The best beauty products are born out of necessity. Such was the case for Miranda Coggins, the founder, CEO and co-owner of The Lano Company. “The whole company started because I have chronically chapped lips that would peel and bleed,” she says. When she found a solution, Miranda knew consumers could benefit from her secret weapon, too.
The idea came to Miranda in December 2003, following the birth of her daughter. While she was breastfeeding, she used medical-grade lanolin, a wax derived from sheep’s wool, often prescribed for chapped, sore nipples. “I put it on my lips and they were healed for the first time in 30 years,” Miranda says. When she tried searching for a lanolin-based lip balm, she couldn’t find one. And then, a light bulb went off.
“I was having lunch with a girlfriend of mine and I said, ‘I have a million dollar idea,’” she says. Miranda rushed home after picking up some natural products and began concocting a formula for a lanolin-based lip balm. “[My husband] Layne always makes the joke that it’s the only time the stove has ever been turned on.”
The Cogginses recently sat down with Beauty Store Business to discuss The Lano Company’s history and their latest venture, the acquisition of Mirabella.
Miranda spent the next several months playing with different formulations of all-natural ingredients like jojoba oil, sweet almond oil and vitamin E. “I had no experience as a chemist, and really didn’t know if the formula was stable,” she says.
After spending about six months looking for a lab that was willing to work with her, Miranda found one out of Florida. She innovated a lip balm using the purest form of lanolin–the same kind that breastfeeding mothers use. Once she had the formula down, the next challenge was figuring out how to manufacture it. So, she enlisted help by paying people to fill lip balms out of her basement. “It was pizza at noon and beer at 4:30. That’s how we got people over,” she laughs.
“I truly believe that we can be the No. 1 salon professional brand by the end of 2018, as far as a full cosmetic line.”
–Miranda Coggins, founder
Layne, co-owner of The Lano Company, says, “We literally had people over to fill lip balm all day long. Our basement was a weird, archaic factory.”
In 2005, The Lano Company was offi- cially founded. After successfully selling her all-natural lip balms, Miranda created another product: massage oil candles.
By 2007, she debuted Light-Up Lip Gloss, which quickly became her company’s hero product. “We took that same great formula we had in the lip balm and decided to put it in the light-up tube with a mirror and color–and it just took off.”
It was around that time that Layne joined the business, and began negotiating contracts with distributors. The Cogginses ran the company out of their home for four years, until they couldn’t keep up with the demand any longer. At one point, they were selling 10,000 lip glosses a day–out of their basement.
“At the time we didn’t really under- stand what a distributor looked like, so of course we didn’t have our pricing right. Not coming from the industry and start- ing from scratch was much more difficult than I assumed,” Miranda says.
The Cogginses soon realized that they wanted to expand their product range, so in 2009, they launched Pure Cosmetics, an affordably priced, high-quality, paraben-free makeup line. For the next few years, business continuously boomed, and the couple instituted The Lano Company’s headquarters in Kansas City, Missouri.
In 2015, the Cogginses debuted Pure Lano, an all-natural skincare line based around their star ingredient, lanolin. Unlike the immediate success the cosmetics saw, their skincare line faced a few unique challenges. First, the couple found that the skincare market was more competitive and highly saturated; second, it was difficult to educate people about the benefits of lanolin, an ingredient that many consumers to this day don’t know much about. “We’re getting ready to launch in Australia, where people really understand the healing benefits of lanolin more than the U.S. customer,” Miranda says. Layne adds, “The response to the product now is great, but we do not have the same reach that we do on the cosmetics.”
THE FRESH FACE OF MIRABELLA
With the goal of concentrating on color cos- metics, the Cogginses acquired professional mineral-based makeup brand Mirabella on February 22, 2017. Mirabella was founded in 2002 by salon owner Christy Thurston. From 2006 to 2016, Mirabella was run by president and owner John Maly, who Miranda highly commends for establishing brand awareness and loyal customers over the last 10 years. “By the time we acquired it, Mirabella needed a lot of TLC,” Miranda says of the company, which was suffering from inflated costs of goods, a lack of communication with customers and complications with moving product nearing its expiration date.
“The problem was, a lot of the products had not been ordered, so we had to make some difficult decisions,” Miranda says. Rather than reordering the same products, they decided to completely rebrand Mirabella, while staying true to the brand’s origins as a mineral-based, gluten-free, talc-free makeup line geared towards salon and spa professionals. Last June they shut down Mirabella’s Valencia, California, office and moved the company to its warehouse in Kansas City.
“There had been a disconnect when the prior company owned it,” Miranda says. “[Store owners] were afraid that we were going to be moving into Ulta and Sephora. The biggest question they had when we purchased it was, ‘Are you staying salon professional?’ The answer was yes.” Mirabella already has a home in salons; the Cogginses are looking to reenergize the brand where it currently resides.
Miranda and Layne spent most of 2017 overhauling Mirabella’s formulas to be more affordable and feel more luxurious, with additions like sleek ombré packaging and chic metallic accents. They also developed acrylic modules for their open-sell display units, which feature gorgeous imagery of models, attractive backlighting as well as housing for open stock and tester units. “The prior company made people purchase their acrylic updates, which was very expensive for the small salon owners, but those come free with all of our new launches this year,” Miranda says.
Layne adds, “We brought the prices down on several items. Miranda’s done a great job–the packaging is just so much higher-end than it used to be. I think everyone is excited about 2018.”
The pair has also taken control over speaking with vendors directly, without involvement from a third party. For instance, with the help of a private Facebook page for retailers, Miranda is able to answer questions from Mirabella customers, making the brand’s transition to new management easier. She says, “Literally, I’m the person that’s answering them, which makes them feel like somebody’s listening.” They’ve also implemented a Mirabella marketing support site, go-bella.com, for sales people, distributors and salon owners, which allows them to download images and sales sheets in one consolidated space.
THE YEAR AHEAD
While most of 2017 was devoted to revamping Mirabella, 2018 will be the brand’s year for aggressive product launches. The company recently unveiled new eyeshadow palettes, and an improved lip gloss formula will hit shelves in March, followed by blushes and sculpting duos in April and lipsticks by the beginning of summer.
“We are going to cross-pollinate the things that worked really well in the Pure Cosmetics line with some of the things that didn’t work as well in the Mirabella line, and vice versa,” Miranda says. “I truly believe that we can be the No. 1 salon professional brand by the end of 2018,
as far as a full cosmetic line.”
Layne is also excited for what the future holds. “I think we have so many options for growth. Miranda created a great open-sell display, this huge flooring unit that can go in higher-end salons. We also have a premium tester unit–so you don’t have to have as much back stock.”
“Sometimes baby steps will get to a big step; just don’t do too much at once.”
–Layne Coggins, co-owner
One thing the couple didn’t expect to see was loyal fans of Pure Cosmetics trying out the new Mirabella products in their stores. “When we purchased Mirabella, we really didn’t think we would see salons carrying both,” Miranda says. “And now moving into 2018, it’s really about how to start growing the business and retaining not only what Mirabella had, but getting a whole new client base with the new pack- aging and new products. We’re going to hit the trade shows hard this year. We’re also utilizing our 47 educators out in the field.”
LEARNING FROM THE PAST
While adding more members to their team is inevitable as Mirabella grows, Miranda and Layne currently have 13 full-time employees–some of which have been with them from the beginning. They provide flexible work hours for busy parents, and have employed stay-at-home moms who were out of the work force for a long time. Stressing the importance of an upbeat company culture, they even introduced fun ABBA Fridays, in which ABBA songs can be heard throughout the office.
On a day-to-day basis, Miranda oversees product development and marketing, while Layne handles sales and communications with the distributors. Layne says, “You learn what each other is good at, and then you let them focus on that and try not to intervene when something’s already taken care of.”
“I tried to let him create a product one time and it wasn’t the best, so he leaves that up to me,” Miranda laughs.
Though working with a spouse may be arduous at times, this affectionate pair is truly inseparable. “We have way too much fun together, honestly,” Miranda says. “When we go to trade shows, we have such a great time that half the time it doesn’t feel like work. I don’t think most partners are that way, but we’re each other’s best friend.”
It’s also evident they have an endless amount of mutual respect for one another. “Miranda was pretty much doing it on her own from the very beginning, and she had to learn a whole lot about how to source. You have to be patient, but you also have to be aggressive–which she was,” Layne says.
The future of Mirabella looks incredibly bright thanks to the hurdles the Cogginses have learned to overcome through years of experience. Miranda admits that one of those hurdles was being overzealous about inventory in the past (“selling out is not always a bad thing,” she reflects). Today, they also know the value of having a good mentor to help with the decision-making. “We make sure to ask the right questions now before we go ordering 20,000 Light Up Mascara–which was a complete fail,” Miranda says.
“After you’ve somewhat established yourself, it’s easier to go sell the product and then create it than say, ‘I really hope this sells,’ and create 10 or 20,000 of [something], and then try to sell it without any takers ... Sometimes baby steps will get to a big step; just don’t do too much at once,” Layne adds. The acquisition of Mirabella was a big step for The Lano Company, but using what they’ve learned over the past decade, these co-owners are now ready to take Mirabella to uncharted heights.
TIMELINE OF EVENTS
A brief glimpse at the history of The Lano Company.
- 2003: Miranda Coggins comes up with the idea for a lanolin-based lip balm.
- 2005: Miranda formulates The Original Lip Balm, first sold in October 2005, and The Lano Company is born in her basement.
- 2006: The Lano Company introduces Lano Light Candles, which burn with a soothing scent and melt into massage oil that soothes dry skin.
- 2007: Using the must-have formula of the lip balm, the innovative Pure Illumination Lip Gloss is created, which features an LED light and side mirror.
- 2008: Miranda’s husband, Layne Coggins, joins The Lano Company as VP of sales.
- 2009: The Lano Company’s cosmetics line, Pure Cosmetics, debuts worldwide.
- 2010: The company’s first headquarters opens up in downtown Kansas City, Missouri.
- 2015: The Coggins launch Pure Lano, a natural skincare brand that further touts the benefits of soothing lanolin.
- 2017: In February, The Lano Company acquires Mirabella, and spends the year rebranding and updating the line.
- 2018: Mirabella unveils its newly packaged eyeshadow palettes, lip glosses, blushes, sculpting duos and lipsticks.