When Maria Karr moved to New York City from Russia fourteen years ago she enjoyed getting to know all the many cultures present in the city. As someone working in the beauty industry she particularly enjoyed becoming familiar with American beauty products and trends. But during a trip home to Moscow she noticed how many amazing new Russian beauty products she was seeing that were not being sold in the US. As homage to her cultural heritage she decided to bring her own line of Russian beauty products stateside. The result is Rumore Beauty, a line of cleansers, toners, masks, moisturizers and serums that are 100% all natural and made from Russian botanicals and ingredients. Today the New York-based entrepreneur is adjusting to the entrepreneurial lifestyle, learning how to think outside the box to face business challenges head on and making sure she has enough time for head-clearing runs to keep her motivated.
Karr’s story, as told to The Story Exchange 1,000+ Stories Project:
What was your reason for starting your business?
I was born and raised in Russia and have been living in the US for the past 14 years. New York has been a perfect place to explore what other cultures have to offer – food, fashion, art, clothes and beauty products. I’ve been working in the beauty industry for a while, and I’ve been fascinated with global beauty trends and new ones that were appearing on the shelves of my favorite stores. Every year more and more innovations from around the world are becoming available to US beauty lovers – from Australia to Iceland and everywhere else in between. While I loved seeing and trying all those products, it made me wonder about beauty products from my home country. I felt that I’ve seen so much about global beauty, but there hasn’t been anything said about Russian beauty.
When I left Russia back in 2007, the beauty scene there wasn’t something that could’ve interested a sophisticated beauty lover from abroad. Most Russian-made products that were available were the living remnants of the Soviet past – think creams in plain aluminum tubes and harsh soaps, with not enough options or the appeal of modern-day beauty products. So, I became curious, was the lack of information about Russian beauty the sign of a lack of actual products available or was it something else? What was the beauty scene in Russia like these days?
I decided to investigate during my then-upcoming trip to Moscow and stop by a few local beauty stores. To my surprise, in addition to seeing familiar global brands, I also discovered many Russian-made products that I haven’t heard of before. Driven by my curiosity, I couldn’t resist squeezing all of the tubes and twisting jars open to try the formulas. I was in disbelief with everything that I was seeing – what I’ve found exceeded my expectations. I was looking at a broad variety of natural beauty products that looked amazing, smelled great and felt wonderful on the skin. I became instantly obsessed and that left me even more puzzled as to why no one in the US talked about them.
When I got back to New York, I started paying closer attention to the global beauty conversation thinking that I might have missed something, but no, not a word about Russian beauty or all the great brands and products I’ve discovered. So, I thought that if no one was talking about it, I should start this conversation and share these gems from my home country, because they truly deserved attention.
That’s how the idea of launching the first Russian beauty store in the US – Rumore Beauty – was born. My husband Max loved the idea of reconnecting with our Russian heritage and bringing Russian skincare stateside, so he joined me on this international beauty journey.
How do you define success?
I think that a definition of success is subjective and deeply personal. We all start at different points, have different tools and our journeys are not the same. Yet we measure success by comparing our achievements to those of others around us, although we don’t know where they come from or how they started, whether it’s financial performance or family status or other metrics that are recognized by the society. In my opinion, success is all about achieving something that you didn’t believe was possible before for you given your unique circumstances and challenges that you’ve been conquering along the way.
Tell us about your biggest success to date
I’m very proud of launching my own business and being the first person to introduce beauty products from my home country, Russia, to American beauty lovers. I spent my entire career working in the corporate world and I feel very energized for venturing out on my own and starting a business. If someone told that five years ago, I would have laughed it off thinking starting a business would be impossible for me. But here we are and we’ve been getting nothing but positive feedback from our clients.
What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it?
I’ve been working in the corporate world for the past ten years, so I didn’t know what to expect when starting my own business. It’s quite an adjustment! You don’t have colleagues with expertise in all different parts of business – in our case, it’s me and my co-founder. Our areas of expertise are complementary to each other, but there are still a lot of unknowns that we are working to solve every day. Since we launched just a few months ago, we’re still navigating the world of the entrepreneurship but the key is to be creative, think outside of the box, and go above and beyond to get the answers that would help push the business forward.
What is your biggest tip for other startup entrepreneurs?
Don’t be afraid and go for it! If you have an idea that you truly believe in, the time to bring it to life is now even if ‘now’ may not seem like the perfect time. Maybe your financial situation is not ideal or you have other circumstances that you may think of as an added challenge. Truth is, there won’t be a time that is perfect on all fronts and idle enough to focus on executing your big idea. And if you don’t try, then you may regret it later. If you try, you have a 50/50 chance of succeeding, but if you don’t try, your chance is 0.
How do you find inspiration on your darkest days?
I like to go for a run on a local trail – it helps clear my thoughts and gives me energy that I then channel into growing my business. I wasn’t a runner until about four and a half years ago, and when I started it changed my life. It gave me the much needed boost of confidence and planted a seed in my head that everything is possible.
Who is your most important role model?
It’s hard for me to name a single role model, but I get a lot of inspiration from other female founders who have been paving the way in their respective industries and areas of expertise. For example, I admire Sara Blakely, the inventor of SPANX. Her story is truly remarkable and she’s an example of a woman who went ahead with her idea, despite what others were saying, built an empire and helped solve the challenge of millions of women around the world.
Check out our Advice + Tips for entrepreneurs starting-up
Watch our latest videos
Subscribe to our podcast