For the first time, direct-to-consumer brand Thrive Causemetics will be sold IRL. In partnership with Ulta Beauty, a limited capsule collection will be available inside select locations from Dec. 1 through the holiday season.
“I think it’s really important to note that this is an in-store only partnership,” shared founder Karissa Bodnar. With a net worth of $275 million, the 30-year-old made Forbes’ list of America’s self-made women this year. “We are not going away from direct consumer. One of the things I’m so proud of is that we are the fastest growing, profitable direct-to-consumer beauty brand. We are growing faster than ever.”
Bodnar, who started the color cosmetics and skin-care brand from her kitchen in a one-bedroom apartment in Seattle about four years ago, attributes the growth to her loyal customers, a community cultivated online that she calls the “thrive tribe.” Now developed in Los Angeles, Bodnar started the “clean” beauty company, which is vegan, cruelty-free, paraben-free and sulfate-free, after a friend died of a rare form of cancer. As hinted in the name, the brand’s ethos is about giving back; for every product purchased, Thrive Causemetics donates an item to one of their hundreds of “giving partners to help a woman thrive.” To date, the company has given away over $100 million in products.
“We are born and raised online,” she said. “At every step of the brand and product development, we have our community involved.”
It was the community that decided on Ulta Beauty, added Bodnar, a makeup artist with a background in product development, including working for L’Oréal’s luxury division: “This [collaboration] is actually a response to our thrive tribe. They want to meet us in person during the holidays. We actually got feedback from our thrive tribe about where they wanted us to be. It’s crazy, the stores that we are going to be in, our community actually chose. We are really not going away from our direct-to-consumer business, because there really has never been a partnership like this where our products can only be purchased on thrivecausemetics.com and then in store at Ulta [Beauty].”
The brand is in constant dialogue with consumers through live chats on their site, she said, or social media.
“We get thousands of DMs on Instagram, and we’re on that channel all that time and comments of course,” she said. “But [we’re] also on Facebook and Pinterest. We are really meeting the consumer where she wants us to be in. We have phone calls with our customer that last an hour. From a customer service perspective, we’re really focused on continuing to delight the consumer and that’s wherever she wants us to be.”
It’s not a brand built on influencers, she noted. Though a Millennial herself, she wasn’t social media savvy, she said: “I didn’t have an Instagram when I started Thrive. I really treated Thrive’s Instagram as my own. From Day One, we have had the most passionate community, whether it is the giving that we’ve done and those people that have been beneficiaries of our cause have gone out to speak about how much they love the products and how they feel empowered using them, or it’s the everyday woman who is building her career and using our products, and they make her feel confident for whatever she’s doing in life.”
The company also employs aestheticians and makeup artists, who make up half of the internal team: “[They] are chatting with consumers all day…There’s also a special portal for our loyalty members where we are having these conversations.”
The items that will be sold at Ulta Beauty, all priced at $24 and available in over half the stores across the U.S., will be the “Brilliant Eye Brightener,” “Lip Mate High-Shine Reviving Topper” and “Liquid Lash Extensions Mascara.”
“One is sold every seven seconds,” she said of the mascara. “All of our products are really thoughtfully created, but our eye products I have a particular passion for because of the fact that I have sensitive eyes, and we want to make sure things are really professional quality…We make all of our formulas from scratch.”
When it comes to opening a brick-and-mortar of her own, unsurprisingly, Bodnar would once again turn to her community.
“We don’t have any immediate plans to do that, but we love creating different opportunities to meet out thrive tribe in person,” said Bodnar. “If that was something they were really looking for, we would totally explore that.”
Dave Kimbell, president and chief merchandising and marketing officer at Ulta Beauty, shared with WWD: “Karissa is a magnetic person who has taken her passion for makeup and philanthropy and turned it into an incredible brand that is changing the conversation around purposeful beauty products. As an industry leader, we are committed to giving beauty enthusiasts ethical, clean and cruelty-free options, and Thrive Causemetics does just that. Ulta Beauty is honored to be the exclusive retail partner for Thrive’s exclusive capsule collection and are delighted to offer our guests the opportunity to discover and explore the products in store for the very first time.“