In anticipation of the final round of the 2018 Pitch Dingman Competition, the Dingman Center is interviewing each of the five startup finalists about their progress and upcoming challenges as they prepare to compete for the $15,000 Grand Prize on March 6 in the Grand Ballroom of Stamp Student Union. Learn more and register to attend the competition here.
Brianna Queen, Founder & CEO
Junior Information Science major Brianna Queen is the founder of BEEQBOX, a makeup brand targeted to millennials that sells illuminating setting sprays, glitter eyeshadow and lip palettes. Brianna started BEEQBOX in August 2016 as a subscription box service featuring black-owned makeup brands. Once she started getting orders, she decided to work on formulating a product of her own to include. That November, some negative personal experiences gave her the idea to create BEEQBOX’s flagship product, “F*ckboy Repellent”, an illuminating setting spray with packaging that promises its contents are vegan, cruelty-free, all-natural, and will also ward off advances from unworthy men. After sharing a photo of her product on social media it went viral, and was soon featured by popular style sites like Revelist and Instagram influencers who were excited to promote such an on-trend product. As Brianna prepares for Pitch Dingman Competition Finals, she’s looking to take her business to the next level.
DC: Have there been some key decisions or milestones along the way that have led you from an idea to now pitching for $15K?
Brianna: I said to a friend of mine this summer, “This semester, I’m making Deans List and I’m going to the Dingman Center!” I had talked to Chris [Rehkamp, Dingman Center Student Venture Programs Manager,] the previous semester, but the business was just starting to pick up really well and I was getting overwhelmed with school, so I didn’t really follow up with him. So I said, “This is going to be the year. I’m going to go through the competition. I’m going to lay it all out because I know I need help and I need insight from others and not just customers saying ‘Oh, I love your product!'” I didn’t have a business model, I didn’t have a plan for the business. It literally happened overnight. So definitely coming here and going through this competition my goal was to really solidify my business.
DC: What have you learned from the semifinals that will help you better prepare for Finals?
Brianna: Practicing is key. I didn’t research enough of what a pitch was, so I treated it as a class PowerPoint presentation. But it’s absolutely not. It’s kind of like a performance, and that’s something that’s hard for me to do because I’m not the most out there person. In front of a lot of people, being able to perform and act give this elaborate presentation, and really be able to bring people in and tell a story and have them really listen to you—that’s kind of hard for me to do. I’m really trying to nail it down so I’m able to tell the story and not have people stray away because of the vulgarity of the name, or they think it’s a joke, or that I’m just trying to sell some spray. There’s meaning behind it—it is a flagship product and before I made it, there weren’t any other products like that in the market. So I have to research how to structure my slides to look more aesthetically pleasing, and write a script and stick to it and practice it so it’s fluid and people will respect what I’m saying.
DC: What has BEEQBOX been working on since Pitch Dingman Competition Semifinals?
Brianna: What I’m working on right now is really perfecting my product. Recently I’ve been researching how to solidify my packaging, since that’s honestly the only complaint I’ve gotten. I don’t get many complaints. I want to make sure the spray is perfect, and then once it’s perfect I want to market it like crazy. I haven’t done any marketing. All the sales I’ve done have been through word of mouth referrals and social media referrals. I’ve been figuring out exactly how I want to market—if I want to do it myself or hire a marketing or creative firm to help me.
DC: What are some goals you are looking to reach before Finals?
Brianna: Definitely getting my sales up. The holiday season was good, but I will say I haven’t been putting 110% into the business as I was before because of other things that have taken over my life. So I’m getting back on track with posting every day, making sure I’m sending out flash emails to my 13,000 subscribers, and keeping my followers engaged in the business. I haven’t had a day where I haven’t made a sale, but I want to have days where I have sales initiatives and have some milestones for myself even after the competition to really making things more structured and organized.
DC: If you win Pitch Dingman Competition, what will you do with the $15,000?
Brianna: Product solidification—going to a cosmetic manufacturer to look at my formula and see if it’s scalable on a mass production level, because I can’t do everything myself forever. And again, changing my packaging to make sure there are no issues. I really want a heavy-duty fine mist sprayer, and they’re kind of hard to come by. I need something that can hold that pigment and still spray at the same time. A huge chunk is going to marketing. The Revelist video got 2 million views, and just from Facebook shares and comments alone, it brought $8,000 in total sales. Exposure is what I need. I just want to make sure the product is right before I start doing that.
This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.