Inspiring Latina: Meet Ruby Polanco, Founder of Ruby Makeup Academy

Inspiring Latina: Meet Ruby Polanco, Founder of Ruby Makeup Academy
Mariusz Jeglinski

Ruby Polanco has always been fascinated with makeup. A hondureña, she believes most Latinas have a love for eyeliners, lipsticks and blush that make our natural beauty pop. But cosmetic lines weren’t paying attention to Latinas, leaving the savvy businesswoman with one option: to carve out a space in the makeup industry for Latinas herself.

MORE: 10 Powerful Latinas Revolutionizing the Beauty Biz

In 2005, Polanco created her own beauty line, Ruby Cosmetics. It didn’t take long for her to become a local celebrity.  She not only had clients but fans who wanted to learn her makeup tricks. Polanco started to teach her clients beauty tips, seeing it as a great way to promote her new brand and make some extra cash on the side.

Soon the makeup lessons would have her heart. By January 2011, Polanco shut the doors on her cosmetics line and put her full attention in teaching.

“I took great pictures that made it look like we had big classes, and I used social media to market the classes,” Polanco remembers. Eight months later, she had her first real class: 15 people paying $2,500 each.

Today, her California-based Ruby Makeup Academy has four locations, offering courses in personal makeup, airbrush, beauty, special effects and hair design. More than 1 thousand students, mostly Latinas, graduate from her school each year, learning the tools of the trade through in-class assignments, an internship program and famous guest speakers.

Polanco, whose multimillion-dollar business placed her in Inc. magazine’s Top 500 Fastest Growing Companies in America in 2014, doesn’t stop there. In 2015, the hondureña started a program called Fame & Fortune, where she will teach creative individuals the need for goal-setting, branding and networking to expand their own businesses this spring.

We chatted with Polanco about her inspirations as well as her greatest joys and biggest challenges as a Latina businesswoman. Meet this Inspiring Latina:

You started off in real estate, a field very different from makeup. Why transition to beauty and cosmetics?

I started thinking about the beauty industry before the market crashed. I saw the market slowing down, so I realized I needed a Plan B. I realized that I loved makeup, and people always asked me how I did my own. But when I went to stores I noticed that there wasn’t one company that had colors for ethnic women. The foundations were for white women, and so I started doing some research. A year later, I decided I wanted to start a cosmetic brand based around Latina women. I wanted a product by and for Latinas, where we understand our diverse skin tones and our love for colors that pop against our complexions. Two years after I started my line, I saw the demand for classes, and I got into that.

Why is it essential for Latinas to have cosmetics catered to them?

Latinas love makeup. We wear the products and love colors, and we need a brand tailored to our needs, not just because of the undertones of our skin, but because of the different colors of our cultures.

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