These Makeup Brushes Are Locally and Sustainably Made

And they’re inspired by baleros, the traditional Mexican toy.

When Izabelle Villafuerte walks through the makeup aisle at the store, she notices that makeup brushes have pretty much remained the same over the years, with little variety among the different brushes. That’s why she started Empresaria Cosmetics – to create makeup brushes and other products that weren’t only creative, but sustainable. 

“[The] eyeshadow brushes were all pretty boring,” she says. “Like if I go to a Mac store, and I’m paying $30 for a brush, I feel like it should at least have a better design than a $2 one.”

Empresaria Cosmetics first launched in 2020 when Villafuerte was at home and bored during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The brushes, which are made from recycled wood, come in many different designs, some painted bright colors and others more simple and neutral. There are also multiple styles, including brushes for powder, eyeshadow, blending and more. The brushes are inspired by the traditional Mexican toy balero, as well as Mexican culture.

Makeup brushes from Empresaria Cosmetics; Photo courtesy of Izabelle Villafuerte

“We really have most of our base in the Latina community, and, you know, most of these makeup businesses are owned by white men,” Villafuerte says.”So I’m like, let’s make something made by them [the Latina community] for them.”

In the earlier phase of her businesses, Villafuerte found recycled wood anywhere she could. Today, she sources the recycled wood from the Urban Wood Lab. She also has expanded her business to making hand mirrors and compact mirrors, and she hopes to make recycled glass jewelry soon.

“It’s helped us a lot now that we can get it in a more standardized version,” she says. “Before, we were using random things like baseball bats and stuff like that.”

Villafuerte also works alongside her dad, Miguel Villafuerte, to make the products.

“It was really good because we started this a little bit before I moved out, so this is a way to make sure that we’re still seeing each other and getting to spend almost just as much time [together] as when I still lived at home,” Villafuerte says.

Empresaria Cosmetics makeup brush and mirror; Photo courtesy of Izabelle Villafuerte

According to Villafuerte, her dad and her work together really well as a team since they both have different skill sets. She says that while her dad is better at her the artistry and crafting the products, she is better at the business side of things.

She says working with somebody that she’s grown up with and trusts makes it easier to understand their personality and style. Miguel says that this allows him to work with wood, something he enjoys, but he also gets to spend time with his daughter.

“We’re doing something that gives us joy,” Miguel says.

One of their main goals for the business is to branch out more into the Milwaukee and Chicago areas. Villafuerte said that they don’t currently have the capacity to create 100 brushes at once, so it’s difficult for them to get into stores.

Instead, Villafuerte does pop-up booths at craft fairs in Milwaukee and Chicago and sells the products online

“Especially in the Milwaukee area I want to start doing more [craft fairs],” she says. “And not even just for the sales, but to be in the entrepreneurship kind of setting and meeting other people who are going through the same things that you are.”

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Makeup brush from Empresaria Cosmetics; Photo courtesy of Izabelle Villafuerte
Makeup brushes from Empresaria Cosmetics; Photo courtesy of Izabelle Villafuerte