She just wanted to eat and pay rent.
“In 1987, I started working with my mother [Fatima]’s import-export business. I worked with her for five years,” said Telwar, who lived in Nashville at the time.
Her mother was from Turkey, newly divorced and working hard to make ends meet. When the first Gulf War happened, Telwar said the business faced adversity because she and her mother shipped products to the Middle East.
“Everything had been embargoed and it was pretty traumatic for us. My mother said, ‘Listen, you need to find something to do,’” Telwar said. “I had not had not finished school. I had no degree to fall back on.”
In 1992, she started working with a brush business, particularly with the marketing aspect of the business.
Telwar was born in New York and lived in Nashville before moving to Atlanta in 1994 and starting what is now Anisa International Inc., a Buckhead-based global cosmetic brush, accessory and package design and manufacturing company, which is now in its 20th year.
“I started sending out letters, putting brushes in envelopes and just mailing them,” Telwar said. “I started traveling more and I made my first few trips to Korea and China to do sourcing trips.”
Telwar said she called up cosmetic companies and asked to show the product.
She said she thinks companies like Revlon gave her a chance because her circumstance was “such an anomaly.”
“I came out of nowhere, I wasn’t a New Yorker and it was a very male-dominated business at the time,” Telwar said. “I was a little bit of a breath of fresh air for them.”
By 1996, Telwar grew her business’ worth to more than $3 million, up from $300,000 at the beginning.
In 2002, Telwar parted ways with her business partner and launched a fully owned and operated manufacturing plant in Tianjin, China, by 2003.
“When I had to start the facility, I really thought I was going to lose my business because I did not know how to open a plant in China,” Telwar said. “It was a lot of money, I did not speak Chinese and my customers didn’t trust me to do this, but I had loyal customers who gave me a chance. … Most of them stayed with us.”
Anisa designs and manufactures makeup tools for brands like Laura Mercier, Bare Escentuals and Sephora.
The company has more than 600 employees with the headquarters in Buckhead’s Brookwood neighborhood and offices in New York, Los Angeles and London, where Telwar lives half the time.
“Anisa had always been one of the best manufacturers that I was watching in the industry,” said Sarah Perread, global segment leader for DuPont, one of Anisa’s partners.
Perread, of Switzerland, said Anisa’s slogan, “The Beauty of True Partnership” is “not for nothing.”
“We really do work as partners and in the same direction,” she said. “Her vision of the market is strong and she puts everything in place to get what she envisioned, and she is sharing this with all her suppliers and customers.”
Although Telwar said she has faced struggles professionally and personally, she said it all contributed to her success.
“I always wanted to be better and not bitter,” she said. “There’s always something to learn through the adversity.”