CARLINVILLE — Sherry Brianza’s life centers on cosmetics, but her fondness for the work of the International Trade Center at SIUE goes way below the surface.
The Carlinville native is well on her way to a full launch of a cosmetics distribution company, thanks to the advice she’s gotten and the connections she’s made in the last six years.
“I could not have done this without the trade center. Silvia Torres (the director) has been phenomenal helping me out,” she said.
Brianza was a sales representative for Revlon for many years until 1985 when she launched her first business, Brianza Sales & Marketing, Inc. In that role, she works to place the cosmetics products of other companies on store shelves and with distributors around the country.
Six years ago, she decided to broaden her horizons with her own cosmetics-production company, called Brianza Bella, LLC. As she struggled during the recession to get established in the domestic market, she sought out the help of the SIUE International Trade Center to see what was available outside the United States.
The Trade Center’s network of connections eventually led her to travel twice to Brazil and once to Africa, and she is now working on distributors for her products.
She plans to return a third time to Brazil to nail down relationships.
“I’m looking to relaunch in the U.S. and internationally. Brianza Bella is my company. It’s my chance to be a real success,” she said.
Some would argue she’s already crossed the success threshold, but it hasn’t been easy.
Cracking the world market requires an understanding of not only the exporting process but the financing of it. She is getting that help from SIUE and from Regions Bank.
The line of Brianza Bella products are being manufactured out of a center in California, but the corporation is headquartered in Carlinville, in Macoupin County.
“We’re just doing baby steps now. We’ve got the (U.S.) distribution, but it’s not enough to be proud of,” she said.
Working through the trade center at SIUE and the State of Illinois Office of Trade and Investment, she attended a 2010 trade show in Sao Paulo, Brazil. She had several meetings and meals with important business executives. She paid for some of the trip and the rest was underwritten by the state of Illinois. She returned in 2012. Later, she traveled to Johannesburg, South Africa.
Africa and South America are two huge, emerging markets for her products, which are designed to be multicultural.
Torres said the center will first try to help entrepreneurs identify a market for their products. The initial discussion will involve such things as staffing, language barriers, resources, manufacturing plans and the like.
“If we determine they are ready to proceed, we then go over their products,” she said, noting that sometimes business people have too broad a focus and are advised to narrow what they are attempting to market to better ensure their success.
Evaluation also looks at the potential for profitability and the safety factor — whether the country has established trade practices with the United States.
“We hold hands with companies that way,” Torres said.
In Brianza’s case, the graduate students who work with Torres — who otherwise represents a one-person office — drew up an international marketing plan as one of the first priorities.
Brianza took part in multiple categories of funding. On her first trip to Brazil, she went as part of the Gold Key program of the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, which covers “matchmaking expenses” for business people seeking foreign distributors.
On her second Brazil trip, she went as part of an “individual foreign sales market mission,” which allowed up to 50 percent reimbursement of eligible expenses through the state’s ISTEP program .
“I would never have been able to do this on my own,” Brianza said. “I don’t speak Portuguese. I had an interpreter. I had chauffeured service. I had pre-arranged appointments. Look how much they did. I could never have afforded to do that.”
On her third trip, which was to Africa, she went as part of a group trade mission and was eligible for up to 50 percent reimbursements on her air fare and hotel. “All other expenses I paid,” she said. The U.S. also had a large booth at the trade show and it was no charge for the space Brianza used.
“I was gone for about a week for each of my trips,” she said.
The founder and managing partner of Brianza Bella has three other business partners.
She recounted: “All through this time, I always come back to Silvia and say, ‘Do you have any more sources?’ They have been very good to work with, and very business friendly.”
Her future success is going to pay dividends to Illinois.
“There’s a benefit for the state,” Brianza said. “The more they export the more they make. It’s a very wise investment.”