Allbirds has added two high-profile beauty executives to its board.
Emily Weiss, founder and chief executive officer of Glossier, and Mandy Fields, chief financial officer of E.l.f. Beauty, will expand the size of the board to eight members.
But Tim Brown, cofounder and co-CEO of the sustainable footwear and apparel brand, said there are no plans to add cosmetics to Allbirds’ product offerings any time soon. “We’re not going to go there,” he said.
Rather, the addition of the two women is viewed as a way for Allbirds to continue to enhance its brand loyalty and consumer relationships. “We’re always on the lookout for talent,” Brown said, and after getting to know Weiss and Fields, he said, “you cross your fingers and hope they say ‘yes.’” In the case of both executives, this marks their first time on a board outside their own companies.
With Weiss, who founded Glossier, a beauty brand popular with Millennials, Brown said it is a benefit for Allbirds “to have another founder and CEO who understands that role and the difficulty we’ve faced over the last 12 months.”
Weiss agreed, adding: “Peers on a similar path can be an incredible sounding board.”
Brown also pointed to Weiss’ knowledge of different vertical models and her community focus as skills that are expected to make her contributions even more valuable to Allbirds.
Weiss said she’s known Brown and his cofounder Joey Zwillinger for several years “and we’ve been on similar journeys building generation-defining digitally native brands that are taking fresh approaches to direct-to-consumer and retail.”
Because both companies operate primarily online, there are inherent challenges in how to translate the offline experience to e-commerce and “solve the discovery issue,” Weiss said. And brainstorming on the board will help those efforts.
In addition, she hopes to learn more about sustainability, an issue on which Allbirds has built its company.
Fields said her goal is to help Allbirds “stand out in a saturated market” — a position she’s been in frequently at an eclectic group of companies including Safeway and Albertsons supermarkets as well as Gap, and now E.l.f. All of these businesses have “demonstrated they can stand out” in their individual markets, she said, and Allbirds is no exception. “They’re bringing sustainable materials to footwear and apparel and are changing the way they go to market.”
Fields will take on the role of audit committee chair at Allbirds, she said, which will allow her to “engage and dive deep into how everything works” at the company. And while she acknowledged that juggling her full-time job at E.l.f. with the board seat will be “a little challenging,” the road will be made easier because there are “so many parallels” between the two companies.
Like Allbirds, E.l.f., which is publicly traded, has managed to hold its own during the pandemic. In the most recent quarter, net sales increased 10 percent, although net income dropped 46 percent as a result of investments in marketing and new brands. “We’ve delivered positive sales growth in a category that is down 20 percent,” Fields said of the brand’s mass-market positioning. E.l.f. has also managed to engage with Gen Z, she added, which has helped lift sales. “At Ee.l.f., we say anything is E.l.f.-ing possible,” Fields said with a laugh. And it’s that optimistic attitude she will bring to Allbirds.
Brown said with the new board members, who join Nancy Green of Old Navy and Neil Blumenthal of Warby Parker, among others, Allbirds hopes to tap into their knowledge and skills to help it continue to grow.
“We’ve grown up in footwear and that still represents the vast majority of our business,” he said. “We’re excited by the reception in apparel and we hope to explore those further and hone our craft.”
As reported, Allbirds created its first true apparel collection in October with the launch of a line of sustainable essentials including sweaters, T-shirts and outerwear to add to the underwear and socks it had offered previously.
With all products, though, the sustainability message continues to be front and center. The apparel, for example, was touted as the world’s first full range of net-zero clothing.
“Other companies often pay lip service to sustainability,” Brown said, but at Allbirds, it runs throughout the company, a message that resonates with the young people it targets in 35 countries around the world.
Brown said Allbirds, which operates 21 stores in the U.S., Europe and New Zealand, will continue to add to its retail footprint by opening units in “key locations” when the local situations allow.
Weiss said looking at Allbirds, “all I see is growth. I really enjoy the product myself and admire brands that lead with authenticity and integrity, which is increasingly important for consumers.”
One place Allbirds won’t go, however, is on the New York Stock Exchange. Although the business has raised more than $200 million in funding since its founding five years ago, Brown said: “We have no plans for an IPO. The possibility of being a public company is a huge challenge, and at five years old, it’s still very early in our life cycle.”