In 1991, a young makeup artist challenged the overdone style of the time with a more natural look. Her company, Bobbi Brown Cosmetics, sold to Estée Lauder in 1995 and became a billion-dollar brand. 26 years into her journey, Bobbi Brown continues to stand for her original belief – that beauty is being who you are.
Today at Chicago Ideas Week, Bobbi will speak on the panel Innovating from Within: When the Entrepreneurial Spirit Never Stops. I spoke with Bobbi to learn about key moments, conversations and decisions in her business life. We also discussed her latest book, Beauty from the Inside Out, which argues that a healthy lifestyle is the secret to outward beauty.
Bobbi’s entrepreneurial style is fiercely true to her values. In this Q&A, you’ll see how she built an iconic brand on integrity, creative autonomy and the courage to ask for what she wanted:
Jayna: During the early stages of Bobbi Brown Cosmetics, what were some of the most important decisions you made and what do you think separated Bobbi Brown Cosmetics from being a success versus a flop?
Bobbi: When I became a freelance makeup artist, the prevailing style was unnatural and not attractive to me. I had something different to offer. When I started the company in 1991, it had a simple philosophy that makeup should enhance the way a woman looks and not be unnatural or try to change her face. I think that caught on because it made people look better. You just use the colors that work with your skin tone.
Jayna: Most entrepreneurs don’t get total creative freedom after an acquisition. Can you take us through the acquisition conversation with Leonard Lauder? How did you pull off keeping creative control over the brand?
Bobbi: Leonard is and was one of a kind. When he purchased my company, he said, “What if we promise you total autonomy?” I had no idea what that meant at the time. Eventually, it meant that I could be in charge of what I cared about, which was the creative process.
Read the whole article on Forbes.