NEW YORK — Four industry entrepreneurs discussed the trials of the beauty business during the Movers and Shakers session at the HBA Health & Beauty America trade show on Wednesday.
Grant Berry, creator of Styli-Style, told the audience the brand marks his third “time at bat” creating a line. Berry, the son of makeup innovator Madeleine Mono, said when he pioneered Pirate cosmetics in his 20s, some retail buyers feared consumers would be turned off by its negative name.
His next venture was Lord & Berry, a value-priced collection of eye and lip pencils, which included the first creamy matte formula in a pencil. He sold that company to AM Cosmetics and returned to the business with Styli-Style. To date, he’s gained the respect of retailers for innovation such as his flat pencil. “In this business, you have to have an edge,” he explained.
Berry wasn’t the only panelist to grow up in the business. Karen Acker, daughter of Pavion founder Stanley Acker, said she has adopted many of her father’s philosophies in continuing to build the business. Pavion, best known for Wet ’n’ Wild, set the industry on fire with quality products at prices under $1. After that company was also sold to AM Cosmetics, Acker went back to the drawing board with new lines — for ethnic shoppers, Uptown Visions, and for value consumers, Hugs & Kisses. Acker told the group to have a passion and be persistent. “And, no one succeeds by themselves, you have to build a team,” she added.
Bringing the panel full circle, Bill George, head of North American operations for Markwins International, discussed how his firm purchased AM Cosmetics, including Wet ’n’ Wild, with a goal of returning it to the glory it enjoyed under Acker. He described how Markwins had mushroomed from a firm with sales of $6 million to almost $350 million in less than 10 years. That growth began as a dream he and others from Markwins scratched out on a napkin in 1994 that was realized through savvy manufacturing and unique products. Markwins is best known for its blockbuster beauty kits sold everywhere from Bloomingdale’s to Walgreens.
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Now the company is establishing branded business with Wet ’n’ Wild as well as licensed deals with Victoria Jackson and Bratz. George echoed the need for passion. “Our ceo even sleeps in the office sometimes because he wants to be available to our people around the world,” added George. What made Markwins compelling, he said, wasn’t the packaging or colors alone. “It was what we did when we packaged them together that makes us unique.”
Townley Cosmetics is also looking to keep its business unique. President Abe Safdieh outlined how Townley generated beauty business in clothing stores by selling bold nail polish colors, such as blue and orange. Today, Townley is expanding the business through licenses such as Hello Kitty, Strawberry Shortcake, Hilary Duff and now EverGirl from Nickelodeon.
“I have a nine-year-old daughter and I basically take what she says and go after it,” said Safdieh.
— Faye Brookman