Updated: Dec 4, 2020
When Lipcandy founder Basmatee Shah realized she wasn't feeling fulfilled in her media career anymore, she made the brave, bold decision to start her own lipstick (and balm and serum and gloss...) line.
Four years ago, Basmatee Shah's life looked very different. She was working in media sales at a company where she'd long been an employee, but the industry she knew and loved was changing drastically around her. And something wasn't sitting right. "It just wasn't satisfying anymore," she says. "And I knew it wasn't what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. But I also knew I didn't want to start over, working for someone else in a new industry. I wanted something for my own."
At the same time, Shah had started to take an interest in the ingredients side of the beauty industry. "I've always loved makeup, but I didn't know that much about what was in some of my favourite products," says Shah. "When I started to research, I was appalled to learn that the standards for makeup products is actually pretty loose. In the US, the standards haven't been updated in years." Thus, the seed for Lipcandy was planted, as Shah soon discovered there weren't many lipstick producers out there who were manufacturing lip care products made from all-natural ingredients. So, after some serious legwork, she sourced a mould from overseas and began teaching herself to make lipstick.
Shah's second love is cooking, which lent itself well to her tinkering with lipstick formulas in her kitchen. "I just worked and worked on the recipe," Shah says, with a laugh. "I tweaked and tweaked the formula until I was happy with it."
And Shah was doing all of this on the side of her nine-to-five job.
Eventually she started looking into where she could sell her burgeoning lipstick line. Yorkdale Mall in Toronto was the first place to show interest. "I applied for a cart and didn't hear back for ages, but they called out of the blue one day to ask if I wanted to be a part of a prom promotion they were doing," Shah said. She was elated—but there was a catch. She'd have to be there to staff her cart as often as possible, meaning she'd need to take time off of work. Her boss balked and Shah remembers coming home and saying to her husband, Arthur, "I wish I could just quit."
"You can," he said. Shah was admittedly a little surprised, but needed no further motivation. She resigned from her position on a Friday and started at Yorkdale on the following Monday. Yorkdale extended her stay long past prom season, for a total of three months. Since then, she's also had kiosks at Scarborough Town Centre, Square One and Hudson's Bay at Toronto's Eaton Centre as a featured green beauty seller. She always maintains her direct-sales website.
Presence isn't the only expansion, either: Lipcandy has grown from lipsticks to lip serum, lip balm and lip gloss, with no signs of stopping. The arrival of the pandemic in 2020 put a damper on sales, but Shah is looking to better times ahead, with many plans in the works for the future of Lipcandy. Because after masks? "If ever there will be a time for a bold lip, it's coming."
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