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Manna Kadar: International Influencer

"Beauty Mogul" ploys sales push via discount retailers

A focus on glamour has helped build Manna Kadar into an internationally known brand.

A focus on affordability is expected to push her namesake company, already among Orange County’s better-known cosmetics firms, into the stratosphere in terms of sales.

Kadar expects the Irvine-based maker of skin, hair, bath and numerous other beauty products, which she founded a decade ago, to more than double in revenue next year.

Revenue projections of $25 million in 2023 are primarily driven by Manna Kadar Beauty doubling its retail door count to over 80,000. Much of that increase will be from discount retailers, such as Dollar Tree Inc. and 99 Cent Only Stores.

“It’s not sexy,” Kadar told the Business Journal, of the push into discounters. “But does sexy matter, or does profitability matter?”

Manna Kadar Beauty ranks No. 38 in the Midsize category of the Business Journal’s Fastest-Growing Private Companies list, the centerpiece of this week’s edition (see Special Report, starting on page 27).

Revenue for her company has grown 33% over the past two years.

New Discounters 

Profitability from discounters, unlike other big cosmetics retailers such as Nordstrom Inc.

(NYSE: JWN) and Sephora, are often more straightforward, said Kadar, who started her firm after a career in corporate banking.

If a discounter orders 5,000 units of her products, the seller earns the profit for that amount, whereas sellers may not reap the total profits from an order with other retailers due to lenient return policies.

For higher-end retailers, “what you sell it to them for is not the net profitability,” she said.
The strategy leverages the affordability of discounters and the everlasting demand for beauty products.

“Historically, [discounters] have been recession proof,” she said. And “beauty is one of those categories where, when the proverbial s**t hits the fan, you still want to look good and feel good.”

“What makes you feel good for not a lot of money? Lipstick or [any] small self-care item you cannot feel guilty about.”

Kadar’s company began entering discounters in 2020 via chains such as Five Below Inc., Macy’s Backstage, an off-price channel for the department store retailer, and Nordstrom Rack  last year. The latter two added about 5,000 more doors for the company, which made the pivot to offset the pandemic-driven recession.

New discounters on the Manna Kadar Beauty’s roster include Dollar General Corp. and East Coast store Bell’s, among others. Typical discounter offerings by the company run from $2.50 for an eight-piece lip stain set and $5 for a three-piece mascara set.

Personal Connection 

Discounters, for Kadar, are a profitable and personal venture that ties back to her late mother.

Kadar’s mother, who raised her as a single parent, struggled to make ends meet, said the exec, who bought her first cosmetics store at a local mall at age 16. Money from the venture helped pay for her finance degree at USC.

“Up until the point she passed, she was still very frugal,” she said of her mom.
She wishes her mother could experience the affordable luxury items her company now offers when Kadar was growing up.

That’s why “being able to create really beautiful products so that women of whatever income or whatever circumstances can feel good” about themselves is special to her.

“As a parent, I see now what my mom sacrificed,” says the mother of two; her first son Mason inspired the name for her Mason Man grooming and skincare line for men.

“Usually, parents sacrifice anything extra of theirs so you can have whatever experience, especially when there’s very little money around.”

Other lines offered by the company include Manna Kadar Bath & Beauty, maternity cosmetics line Beauty & the Bump and pet care line Haute Dog.

Package Re-Engineering

While Kadar is marketing glamour, some aspects of running the business are often anything but.

Like many others, her firm’s been working overtime to overcome record high shipping costs and supply chain delays.

The company saw a “tremendous” rate hike for shipping early in the pandemic, with rates up 300% more than they usually were.

“I don’t know why more wasn’t done to try to control that,” she said, noting that one of its shipping containers sat unattended for about four months.

Rising shipping costs drove up prices on the company’s products. To make the most of less shipping containers and to keep price raises to a minimum, Kadar’s company reengineered its packaging to take up less space.

Some of its retailers didn’t take the cost increases well, she said.

“There was a line we had to stand because, at the end of the day, we’re all in this together to all have profitability. I don’t feel it’s fair that a certain party of the chain should bear the burden of everything, [while] then the other side can reap the profit. We determined that we didn’t want to do business with certain people anymore, because they didn’t align with the company’s ethos.”

While shipping costs have fallen today, the company is still seeing supply chain delays due to a truck driver shortage and strike.

“It’s just managing crises every day,” Kadar said.

Hair Care Line 

The obstacles haven’t stopped Kadar’s company from expanding its product offerings.
The company earlier this year launched Mane, a new hair care line.

Mane, Kadar said, was inspired by the lack of textured hair products in the hair care market. The idea came to her after a representative from a retailer told her their stores had plenty of available shelf space for that type of hair product.

“When we did the market research on multicultural, textured hair, there wasn’t an abundance of options for customers. And, from an aesthetic perspective, a lot of the packaging just looked the same.”

Kadar took those findings as a challenge to not only add to an undersaturated market, but also to create a product that stood out on the shelf.

“The feedback has been really phenomenal,” she said.

Lifestyle Brand 

Lifestyle is the next step for Kadar’s beauty brand. The company has already begun selling makeup organizers, among other home products. A couple years ago, she began working with Amazon as part of the e-tail giant’s influencer program, to build awareness for her own brand. She’s done numerous livestreams for Amazon, somewhat akin to an updated version of TV home shopping networks.

The company plans to sell a home decor collection of 10-item sets, showing customers how to style the products in their homes, whether they buy just one item or all 10.

“It’s taking the guesswork out of home decor.”

Name in Lights

Manna Kadar is making headlines overseas.

Last month, she was featured on the cover of the Vietnamese edition of Harper’s Bazaar, the fashion magazine called the exec a “Beauty Mogul.”

“I think they’re looking past these 10 years,” Kadar said of the recognition. “When I started the company, it’s not something I even thought was within the realm of reaching.

“If a girl from Rosemead can do it, I can do it too,” Kadar said of working to be a trailblazer for fellow women in business. “It was a great moment for women of color, female-owned companies, mom-treprenuers—it was such a big win.”

Her team hosted a celebratory cover release party, with a “pink carpet,” at the Hotel Laguna in early August. Among attendees was L.A. celeb fashion photographer Jim Jordan, who took the photos for the magazine.

The event also highlighted Kadar’s chosen charity, Miracles for Kids, and along with the event’s partner Coin Up LLC, a donation app.

Guests at the event were surrounded by multiple beauty products on display and photo walls featuring the magazine shoot spread across the recently revamped hotel’s patio.
—Emily Santiago-Molina

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