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Saturday, Jun 3, 2023

Highbrow Trendsetter

Senna Cosmetics has been a player in the cosmetics industry since 1976. By specializing in the eyebrow market, customizing makeup and balancing her artistry with her husband’s business acumen, Senna founder Eugenia Weston hasn’t just maintained the Valencia-based enterprise but expanded it to Beverly Hills and Orange County. This year Senna, which has served celebrities such as Paula Abdul, Lisa Marie Presley and Bette Midler, anticipates grossing nearly $4 million in revenues. A Valley native, Weston has come a long way from the days when she worked at a drug store and customized makeup by buying a variety of brands and mixing them together. While Weston said that it’s clich & #233; for entrepreneurs to say that they devised their own product line because they couldn’t find one that they liked on the market, she swears that for her that was the case. “When I started in makeup in the ’60s, there was nothing to choose from,” said Weston, who now serves as Senna’s vice president and creative director. “I had my own ideas about how I liked people to look. When I saw a gorgeous face, I would study it, and I would try to copy it onto another face that didn’t have those attributes.” Accordingly, Weston bristles when she remembers that decades ago there were no lip pencils or shades of makeup in natural hues to help her transform a face. To achieve that end, Weston and her husband, David,Senna’s CEO,literally flipped through the phone book and found chemists capable of developing the colors Weston wanted. Before long, the Senna product line was featured in a Valley salon and, in 1983, the first Senna studio opened in Tarzana. Today, there are also studios in Santa Clarita, Beverly Hills and Corona Del Mar and boutiques at the Allen Edwards Salon in Woodland Hills and Salon Syndicate in Encino. “When we started our one store in the Valley, we really built up a huge clientele,” Weston said. “What we do is we bring beauty out in all women. I had to develop products that upheld the philosophy of creating beauty for everyone.” The Brows Specializing in products for eyebrows especially helped Senna distinguish itself from competitors. The company’s brow gel fix, along with its primer, mineral and lip products, are among its bestsellers. The highly pigmented eye shadows Senna offers also sets it apart, Weston believes. In a nutshell, her philosophy on brows is that they should be thick and never waxed, as that damages the skin. “We do hundreds and hundreds of brows a week,” Weston said. “We’re the first studio to have that service as it is, to create the classic brow in the San Fernando Valley. Nobody was doing it on that level or the extent we were doing it when we started that 37 years ago.” Because Weston has been a makeup artist for 37 years, her signature brow predates the establishment of Senna. With a new serum in the works intended to make brows stronger and thicker, Senna continues to add to its eyebrow line. Also coming online will be blush mousses and additional mineral-based and skincare products. And, as always, Senna continues to experiment with developing new hues of makeup. “Over the years, our products have gotten better. We really try to keep up with the trends and go above and beyond what’s out there,” said Eugenia Weston’s daughter, Theda Weston-Kleir, the head of product development for Senna. To garner clientele, Senna has engaged in very little advertising, though the company does send out e-mail blasts to customers registered on its website, www.sennacosmetics.com. The company’s products are also featured on the Shop NBC channel. But the primary way Senna has built up a customer base is through referrals. For example, working with photographers on test shoots before they became famous helped Weston land celebrity clients. That’s because once such photographers made a name for themselves, they would suggest that their famous subjects use Weston as a makeup artist. It’s easy to maintain a relationship with clients who have been referred because “they already have the trust in you,” said Weston, who counts legendary photographers Helmut Newton and Herb Ritz among those with whom she’s collaborated. “People wanted us in all these different locations,” she recalled. “People just knew how reputable our company was, and that I have very high standards as a makeup artist. People wanted to send their friends. Hairdressers wanted to send their clients. We ended up expanding and (re-creating) our signature studios, so everyone could come in and have the Senna experience.” To duplicate her look, Weston said that she has the makeup artists she employs take a yearlong training program that encompasses customer service, color theory, custom blending, eyebrow shaping and more. “They also have to assist me with clients,” she added. “It’s a true apprenticeship program.” While the fact that Senna has expanded is evidence of the company’s immense success, Weston does have some regrets. A major one is that she didn’t expand to Beverly Hills until 1995. Her regret stems from the experience of having beauty magazine reps refuse to make a trip out to the Valley to visit Senna here. Weston also wishes that she would have taken a journal and more photographs when traveling with celebrity clients. This would have allowed her to easily piece together a book on beauty. “That’s a huge mistake for me,” she said. “Now everyone wants me to write a book. It would be really great because I’ve worked with so many famous people.” Her husband added that they learned a costly lesson when they chose to have their products featured in Nordstrom’s department store and Marshall Field’s in Chicago. That’s because such stores allow for exchanges in which a customer can use a product and return it completely empty, he said. Afterwards, the store charges the vendor for the product. “That was a learning experience,” David Weston said. “We couldn’t afford it anymore.” Family Business Lessons The Westons have also learned lessons about running a family business. Each member offers a discrete outlook on the company, and that has sometimes led to clashes. “To me, everything comes down to can we afford it?” David Weston said. “How much return on it can we get? (Eugenia’s) got to sell me on the product. If we invest $10,000 on a product, is it going to move?” Such questions sometimes rankle his wife. She said that she’s still learning how to separate her personal relationship with her husband from the business relationship they share. “My husband and I,we disagree on a lot of things,” she said with a laugh. “If we don’t agree on something, I take it very personally. I’m the crazy artist. I get very emotional.” Weston-Kleir serves as a peacemaker of sorts by preventing her mother’s emotions from flaring up. “My daughter really keeps me in shape,” Eugenia Weston said. “She’s very strong. She’s very smart. She’s like my husband, very logical. She keeps me in check. I really respect her, and she really respects me.” Weston-Kleir believes that she has a mixture of her mother and father’s strengths. Like her father, Weston-Kleir said that she’s interested in the operations of the business and its financial components. However, she also supports her mother’s creative vision. She considers it an honor to help run the business she literally grew up in. She was born the same year that Senna launched. “I’m hoping to carry the legacy on,” she said. “I’m hoping to fulfill my mom’s vision even after she retires. I’m hoping she enjoys what I’m doing and is proud of what I’m doing.” SPOTLIGHT: Senna Cosmetics Year Established: 1976 Location: Valencia Revenues in 2006: $3 million Anticipated 2008 Revenues: $3.8 million Employees: 30

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