This TikToker is delving into what makes DTC CPG businesses tick

Dulma Altan shares tips for raising $$ and what entrepreneurs can glean from the rise of celeb beauty brands.
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Illustration: Francis Scialabba, Photo: TikTok

· 5 min read

While many TikTokers mispronouncing Uncut Gems nonstop or critiquing the new season of Euphoria, Dulma Altan (@iamdulma) has found a less traditional way to go viral: talking business.

With videos discussing everything from raising venture capital to evaluating content strategies through “brand audits,” Altan’s established what she calls a “TikTok B-school for women” covering the ins and outs of DTC CPG brands. She’s amassed 47,000+ followers and 1.3 million likes since her debut last year, gaining notice for analyzing Glossier’s recent missteps (298k views) and why Ariana Grande’s R.E.M. Beauty might “flop” (740k views).


While new(ish) to TikTok, she’s not new to the world of DTC: After graduating in 2014 from Brown University—where she wrote her senior thesis on Warby Parker—Altan had stints at branding agency Red Antler and Google’s SMB AdWords team.

  • But her own biz, an online natural fragrance store called Potion, is what gave her a “crash course” in running a DTC company, Altan told Retail Brew. After ~2 years, she shut it down in 2020 when she realized it wasn’t scaleable.

“I learned exactly how hard it can be to wear all those hats,” Altan said. “It was a lesson in the importance of having large gross margins, and all the stuff that you need to take into account when you start a business.”

  • After that, she sought to establish an online community with more “tactical” advice than what was available for female entrepreneurs (specifically “bros in Lamborghinis telling you how to arbitrage and dropship products”), which led her to join TikTok.

While Altan has gone viral chatting about celeb brands, she says her videos are really a “Trojan horse” to reach founders and consumers alike on TikTok. Here are her top takeaways for CPG entrepreneurs.

Dulma Allen

Dulma Allen

Green light: Altan, also a venture partner at Republic (an investing platform for startups), told us that brands should do their due diligence before jumping on the VC bandwagon to determine if that’s the route for them. (The size of the fund, thesis, and whether their values align are a few considerations she’s noted in her vids.)

Plus, entrepreneurs should be wary that raising $$ can be a time-consuming cycle.

“Typically if you raise money, you’re going to start to get on the treadmill of having to raise every 12 to 18 months,” she said. “Some people don’t realize just how much bandwidth that can take up in terms of your attention and your resources.”

  • In her TikToks, Altan makes the case that raising capital makes the most sense for brands that can scale quickly—and ultimately aim to be acquired.
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One of the best ways to get the scoop on funding and score an intro to the right VC firm is chatting with other founders, Altan noted: “Often those are going to be the people who want to open doors for you, because somebody opened doors for them.”

Find your place: While CPG entrepreneurs may want to think big for their debut and appeal to everyone, Altan argues that “niching down”—like making products for melanin-rich skin or gender-fluid makeup, for example— is an oft-underestimated path to success.

“The mistake that a lot of people make is they’re afraid of niching down because they don’t want to lose out on potential customers,” she explained. “But the risk of that is you’re just not going to stand out to anyone when you launch because there's so much noise.”

  • If you tap into an existing community—or build your own—you can involve consumers in the process of creating and launching products, Altan noted.
  • She said TikTok is a great top-of-funnel to spark consumer interest before moving over to platforms like Instagram that allow for more direct interaction.

Fame game: All of the effort made by a new founder can often be dwarfed by celeb-backed CPG brands (especially within beauty) popping up left and right—though that might not be true for long, Altan predicts. The onslaught has left consumers “fatigued and skeptical” because star-studded companies haven’t found their niche, she said, keeping them from surpassing “initial sales from their most devoted fan base.”

  • In fact, nearly 75% of consumers aren’t interested in buying celebrity beauty brands, per a January Morning Consult survey.
  • Now, celebs are seeking different product categories—like health and wellness (see: Sarah Hyland’s supplement brand Sourse and Bella Hadid’s Kin Euphorics).

Still, there is something to glean from companies that rely heavily on a well-known name to make the sale, Altan said: Establishing the founder or CEO as the face of the brand can help form a connection with consumers.

  • And those faces shouldn’t all look the same. Popular among her followers are sensitive-skin beauty brand Tower 28, Asian food brand Omsom, and Ami Colé, which produces makeup for melanin-rich skin—all founded and led by women of color.

“We’re kind of entering this phase where that’s a little bit more refreshing to people and they’re willing to rally around a face of a brand who isn’t just what we’ve seen before in the quote-unquote ‘Girlboss’ era,” Altan said.

Retail news that keeps industry pros in the know

Retail Brew delivers the latest retail industry news and insights surrounding marketing, DTC, and e-commerce to keep leaders and decision-makers up to date.