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Welcome to The Quality Makers, an interview series highlighting pioneers in the direct-to-consumer space. Join us as we get an inside look at the world of digital shopping through the eyes of the individuals shaping it…
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Sravya Adusumilli is the founder of Mango People: a new generation, multifunctional beauty brand that sells tasteful products formulated with botanical oils and adaptogenic herbs from Ayurveda, and infused with rich pigments that look and, most importantly, feel incredible on the skin. Sravya was born in Telangana, India and moved to Canada when she was 10 years old. After completing her degree in Chemical Engineering, she moved to LA 4 years ago to dream into existence the makeup brand she’s always wanted but could never find.
Can you please introduce Mango People?
SA: “We are a fruit powered, ayurvedic inspired, eco conscious makeup brand. More simply put, we make makeup that's good for your skin and the planet. I really wanted the name to be meaningful, something that resonates with our brand values. One of the integral parts of our ethos is using incredible, high quality and effective ingredients in our products, and mango butter is one of our hero ingredients. Since so much of our brand is inspired by my South Asian heritage, I liked the idea of incorporating mango into the name, and because the products are made for us, the people, Mango People was born.”
What led you to start Mango People? When did you first become interested in makeup?
SA: “When I was in my second year of engineering, I learned that my favorite lipstick, the one I wore every day, had petroleum byproducts in it and that the colors were derived from coal tar. What was even worse, is that most of the time I wore lipstick, I also ate it because of my terrible lip biting habit. So I was pretty mortified, and frankly speaking quite disappointed, because I was paying a premium for this lipstick that I bought from a highly sought out brand. I tried finding alternatives, but unfortunately, most of the companies at that time were making inaccurate marketing statements. And when I did find a brand or two that genuinely had great ingredients, their shade ranges were not very inclusive. All I wanted was my favorite: a natural, pinkish nude lipstick that showed up on my pigmented lips with ingredients that are actually good for my skin. And that’s what Mango People provides. I wanted to create a line of products that is inclusive of all skin tones without compromising on our ingredients, the performance or the planet.”
What differentiates you from other brands in the industry?
SA: “One is our dedication and, honestly our obsession, with using the best ingredients possible. We have a very detailed and a very long banned ingredient list that we go through very thoroughly. Our incredible chemists with 20 plus years of experience comb through each and every single ingredient before we use them in our formulations. Our entire collection is infused with a proprietary blend of adaptogenic herbs from Ayurveda, which include incredibly powerful plants and herbs like ashwagandha that have been used in Ayurvedic medicine for 1000s of years. They're known for their calming properties, and we have hundreds of reviews from customers who have acne prone skin, eczema, dry skin, that say: “your products are the only ones that my skin can handle.” I'm 100% sure that’s due to our gentle and soothing ingredients.
We're also really known for our shade range and our performance. When you think about clean beauty, you tend to have to apply multiple layers before you see the color or the pigment at all. But with our products, one swipe is all you need to see the very rich and beautiful pigments. The shade range was designed by yours truly, a woman of color who really understands and spent a lot of time researching the hues and pigmentations of melanin rich skin – why certain colors work for us and why they don’t. I can tell you from experience that very little thought tends to go into designing for deeper skin tones. I went through hundreds of iterations to develop the shades that we have today. That's definitely one of the reasons as to why we've been selling out constantly.
And lastly, our commitment to sustainability! I know this is a buzzword, but we truly don't do this for marketing purposes. I have always been very mindful about minimizing my waste and conscious about my ecological footprint. It's just part of my lifestyle and I was very adamant about making it a part of Mango People’s ethos from the beginning. We're not perfect, but sustainability is genuinely part of every, single decision we make – from the cartons, to the PR packages. If we find a more environmentally friendly material/source, we pay the extra money and take that option.”
Tell me more about multifunctional beauty and how that applies to Mango People.
SA: “For me, efficiency is key. Every single one of our ingredients has a purpose. If you take our whole entire formulation, it’s genuinely mostly skincare, and then we add color on top. I stopped using lip balm a long time ago. I just use the multistick as my lip balm now, that’s how hydrating the product is. The multipurpose of each product means you can use it anywhere – on your eyes, lips & cheeks, and this includes our bronzers ($27) as well. I made everything as multifunctional as possible because I know what it’s like to be a broke college student, so I wanted people to just have one product in hand and be able to use it in multiple ways.”
How does your ethnicity and cultural background act as a source of inspiration, but also as the foundation of your brand?
SA: “From our ethos, to our ingredients, to our shade names, my South Asian heritage has a great influence on our brand. Growing up in a South Indian household, my mom was my spa. She never let me pay for a facial, she always did them for me herself – from creating face masks with whatever she could find in the kitchen to soaking rice and saving the water to use on my hair. My mom has taught me to be very mindful about what I eat, but also what I put on my body. She really discouraged me from wearing makeup and I only understood why once I started doing my research. She was trying to protect me from all the harmful ingredients.
When I think back to starting my journey with Mango People, it began with the need to go back to my roots. A lot of that can be found in the stories and rituals passed down from our grandmothers and mothers. Take henna – it’s known to be used on your hands, but it’s also used for hair dyeing, to avoid harsh, chemical products. Or even something as simple as using crushed rose petals as blush – we have all these incredible rituals and traditions of using powerful plants and herbs to beautify ourselves, which really inspired me to take that and transform it into a makeup brand.
In terms of our shades, one of our bestsellers is Gulabi ($27), which means pink in my mother tongue, Telugu. Jalebi is a beautiful, delicious, vibrant orange Indian sweet, and our shade of Jalebi ($27) very much mirrors that color. And Tabla, which is a musical instrument that my grandfather plays – this deep, profound neutral color, which is what our Tabla ($27) shade consists of. I wanted to bring in the culture wherever possible. I am so fortunate to have grown up with these incredible and effective ingredients and beauty rituals. I wish for everyone to be able to experience and enjoy them.”
What are some lessons you aim to teach others about makeup, skincare and self care?
SA: “Firstly, don't believe everything everyone says, especially with the TikTok trends. It’s important to take any piece of advice with a grain of salt because what works for others might not work for you, and that's okay. When I first started thinking about Mango People, I went to a chemist, a really good lab and I told them about the ingredients I wanted to incorporate into my products. They told me there are these core ingredients that you have to use, and if you don’t, you won't be able to create a high performing product. But I refused to believe them and I started experimenting myself. I can assure you, 5 years later, it is 100% possible to have products that are great quality and very high performing without compromising on ingredients. It's all about being innovative and turning to nature for solutions. So don’t just believe everything you’re told.
Secondly, read the ingredient list and always do your own research! We're so lucky to be in a world where information is at our fingertips, so check for accuracy and most importantly, ask yourself: would this work for my skin? And lastly, I grew up in a culture where spending time in front of the mirror doing your hair or makeup, was always considered to be vain. And I always tell my cousins that getting ready, wearing makeup, or having a skincare routine does not make you a shallow person. These are moments where you take care of yourself and I think that's both beautiful and necessary to embed in your everyday life.”
What are your visions and dreams for the future of Mango People?
SA: “We're definitely working on quite a few new projects, but the only way I will release a new product is if nothing like it already exists in the market, or if it will take your beauty routine to the next level and we’ve created a better version in terms of performance and ingredients. Our bar is so high, it takes time for us to take an idea from conception to reality. That's the reason we haven't released a product in two years. I want to make sure our community continues to feel beautiful, confident and seen through our products and that requires patience. I hope to keep sharing our rich history and ancient practices with the rest of the world to enjoy. It’s our way to pay homage to our roots while also preserving our culture for future generations. Outside of my family, my greatest inspiration is definitely my loving and supportive Mango People community and I want to make sure they get the best products and experience they deserve.”