jonesboro on Union Avenue, as office space for Be a Bombshell, but decided it would be a perfect spot for a small boutique that would still have room for office space in the back. However, Adara rapidly grew, and eventually Thompson Beauty Brands was moved to another location so that the boutique could expand.
Although Thompson has already had an incredible amount of success with her business ventures, the future looks even more promising. Be a Bombshell and Hikari Cosmetics will be launched in brick and mortar stores this year after having only been sold online for the first six years. Later this year, Thompson will also launch two more brands—INT Cosmetics, a value brand for mass market stores, and South Mane, a line of hair care and bath products such as bath bombs and scrubs.
Thompson says she is looking forward to the brands’ venture into brick and mortar sales.
“It’s been a long time, but we’ve grown substantially every year, (and) we’ve also been smart about how we’ve grown,” she said. “We’ve had offers in the past, but they weren’t ideal for us and we thought it would hurt our business overall, so we’ve been really smart and strategic about who we’ve picked to partner with.
“That’s worked to our advantage, though. So, this year we will finally launch into stores, and it’s very exciting for us. And I think we’re finally ready, too. I think that’s a big thing to do, and I know from my past experience as a buyer how much work that takes, so we just waited for the right partnership and the right people to work with.”
While Be a Bombshell, Hikari and INT Cosmetics are designed with varying consumers in mind, Thompson prides herself on all brands being affordable, yet excellent and unique.
“We offer our customers a highly pigmented, high-quality product at a really great price,” said Thompson. “We also approach beauty from different aspects, looking for ways to present a new take on traditional cosmetics. A great example of that is our Hikari cream pigment eyeshadow. That product is a unique metallic eyeshadow formula that’s creamy and gives great coverage without creasing. It’s not like anything else on the market. We strive to do unique things across all three brands while appealing to different segments of the consumer market.”
Being headquartered in Jonesboro is another factor that Thompson says sets her brands apart from their competition while also keeping them grounded.
Said the businesswoman: “A lot of people don’t know Be a Bombshell is in Jonesboro, and when they find out, they send emails through customer service, like, ‘Oh my gosh, I went to school there!’ When we go to travel shows or any trade shows, people always ask us if we’re on the East or West Coast, and I say, ‘Nope, we’re in the middle. We’re in Jonesboro.’ It’s nice, though, to be a little different.
“People are always like, ‘Those are the nice Southern girls.’ We are nice to everyone; I think you should be. … I don’t think it ever hinders us to be in Jonesboro. I think if anything, it grounds us more. We’re not involved in all kinds of other things. I think it helps us a lot; I think it’s worked for us.”
Despite the stress that comes with running multiple businesses, Thompson is passionate about her products and loves the rewarding feeling of pleasing her customers.
“The most rewarding part of our work is seeing our products in the hands of happy and satisfied consumers,” she said. “Our team works really hard on our products, and we design everything from the component the product comes in, the product itself, the exact color, the name, the formula, and even the box it is packaged in. it is important for us to put the best possible product out there for our customers. When we get amazing reviews and sell out of a product, our hard work has paid off.”
For more information about Thompson Beauty Brands, visit thompsonbeautybrands.com.
THOMPSON’S PREDICTIONS FOR 2017 SPRING AND SUMMER MAKEUP TRENDS:
Glitter, glitter and more glitter.
“We travel the world to beauty shows and are fortunate enough to see all the trends early. From Hong Kong to Las Vegas, every single show has had tons of glitter, which we love. Glitter for the lips and eyes, even in crazy colors. Most of these are wearable for anyone and come in sheer formulas for just a hint of color and sparkle.”
Highlighting with soft pinks.
“It is very subtle and works on almost all skin tones.”
Electric colors and neon for a pop of color.
“These are fun colors, and if you aren’t comfortable with bright colors on your eyes or lips, try it on your nails.”
Dual colored eyeshadows.
“These are always popular, and there are several variations of this trend. In everything from neutrals to brights, you should be able to find one that works for you. These are also great for travel.”