How Emily Weiss took Glossier from beauty blog to $ 1 billion brand

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On Tuesday, cult beauty brand Glossier announced it had raised $ 100 million in Series D funding. The round, led by Sequoia Capital, values ​​the cosmetics company’s valuation at $ 1.2 billion, Wall Street reports Newspaper.

Not bad for a five-year-old start-up born from a beauty blog.

“Baby me in 2014 wasn’t sure if we could afford the next hire, didn’t know if anyone would like their idea for a beauty business… and barely knew a venture capitalist from a bank teller” Glossier founder Emily Weiss, 33, wrote in an Instagram post on Tuesday. “Emily in 2019 went through hell and high water to build an amazing business with amazing people … and [has] is one of a very small minority of women who collect that kind of money at that kind of price, to build the things they believe in. “

From blog to beauty brand

For Weiss, the journey began in 2010, when she launched her blog, Into The Gloss, while working as a fashion assistant at Vogue. Weiss had risen through the ranks of the fashion industry, starting her career at just 15 as an intern at Ralph Lauren (a gig she landed thanks to the neighbor she was babysitting for).

“I turned out to be very valuable,” Weiss, 33, told The Cut of his time as an intern. “You have to be so many things. You have to be a sponge, you have to be respectful, you have to roll up your sleeves. I really earned my right to be there. I was just like, ‘Put me to work. I love the job! ‘”

From there, Weiss held a series of assistant positions at Conde Nast and even briefly played the role of Lauren Conrad’s professional nemesis on MTV’s reality TV series “The Hills” during her internship at Teen Vogue. Working in the glamorous world of style, Weiss caught the beauty bug and started her blog, which gave readers a glimpse into the enviable beauty regimes of the fashion elite.

Weiss’s blog ultimately served as a springboard for Glossier, his unicorn makeup and skincare company. She planned to start the business with just four products and – according to The Cut – needed a million dollars to do so. Of the 12 VCs she visited, Weiss was reportedly turned down by 11.

“I had no idea what I was doing,” Weiss told The Cut. “I was 28. I didn’t have an MBA, I went to fine arts school.”

She eventually got an investment from venture capital firm Kirsten Green and, in 2014, started growing the business. Weiss did things a little differently, focusing on marketing and social media geared to millennials.

“I wrote, ‘Here are all the things we need to get started: Website. Pharmacy. Office space. “And then I ticked them off one by one,” Weiss told The Cut about starting the business. “Put all the balls in the air. I got pregnant with Glossier. I incubated. Gave birth to four beautiful products. “Glossier Soothing Face Mist, Primer Moisturizer, Balm Dotcom Ointment and Perfecting Skin Tint Foundation.

Become a unicorn

Weiss herself has become somewhat of a staple in the space of female beauty and entrepreneurship. Her Instagram has 450,000 followers, who regularly comment, like and squirt on the founder’s photos, ranging from snaps of her hugging model Karlie Kloss to snapshots of Glossier’s Milky Oil makeup remover bottles.

Glossier has raised more than $ 190 million to date, according to PitchBook, which also said the $ 1.2 billion valuation is accurate according to its data. On Tuesday, Glossier said it more than doubled its revenue in 2018 to surpass $ 100 million, adding more than a million new customers.

As of January, there were over 300 unicorn companies (or private companies valued at over $ 1 billion) around the world, according to CB Insights, including the Silicon Valley superstars who dominate the on-demand industry, like Uber, Airbnb, and Lyft. Five to ten years ago, a unicorn startup in the beauty industry might have been considered a rarity, says Alison Gaither, analyst for Mintel’s US Beauty and Personal Care Reports. But now? Not really.

“Today that almost seems to be the norm, with private labels like Pat McGrath and Kylie Jenner Cosmetics hitting a similar benchmark pretty quickly,” Gaither told CNBC Make It. (Kylie Cosmetics is worth $ 900 million, according to Forbes.)

With its millennial pink and white minimalist packaging, direct-to-consumer business model, and cosmetics promising to “never cover you up, turn you into someone else, or complicate your routine,” Glossier has been a smash hit with consumers. youth. . Its product prices aren’t exactly worthy of the madness – its Lash Slick mascara, for example, costs $ 16 while its Haloscope highlighter costs $ 22 – but the brand is still worn by stars like Tiffany Haddish and Beyonce.

The impressive success of Glossier is in large part rooted in its direct-to-consumer sales strategy; the cosmetics company has only two physical retail stores and is giving up selling its product through cosmetic retailers like Sephora and Ulta Beauty. Instead, he markets his makeup and skincare arsenal to his nearly 2 million followers on his neatly curated Instagram page. And, her original beauty blog Into the Gloss is still a huge draw too.

“Glossier is so successful because they leverage Intothegloss.com and their various social media channels to really create products for their audience,” Gaither said. “Intothegloss.com is basically Glossier’s discussion group, and they can find out exactly what their subscribers want by simply asking them, ‘What’s your favorite scent? “”

“Before launching their flagship store in New York, Glossier relied on pop-up stores to create buzz,” she adds. “And it worked.”

But, unlike the skin the company’s products promise, not all is shiny. Glossier has come under criticism for its lack of transparency regarding the formulations of its products, and the “no makeup trend” it is known to capitalize on has been criticized for targeting women who already have flawless skin or which could be considered naturally beautiful by traditional beauty standards. .

And in February, the brand launched Glossier Play, a radical departure from its barely absent approach to cosmetics. Instead, Play offers a super shiny lip gloss and a versatile glitter gel, and it has been met with lackluster reviews.

“With the recent launch of Glossier Play, it appears the brand is heading in a different direction from its traditional product offerings which were focused on skin care and skin enhancement rather than hiding it,” explains Gaither. “By being bold, they are officially competing against major players like Pat McGrath and NARS – brands that have professional makeup artists at the helm. It will be crucial for Glossier to compete at the same level or risk losing. client.”

Still, there’s no denying the power of its nearly 2 million Instagram followers who often eagerly await the brand’s latest product announcement on its rose-tinted social media profiles. Regarding an initial public offering, Weiss told the Journal, “We are certainly in a position where… we are able to do it,” but gave no further details.

Glossier did not immediately respond to CNBC’s Make It request for comment.

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