No Glitter or Highlights Needed for This Buzzed-About Beauty Website

House of Mikko, which lets women recommend beauty products to one another, gets the kind of buzz and user interaction on its website that most businesses dream about: With a simple landing page and low-budget marketing campaign, the company grew its community of users from 100 beta testers to nearly 10,000 members within a few months. The company now boasts more than 82,000 fans on its Facebook page, too.

House of Mikko provides personalized hair and beauty recommendations for women based on their “beauty twins.” New visitors to the site fill out a survey about their skin and hair type and are matched with women with similar characteristics. The goal is to enable everyday women who’ve found — or are in search of — beauty solutions to share advice. “Frustrated women ask friends and women who look like them what they do for beauty products,” explains founder Kimberly Dillon (pictured), who recently quit her day job to run House of Mikko full-time. “I wanted to put online what women typically do offline.”

Dillon came up with the idea for House of Mikko while working at a large beauty company and being privy to misleading marketing for a hair product. “It was being marketed to a specific demographic in Latin America. While it worked well on straight, light-colored hair, someone in R&D had concerns about it working on darker, curly hair. To me, it was interesting that products don’t all work the same on all types of people.”

Dillon tested her concept for a tip-sharing website with potential customers before launching a full-scale online endeavor. She built a simple landing page that featured a 25-question survey and information about what her company would provide to its members. She promoted the page on a shoestring budget, focusing primarily on social media and some beauty-focused Meetup groups. Dillon says she found out exactly what she needed to know in order to move forward. Although she had the “ugliest sign-up form ever,” women still filled it out. “If you can give them the promise of reliable advice on making them look better, they’re going to fill out the form to see what’s next,” Dillon says.

Advice for Other Entrepreneurs

Forget about creating a flashy website before you move along with your business, Dillon says. “Potential customers are understanding about a low-key website, and they’re often willing to explore with you. If you’re waiting for a perfect website, it may be too late for you to be the first mover,” Dillon says. “Get your idea out there to get feedback as quickly as possible. Don’t wait until you have a perfect site together.”

Dillon also recommends engaging with your target audience. She frequently asks her Facebook followers what features they want, from what colors they like to how to describe products or word certain information. “If I ask a question on Facebook, I’m going to get a response instantly. Women love to give feedback,” she says, adding that she only adds items to her catalog that are suggested by users.

Based on customer input, Dillon plans to relaunch the House of Mikko site in early 2012. New offerings include an app called I Love Your Hair, which lets women upload and share pictures of their hairdos, so others can get inspiration and stylist referrals.

About Vanessa Richardson

Vanessa is a freelance writer in San Francisco who writes about small business and personal finance. She has been a staff writer for Money and Red Herring, and now writes frequently for sites like Bankrate, Entrepreneur, MSNBC and Money.
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