Alyssa Space remembers a high school chemistry teacher she had at the Academy of the Sacred Heart in Bloomfield Hills, where she lived during part of her childhood. “I actually struggled with chemistry, but I really liked what I was doing,” she said. “He was able to explain chemistry to me so I could see it in my head.”
Now as the founder and CEO of Detroit-based ForHerCosmetics, Space aims to diversify the beauty industry and inspire the next generation of chemists and entrepreneurs. At her MySpaceLaboratories, she formulates all-natural lip gloss, lipstick, body shimmer, eyeshadow and highlighter made with vegan and cruelty-free ingredients.
The company hopes to empower women of all shades and backgrounds, while offering cleaner and safer beauty products. In addition, Space created a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) program that teaches the chemistry behind cosmetics to retain more young girls in STEM-related fields.
ForHer has partnered with the YMCA, the Rhonda Walker Foundation, Michigan Science Center, MSU College of Natural Science and several Detroit Public Schools Community District schools to expand these efforts.
Space also created ForHerAcademy for entrepreneurs of all ages. Through eBooks and programming, she shares every aspect from marketing to distribution. Lastly, she added ForHerLashes that offers cruelty-free lash strips, lash services and a lash growth serum.
Space, who recently moved to Detroit from Bloomfield, earned a BS in Chemistry from Michigan State University, but it was her mom who got her started on the road to success. “My mother was a serial entrepreneur. She always had a side hustle outside of her 9-to-5,” said Space. “I had an entrepreneurial spirit since I was young and I always liked to have my own money.”
She even started a dog-walking business with her brother back in middle school. After college, Space worked for Pfizer as a quality assurance chemist, where she got a taste for the corporate world and gained experience, for which she remains grateful.
When the pandemic hit, the entrepreneur had to get creative. Space added hand sanitizer to her lineup, increased her workforce and moved to an online platform for products through her website and for programming as her in-person interaction with students switched to Zoom. “As a small business owner, it’s really important to be flexible and be able to pivot,” she said.
As her business continues to grow, retailers like Amazon, Macy’s and Target are among her goals for expansion.
“I want to be a household name and have a national program for students,” Space said. “I want to show them the diversity of STEM. You don’t have to be a traditional doctor or nurse. There are other routes like architects or car designers.”
Being her own boss means she’s constantly learning and facing ups and downs. “The challenge is that I’m always going, figuring out the next move and what direction to take the business, employees and contractors in,” she said. “So, I’m always on my toes. You have to keep up with the competition and the industry as it changes and customer expectations.”
On the flip side, she has more flexibility. “I’m not a millionaire yet, but success is being able to have the freedom and the ability to move more fluidly through my life,” said Space. “I can go out of town with family or support someone. I have the ability to make my own schedule; it can be what you want it to be.”
Story: Jeanine Matlow
Photo: Laurie Tennent