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Alum’s Clean Makeup Brand Keeps Growing

Alum’s Clean Makeup Brand Keeps Growing

Amy Liu MBA ’04 credits entrepreneurship courses and mentorship for her success.

Color photograph of USC Marshall alumna Amy Liu.

Amy Liu MBA '04 and CEO/Founder of Tower 28 Beauty.

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“I feel that I have an obligation and opportunity to leave the industry a better one.” — Amy Liu MBA ’04

After struggling all of her life with eczema, AMY LIU knew there was a market for skincare and makeup products for sensitive skin across complexion lines. But it wasn’t until she got her MBA at USC Marshall, with concentrations in marketing and entrepreneurship, that she realized she could create these products herself.

After graduating, Liu worked as a marketing executive for popular beauty brands Smashbox and Kate Somerville. There Liu learned the particulars of the beauty business that would later help her launch her own clean makeup line. In 2019, she did just that. TOWER 28 is a beauty brand designed for sensitive skin.

In the past few years, clean beauty, which refers to cosmetic products created without synthetic chemicals and ingredients, has boomed, but Liu explains how this shift has impacted her company.

“The concept of clean beauty has shifted as the consumer perspective has changed. Now it’s less about how natural and more about the do-no-harm concept. There are synthetic beauty items that are good, and some that are bad. For me, our product promise is that intersection between clean but also safe for sensitive skin.”

Her first investor was a Marshall classmate. “Don’t underestimate the power of manifestation,” she said. “Share what you want for yourself with other people, because you never know who will remember you and later invest in you.”

Since its launch, the brand has exploded in popularity, distributed at leading makeup vendors, including Sephora, Kohl’s, Revolve, and Credo Beauty. It recently celebrated a milestone of a four-shelf end cap display at Sephora, which operates approximately 1,900 stores in 29 countries worldwide, with an expanding base of over 200 stores across the Asia Pacific region, including Australia, China, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and India.

“I feel that I have an obligation and opportunity to leave the industry a better one.”

— Amy Liu

CEO/Founder, Tower 28 Beauty

Local Name

Anyone who’s grown up in Southern California will be familiar with the lifeguard towers dotting the beaches. They’re numbered, and make for convenient meetup places. “Tower 28” is the name of the lifeguard tower that sits between Santa Monica and Venice Beach. The two towns, while next door to each other, have very different vibes. The former is upscale, while the latter is more edgy.

Liu named her brand Tower 28 to evoke inclusivity. Her makeup colors are designed to flatter every skin tone. “Growing up in white, blonde beach culture, I never felt represented,” she said. For Liu, representation in her brand was key.

In addition to having a clear purpose for complexions, her brand also has a greater purpose. In 2020, Tower 28 launched the CLEAN BEAUTY SUMMER SCHOOL initiative to support the growth of BIPOC-owned brands in the clean beauty space, wrapping its third year in 2022. Each year, Tower 28 hosts the program which is a collective effort by founders and leaders in the beauty industry to support the growth of majority BIPOC-owned small clean beauty businesses.

During her time at Marshall, she recalls a class with former professor Sandy Green and a key moment that still impacts her entrepreneurship approach now.

“‘When you can make something that people really need, versus want, that’s where you can find success,’ I remember him telling us,” she said. “He also introduced us to the concept of noblesse oblige – his point being that people in that USC classroom had the opportunity to go out into the world and do something good. This is something that I think of pretty often now,” she added.

Liu is also devoted to helping young people, even hiring USC alumni at her company. “I wanted to hire people who were young, curious, and hardworking,” she said. “Younger people have an opportunity to do and learn. Some of the people I hired when I first started the company are still here now.”

As her brand and products continue to grow, Liu is excited for 2023 to continue her mission of #ItsOkayToBeSensitive.