Photo courtesy of Paige DeAngelo. DeAngelo shows her product.
When Paige DeAngelo, communications ’23, first came to Drexel University, she wanted to be a meteorologist and journalist. Then one day, she went to CVS Pharmacy.
Now, she’s an entrepreneur set to officially launch her business this month.
OK, there might have been a few missed steps there in the story of how DeAngelo’s sustainable mascara brand, Aer Cosmetics, came to be and how she placed first from the U.S. among 10 students in the Let’s back up.
DeAngelo, who was on the Drexel Dance team from 2018–2023 and just accepted a job as a dancer for the Philadelphia Flyers, has been a dancer since she was about two years old. Thanks to dance, she’s been wearing makeup since elementary school and learned how to put on fake eyelashes before she learned how to drive, she said. She was always very interested in makeup, but her career goal was to be a meteorologist and study climate and sustainability.
Drexel was a good fit for that, and when she came to college, she was going to be a journalist and meteorologist. To that end, she researched and reported on sustainability for “Inside Ambition,” the Drexel University Television news show by and for students.
“In my segment, I talked about individual waste, and I was telling everyone how you can reduce your individual waste in ways that aren’t expensive for college students,” DeAngelo said. “I realized I was being a hypocrite because I wasn’t applying those ideas to my own life. I was going through so much [makeup] product, around three to five mascaras every year. That’s where Aer started. Makeup is part of my job and at first, I was just looking for a solution for myself.”
She started looking for refillable, reusable makeup, but only found DIY tutorials. There was no option, especially for her sensitive skin, so DeAngelo decided to try to make one herself — a water-soluble, dissolving mascara tablet that would allow you to refill a tube instead of buying a new one repeatedly.
“That night, I went to CVS with my roommate and got all the ingredients I could think of that would go in this tablet,” DeAngelo said. “I went home and spent the next 12 hours creating this formula, which ended up working, which is beyond my belief.”
Shortly after that, she heard about Drexel’s Entrepreneurship Co-op through a friend who was participating in it, and DeAngelo’s adviser encouraged her to apply. The pieces of her company began to come together quickly.
“During COVID, I was just confused on what I would do next, and this seemed like a once in a lifetime opportunity,” DeAngelo said. “Usually, startup founders must juggle a full-time job, course load, or families for me to have the chance to work on this idea in its ideation phase full time was something I couldn’t pass up.”
Her first pitch was for the co-op, and she’s done many more pitches since then, some of them at competitions through Drexel, most of them while on her way to the global semifinals of GSEA. (think “Shark Tank” for college students).
In other pitches, she talked a lot about margins, the vegan formula of her mascara and other business aspects, but at GSEA, the focus turned to the founder — DeAngelo herself — and what inspired them to start a business. DeAngelo’s story and the solid business idea she’d built took her to the U.S. finals.
“I was under a lot of pressure and going through a lot of existential brand identity questions and validating my own idea, but I think a lot of positive things came out of it,” DeAngelo said. “I had to be comfortable and confident talking about myself and my brand because the judges can sniff your doubts out. I gained a lot of confidence and a lot more knowledge.”
DeAngelo ended up winning the U.S. national stage and went on to represent North America at the global semifinals. She didn’t make it to the final six entrepreneurs, but she’s grateful for what she learned from Drexel as she worked on Aer Cosmetics through the Entrepreneurship Co-op.