By  on July 27, 2007

Carol's Daughter is growing up quickly.

Two years after signing an investment deal with a group of Hollywood's brightest stars — including Will Smith, Jada Pinkett Smith and Shawn "Jay-Z" Carter — the brand now has freestanding locations from coast to coast, a booming business at Sephora and has entered Macy's. Now the brand has upped the ante considerably by tackling the highly competitive and financially problematic world of color cosmetics.

"We look for a number of elements in a new brand," said David Suliteanu, chairman of Sephora and the first national retailer to stock the line last year. "Foremost among them is what we call the 'perfect storm': great product, a lot of buzz, and a strong, passionate team. Carol's Daughter has all three."

It all started with Lisa Price hand-mixing personal care products in her Brooklyn, N.Y., kitchen in 1994. Along with marketing guru Steve Stoute, Price has built what once was billed as a niche urban brand into a comprehensive beauty line for women of all shades, with annual sales said to exceed $30 million. "We brought organization to the supply chain and gave the brand a national stage — but we haven't changed the heritage of the brand," said Stoute, now the brand's managing partner. "I realized instinctively that this was a brand in which people lived in and loved the products. [Getting involved] wasn't rocket science."

That's a point Suliteanu will second. "Carol's Daughter has built an almost cult-like following among women of color in bath, body, skin care and hair care," said Suliteanu. "We have a very strong following among women of color, and the line is a perfect fit for us." And it's not simply a line for women of color, he added. "There has been no geographic resistance to the brand and its appeal, we believe, is now to women of all colors."

Suliteanu is also optimistic about the brand's latest category, color cosmetics, which he feels has a great deal of potential. The first stockkeeping units are lip glosses, being marketed as Candy Paint. "Candy Paint marks [Carol's Daughter's] first venture into makeup and we believe they have a wide-open field in front of them — we believe the market for makeup for women of color is underserved," he said.The all-natural lip glosses, intended to offer color and lip conditioning properties, each retail for $13.50. There are 12 sku's including Brick House, a brick red with shimmer, and Purple Reign, a purple shade. Industry sources estimated that the line could do $4 million in its first year on counter. Carol's Daughter has committed to donate a portion of its profits from Candy Paint to the Lupus Foundation of America.

Carol's Daughter is in 60 Sephora doors, and Suliteanu said he intends to expand its reach. "Steve Stoute, along with Lisa [Price] and Clarisa [Wilson, the brand's president] have been great partners. We have a shared vision for the brand that is about uncompromising quality and messaging that speaks clearly to the brand."

The brand also has some high-profile fans at Macy's: the retailer opened its first Carol's Daughter store-in-store installation at its State Street store in Chicago in June, and has plans for more, including doors in Michigan and additional locations in Illinois. "Working with Carol's Daughter has given us the opportunity to bring a fun, new, different brand to State Street," said Linda Piepho, vice president and store manager of Macy's State Street store in Chicago. The products are also available on macys.com.

The Macy's stores are store-in-store installations designed by Royal Promotion Group. Ranging in size from 200 to 280 square feet apiece, the locations include familiar Carol's Daughter design elements — Price's signature wood display units with glass shelves, rock wall, bamboo and soap cutting boards resembling kitchen islands. Fresh flowers are sprinkled throughout. "The only thing we couldn't replicate in Macy's are the floors [from Carol's Daughter stores]," said Price.

The State Street installation is 263 square feet and is adjacent to the Elizabeth Arden and Fashion Fair counters. "It's a renovated space with interactive displays," said Piepho. "The bamboo wall and red river rocks are especially striking."

While the Carol's Daughter line fits Macy's efforts to diversify its beauty portfolio — the retailer recently held an open call for ethnic brands in New York — Piepho is adamant that the Carol's Daughter line can't be summarily shoved into a neat little box. "Diversity is something we strive for — we want to reach all of our customers, and it's a big business opportunity. But the products are great for everyone. The handmade, inspired-by-nature positioning is exciting both our staff and our guests. The concept is new and different, and a great branding opportunity."Carol's Daughter went on the selling floor at State Street on June 16, and is said to have ranked third among the retailer's beauty brands during its launch week. While she wouldn't confirm sales figures, Piepho said standouts include the line's hair products, soaps and foot cream. "We are thrilled to have the product, and have a tremendous partnership with the company," she said, adding the retailer has already placed a substantial reorder. "Their top echelon of management and Lisa Price herself have worked with us on this. It's an amazing partnership for us. In fact, the [selling] team was handpicked by Lisa."

Price and Stoute are also actively working to open additional freestanding stores for the brand. The two most recent freestanding stores are located at Fox Hills Mall in Los Angeles, which opens in August, and Newport Centre Mall in Jersey City, which had a soft opening last week, which will bring the freestanding store roster to six. Freestanding stores in Atlanta and Washington are also in development. The plan is to have a total of 10 to 12 freestanding stores in place by yearend, said Price. "The search is still on for locations."

The brand also did a pop-up store in New Orleans for the Essence Music Festival from July 5 to 7, selling $72,000 of product in three days. "We're excited about the energy and passion of the brand, and we plan to do more pop-up retail stores as we expand into different markets," said Stoute. The pop-up stores have another advantage as well, he said: "They give us a good idea of what the market will bear [before we commit to a permanent store]," he said.

It's all still somewhat surreal to Price, who notes that the times she appreciates the growth occur during interviews — "I'm too busy keeping balls in the air the rest of the time," she said with a laugh. She's also not used to being 3,000 miles away from any of her doors. "I'm so used to being able to pop into my car and go to my stores," she mused. "But I'm so excited that we're at a national level now."

The brand also has a strong e-commerce selling site, which Stoute credits with fueling the expansion of the company. In the fourth quarter of this year, Stoute plans to kick it up a notch, promising "a much more robust e-commerce platform, with more consumer dialogue and creation of community. We believe that the Carol's Daughter consumer is part of the family, and with this new format, we are going to allow consumers to speak to each other, as well as make the shopping experience more personal." The new additions go live at carolsdaughter.com on Oct. 1.And his plans don't stop there. Stoute noted that within the next five years, Carol's Daughter will be "a household brand."

"We will be a full beauty brand, offering everything from skin care and hair care to a deep assortment of color cosmetics," he said. "We will continue to partner with appropriate retailers and plan to have several dozen of our own stores by then, domestically and internationally. The MAC Cosmetics distribution is exactly what we look to as a benchmark — wide distribution, but maintaining our own identity."

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