KALAMAZOO, Mich.—When you have sensitive skin, the struggle to find products that work well for you is very real. It’s a problem that Western Michigan University student Irene Roberts knows well—one that compelled her to start Transparent Beauty Company, an eCommerce beauty retailer that focuses on helping customers pinpoint the ingredients that irritate their sensitive skin.
“I began doing my own research and realized that the reason my skin was always broken out and inflamed was that I kept buying different products with the same irritating ingredients,” says Roberts, who is a management major from Eau Claire, Michigan. “It seemed crazy to me that with all of the technology available that nobody had developed a way to keep track of what products a person has tried and how it worked for them to make finding the ingredients that irritate your skin simple. I created this business because it is one that I would use, and I know so many others have similar experiences.”
Transparent Beauty Company’s website allows customers to input products that have caused irritation in the past and identifies specific problematic ingredients to ensure consumers never have to guess what skincare products are safe for their sensitive skin. All products and brands sold on the site are cruelty-free.
Roberts and her company recently received the Wendell Christoff Award, which honors students in Starting Gate who use their talent to create opportunities for others through their entrepreneurial endeavors.
”Irene is such a dedicated student entrepreneur,” says Dr. Laurel Ofstein, associate professor of management and director of Starting Gate. “She went above and beyond in the Starting Gate program by presenting her business at pitch events across the state and applying for business plan competitions. Seeing her business grow by leaps and bounds during each week of the six-month business accelerator program was inspiring to the other student teams. She is very deserving of this award, and I look forward to seeing her business grow.”
Participating in Starting Gate, WMU’s business accelerator, has been one of the most valuable experiences of Roberts’ college career, she says. “I went from having no knowledge about how to start a business to officially having a registered LLC that is well on its way to being open for business. The knowledge, support and connections that I gained through Starting Gate are central to my success. I applied for and participated in co-curricular pitch competitions and now have the confidence to apply for every pitch competition that I qualify for.”
Roberts has personally funded her business, seeing incredible potential for the company.
“I am truly dedicated to ensuring that my passion for this company culminates in success,” she says. “When I heard that I won this award, I could have cried. On my own, it would take me months to grow this business into what I want it to be. Now I can afford to work with a web developer to create the ingredient tracking functionality, which is where the true value of this business will be.”
about Wendell Christoff
Christoff is an alumnus of WMU who earned his degree in business administration in 1968. After graduation, Christoff joined the U.S. Air Force and served as a pilot. Following his service, Christoff returned to the family business, C.J. Christoff & Sons, beginning in the sales department. In 1997, a merger created Litehouse Inc., which produces salad dressing and sauces and was named a Top 100 privately held company by Entrepreneur magazine.
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