Makeup Makers: More Beauty Brands are Coming out of Pittsburgh

A pair of local businesses are breaking into the health and beauty business with innovation and tenacity.

photos courtesy subtl beauty and calithea


With $15 billion in retail sales in 2017 — up $2 billion from 2016, according to global market research and consulting firm Kline Group’s Cosmetics & Toiletries USA study — it’s little wonder that the independent beauty industry is attracting local entrepreneurs. 

Rachel Reid, of Mount Washington, started work on Subtl Beauty in 2017. The brand launched in September 2018 with a line of makeup in small, circular pans designed to twist together so customers can build a stack of preferred products. The company’s offerings include a shine-controlling powder, a lip/cheek pigment, concealer, bronzer and highlighter; each product comes in a range of shades.

“I’m definitely not a formula expert, so I partnered with a formulation company and their lab in San Diego,” says Reid, the company’s founder and CEO and a Duquesne University alum.

“I was working with their expert to make sure that the formulas were honestly something that I would use — that was good for my skin and actually worked.”

Another burgeoning local skincare brand, Calithea Skin-care, was started by George Kazas and his 15-year-old daughter, Elena.


The brand focuses on the benefits of olive oil for the skin, something Elena, a student at Beaver Area High School, learned from her Greek-immigrant grandmother. The high school sophomore and her father started working on Calithea when she was just 13.

“The actual skincare knowledge came from Elena. My background was always in business and branding,” Kazas — who was a founding partner of the gourmet coffee startup Hometown Coffee Company — says. “We were able to find a great manufacturing partner in Greece; they gave Elena a lot of info on what she was looking for from a product standpoint.” All of their products are manufactured in Greece.

“Some people just don’t understand how invested I really am into this,” Elena says. “I was at every meeting. I had a say in everything. I remember my first meeting [at] 13; I remember it was a little intimidating. I remember thinking that most of my friends were at, like, the football game, not a business meeting.”

Kazas was always confident in his entrepreneur daughter, however. At that first meeting, he told her, “You’re sitting at the grown-up table now.”

Calithea products can be found at two Giant Eagle Market District locations (Settlers Ridge and Waterworks) and online at Subtl Beauty’s stackable products are available at  

Categories: Business