NEW YORK — Hollywood joined forces with hip-hop at Jay-Z's 40/40 Club here Wednesday as an array of stars banded together to give a boost to a beauty entrepreneur out of Brooklyn.
Music mogul and consumer brand marketer Stephen Stoute put together a star-studded group of investors — including Shawn "Jay-Z" Carter, Will Smith, Jada Pinkett Smith, Thalia, Tommy Mottola, James Lassiter, Jimmy Iovine and Andrew Farkas — to catapult the growth of Carol's Daughter, an urban beauty brand founded by Lisa Price in her Brooklyn kitchen in 1993. The deal had its seeds in a lunch Stoute and Price had at Da Silvano on Oct. 21, 2003.
The deal confirms a WWD report on May 11.
Stoute and his high-powered circle said they plan to take the underexposed brand and build it into a national lifestyle landmark. Hinting the group will use the power marketing tools of Hollywood and hip-hop, Stoute promised to expand the definition of beauty in ways that may seem "profound."
Smith admitted that he's also got a few ulterior motives for investing in the brand. "I'm involved because of the way that my wife reacts when I put that Jazzy Juice in my hair," he cracked. "I get that Jazzy Juice in my hair, and I know it's going to be a long night — in a good way."
It's appropriate that a jazzy product appeals to Smith, as it was his former sidekick, DJ Jazzy Jeff, who first introduced Pinkett Smith to the brand seven years ago. "Then I was hooked," she said.
Speaking of investments, none of the stars were anxious to discuss exactly how much they were investing in the company, which industry sources estimated does about $5 million in retail sales annually with more than 350 stockkeeping units.
When asked how much the group was investing, Stoute retorted amid loud laughter while gesturing toward the well-heeled group, "Does the company look well-funded?"
Carol's Daughter operates its own store in the Fort Greene section of Brooklyn, and the brand is distributed in about 20 boutiques in addition to catalogue and internet sales. "With distribution, it's very important for us to be able to control the tonality at retail," said Stoute. "Lisa has her own retail store in Brooklyn, and we're opening up our first retail store as a unit in Harlem in August, which will be the flagship location. We plan on rolling out our own stores, and we're going to work with a select group of retailers who are willing to speak to us on our terms.""We want to do a store-within-a-store concept inside of a department store or a specialty store chain like Sephora," Stoute continued. "It's important for us to really ground the brand in beauty and start moving into more home products." Such items could include detergents and fabric softeners, he said.
While Price and her husband had spoken with potential backers over the years, she said they didn't really understand the company. However, "Steve spoke to our struggles, and he spoke to me like an entrepreneur.
"Carol's Daughter was something to supplement my income, and it took over my life," she added. "It started in the back of a one-bedroom apartment in Fort Greene, and now we have a manufacturing plant, a retail store in Brooklyn and one coming in Harlem, and 25 employees, not including the hard-working people on this stage."
Stoute told WWD: "It all goes back to Lisa's dream. I've always heard about Estee Lauder starting her company from her kitchen. That story's no different than the story of Lisa starting her brand with $100 and selling products out of her apartment and raising her family, and using that momentum to eventually open up a retail store and manufacturing plant. There's something about that that makes all of us feel great."
There are 5,000 or 6,000 retail doors out there with potential, Stoute added, and the brand will expand its burgeoning catalogue and e-commerce business as well. Key to this plan is setting the tone by opening freestanding stores first. "We're going to open up one door at a time. We're going to keep building stores and our e-commerce site until someone pays attention. As you can see, we're well-funded, so we have nothing but patience and the integrity of the woman who started this brand, so we have nothing but time to make sure that the message is conveyed perfectly."
And it's of obvious importance to the group. "The opportunity — the market capital on the business of skin care is $12 billion," said Stoute. "It was very important to me to be a part of that and make Lisa and Carol's Daughter behind that, and it was necessary to get this team behind me to push the ball up that mountain. It's very important that we bring a different sort of spin to the beauty and skin care category that hasn't been done before."We have the advantage of having Tommy Mottola up here with us, and he gives us a lot of great advice and leadership on marketing — and using entertainment as a way to market skin care. But not a celebrity skin care line — or a celebrity beauty or fragrance line that you see done all over, but more of the tactical stuff you use to launch movies and albums, and that we'll use from a tactical standpoint to launch this brand."
The initial national print ads, shot by Mark Baptiste, feature Pinkett Smith, although Thalia — who referred to herself as "the Latin connection" — will be featured in the catalogue and in ads around Christmastime. And there may just be a special elf on board. "Steve's promised me I can put on a Santa suit at Christmas and be the face," Mottola said dryly.
The 2,100-square-foot Harlem flagship will open in August and will include a spa and a store. From there, a large number of cities are on the docket. Los Angeles is a logical first step, Stoute said. But everyone has their own ideas on the subject.
"Philly," piped up Smith.
"And we'll want to do more in Brooklyn," said Stoute. Jay-Z had an immediate response: "Right in the middle of Marcy," he cracked, referring to the Marcy Projects in Brooklyn. The housing complex, where he grew up, is also the namesake of his production company.
"And he'll be wanting the Bronx," Thalia laughed, gesturing to Mottola.
"And Aspen," added Mottola.
Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Chicago and Pinkett Smith's hometown of Baltimore are also on the drawing board.
"We're all open for wherever the flow of this wave takes us," said Smith. "We're a team, and we're all willing to jump in where we need to jump in. I plan to not stop until there is a case of Love Butter in every house in America," Smith cracked.
While African-American women may be an obvious target, Thalia pipes up, "It's a universal brand," a point Stoute echoed. "Anyone who has dry skin," Stoute said. "There's something about dry skin that's very democratic. Dry lips are something everyone has."One thing Carol's Daughter isn't, however, is a strictly urban brand, Stoute said.
"We're going to go into cities where there are a lot of urban consumers, but we're not planning to stay urban-only," he said. "We're going to go into malls, too."
Mottola likened the brand's planned growth to the influence of hip-hop. "To make an analogy to hip-hop — that started urban and has gone everywhere. I don't think there's any limitation on these products."
Price is considering color cosmetics, although it's not a done deal. "I'm not a big makeup person, but I love lip color and eye color," she said.
A fragrance is coming for Christmas, although Stoute's not a big fan of celebrity fragrances per se.
"Celebrity fragrances — that is low-hanging fruit," said Stoute. "It's like, 'I'm a big manufacturer and I want to deal with a celebrity to sell fragrances.' That doesn't necessarily mean that the celebrity aligns with the fragrance."
"Or that it's a great fragrance," said Mottola.
"Although," cracked Smith, " 'A Whiff of Willie' might sell."
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