Inside Blackstone’s strategy to turbocharge growth at the female-founded sun care brand Supergoop
Good morning, Broadsheet readers! New York Magazine updates its 50-year-old abortion guide, Bill Cosby is back in court, and Blackstone is turning to its growth playbook for the sunscreen brand Supergoop. Have a terrific Tuesday.
– Fun in the sun. Since Blackstone took a majority stake in Bumble in 2019, the private equity firm has made identifying high-growth, high-potential female-founded businesses a new specialty. The latest company to join its portfolio is Supergoop, the sun care brand founded by Holly Thaggard and led by CEO Amanda Baldwin.
Since its December 2021 majority stake in the sunscreen brand, Blackstone has quickly executed a strategy similar to the one it pioneered at Bumble and has polished at Spanx, the Sara Blakely-founded shapewear and apparel brand it acquired just a few months before its Supergoop deal. Today, Supergoop has become even more integrated into the Blackstone portfolio, adding a new class of investors, Fortune is first to report. Blackstone-backed founders Blakely and Whitney Wolfe Herd of Bumble are investing in the sun care brand, along with an eclectic group of angel investors: former J. Crew creative director Jenna Lyons, actor Hugh Jackman, and golfer Michelle Wie. (Wie is a longtime fan of the brand; Jackman has a pre-existing relationship with Blackstone; and Lyons connected with Supergoop through a board member.)
The investments set the stage for the next phase of growth at Supergoop, which Thaggard founded 15 years ago. “The time is right to put together a wider, more diverse crew,” she says. “For the last 10 years, we’ve bit off what we could at the size we were. It’s exciting to scale to the size where we can reach more people.”
While the scaling process is still in its early days, Blackstone plans to put resources behind Supergoop’s marketing efforts and its entry into international markets. (The firm didn’t disclose the terms of its investment in Supergoop, but Supergoop says its revenue, reported at around $20 million in 2017, has increased 20-fold in the past five years.) Blackstone is also considering placing Supergoop products in its more than 100 hotels and resorts. “Fundamental to our thesis around investing is that businesses first have to have great product,” says Ann Chung, who spearheaded the firm’s investments in Spanx and Supergoop as the global head of consumer for Blackstone Growth. “Then it’s about building a great brand on top of great product—so we have a functional connection, and then an emotional connection.”
The strategy mirrors Blackstone’s playbook at Spanx, which has pushed the brand to expand further beyond shapewear into apparel, grow internationally, and increase its digital reach. (At Bumble, the firm built out a management team and board of directors in preparation for the dating platform’s 2021 IPO.)
“Both Spanx and Supergoop have passionate, loyal consumer bases, and were ready for their next phases of brand-building,” says Jonny Bauer, Blackstone’s global head of brand strategy and transformation. Jon Korngold, head of Blackstone Growth, explained the thread between these bets for a Fortune feature in December, saying, “These are regional champions that are aspiring to be big, global leaders. If we can bring our resources and serve as an extension of the management team’s bandwidth, we can help them pursue transformational growth opportunities without the execution risk sometimes associated with hyper-growth environments.”
Although it might seem like Chung has her hands full with both Spanx and Supergoop, she says the firm is still on the lookout for other women-led businesses. (Outside her purview are Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine and Jada Pinkett Smith’s Westbrook, now part of the Blackstone-run Candle Media.) “We are definitely very busy, but we think what we have is the start of something really amazing,” she says.
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