Some people are lucky to have a good idea in life, with which they build a successful business. Marcia Kilgore had five.
First, in 1996, she founded Bliss, a cult beauty emporium in New York City that became a profitable product line and later became the first North American acquisition by LVMH, for about $ 30 million. .
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Then, it was the affordable bath, body and cosmetics brand, Soap & Glory, which became ubiquitous in British bathrooms and was sold to Boots Alliance drugstore chain in 2014. Then came a line of ergonomic shoes, FitFlop; and then Soaper Duper, a vegan brand of body products.
But it’s Beauty Pie, her fifth company, that the 52-year-old serial entrepreneur believes to be her best idea so far. “I’ve had some good ones in the past. I am proud of them all. But Beauty Pie eclipses the rest. ”
Beauty Pie, which is based in London, started operating four years ago and is a shopping club for beauty addicts. Members pay a monthly membership fee to access some of the best fragrance, skin care and cosmetics factories in the world, many of which supply large luxury brands, who now charge much more for products since receive your logo. With Beauty Pie, members can get regular deliveries of Japanese skin care products and South Korean serum, Italian lipsticks and perfumes made in Grasse, France, all arriving in exclusive pink packaging.
Kilgore had this idea one afternoon when he was at a train station in Milan, returning from a beauty product manufacturing region in Italy known as the Lipstick Valley. She had about $ 5,000 in free samples from local factories in a large bag. “Suddenly, I thought, what if all the women who usually buy these products at Sephora or in department stores could have this feeling, which I am having now, of doing a big deal, eliminating the middlemen? If they could have access to the products at a real cost, they could buy many more things of great quality. I knew that making the client feel good like that had real appeal, even if it also displeased some in the industry. ”
After all, making the client feel good was what energized her business from the beginning. Kilgore was born in 1968 in Saskatchewan, Canada. Her father died when she was 11 years old. Money was tight, and after high school, she moved to New York with $ 300.
For several years, he worked as a personal trainer, and then, having taken a beautician course after recurring bouts of acne, Kilgore found a new niche: offering facials in his East Village apartment.
In 1996, she opened the Bliss Spa in SoHo. A Vogue article praised his exfoliations and peels. Oprah Winfrey, Calvin Klein and Madonna became customers. The waiting list for treatments like Quadruple Thighpass and Double Oxygen facial with Kilgore was up to 18 months long.
A successful product line followed, as well as spas and a decade of 90-hour work weeks for Kilgore and his team, who relaxed customers with videos of King Kong in the electrolysis room and chatted with them like great friends.
“Bliss stood out as a brand because it had a peculiar, interesting and different personality from everything there was at that time, just like Marcia herself. She was also an astute pioneer who discovered a lucrative niche in the health and beauty industry. She was never afraid to take risks, ”said beauty businesswoman Bobbi Brown.
With each of his ventures, Kilgore seems capable of packaging and selling a moment at the Zeitgeist of beauty, an industry once dominated by a handful of global giants. In recent years, however, independent startups have proliferated, with success spurred by innovative products, social media experience and excited consumers.
Beauty Pie has arrived at a time when buyers are more aware than ever of how and where their products are made and increasingly value retailers’ transparency. Online subscriptions for personal care products and flowers and household items have also grown in popularity.
An annual Beauty Pie subscription costs $ 99, or starts at $ 10 a month, which includes lower prices on more than 300 products.
“At one point, I thought I would need a bulletproof vest for messing with the old guard in the sector, that I couldn’t do that, that everyone would hate me,” said Kilgore of Geneva, where she lives with her husband and two children. With her skin so luminous that it even improves the image on Zoom, she is an ambassador for her brand – including on social media, where she often offers tips and requests feedback on new releases.
“But then, I reflected a little more. It is about democratizing the beauty of luxury. It is about respecting the intelligence and needs of a client that I know I understand. If I had given in to my fears, I would hate myself. If you are too terrified to do something, there is usually a reason. The reason is that it is a very good idea, ”said Kilgore.
Some industry observers mention that for Beauty Pie to be financially justified in economic terms, the volume of purchases must reach hundreds of dollars. Others noted that at a time when the industry is full of innovation and choice, not all hobbyists will want to compromise their beauty budget in one place, and that the various levels of enrollment can be confusing for some buyers.
Kilgore said that since March enrollment and revenue have increased significantly, although he declined to provide figures. However, it revealed that Beauty Pie had recently received venture capital investment. “In the early years, I put investors’ interest aside. But, if you want to play in this arena and want to hire the best talent for your business, then you need to have this funding, ”said Kilgore. She noted that the money raised from Index Ventures, Balderton Capital and General Catalyst would be used in part to improve Beauty Pie’s technology operations and marketing reach, in addition to increasing its product range.
Danny Rimer of Index Ventures said that it took a long time to convince Kilgore that it would be worth working with investors: “Marcia has built everything on her own so far, but we knew we had to convince her. There is nothing more important for an investment, in an initial stage or not – even with a great product -, than the entrepreneur behind it. We need to be convinced that this person was placed on the planet to make his vision a business.
Kilgore described herself as a “wild workaholic”, with a generally unforgiving travel schedule, but one that had been constrained by this year’s blockade measures. Lately, downtime involves meditation apps, learning Mandarin and French, and taking walks.
After sales from previous ventures like Bliss and Soap & Glory made her rich, Kilgore hesitated to return to the roller coaster of startup life. So, she said, she realized that working to make people happy is what makes her happy, “since the days when I had three part-time jobs to support my mother or when I was doing facials sitting in a box in my apartment and then I saw my clients leave light and happy. It moves me a lot, and I’m not ready to give up ”.