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Students

'Sweet' success: Two students' entrepreneurial story

April 27, 2010
By Rebecca Howard

For many college students, earning extra cash means taking a part-time job at the mall. But Katie Barstow and Molly Dunkle decided to do something different - they started their own business. Meet the owners of Sweets Cosmetics.

The entrepreneurs

Katie Barstow and Molly Dunkle may seem like your average college students. Both attend Colorado State University to study business – Barstow is a senior and Dunkle is a junior – and both are Fort Collins natives.

But what you may not know is that they also co-own a successful local business, Sweets Cosmetics.

Before they were entrepreneurs, Barstow and Dunkle were best friends. Dunkle had been making lip balm as a hobby for years, an interest first sparked by a lip balm kit that her chemist father bought her as a gift. Barstow, on the other hand, had taken an interest in business, as her father was an entrepreneur.

"It was just a matter of time before we combined our interests," Barstow said.

In July of 2006, they came up with the idea to start their own small business and started selling the lip balm they hand-made in Dunkle’s basement. In November 2006, they officially registered their business with the state, and Sweets Cosmetics was born.

A growing success

Barstow describes Sweets Cosmetics as "funky and sassy." Their line of products have fun, tongue-in-cheek names like "Man Balm," which is exactly what it sounds like – a lip balm for men – and "Yo Face!" face lotion.

Clearly, they've come a long way from making lip balm in the basement. The cosmetics line features a variety of products, including:

  • lotion
  • body scrub
  • lipstick and lip gloss
  • mineral makeup
  • soap

And according to Barstow, their product line continues to grow.

“Sweets Cosmetics is going to be around for a while,” she said. “Our future plans include opening a store and cosmetics factory in the Old Town area.”

Currently, their products are sold in six stores in Fort Collins. The CSU Bookstore became the most recent addition to their list when  it started carrying Sweets Cosmetics items in January. Barstow said they got local establishments to sell their products simply by asking.

“At first it was a little scary,” she said. “We would go to local stores and bring our product and tell them our story. Most would turn us down but some would say, ‘yes!’ The longer we were in business and the more our portfolio grew, the easier it was to get our products into stores.”

Giving back

Barstow and Dunkle are not just in it for the money. In addition to expanding their business, they hope to use their success to reach out and support the Fort Collins community, a community that has supported them from the beginning.

They have donated over $4,000 in cosmetics to local charities. “We plan on continuing to give back to the community,” Barstow said.

In order to help inspire others, Barstow and Dunkle also give presentations to young girls in which they teach them how to make lip balm and encourage them to pursue their passions by talking about how they started their own business.

And Barstow said that anyone can start their own business, if they have the courage to try.

"All companies had to start somewhere," she said. "Hewlett Packard was started by two best friends in a garage, Burt's Bee's was started in a kitchen and Sweets Cosmetics was started in a basement. You get the idea. Anyone can own a business if they really want to and enjoy whatever it is they are selling."