From music teacher to make-up entrepreneur, Marlena Stell has combined her two passions with a lot of hard work to build the super-successful cosmetic brand, Makeup Geek. Already with a love for teaching, Marlena began educating mass audiences about cosmetic application on YouTube. Within two years, she was able to quit teaching and dedicate herself, full-time, to starting her own product line and hosting her YouTube show, Makeup Geek TV.
In the beginning, it was her love of education and makeup that led her to YouTube. “I love the interaction with my audience and love getting to hear from other people about their stories, how they tried a certain look and it made them feel better.” At that time, money wasn’t coming in, but Marlena had found what she wanted to do. After years of creating how-to videos to a growing audience, she knew it was time for more.
Like so many cinematic stories, it all started in a basement. With the help of her parents and one former student, they spent their days and nights packing boxes of makeup. “I started with eyeshadows, because that’s what I felt was missing from the market.” Quality eyeshadow at a reasonable price turned into lipsticks, which turned into brushes, which turned into a full array of professional quality, cruelty-free makeup, directly shipping worldwide. Despite the fast rise, Marlena still affectionately remembers the humble beginnings of Makeup Geek. “My mom and dad would throw boxes at each other, arguing as they were wrapping people’s packages.” Now, nine years later, that’s done in a 50,000 square foot warehouse with over 40 staff members.
Her growing audience and booming business didn’t come without struggles. At the beginning, it was very long days, juggling careers, and producing high-quality content each week. “I didn’t realize how much work I was capable of until I got into it.” Overcoming the workload was not the only obstacle. Early on, the internet got to Marlena; so much so, that she almost quit entirely. “I knew growing up as a heavy girl my whole life, being made fun of and bullied, that if I could just reach some people that were going through that same thing and say, ‘Yes, I struggle with weight too. However, I love to do this beautiful makeup look, it makes me feel more confident when I go out the door.’ If I can pass that on to even just a few more people, then I can do this. I don’t care what other people have to say, I just want them to feel what I felt for myself. Feeling confident regardless of what people said about me.”
For Marlena, it was never about chasing fame or fortune. It has always been about following her passion and improving lives. “Find that one thing that makes you get up each day. Focus on that, do what it takes to make that happen. For me, I always loved education and making people feel better about themselves. I focused on that and the success came later.”