Aviva Kamler is the founder and CEO of SHELF Cosmetics, a mobile app designed to make the process of selecting and purchasing nail polish and cosmetics simpler and more convenient for women like herself. Learn more about SHELF Cosmetics at http://shelfcosmetics.com.


What motivated you to start your business?  
I was motivated to create SHELF because I understand and have experienced the over saturation of products in the beauty industry and the lack of transparency in how well each product works, including the safety of a product’s contents.  We, as consumers, should have a convenient, organized, interactive and fun way to identify and remember which products work for us, and which ones don’t. As consumers striving for healthy lifestyles, we should have access to easily understandable information about the chemicals contained in each product we use, without being a chemist. These core beliefs and principles led to the creation of SHELF. The intersection between technology and the beauty industry, SHELF gives women a platform to make better-informed purchasing decisions regarding nail polish and cosmetics by tracking, rating and reviewing their own products.  It also engages consumers in a fun and interactive social way to view and share the choices of their friends, peers, and family.

What is the greatest barrier you faced in launching your business and how did you overcome it?
The greatest barrier I have faced since launching my business has been educating and enlightening male investors about the necessity, ingenuity, and potential of SHELF both for nail polish, but also as a harbinger for the future marketing of cosmetics in a billion dollar industry. Because males play a critical role in deciding which projects will be funded, it has been difficult for some of them to grasp, identify and fully comprehend the competition, confusion, and oversaturation of an industry with which they are generally so unfamiliar.

Do you have a mentor? How did you find him/her?
Yes I have multiple mentors/advisors. They are critical to my success because I rely on them for advice, feedback, contacts, and most of all guidance. I found mentors through my Business School and then through friends and family. People are more willing to help, than I initially thought; it just takes a bit of courage to ask.

If you could go back in time to when you were first starting, what would you tell yourself, with the intention of avoiding mistakes and heart ache?
If I could go back in time, I would tell myself that everyday is not going to be fun and exciting. I had heard that there are true highs and lows of entrepreneurship, but somehow I thought I was immune to those feelings. After having been doing this for almost a year full time, I can say that there are truly exciting opportunities and disappointing downfalls for every company, big or small. Knowing that everyone starting a business has had this experience, that you are not alone, and how you pick yourself up from those disappointments and figure out how to pivot or re-strategize makes you an entrepreneur.

What resources have been most helpful to you?
The resources most helpful to me thus far have been my family and friends. They have celebrated my accomplishments and comforted me during the low moments of the entrepreneurial process which are bound to happen. Often, my family and friends were my first investors so that was helpful!

What does success look like for you?
To me, success looks like 200,000 users on SHELF sharing and saving beauty products, and using the app as a way to purchase and find out chemical information about those products. Success looks like women and men, young and old, turning to SHELF on a daily basis to check their feed, track their own product usage, or just to find new beauty trends.

What do you do to recharge?
To recharge, I like to go to the gym or go for a long walk or hike. Working out allows me to take some time to not think about my business or what work I have going on, and to truly get lost in what I am doing. It is time for me to focus on myself and to offload any stress I have.

What’s your advice for a young woman that’s considering starting her own business?
My best advice for a young woman looking to start her own business: find a woman mentor who believes in you and what you are trying to accomplish. Learn from her successes, experiences, and pitfalls and try to apply those lessons to your own business. Also, have conviction in what you are doing and make sure that your passion for your business is clear. Lastly, as I have said before, don’t give up – any business is hard, particularly just when you are starting out. Make your business so convincing it’s hard for people to walk away from.


During the month of May, National Women’s Business Council will be profiling young women entrepreneurs—many of whom are still students.  Visit the NWBC Blog every Tuesday of the month to learn more about these inspiring women.