“No Tell” Lipstick

Hazel Bishop was born in New Jersey to an entrepreneurial family.  She had the ambition to become a medical doctor, but the start of the depression impacted her ability to afford medical school.  With a degree in Chemistry, she was able to get a job as a research assistant in a dermatology lab.

Coming from her family background, her mother always encouraged her to open her own business. She invented several personal hygiene items that were never commercialized.  Not giving up, Hazel started experimenting with wax, coloring agents, and oils.  She hoped to develop a lipstick that would not smear.  Up to that time, lipsticks left greasy marks on whatever touched a person’s lips.

When she got a prominent retail store to put her lipstick on its shelves, it sold out in one day.  Hazel, following her mother’s advice, created her own company called Hazel Bishop, Inc.  Within a short period of time, she had 25% of the lipstick market.  Revlon, the dominant cosmetics company, rushed to have a competing product.

She hired a marketer to get her lipstick known nationally.  She paid him in stocks, and this turned out to be a very bad decision.  She eventually lost control of her own company in a stockholder fight led by the marketer.  Not only did she lose her company, but she lost the use of her own name.  She could no longer use her name on any new products she might develop.

Undeterred, Hazel developed a number of other products and companies using her initials rather than her name.  She also became a financial analyst who was highly respected for her insight into cosmetics companies.  She ended her career as a professor at the Fashion Institute of Technologies where she became active in the American Institute of Chemistry and the Society of Women Engineers.  She was recognized upon her death as a pioneer in cosmetic development and finance.  She passed away at the age of 92.

Beginnings often start with a simple observation.  In Hazel’s case, it was why can’t we develop a lipstick that doesn’t smear?  The common assumption is that established companies would ask those questions, but that’s not often the case.  Unfortunately, those who come up with the innovation may be overwhelmed by those same established businesses.  For Hazel, she remained resilient in spite of an initial setback.

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“New beginnings are often disguised as painful endings.”  Lao Tzu (Philosopher)

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