Bobbi Brown’s story is one of continuous reinvention. The makeup mogul turned serial entrepreneur sold her first company, Bobbi Brown Cosmetics, at just 34 years old. Today, more than 25 years later, Brown is back in the driver’s seat, spearheading Jones Road Beauty, a clean-beauty brand she launched in October.
After selling her first company, Brown was bound by a lengthy noncompete agreement, but she isn’t one to just sit and wait around.
“The first thing I did was I went and bought a charm on my necklace that had the date 10/20,” which marked the end of the noncompete. “I knew I would be able to have more freedom then, so I wore it around my neck and started doing different projects while always thinking about what my passion was,” she said Thursday during Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Next Gen virtual summit.
After a long stint with the brand’s acquiring company, Estée Lauder, Brown pursued various other interests ranging from digital media to working alongside her husband to develop The George, a luxury hotel in Montclair, N.J.
“I’m not a lady who lunches,” Brown said. “I like to be busy, and I like challenges.”
Eventually, Brown was called back to the beauty industry, traveling to India to keynote the country’s first makeup show and then being asked by Masterclass to be an expert and teach makeup.
“At the same time, I was using clean products and I was really curious, what could be done with formulas that was better than what I was seeing out there? And Jones Road kind of popped into my head,” she said.
Brown launched Jones Road the day her noncompete ended, one week before the presidential election and in the midst of a global pandemic. Despite the chaos of the time, she remained focused and insistent on doing things her own way, prioritizing a direct-to-consumer relationship despite being sought out by a number of retailers.
Brown’s dynamic way of life is clear through both her work experience and how she leads her business. “Our only strategy is that we kind of know what we’re doing, and you have to be very nimble and you have to be able to shift quickly, which we did,” she said.
Among the lessons she’s carried over from her experience with Bobbi Brown Cosmetics was the importance of having the right team, though that looks a little different this time around.
“I now have two girls in product development where I used to have dozens,” she began. “I used to have 10 different teams and probably 25 people for anything. So I knew it had to be done, but I also know there’s an easier way to do things without meetings, without documents, without 10 people having to discuss, and I just like to actually get things done.”
And Brown doesn’t seem to be afraid of failure. “I don’t think it’s just because I’m courageous,” she explained. “I think I’m very naive, I’m really naive, so I don’t think things aren’t going to work out. And by the way, if they don’t, I’ll do something else. That’s just my attitude, or I’ll do it differently. So I definitely think that I am optimistic, you know, and the glass half-full by far.”
Brown also emphasized the importance of having and developing a strong network of women, which she hadn’t established during her time with Bobbi Brown Cosmetics but chose to cultivate afterward, when she had more time to take care of herself, both mentally and physically.
“There’s enough room for all of us to be successful,” Brown said, “and I think we’re a lot better when we work together.”
Brown’s path is a testament to the fact that one can chase their professional dreams at any point in life. Next up, she hopes to slow things down, focusing on Jones Road and a new season of her podcast with iHeartRadio, Beyond the Beauty.
“I think two emerging brands is enough right now, and I would like to meditate,” she said. “It’s on my list, but I don’t know if I’ll ever achieve that.”
Correction, July 8, 2021: A previous version of this article misstated the location of The George hotel.
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