The setting is the Surrey Hotel’s posh Presidential Suite in the heart of Manhattan’s Upper East Side, but when Drew Barrymore comes bursting through the door, her glamsquad in tow, there’s nothing stuffy about her. Wearing jeans, a sweater and brown suede Ugg boots, she briskly directs her team where to set up, changes into something more suitable for photography and gets down to business.
That Barrymore is as focused as she is famous is no surprise. This is a woman who gets things done. In the last year alone, she’s starred in a movie, produced another, written a book (her third), all while overseeing her growing business concerns, including Flower Beauty and the launch of Flower Eyewear, and being a very present—and passionate—mother to her two young daughters.
Barrymore frequently talks about the flexibility afforded by running a business versus the time drain presented by movie production, but she does see some similarities between the two. “Color cosmetics is tough. It’s like movies in that you put in so many weeks, months and years of work for something that can feel short-lived and then it’s right back to work,” she says, snapping her fingers. “But I’m OK with that. I like the do-the-work aspect.” Barrymore’s hands-on approach seems to be paying off: Industry sources indicate Flower’s sales continue to blossom at Wal-Mart, and as the company gears up for 2016, plans call for the launch of e-commerce and international expansion.
Flower Beauty has been in stores for more than three years. How do you describe the growth?
It’s really good roots for the tree we want to grow, which will include multiple branches. The branches change with interests as I evolve as a person. There are branches, like hair or accessories, which seem like natural progressions and I have opened my mind up to things I had no idea I would be opening my mind up to when I started Flower Beauty.
What was it about this process that opened up the world for you?
How much I loved design and marketing and messaging. The brands that really speak to me have a feeling of aspiration over sophistication and joy over functionality. Such brands make me feel really good. They are a certain price point. And they market themselves really well. Their content and curation is something that makes women feel good.
How do you choose which categories you want to play in?
As a company we do a lot of research, but you can only pay attention to trend and market research so much because the customer will always surprise you. Trends are going to change. People’s tastes are going to change. The economy is going to change. I chose eyewear because I saw a discrepancy in Wal-Mart’s Vision Center where I didn’t see a designer feel. There was a lack of design, and a femininity that was missing.
Do you see the Flower universe expanding beyond Wal-Mart?
It is really important to not do a one-size-fits-all mentality. I am incredibly happy, especially in the categories we are in, and I would like to be in a few more, at Wal-Mart. They are great partners, and you cannot do volume like that in many places.
Do you pick categories based on what they don’t have?
They have a lot. There is pretty much everything there. If I wanted to go into televisions and gardening I can still do it there. They have kids, they have patio furniture, they have linens — they have everything. But it’s a matter of what can we bring to them and what categories make sense. As good partners, we go to them first about a lot of things. Then they have the right to take it on or not. They have been very transparent with us and we are very loyal with them.
What kind of time frame are you looking at for the growth of the company? One new category a year?
That would be ideal. That would be a prolific pace. I would be up for that challenge. I’m not going to take on anything that isn’t going to get my full attention.
What is your role?
I am a detail freak. I care about the process, about each and every aspect, from marketing to execution to product category to style, color and componentry. But I still get to wake up with my kids. It’s a good lifestyle for the mom I want to be.
You’ve got the book, the movies, the beauty. How do you balance everything?
I work at home a lot and I pack in windows of work. I’ll do a three-hour chunk while the kids are napping or someone is at school. Or there are days when I’m gone all day but then I know the next day I’ll get to have huge windows with them.
Would you ever not work?
I don’t know if I’m capable of not working. But I also want to show my daughters that a good work ethic is important. It’s positive that I show them that work is fun.
What is the biggest challenge of constructing this lifestyle?
When I first had both of my kids I stopped caring about work. People would come up to me and be like, “We need this — it’s on deadline.” I was like, “Are you serious? I don’t care. I have no interest in work.” I stopped thinking about anything but my kids. And you actually get worried — will my passion and focus ever come back? And then it does. Slowly but surely, you start to become your own person again with a mind and ideas and room for thought.
I also think nobody does anything in this life alone, and if you don’t surround yourself with great people you could have all of the great ideas in the world but they won’t be able to get executed. If you work with great people, you’re being inspired and you inspire them. You do it as a team and things get done a lot more effectively.
You’ve just been on a book tour for Wildflower. Does interacting with women help you come up with product ideas?
That helps me more with the marketing and the tone. This year I want to do something that is very warm and ingratiating and fuzzy and still has chicness but something that is very direct. I love when you are looking at a photograph and it’s just a moment. In a beauty campaign that is really hard and tricky. Women are looking for a connection. I am not looking for austere, and I’m not looking for an unrealistic scenario. When I’m looking at photography, I’m thinking that’s a moment. I’m being drawn into that person. That’s very difficult to pull off in color cosmetics.
How do you envision your customer?
I think she’s like me. Which sounds very insular, but I think she has good taste, she knows the difference between quality and something made haphazardly. She wants lovely things that make her feel good, but doesn’t have to shell out crazy money. It’s trying to capture moments just the way I’m trying to present a moment in marketing.
This moment that you see in a photograph, how do you feel in that moment?
Beautiful. And that’s not what I feel like in daily life. I feel like a mom who’s schlepping her kids around and is tired and running from here to there. That is the difference between aspiration and sophistication. I’m not sophisticated. I have knowledge and taste that can be very sophisticated, but my lifestyle is very steeped in reality.
I love the word aspiration because aspiration can still be realistic, but it’s like the better version of you and your life and it is empowering. When you feel good about yourself you project something that is far more confident and empowered and joyful then when you are scrambling and not feeling your best.
What’s the hardest part of cosmetics?
Just keeping up year-to-year on innovation. Innovation is what all of the buyers want, so I’m trying to keep ahead of the curve in mass in four feet of space. We don’t have the volume that some other companies have, so we are in there fighting to get the latest, and it’s tricky. But when you build relationships you get let in on a lot of stuff and if you really stay on top of it then you can be ahead of the curve.
In terms of volume growth, are you where you hoped to be?
Every year is a revelation, a disappointment and an illumination. Every year is something really good that I didn’t expect and something more frustrating than I anticipated and every year I have learned something.