By Jillian Ruffo
Updated January 26, 2016 02:00 PM
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Obsessed with a YouTuber or beauty influencer’s look? They’re most likely likely wearing makeup from ColourPop cosmetics. See a celeb launching a beauty line? She’s likely chatted with ColourPop (Rumer Willis and Jaime King have both worked with the brand to launch their own colors). And two years ago, they weren’t even on the map.


Pictured: ColourPop’s founder, Laura Nelson; Courtesy ColourPop


When ColourPop first launched, Laura and John Nelson couldn’t have estimated just how hyped the Internet could get about beauty. Their products, which include super matte liquid lipsticks (which existed before Kylie’s), crazy-pigmented eyeshadows, highlighters, and more, all sell for around $5 and provide insane color payoff — the perfect combo to attract the eye of pros and popular amateurs alike.

Makeup artist Kristofer Buckle recently raved to PeopleStyle about the brand’s Lippie Stix in Fighter, which he used on Jessica Chastain at last year’s Met Gala. “It’s a $5 lipstick — a true matte, densely pigmented red lipstick, and it’s great because you get a lot of color payoff without a ton of texture,” he said. “This one looks clean on the lips.”

Beauty influencers on the internet, including Karrueche Tran, ItsMyRayeRaye, Kathleen Lights, and more, have also fallen for the brand, and have partnered with ColourPop to create unique lines of products that they know their fans will go nuts for.

So we got on the phone with Laura to break down exactly what makes her product such a cult sensation. And it boils down to three things: Fast turnaround, willingness to experiment and an awesome network of friends. But we’ll let her explain:

1. Even huge brands start small
“When we launched, it was 31 shades of an eye shadow. We wanted to really address and break down some of the barriers between luxury formulas and luxury cosmetics and accessibility. So the thought process behind that was really to give people the opportunity to experiment with fun, trendy shades without having to make a huge commitment.”

2. And their momentum was an accident
“In the early days, we reached out to influencers from a ‘fan girl’ standpoint. Girls that we loved, that we would see online. So CoffeeBreakwithDani was one of the early YouTube influencers that was giving us shout outs, and Kathleen Lights and Ellarie were also recognizing what we were doing. They really became our early collaborators.”

3. Which is why their “community” determines what they’ll launch next (and they deliver it fast)
“Most of the product categories that we’ve chosen to launch have been based on the feedback from our community. Early on, an influencer gave us some feedback on Instagram, saying ‘If only they had a hot pink shade.’ So we said okay, lets do a hot pink shade — and two weeks later we launched it. After having conversations with our community, our influencers and friends, they encouraged us to bring on a lipstick line, which was the next product category that we created.”

4. They want to approach beauty from as many angles as possible
“It’s important to us that we’re presenting beauty from many different perspectives. One of the ways that we want to be different is by presenting different ideas — so we take one person’s ideas and bring that forward to get the feedback from our community. It’s less about having one model and more about having a collection of different perspectives — that’s what makes ColourPop interesting.”

5. Some of the strongest visions come straight from their collaborators
“Once we created lipsticks, we were having conversations over e-mail and chatting with influencers like Kathleen. And we said ‘Oh my gosh, it would be so fun to do a lipstick together.’ She was like, ‘I’ve known exactly the shade of lipstick I’ve wanted since I was 8 years old.’ There’s never been a collaborator meeting that they didn’t already have a vision. That’s what is so cool about people who are enthusiastic about beauty — many of the people we work with have been thinking about this years before ColourPop even existed. So we provide a platform to bring that to life.”

6. And they’re very involved in the behind-the-scenes process
“We approach our collaborations from a very ‘bottoms up’ perspective — so we want them to be very involved in the process. We want to spend time with them, we want to make sure that they’re in the facility and they’re working with our lab. It’s a very hands-on creative process. So each shade is unique — each texture, each name, and the way it looks.”

7. Their latest partner, Karrueche Tran, created a gorgeous collection
“She has three beautiful matte liquid lips with matching lip liners (which makes it very easy to make sure that you are creating the perfect pout), four eyeshadows, two blushes and a highlighter.”


Kerreuche’s line, KaePop

8. Their sales are driven significantly by influencers
“Our collaborators can generate significant demand because they have amazing influence within the circles that they run. Kathleen’s whole development and launch process happened in about four weeks or so. We then recognized that people really connected with and trusted Kathleen [and] they liked our product, and there was something about the fact that they could be a part of that. We were giving them the opportunity to participate both in her brand and our brand.”

9. But they won’t sell out on you like Kylie’s lip kits will
“We can react very quickly to the demand that’s created through the influencers because we actually develop and manufacture our own products — so we can react to demand in hours. If something is selling out, we can make more immediately instead of having to place an order, which is what has enabled us to grow so quickly over the past year and a half.”

RELATED VIDEO: Style Tracks: Brace Yourself, Kylie Jenner Is Coming Out with a New Lip Color

10. Not all of their partners are humans
“We reached out to Best Friends Animal Society and No-Kill LA — we really love their message, and their purpose. So we created Puppy Love as a way to support their cause — 100% of all of the proceeds go to them. We are very proud of that.”

11. And there’s even more to come in 2016
“I will promise you that its going to be a very exciting year in 2016 for ColourPop and we plan to definitely continue to bring forward different collaborations and partnerships and really cool things in the future. Full speed ahead.”