By  on August 5, 2005

NEW YORK — Just three months after Carol's Daughter founder Lisa Price signed an investment deal with a galaxy of well-known celebrities, the first fruits of the partnership are already evident.

Those stars — who include Will Smith, Jada Pinkett Smith, Tommy Mottola, Thalia, Shawn "Jay-Z" Carter and executives Steve Stoute, James Lassiter, Jimmy Iovine and Andrew Farkas — have infused Price's business with new perspectives and new ideas, as well as the cash flow to carry them out.

"I was thrilled several years ago when I learned that Jada used our products," said Price. "Now she's appearing in our advertising. We used to shoot the catalogue in my kitchen; now we can use the best photographers. It's a dream come true."

A new spa and retail location will open in Harlem with an event in early September. The Carol's Daughter team also is speaking to a number of major U.S. retailers about expanding the brand's vision into additional doors for the holiday season, with specific doors to be named by Labor Day. Packaging also has been unified, new category opportunities have been identified and underperforming stockkeeping units have been weeded out — and now the brand is poised for growth, said Stoute, the brand marketer and music executive who put the investment deal together.

"I am happy that an African-American woman from Brooklyn can have a story like Estée Lauder's [both women began their beauty businesses by brewing concoctions in their kitchens] and that the world is ready to celebrate it," said Stoute. "The world is in the right mind-set for this statement and this story. Our job [as investors] is to nurture this business' growth — to take it from a crawl to a walk."

And, both promised, Carol's Daughter will expand its reach far beyond New York, where the brand currently has a Fort Greene, Brooklyn-based retail store. "The initial part of our distribution isn't just going where the current consumers live — it's about where we can make a strong impression of the brand," said Stoute, adding that the brand is currently carried in about 20 doors in the U.S. In addition to major cities, it also is headed for the malls of America, Price said.But Stoute and Price are willing to take the time to map out a strong foundation for the growth of this brand. "This brand will be new to a number of consumers," said Stoute, "and it's important to make their first impression an accurate representation of the tone and manner of this brand."

At a minimum, Stoute said, the brand will do store-in-store concepts with the retailers with which they will partner. "Our most important criteria is: Who is willing to give this brand a chance to reach its full potential?" said Stoute. "If they're only doing it to fulfill a need to carry an African-American brand, then that's not the partnership we want. We want someone who believes in this brand and the potential it has to all consumers, and we are going to find a combination of partners who will allow this brand experience."

Eventually, Carol's Daughter could be in as many as 6,000 doors in the U.S., Stoute has said. But he and Price are adamant about not being pigeonholed. While many might call Carol's Daughter an "urban" brand, it is being positioned as a full-service lifestyle brand, not as a line that caters to any one population segment. "Urban invites everyone — African-Americans, Asians, Caucasians," said Stoute. "Urban is a mind-set and a landscape, not a color, and that landscape is one that is democratic in nature. I like to use Brooklyn as an example. It's that 'don't f--k-with-me feeling.'

"You have to define urban by example — by how the brand carries itself," continued Stoute. "Urban once was about inner city. Now, it's about $2 million brownstones," he concluded, adding that the status quo is changing. "Businesses are too used to marketing in a template fashion, and the new America doesn't operate in that manner. The color lines are blurred ... The powers that be have resisted it for a long time, and now they're being run over by legs they didn't think existed. If you don't become relevant to the next generation, you will go out of business."

In fact, Stoute said, "I wish we had more competition in this market, but we don't mind being the mavericks. This is a billion-dollar business opportunity."The Carol's Daughter brand will continue to grow awareness in both conventional and unconventional ways. For example, during the recent Essence Music Festival in New Orleans, the brand set up a temporary store in a local salon and stocked it with the brand's products — and in addition to blowing out $30,000 worth of products in three days, also added tens of thousands of consumers to its mailing lists. "We also had a street team out, raising awareness, did hair services in the salon that we'd rented and invited [one of the festival's performers] John Legend to do an autograph session in the store," said Stoute. "It went deeper than just saying, 'We've got a new ad.' People want to be spoken to with dignity and respect, and when you do that, it pays positive dividends for your business." For Carol's Daughter, that meant averaging 340 sales transactions a day for three straight days, Price added.

E-mail blasts, already a part of Price's marketing strategy, will increase — "Currently, e-mail blasts go to about 72,000 consumers, and we've just added another 30,000 to the list," she said — as will the brand's existing catalogue marketing and e-commerce sites.

Price's sku's once topped 1,000; over the last several months, she has whittled that figure down to 335. "Lisa has always been so open to new ideas that every time a customer suggested a new idea, Lisa added it to the line," said Stoute with a laugh.

But that list of sku's will rise again, he promised, although with previously untapped categories. "We're not stopping at skin care or hair care," said Stoute. "We'll expand far past the usual categories. We'll go into household goods like fabric softener and dishwashing liquids. The fragrances that Lisa has created are portable enough to live with the consumer in all areas of her life." Expanding the existing candle and soap lines is planned, and apparel is a possibility — the brand will dip a toe into the category by selling T-shirts in the new Harlem store. Another goal is entering the color cosmetics category. "That should happen as soon as we have a chance to catch our breath," said Price with a smile.A new advertising campaign will be launched for the holidays, featuring Jada Pinkett Smith and Thalia, both investors in the brand. Price is also excited about her revamped packaging — now a grass cloth-inspired label with a brown cap with a stylized flower.

"The line has become what I always wanted it to be," Price said happily. "No compromises."

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