The beauty category is rife with women who have made their mark
The global beauty industry was created by strong, entrepreneurial women. Elizabeth Arden, Estée Lauder and Helena Rubinstein were the “big three” who invented most of the products still essential to us today. They truly led these companies. It wasn’t just their name on the products; they made all the important decisions, including marketing, distribution and promotion. They toiled in the lab, sold direct to consumers in the stores and ran their empires until the day they died.
The beauty industry has changed dramatically since then. Women today are more sophisticated, socially conscious, aware and educated on skin care and style. In addition, the competition in this category is staggering, with dozens of major companies and a bewildering mix of small indie brands. Today’s buyers are not the loyal, life-long buyers of the past. They like to experiment and check out anything that’s new, so it’s even harder today to break into this industry and build a sustainable customer base.
Many of today’s top brands were founded by smart, savvy females — all with their own points of difference and appeal to various market segments. Toni Ko, founder of NYX Cosmetics, became interested in cosmetics when she was a teenager. Since she couldn’t afford department store brands, she replicated higher-end looks using drug store brands. She started NYX, pronounced “nix” after the Greek goddess of the night, in 1999. Determined not to sacrifice quality, but keep her prices affordable, she did all the research and development herself. She executed its sale to L’Oréal for an estimated $400 million in July 2014. But within days, she became bored and within a few months started a sunglasses company.
In 1993, Lisa Price began creating all-natural hair and body products in her Brooklyn kitchen. Her recipes are made with love, natural ingredients and inspiration from her mom, Carol. The company currently is valued at $27 million and was acquired by L’Oréal in 2014, but Lisa continues to run Carol’s Daughter.
Another L’Oréal asset, Essie, was created by Essie Weingarten. In 1981, she took her life savings of $10,000 and had 12 colors made at a lab to put together little kits to send to salons. Within a year, the Essie brand was in 10,000 U.S. salons, and a year later it distributed internationally. At the time of its acquisition by L’Oréal in 2010, annual sales were $28 million. England’s Queen Elizabeth II wears Essie’s Ballet Slippers polish. “Not bad for a little girl from Queens,” Essie said.
Kat Von D is an American tattoo artist and reality TV star. In 2008, her namesake line launched at Sephora, with products that are 100% vegan and cruelty-free. Like Arden, Rubinstein and Lauder, Von D personally tests the formulas and has a direct hand in the packaging design and layouts for the Sephora signage.
Amy Risley, founder of SkinFix, comes from a beauty family — her father worked in manufacturing at Estée Lauder. As a kid, she was fascinated with ingredients and what was in each formula. She worked for L’Oréal and Jo Malone before she met the great, great granddaughter of Thomas Dixon, the pharmacist creator of SkinFix healing balm, and later bought the brand. She now works with dermatologists, naturopaths and holistic chemists to develop skin care that is consciously clean and clinically proven to work.
K-Beauty is one of the hottest trends to hit the market in the last three years and shows no sign of slowing down. While most beauty consumers have tried or at least heard of K-Beauty products, they probably don’t know that one person — Alicia Yoon — is responsible for bringing most of them to the U.S. market.
The CEO of K-Beauty brand Peach & Lily, Yoon also is an esthetician and a leader in the Korean skin care industry. In 2017, the brand was added to Target’s lineup.
It’s amazing and inspirational what these women have accomplished with creative innovation and entrepreneurial perseverance. As a female entrepreneur myself, I can’t wait to see who’s next.
Joann Marks is the founder and CEO of Cosmetic Promotions.