Why Locals Are Putting Their WarPaint on This Valentine’s Day

Mound couple creates an international beauty agency that makes pampering convenient and fun.

When husband and wife team Sam Koza and Jessica Mae created their own beauty business several years ago, they knew the name needed to be as fierce as the mission. WarPaint International was the result of their brainstorming efforts. “[The name is] powerful and meaningful,” Mae shares. “My mom, dad and sisters used to call applying makeup putting your ‘war paint’ on.” Koza and Mae, who live in Mound, have built an international beauty agency that helps clients prepare for every and any occasion—putting their war paint on to take on the world.

While WarPaint International was officially founded in late 2013, Mae’s love for makeup traces back to her childhood. “I had a knack and love for makeup and beauty my whole life,” Mae says. “I was always playing with my mom’s and sister’s makeup, but it was always more than just the little girl playing with her mom’s makeup. I thought, ‘I want to be this when I grow up.’ ” After working in retail and doing freelance work for salons, Mae met her match in Koza, who has a background in business, and together they took Mae’s lifelong passion to the next level. “We put our heads together and said, let’s design something bigger and greater than just me, the makeup artist,” Mae explains. With Mae generating ideas and Koza creating the company’s digital footprint, the two went into beauty battle and emerged victorious.

WarPaint International provides mobile beauty services to clients in the Lake Minnetonka and greater Twin Cities areas. With 40 local artists skilled in hair styling, makeup, and photo and wardrobe styling, WarPaint has clients from brides to busy stay-at-home moms. Without a brick-and-mortar space, WarPaint artists travel to clients’ homes and other venues to provide services, and Mae and Koza understand that entering clients’ homes is a business model that requires integrity. “We have a vetting process for artists,” Mae says, “with an extensive interview process, trainings and orientations.” This extensive training ensures that WarPaint artists’ services are consistent and dependable. “It’s important that clients feel safe and taken care of,” Koza says. WarPaint has styled clients in their homes, wedding venues, offices and even once in the back of a car. Part of the appeal is that busy clients can take just a little time to pamper themselves without devoting a full day at a salon.

Though WarPaint was born in the Lake Minnetonka area, it now has teams in San Diego, Los Angeles and New York, too. In early 2014, WarPaint launched its beauty membership program, which attracted attention from the media and from other makeup artists around the country. “The beauty membership is really different,” Mae says. “It got us lots of attention, and through conversations with artists in San Diego and New York, we decided it was time to grow.”

The membership includes two on-demand hair or makeup services per month, and the WarPaint artist meets the client wherever he or she chooses. With pricing below typical salon costs and a well-trained beauty team, the membership launch was a turning point for WarPaint. But the agency’s beauty membership isn’t the only service that has gained attention. They also offer packages like the Night on the Town makeup application and hair styling, which allow clients to book artists for a special event. “We do parties,” Mae says. “You can get your girlfriends together with wine and cheese, and we will host a DIY makeup class.”

And WarPaint is looking ahead. “We are really focusing on corporate beauty and lifestyle production,” Mae says. With a well-established network of photographers, videographers, models and others in the beauty industry, Mae and Koza are branching out. “We are approaching companies to do lifestyle brand and marketing production for them,” Mae says. “They will hire us to come in and concept whatever they are needing to market or design for their target client. We then go back to the drawing board and come up with the creative brief, and put it together to make the shoot happen.”

Koza adds, “What we are offering is the ability for a company to answer the question, ‘What does it feel like to have a wedding in this space, or to drive this car?’” he says. “We have numerous resources to help tell that story and do it well.”

In addition to growing the corporate beauty and lifestyle production side of the business, Koza and Mae agree that focusing on WarPaint’s wedding department is a priority. Last year was a record for WarPaint; they styled 130 weddings in Minneapolis. Mae says working with brides is one of her favorite parts of the business. “I’m in a position where I take five to 10 weddings a year myself,” Mae explains. “My clients are all wonderful, and we cry at the end because we all love each other.”

Mae and Koza want to mitigate the negative experiences that many clients have had in the past with the beauty industry. “There have been many brides left high and dry on their wedding day [by other stylists],” Koza says. “We are resolving those issues for people.” In one instance, during a multi-day wedding where WarPaint was hired to do styling for the groom, the bride’s makeup artist did not show up. “Our team stepped in and handled it,” Koza says. “Everything was on time, exactly what she wanted, and it made her feel good.” Koza and Mae beam as they talk about their award-winning team. “It’s a talented crew of people who can facilitate just about any request,” Koza says.

“We are a community and a family,” Mae adds. “It’s been an amazing culture to be a part of.”

With a proven record and versatile artists, WarPaint has styled its way to victory. They’ve won awards from wedding ratings site The Knot for the last few years. Perhaps most rewarding of all, Jessica Mae’s childhood love for makeup has evolved into an international brand. “It’s more than just makeup,” Koza says. Mae even has the WarPaint logo tattooed on her arm. When asked what it is that makes them want to keep the business running, Koza says, “My favorite part of the business is that I built it with my wife; I love that we built something that we are both passionate about, and that we dreamt up together.” He adds, “I personally wake up every day thinking, ‘This is what I love to do, and I love the person I’m doing it with.’ ”

Heart-Day Beauty
WarPaint founder Jessica Mae shares her top tips for a flawless Valentine’s Day—or any day—look.

Smoky eye. “To ensure your smoky eye lasts all night, use an eyeshadow primer like Urban Decay’s Primer Potion. A small amount is all you need—smaller than a pea size to use for both eyes.”

The perfect red lip. “Don’t skip the lip liner! The old-school wooden pencil liners work the best. Try Brick from MAC. Make sure your liner is sharpened to get that perfect crisp line. Start by lining your lips, and then fill them in all the way with the liner before you apply your lipstick; this will help the color last all day and also prevents bleeding. My favorite red lipstick is called Nevermore from Elixery, which is a local company.”

Ultimate bedroom eyes: “For the ultimate bedroom eyes, use a black kohl eyeliner pencil to line both your lower and upper waterlines. I love the kohl liner pencil from Inglot.”

Winter hair care. “Make sure that once a week you are doing a deep conditioning treatment; Kerastase has great winter hydrating treatments. I put that on my hair and let it sit 10 to 15 minutes. It keeps my hair from getting static and dry, holds color, and I can go longer between haircuts.”

New season, new products.
“Change moisturizer from summer to winter. Exfoliate one or two times per week, see an aesthetician and update your products. For makeup, lighten up a little; make sure your foundation matches your skin tone. It’s good to have a summertime/vacation foundation and wintertime foundation.”


Hair Styling
WarPaint International artisan Katie Rote

Makeup Artistry
WarPaint International creative director Jessica Mae