The story of a successful business run on Zoho Commerce.

 

Sandra Milligan is the might and brain behind the cosmetics and skincare line Illumalift™. A salon professional for 25 years, Sandra’s entrepreneurial story started with her reactive skin. Though she was a makeup artist and had access to various kinds of products, none of the so-called “products for sensitive skin” helped her get over her skin inflammation issues.

With Illumalift, Sandra gave a gift to the world—clean beauty solutions that are cruelty-free and vegan. All product formulations are strictly without parabens, phthalates, gluten, animal-derived ingredients, oils, and fragrances. This made Sandra and Illumalift the flag-bearer of beauty products that addressed the needs of people who wish to look youthful and fresh but are prone to sensitive skin.

Today, Sandra manages her career as a salon professional, teaches an online course on dealing with customers from the moment they step into the salon and runs Illumalift, which has been successful even in an extremely competitive market.

We have always been in awe of Sandra. On this Women’s Day, we asked her to talk about her life and to share her experience of running a company. We hope it will be inspirational for all the budding entrepreneurs!

Sneha: Hi Sandra, thank you for making time for us! Let’s start with your inspiration. What gave you the idea to start your own brand and the Illumalift line of products?

Sandra: The products were born because of an absolute need. I have suffered from reactive skin my entire adult life. It started with cystic acne in my early twenties. Being a makeup artist, I had access to anything I needed, but there were little to no options for my very sensitive skin. Even when products would be deemed “for sensitive skin,” I would have issues like itchiness, redness, and inflammation. I started making products because I needed them—a typical story of how any problem gets solved, I guess.

Sneha: Beauty formulations is a very competitive space. What makes Illumalift stand out?

Sandra: My products are a mix of science and nature. I love the elements that nature brings to self-care, but I am also a factual person that is not easily swayed by marketing gimmicks. My products are free of all things harmful to skin, and I am passionate about creating products that are effective as well. My strategy is pretty simple, I make products that do what they say they are going to do and believe in always over-delivering to our clients. Once customers use our products, they realize the quality of our ingredients. That’s why we are so passionate about making clean beauty for reactive and sensitive skin types.

Sneha: You have been in the industry for a long time. What do you feel about the progress the industry has made, and how have you adapted?

Sandra: Well, I have been in the industry for almost 25 years now, so I have seen so much change. Now I’m halfway through my third decade! I am self-funded and still own my company. So funding is the next step to getting more growth now, but I am really proud that I have created products that help people, make them feel better about themselves, help them heal and manage their problem skin, and give them simple solutions to everyday life. 

Sneha: You have a very loyal customer base. How did you get here? Any tips for the budding entrepreneurs out there to reach the same heights as you have? 

Sandra: That process takes time, and we give our clients a white-glove approach and treat them as if it’s their first purchase each time. In this busy climate, it’s easy to get lost and move on, but customers value a connection, and I try to be present to them in all aspects of the business so I know what they need and want. We cannot improve if we don’t know what is happening with our company’s day-to-day operations and client relationships.

Sneha: Wise words! Building a business from scratch is difficult. If I were to put you on the spot and ask for three tips for growing a new business, what would you say? 

Sandra: Well, I would say first, be authentic. If you stand for something, then do not veer away from that message. We are about clean beauty for sensitive skin, and our product offering speaks to that message in all that we do in our marketing.  

Second, your niche is everything to your brand, so speak to your true customer, the customer that is your biggest fan and will recommend you because they believe in what you are doing and not because you do the most giveaways!  

Third, be active in your social media and give your customers a reason to stay with you. Don’t spam them with constant contact, but when you do connect with them, make it relevant and worth their time to see and engage with you.

Sneha: Talking of social media, how strong is your presence on the platforms? Is there a specific approach you follow?

Sandra: We are on all platforms but mostly connect with our customers through Instagram. We do use a lot of the same media across the platforms but target our hashtags accordingly. Our strategy is pretty simple—give relevant content, be consistent, and stay in our niche!

Sneha: What is your secret to success? How do you cope with the difficulties that come intertwined with having your own business?

Sandra: Every day there are struggles as an entrepreneur, but what I can tell you from a lifelong journey as an entrepreneur, since the age of 15, I have always done something I am passionate about. I have had a few different businesses, but they have all made me jump out of bed and drive my passion for success. When you love something, you are never working—you are experiencing your life on your own terms and learning every single day. Do something that will challenge and test you, and it will be so worth it.

Sneha: Finally, tell us more about the time when Zoho Commerce became your technology partner. 

Sandra: Zoho Commerce has been a great tool for me. I have been using it since this past year. I have multiple brands in my business and I have integrated two brands to the Zoho platform so far. What I love is that I am seeing things about my business I never knew—stats and real-time changes that I would have had to do manually before—and now it feels like everything is speaking to each other across the platforms. It is quite amazing actually. Zoho has so many features—I am not even halfway through its capabilities, but I am always excited to learn more and implement new apps and features that simplify my day.

Sneha: Thanks for the vote of confidence, Sandra! Thank you for sharing your story and your insights with us.

To learn more about Sandra and her Illumalift line of products, visit illumalift.com.

If you have any further questions for Sandra or you wish to write to us, please feel free to reach out to sneha.j@zohocorp.com.

6 comments

  1. Congratulations Sandra. A true womanenentrepreneur!!!
    I am so proud of you and your accomplishements.
    You are a true role model!!

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