5 Questions with....Barbara Panagos

Catching up with the founder of Brush Up with Barbara/Mineral Mine Cosmetics

Barbara Panagos

Barbara Panagos, founder of Brush Up with Barbara/Mineral Mine Cosmetics

As a young stay-at-home mother of two boys, Barbara Panagos had plenty to keep her occupied. Certainly there were no grand plans to add another obligation to her busy life. But one day, on a routine errand to her local boutique beauty store to purchase her favorite mascara, the engaging Panagos got to chatting with the store’s owner, who was so charmed that he offered her a part-time job on the spot. It was just a few hours a week, but that was all she needed.

“I got hooked,” recalls Panagos, an admitted life-long makeup addict. “So I started working more days while still being home for the boys. Eventually the owners allowed me to do the buying and I loved that—I was buying, and then I was selling what I was buying!” Soon thereafter, Panagos became a showroom salesperson for a local cosmetics company. She loved her work, but found that some of the application tools she used to perform her job were sorely lacking.

“When I did demos I would see the hairs from the makeup brushes coming off onto clients’ faces,” Panagos says. Determined to respond to the unmet need for better professional products, she founded Brush Up with Barbara in 1988. Eleven years later, building on the success of that business, Panagos founded Mineral Mine Cosmetics. Today the dual company continues to thrive in Long Island, New York, with a contingent of loyal customers and a 20+ staff that includes Panagos’ co-partner husband; son (shipping and purchasing); and daughter-in-law (product development and sales). DAYSPA sat down with Panagos to talk about her company’s success in the beauty industry and the value system that sustains her, professionally and personally. —Linda Kossoff

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1. How has your company managed to remain relevant throughout its 24 years in the beauty industry?
By meeting clients’ needs! We continually add products to our lines: new brush styles, shades and packaging options. And we do our homework: We go to department stores and Sephora to see what’s happening. If we see a shade of concealer that’s popular, we make it. Most of all, we listen to our clients, who call to tell us what they see and what they need. Recently we added a self-branding program for any size company: Clients get free printing with an order of 24 pieces of a brush style, for instance. Or with makeup, for a one-time $50 fee we’ll create a dye plate for that client. Self-branding with a zero or low minimum allows clients to create their own business, their own profit structure. Also, their brand is protected; a regular branded line can go online and become available to anyone 24/7, but when the client’s name is on the product, that product goes directly to them. And customers feel a sense of confidence that they know from whom they’re buying. That’s valuable.
2. Which cosmetics category is hottest right now?
Eyebrows are huge—everyone’s looking for the best brows. Concealers are important, too, whether you’re covering rosacea, varicose veins, tattoos or dark eye circles. And now people need concealers to cover the effects of ‘lunchtime facials’ and post-op bruising. We sell to a lot of dermatologists and plastic surgeons.
3. How would you describe your leadership style?
I like to treat people the way I like to be treated—with understanding and respect—which I think inspires loyalty. Many of our employees have been with us 10 years or more. We’ve done a ton of trade shows and advertising, but we find that most new clients still come from referrals. That’s a beautiful thing to me. I’m also proud that all of our minerals are made by a fabulous chemist here on Long Island. We could do things more cheaply, but we’re talking about products that people put on their faces. I like to sleep at night!
4. Had you not gotten into this industry, what would you have done?
Growing up, I thought I’d want to be a social worker for children. I love being around them (especially my three grandchildren)!
5. What are your three greatest priorities in life?
First is my family—I’m so lucky to live near and work with them! Second is health, without which I couldn’t enjoy the time I spend with my family. I do yoga several times and week, and Latin dancing, to help me stay well. And third is the business. It’s provided me with a good life and, even after 24 years, I still love it.