Beautycounter is as much about what’s out of its products and distribution network as what is in them.
Launched earlier this week, the brand is based on the promise that there won’t be anything in its products that’s linked to cancer, reproductive harm or cell damage. They don’t contain 1,300 chemical ingredients banned in the European Union for cosmetic use and 11 that are banned or restricted in the U.S. — and they leave out fillers that don’t serve a clear purpose.
“There is a gap in the marketplace for products that are stylish, sophisticated and chic, and safe for the environment and your health. I believe women shouldn’t have to compromise,” said Gregg Renfrew, chief executive officer and founder of Beautycounter. “At the core of our business is a social agenda to bring products to the market that don’t require women to make a choice about their health.”
Beautycounter is starting with 15 face, hair and body products priced from $18 to $68, including Routine Clean Cream Cleanser, Any Time Eye Cream, Gentle Exfoliator Polishing Cream, Glow Sugar Scrub, Clean Everyday Shampoo, Rinse Everyday Conditioner and face oils in calendula, jasmine and ylang-ylang and wild chamomile varieties. Beautycounter’s goal is to be transparent about what’s in all the products.
“We really build the products ingredient by ingredient,” said vice president of creative design Christy Coleman, a well-known makeup artist with a client list that includes Emmy Rossum, Heidi Klum and Miranda Kerr. “For each ingredient, we ask ourselves, ‘Is that ingredient safe? Do we need it for the performance?’”
To sell its products, Beautycounter is skipping retail and going to straight to women to organize a direct sales force to spread the word about its safe skin care and cosmetics. Renfrew emphasizes the direct sales force will be suited to the digital age with consultants being given Web pages when they sign up and encouraged to leverage their social media network followings to raise awareness about Beautycounter.
Consultants pay $85 for an initial kit, which gives them business tools and marketing materials, as well as 25 percent savings on product purchases, and $10 of that amount goes to one of three charities: the Environmental Working Group, The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and Healthy Child Healthy World. Consultants can earn up to 35 percent of the retail sales volume they generate.
“We really look at our business model as a social selling business model. We have taken the best of direct traditional selling and enhanced it with social media,” said Renfrew. “We want to allow people to buy our products and sell our products in a variety of different ways.”
Beautycounter has hired executives with expertise in direct sales to help put its business model into action. Both chief operating officer Steve Raack and vice president of sales Gina Murphy gained experience in direct sales at Arbonne International. “We think we have put together a very lucrative plan, and people will be able to make a great living for themselves,” said Renfrew. “We are focused on getting a core team together of strong consultants. We believe that we will have more than 500 people selling for us in the first year. We have already gotten such an unbelievable response.”
Before Beautycounter, Renfrew was ceo and chairman of online wedding gift registry The Wedding List, which was sold to Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia in 2001, and ceo of children’s wear retailer Best & Co. She was able to tap the connections she acquired while at those businesses — and in consulting after them — to put together an expansive group of investors. Renfrew declined to divulge how much money the brand has raised.
The investors in Beautycounter are TomorrowVentures; New England Development; United Talent Agency owner Jeremy Zimmer; Stanford Business School’s Peter Kelly and Harold Irving Grousbeck, co-owner of the Boston Celtics; former Toms Shoes chief strategy and mission officer Candice Kislack, and Ziffren Brittenham law firm partners P.J. Shapiro, Matthew Johnson and Bryan Wolf. Wolf, Kislack, TomorrowVentures managing partner Court Coursey and Margot Fooshee, formerly senior vice president of marketing and public relations at J. Crew Group, sit on Beautycounter’s board.
Although Renfrew wouldn’t discuss sales projections for Beautycounter, industry sources estimated the brand could reach $2 million in first-year sales. It is expected to branch out into makeup this fall and antiaging skin care in the first quarter of next year.