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Woman Owned Business Spotlight: Pick Your Products with a Lil Help from Your Friends at Trainca.se Beauty Review Website

24 February 2013

It's likely clear by now how much I have a special love for businesses created and owned by young female entrepreneurs, like LendPerk, Longhorn Fashions and the Skinny Bitch brand. And you might have gathered from my Aztec clay mask adventures, I have more than a special love for beauty projects and products.

When I found out that one of my high school classmates had recently launched a totally new way to get reviews and recommendations for beauty products from people you actually know, I felt like Claire Lawless, Trainca.se founder and fellow Ursuline gal, had read my mind. I want to get feedback on a product before I shell out my own cash, but how do I know if the reviews on Sephora, Ulta or other sites are really from women (or men - whatever floats ya boat) whose taste I trust? Why have a faceless stranger tell you what the perfect shade of red lipstick is when your friend could share her favorite with you while listing its pros and cons and sending a link to purchase it on the spot? Needless to say, I am a huge fan of Trainca.se and my pinning has dwindled while I've been traincasing away for the past few weeks!

I've always seen Claire as a girl who doesn't let fear or the "what other people are doing" thing keep her from leaving her mark (I had a free period with her junior year where I watched her design and make a prom dress out of duct tape!), so I think it's adorable that her new married name is Lawless as she is truly breaking the rules and blazing her own path in the online workforce. I wanted to feature her awesome site but also her unique spirit and I'm really grateful she took some time from the super busy launch of Trainca.se to answer some questions for me about how she got to where she is today! 

While I'm sharing more about Claire and the Trainca.se background here, I've listed some of my favorite beauty products on Trainca.se's The Pretty Blog, so I hope you will jump over and check out my picks as well!

Claire Vo Lawless - Ursuline gal, internet entrepreneur and duct tape prom dress designer. 


What is your background and what lead you to create Trainca.se?
I’ve almost always had an interest in design & technology; I taught myself Javascript in 4th grade and started the first Digital Art program at Ursuline when we were in high school. I attended UT Austin (Hook em!), earning a liberal arts degree in American Studies and Psychology.

Post-college, I worked at several startups here in Austin, working my way up from a marketing copywriter at uShip.com, an online shipping marketplace, to the Director of Product Development & Online Marketing at BuildASign.com, a 200-person e-commerce company. Having had great success in the B2B space, I decided to focus on the consumer products side of things and left to run Online Customer Experience for Electronic Arts. Before EA, I had never worked on products that were sold in stores and marketed in prime-time commercials; learning about creating loyalty to big brands and discovering what consumers connect with was an invaluable experience.

When I first started at EA our temporary offices in Austin were walking distance to Sephora, and once a week I would wander over and browse during my lunch break. Though I went often, I usually left with nothing because there was no great way to evaluate the thousands of products in the store.  I’d read online reviews, but having been disappointed by strangers’ advice in the past, I didn’t really trust them. That changed when my friend was in the neighborhood and came shopping with me one day; we gave opinions new products, shared our favorite “must-buys”, and warned each other away from things we knew were a waste of money. We both walked out with a boatload of products we were absolutely confident we’d love. I realized then I almost always bought new beauty products on the advice of someone I knew, but it was too difficult or inconvenient to get those recommendations unless you happened to be shopping together.  I went home and started designing Trainca.se--a place where my friends and I could share the beauty products we loved and help each other discover the best beauty products out there.

How did you decide to leave your job and work on it full time? What has the adjustment been like?
While the site was in development, I was working full-time at EA, so I would wake up in the morning, answer some Trainca.se questions by email, go to work, and then come home to code and design. While this was workable for getting the site live (which we did in 2 months), once it was launched, I was excited about the growth and knew there was tons of opportunity to pursue full time.

The adjustment has been challenging, but completely worthwhile. I love working on Trainca.se every day and am obsessively passionate about it, but I have to remind myself to take breaks, get out and see non-work people, and keep time for my health and hobbies. It’s not easy to temper some of that passion and put more balance in my life, but ultimately makes me better at what I do.

The Trainca.se site design is intuitive and easy with a side of cute.


What are the main features of the site & how do you see it evolving?
Trainca.se is the only beauty community with reviews & recommendations exclusively from friends. Instead of scrolling through hundreds of reviews trying to decide on which product to buy next, Trainca.se lets you explore the products your friends have already tried and recommend--helping you discover products you’re sure to love.

On Trainca.se, friends can follow each other’s reviews, rate the products they have, and mark the products they want. Just this week, we released a new feature that let’s you recommend a product directly to a specific friend. Finally find that all-natural, sensitive-skin SPF your bff absolutely needs to know about? Just recommend it to her on the site and she’ll get a personalized message with why you think she’d love it.

Right now we’re really focused on developing features that help friends discover the beauty products they are sure to love, making sure the site is both useful and fun. In the future we’re planning on connecting our friends with the brands, experts, and retailers they love, through samples, exclusive promotions, and enhanced in-store experiences. I’m very excited for the day when shopping for cosmetics anywhere (online or off) means shopping with your friends on Trainca.se.

Any advice for people looking to take a similar path?
Go out and learn the skills it takes to build it yourself. I’ve never held a development role and I don’t have a technology degree, but I taught myself the skills I need to design and build websites. Without these basic coding and design skills, it would have been much more difficult to concept and launch Trainca.se.

What are your favorite beauty products? Any you just *have* to recommend?
The Urban Decay Naked Palette is one of the most genius cosmetic products to be released in the past few years. Not only does it have great quality shadows in every neutral color you would ever need, all UD products are vegan and cruelty free. It’s one of the most popular product on Trainca.se, and I personally use it every single day.


I love the "want" feature on Trainca.se for knowing what to save for next!


How can we all make our Trainca.se accounts and start recommending our favorite products to our friends?
Pancakes and Beet Juice guys and gals can register here. We’ve made it easy to register using facebook connect or an email address. Once you’re signed up, simply search through our thousands of products to start adding the ones you love, hate, want, and recommend. And don’t forget to invite your friends!



How do you find new beauty products you love - the makeup counter, online or through friends?

Hope to see you on Trainca.se soon and over at The Pretty Blog today!

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