Cosmetics industry titan Bobbi Brown eyes the next big wave in beauty
After building and selling a billion-dollar makeup empire, it would be easy (and understandable) to pack up and retire.
But cosmetics legend Bobbi Brown is looking to push the industry forward with the launch of a new company meant to disrupt the beauty industry once again. EVOLUTION_18 is a beauty-inspired ingestible line—selling powders, capsules, gummies, and more with collagen and protein—inspired by Brown’s personal credo that beauty starts from the inside out.
Brown recently spoke with Fortune about her new business, EVOLUTION_18, and the explosion of wellness brands taking over the beauty and cosmetics industries.
The following interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
Fortune: Your original eponymous cosmetics brand grew into a multimillion dollar business, which you sold to Estée Lauder more than 20 years ago. In the last few years, there has been a considerable shift in consumer preferences from makeup to a focus on skincare and wellness. Your new brand, EVOLUTION_18, is more about “ingestible beauty.” What exactly is ingestible beauty, and why do you think consumers are leaning this way and away from traditional makeup and beauty brands?
Brown: It seems that people are recognizing that beauty really does begin from the inside out. Personally, my makeup routine has grown more minimal over time, always involves moisturizer, and rarely takes longer than five minutes. Everyone is different, but usually when you’re taking care of yourself on the inside, the better you look on the outside. And even more importantly, you feel better, stronger, and more confident. I think people are catching on—and skincare and wellness brands are, too.
The wellness industry is hotter than ever, but it’s also crowded. What inspired the launch of EVOLUTION_18? What makes it stand apart?
I launched my lifestyle-inspired wellness line, EVOLUTION_18, as a natural extension of my book Beauty From the Inside Out, which is all about how health enhances beauty. After spending more than 25 years talking to women about their health and wellness challenges, I became a certified health coach with the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. This transition was a great opportunity to pursue something I’ve always been passionate about, and it’s been exciting to bring decades of corporate experience to a start-up. It’s an opportunity to really think outside of the box.
During the past few months with stay at home orders in place, you’ve been building the brand from your home. What has that been like? What has your day-to-day routine been like?
When the lockdown was announced and all my appointments, lunches, and in-person appearances were canceled, I was able to step back and evaluate what really matters.
Now I’m trying to keep everything simple. I’m doing housework between the Instagram lives and Zoom calls. And my team is scrappy and brilliant—they’ve made the transition to working from home easy. Once we’re back in the office, I’m looking to integrate even more flexibility into our culture. If something comes up and someone can’t make a meeting, they can Zoom in. And maybe I’ll be more willing to take that trip with my husband, since I know now that I can take calls and keep the business going from anywhere.
EVOLUTION_18 is available online, direct-to-consumer, but also via Walmart. How did the partnership with Walmart come about?
The partnership with Walmart came from a simple philosophy: health and wellness should be available to absolutely everyone. The products in this line-up, in particular, are even more affordable, and even more accessible to all. Plus, they’re delicious, easy to add into your daily routine, and really work.
Obviously, amid the coronavirus pandemic, consumers’ purchasing habits and practices are going to change. How does EVOLUTION_18 plan to adjust its business plan for the immediate future?
We’re learning how to be more flexible now than ever. EVOLUTION_18 launched two new products during the pandemic—Energizing Chocolate and Relaxing Vanilla—both during the quarantine. Because I was sheltering in place at home, my son Cody filmed me for a Facebook Live on launch day. I couldn’t get the packaging from the manufacturer, so I just used a clear jar with the powder in it. As with any entrepreneurial endeavor, you just make it work.
You’ve had an eventful and successful career in the beauty industry. What advice would you give for first-time business owners and entrepreneurs who are looking to get started in beauty and wellness?
With the rise of clean beauty and a heightened focus on wellness, it’s an exciting time for these industries—but they’re also pretty crowded. It’s important as a new brand to differentiate yourself. As always, don’t spend more than you have. And just do it. You don’t have to overthink it. Try it, and if it doesn’t work, try it differently. Stay flexible, stay open, be nice—and you’ll figure it out.