Photo caption: Vera Moore of Vera Moore Cosmetics | Photo credit: Florence Leyret Jeune
Vera Moore, president and CEO of Vera Moore Cosmetics, never set out to be a trailblazer.
She began her career in the theater and performed more than a decade on Broadway where she was an understudy for Melba Moore in ‘Purlie Victorious’ and worked with the likes of opera singer Kathleen Battle in ‘Treemonisha’ before joining NBC’s Another World.
Her role as Nurse Linda Metcalf on Another World would make her a member of the first Black family on the hour-long iconic soap. During her time on the show, she noticed that the make-up products used on set did not complement her skin tone.
“When I was contracted on Another World, there was a need in the market for quality products for women of color. That was the genesis of Vera Moore Cosmetics. I wanted something soft and natural that would enhance our natural beauty,” says Moore.
The alternative at the time was heavy makeup products that did not look natural, melted under the hot studio lights, and also rubbed off with the slightest touch, shares Moore.
Moore had no idea that one door of opportunity would provide the inspiration for the launch of a line of make-up products that would fill a void in the market for women of color and begin her transition from actress to entrepreneur.
Her ability to capitalize on opportunity would set her apart as a trailblazer and position her for success in an industry with few faces that looked like hers.
Thirty five years after taking the step of faith that would launch her cosmetics line, Moore stands at the helm of a makeup and skincare company with an international reach.
Before an audience of female entrepreneurs at the 2011 Women’s History Month Entrepreneurs Forum, Moore described her journey as one of “risks and rewards.”
“They say we are going to talk about opportunity and challenges … well I am not going to soften it for you, it is risks and rewards, and it ain’t easy,” Moore told the audience of female business owners.
Moore credits her faith in God with helping her to persevere and stay the course on a journey that was not without its challenges.
Blazing New Trails
It would take three years for Moore to get her foot in the door to become the first Black-owned business to integrate the upscale Green Acres Mall in Valley Stream, New York.
When plans to locate her business on the first floor were modified, Moore found herself on the second floor next to the food court, and decided to use it as an opportunity to “turn lemons into lemonade.”
“I would have taken a spot on the roof,” said Moore in a Black Enterprise Business Report “This Week’s Power Player” spotlight on her business.
She risked her house as collateral against the loan that would help establish a retail presence for her business and paid the loan off in 7 years.
Her ability to be flexible and maximize her opportunities would serve her well over the next 30 years as she established her brand in the marketplace.
“I knew there would be herculean challenges, but I continue to keep my faith in God and my eye on the prize,” says Moore.
Vera Moore’s husband, Billy Helms, vice president of Vera Moore Cosmetics and a licensed cosmetologist/esthetician for over 30 years, also contributed his expertise to the company’s success.
The company’s emphasis on “Clean Up versus Cover Up” also would favorably brand her products with consumers.
Not only are Moore’s products used by women of all skin tones and backgrounds, they are used on stage, screen and television and by celebrities, news anchorwomen and Emmy award winning makeup artists.
Products from her early cosmetics line were used on the set of the Cosby Show and are now on display at the Museum of Moving Images in Queens, N.Y. Moore’s products also were used on the set of the Antwone Fisher Story, starring Denzel Washington.
With an established presence in several malls throughout the New York area, Moore had achieved the visibility and credibility to distinguish her company as a staple brand in the cosmetics industry.
“If you can’t get the word out, it doesn’t matter how great the product is if no one knows about it. We were a small family-owned business, and guerrilla marketing was our strength, and the ability to be innovative and turn challenges into opportunities immediately,” says Moore.
But a strategic alliance with Duane Reade’s upscale LOOK boutique in New York, and Walgreen’s acquisition of Duane Reade, would gain national visibility for Moore’s cosmetics line with distribution in 53 select Walgreens.
With her make-up and skin care products available across the country, Moore is focused on the continued growth of her business and also on reaching back to empower others.
“I stand on the shoulders of my mother, father and aunts; domestic workers and a porter. They knew God. I know I am reaping the fruits of their labor, their seeds and my success is only a reflection of their journey,” says Moore.
Growing the Brand
Her daughter, Consuella Helms-Jeune, a licensed esthetician and the national training director for the family-owned cosmetics business, travels throughout the country training store cosmeticians on the usage and advantages of their product line.
Moore’s niece, Gloria Sicard, chief operating officer, also has been a part of the family-owned business since the company’s inception.
Moore also collaborates with a number of talented make-up artists that assist her in representing and promoting the Vera Moore cosmetics line.
“As in any family-owned business there is a repertoire of personalities, and a great deal of peppered
conversations, however, it gives me great pride to watch the Vera Moore Family work harmoniously together and continue to grow the brand,” says Moore.
A sought-after motivational speaker, Moore spoke at the first Urban Economic Council presented by the White House Business Council on Women and Girls and has shared her story with organizations from across the country, including the National Minority Business Council Conference, Small Business Development Centers, the Black Enterprise Entrepreneurial Conference, the Women’s Power Summit and the Women’s History Month Entrepreneurs’ Forum. Moore also serves as a board member of the New York Women’s Chamber of Commerce.
An advocate for women-owned businesses, she values the opportunity to share the expertise and knowledge she has gained.
But her greatest advice, Moore heeded on her own journey.
“Stay humble and don’t get full of yourself. Personally, I remember my core values and never forget from whence cometh my strength. I always pray and ask God to direct my path,” says Moore.
Vera Moore’s 7 Tips for Success in Business
• Do they need your product/service? (Know your market – is it over-saturated, who is your customer, what are your price points, who are your competitors, etc.)
• How will you get the word out? (Now that we have social media it’s a different ballgame. Social media levels the playing field.)
• Develop a business plan (A business plan is essential; banks will not fund your business without one. Immediately build a relationship with your bank. Trust me, you will need them
• Develop a marketing plan (If you can’t get the word out, it doesn’t matter how great the product is if no one knows about it).
• Seek out a mentor in your field (A mentor is always great, especially if they have experience in the field you’re interested in. They can help you circumvent mistakes, if they have already been there, and done that successfully.)
• Obtain an accountant/bookkeeper/lawyer
• Pay your TAXES.
About Vera Moore
Vera Moore has graced the covers of Black Enterprise Magazine, Network Journal’s 25 Influential Black Women in Business, Networking Women, and Empower Magazine. She has been the recipient of countless awards and has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Upscale Magazine and Beauty Store Business. Moore received the Success Stories Award from Volvo Cars of North America and also hosted her own half-hour radio segment “Skin Deep & Moore on WWRL Radio. She also has been featured in Black Enterprise’s Book Collection “Against All Odds” and on a segment of Black Enterprise Business Report. Visit the Vera Moore Cosmetics display at the LOOK boutique in Walgreens, located at 5200 Westheimer, Houston, Texas 77056. For more information, contact vmoore@veramoorecosmetics, call 516-367-6538 or visit www.veramoorecosmetics.com.