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Essence Ventures Acquires Beautycon, Moj Mahdara Out

Richelieu Dennis, Essence Ventures' founder and chair, spoke with WWD about Beautycon's local and global expansion plans.

Beautycon Media Inc.’s assets have been acquired by an affiliate of Essence Ventures.

For years, Beautycon drew thousands of beauty enthusiasts to its buzzy, namesake festivals, but it struggled to find its footing before and during the coronavirus pandemic. The company faced a civil suit in February 2020 and reportedly laid off half of its staff the following month, when COVID-19 forced nationwide lockdowns.

Moj Mahdara, who became Beautycon’s chief executive officer after investing in the business in 2014, resigned from her position earlier this year. Essence Ventures acquired the company out of foreclosure, after it filed for an assignment for the benefit of creditors process (an alternative to bankruptcy) in May.

Marina Curry will return to Beautycon, which she cofounded in 2011 with Jonathon Burford. News of Essence Ventures’ acquisition of Beautycon was first reported by The Wrap.

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In-person beauty events have been on hold during the COVID-19 pandemic, for the most part. Beautycon’s most recent event was in August 2019. This year, Sephora’s Sephoria will be a virtual festival.

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Richelieu Dennis, founder and chair of Essence Ventures, told WWD via phone that Beautycon would continue to be an “experience business” — “whether virtual experiences, hybrid experiences” — with both local and global expansion to come.

“The pandemic has impacted the live experience space in multiple ways,” Dennis said. “It has obviously hindered the ability for people to gather. It has also created a lot of energy and innovation around how people gather today. Whether it’s virtual experiences, hybrid experiences, all of those will be a part of the experience business going forward. With the technologies that we’ve put in place, we’ll be able to expound on the Beautycon ideals and values and continue upon the work that Beautycon has been doing these years.

“As we move further into a new normal, there’s tremendous opportunity to do these live and virtual experiences in a physical way that expands the reach that brings the inclusive nature of Beautycon to the globe, as well as localized,” Dennis continued. “We will have local as well as global expansion.”

Essence Ventures’ portfolio includes Afropunk, the arts festival, and Essence Communications Inc., which operates Essence Festival, which began as a music festival in 1995.

Dennis said he sees opportunity to further scale Beautycon, which he called “the premiere beauty experience.”

“We will endeavor to bring that vision alive and certainly welcome the input of the people who created the vision and how we leverage that vision to go broader and bigger,” Dennis said. “The Essence Festival has scaled over the past [26 years]. Beautycon is as important from a vision perspective. The brand now gets the opportunity to have an impact on even more people. That’s what we look for within our portfolio: inclusivity and impact.”

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