Meet Lesley De La Uz, a 1909 member who is creating a sustainable and clean makeup universe.
“It’s been a lot of learning along the way, but at the same time, I feel like that is good. If I had a business background, I would have done things more traditionally, and I don’t want to be traditional.” -Lesley De la Uz
Tell us about the LDLU Universe, what is it?
The universe I created is identified by my initials. It’s a place where your darkness is embraced. I wanted all ages, genders, and races to feel embraced within this universe. All genders and sexualities are welcomed in the LDLU Universe, there’s no limitations on who you are. One thing that was is the inclusion of different sexual identities; I grew up with two moms. So, I got to see a lot of bullying and hate for that, so really important to me to have representation in this universe.
My first step in creating this universe was the creation of our initial product, a deep red lipstick. All my products offer a reflection into the parts of my world. The LDLU Universe is just the start for me.
When you put on this lipstick, you transform into Fatale, a vision of the intelligent, sexy, mysterious, disastrous, dark but playful character who dates back to Biblical times, through the Dark Ages and Film Noir. I feel like we all embody this character within us. It’s about the empowerment behind the red lipstick. You are transformed into this emboldened, spellbinding character that has always been within you, but you’ve had it hidden.
LDLU is a world, it’s a universe. Fatale is one of the main characters in this universe; Fatale comes from Femme Fatale. We dropped the Femme to be more inclusive.
What challenges have you had to experience just from working in the makeup industry?
I experienced many challenges because I’m such a small startup with no previous background in business or the cosmetics industry, and I’m mostly doing everything on my own. So, I’ve had to learn a lot about various areas such as working and finding the right manufacturer, labs, etc. In the very beginning I would call a laboratory and they would hang up mid-call because of how small I was, but that didn’t stop me. You also encounter obstacles you would never expect all the time. For example, I wanted to create all metal recyclable tubes that have not been created yet. For this, I had to learn a lot about engineering and mechanics so I could speak the same language with the engineer I was working with to get my point across.
It’s been a lot of learning along the way, but at the same time, I feel like that makes me even closer to the brand and have more control over it. If I had a business background, I would have done things more traditionally, and I don’t want to be traditional.
I don’t just want to be a cosmetic line. I don’t want to be like L’Oreal or Estee Lauder. I want to be a universe and create a brand around a fictional world we could all escape to-not around a famous name. I don’t want to compete with other beauty brands because I’m determined to start something completely different.
In a way, I’m kind of thankful that I didn’t go to business school, but I have to say 1909’s accelerator program helped me immeasurably. It helped me get on track. 1909 is more than just a place; it is a community of people who can help one another and grow together. I honestly feel like it would have taken me twice as long without 1909. I would have done it, sure, but it would have taken me twice as long as I said. It was really important for me to have a community of people who understood and supported me.
Tell us about your childhood, and what lead you to where you are today?
I grew up in Miami. I was always into art and film; my life goal at the time was to be a film director. I went to the top Film Schools in the US. I realized school wasn’t for me and ended up traveling abroad and diving into the world of documentaries.
I got myself into some dark situations and decided to leave the film world behind. I tried a couple of different things like fashion and astrophysics, but I always felt like it wasn’t my life calling. Fashion is an expensive area to get into and I wasn’t prepared for that, but I definitely have plans to extend my brand in the future. Astrophysics will always be a deep love for me and I would love in the future find a way for LDLU to help the advancement of science.
I moved back to Florida, where I was hospitalized due to my OCD. It’s something I struggled with since I was 19 but never got a time to really focus on helping my mental health until I was hospitalized. After I got out of the hospital, I finally felt like the Lesley before my OCD was triggered. That’s where the spark of my next venture came to be.
While I had OCD my mind was filled with anxiety and I was over this world so I wanted to make a new one and create a new reality—the LDLU universe. A place where there were no problems in society, an inclusive place for everyone, where everyone can transform into any character they want at any point.
What was your biggest fear in starting your company, and how do you plan on overcoming it?
I honestly really don’t suffer from fear when it comes to business anymore. I used to have a lot of doubt when I compared myself to younger entrepreneurs who are billionaires and super successful. It made me feel so depressed, and I was scared that I was going to fail in life. But then I shifted the way I thought, and I stopped caring as much.
You can’t be scared of what people will think of you. No one knows everything. You can’t be scared of asking questions.
What is one thing about your line that sets it apart?
Since starting my own brand, I’ve gotten to see all the stuff behind the scenes. A lot of makeup is made with horrible ingredients, which I’m not a fan of because for the same amount of money you can use ingredients that aren’t harmful to your health or the environment.
I now know after my exhaustive research how much money some cosmetic companies are making without quality ingredients, which is crazy. I would also like to see the industry change in terms of creating sustainable packaging. That is something I aspire to do with my brand.
My products are made up of clean ingredients (over 3000 ingredients banned and have followed the cosmetic ingredient laws of each governing country), and have sustainable and recyclable packaging. I hope to be one of the first people that spearheads the movement to have entirely sustainable packaging and higher quality, truly clean ingredients
A kid comes up to you and asks for a piece of advice, and you only have 5 minutes, What do you say?
That is what I’ve seen so far about some entrepreneurs and is the key difference in succeeding and failing. If you go into this just for making a lot of money and you are not creating something new that comes from your heart, you will give up and you will fail.
I have seen people try to recreate other brands so they can make a quick buck, but it’s not sustainable that way because entrepreneurship is about creating something new to improve people’s lives. It isn’t anything about just making some fast cash.
You shouldn’t become an entrepreneur just because you can’t handle a 9-5 job or just because you can’t handle somebody telling you what to do. It’s so much more than that. If you are going with that mindset or just to become a billionaire you will fail.
With me, LDLU is what I live and breathe. I will continue going with this no matter how much money I make-even if I end up with nothing at all. Creating a brand that revolves around this amazing fictitious world is something I’m passionate about.
What are some financial struggles, and like any fundraising processes you’ve gone through to create your brand?
I mean, when it comes to financing, one thing I’ve learned for sure is that it’s better to start small and slowly build and then get funding along the way. One thing I’ve realized is that for many people, you need to have another source of income, at least in the beginning. I worked at Starbucks for a while as well as a PR company, and I’ve seen a lot of people work full-time jobs even as they build their companies which is totally normal.
I just finished my seed round of investing. I wasn’t thrilled about giving away equity at this stage of the brand, but then I got really lucky with an angel investor. I was confident enough that other people believed in me.
One thing I learned in the 1909 accelerator is that people invest in you and not your startup. They invest in you in person just as much as they invest in the idea. Talk about your visions and ideas, get yourself out there.
Is there anything else you would like people to know?
Just get out there and create something. Be genuine. I know what it’s like to want to create something but not know what to create. Don’t be too hard on yourself.
1909 is a non-profit organization dedicated to the holistic growth and development of entrepreneurs.
Palm Beach County was founded on April 30, 1909 — and over 100 years later, revolutionary ideas and creative projects are still being founded here every day. 1909’s mission is to uplift and support the innovators and creators bringing these ideas to life.
Our manifesto: We are a collective of creators who believe that, if we work together, our ideas, projects, and innovations will better our community. We are unapologetically experimenting. We are a place for the process, the mess, the imperfection. We are a place for the unknown to become known. We are 1909.