Episode 61

 

Marcia Kilgore has held many founder titles: Founder, Bliss Beauty; Fitflops; Soap and Glory. And most recently, Founder, Beauty Pie. With this string of hits behind her, you have to wonder – what’s her secret to success? In this episode, she actually lays it all out by telling us what the meaning of life is for her. Don’t worry – this won’t be 30 minutes of new-agey platitudes. These are real-life tactics from the ultimate entrepreneur that’ll turn your mind upside down.

 

Announcer

Welcome to Where Brains Meet Beauty, hosted by Jodi Katz, founder and creative director of Base Beauty Creative Agency.

Jodi Katz

Oh my goodness. This is a huge day for the Where Brains Meet Beauty Podcast. I’m sitting here with Marcia Kilgore. She is the founder of Beauty Pie and founder of Bliss Spa and Soap and Glory. And we can’t forget Fitflop. Thank you for being here.

Marcia Kilgore

And there’s one more.

Jodi Katz

Oh, there is?

Marcia Kilgore

It’s called Soaper Duper, but it’s not available in the US yet. Sort of like, I guess, the new Soap and Glory, but more natural. I am delighted to be here.

Jodi Katz

You own it currently, that brand?

Marcia Kilgore

I do.

Jodi Katz

Oh, wow. Okay. So on the train in this morning, I was thinking about all your accomplishments and how awesome this is. And then I thought, “When am I going to get to read the book?”

Marcia Kilgore

Oh, the book. You know, it’s interesting because so many people have asked me to write a book. And I feel like that would be faking a little bit because what I do, I’m an aggregator. I’m an aggregator. I think of thoughts, which is what allows me to come up with new thoughts by connecting dots. And those dots are usually other people’s dots. So I feel that if I wrote a book, it would just be a collection of things I’ve learned from other people, and that’s kind of faking.

Jodi Katz

Well, that’s life. Isn’t it?

Marcia Kilgore

I supposed it is. But wouldn’t that be also plagiarism?

Jodi Katz

No. I want to know more about how your mind works. I want to know how you spend your time. The mundane is so fascinating to me because we get to see the fruits of your labor. But-

Marcia Kilgore

How it gets there.

Jodi Katz

Yeah. Did you read the Jo Malone autobiography?

Marcia Kilgore

I did not.

Jodi Katz

It’s so worth reading.

Marcia Kilgore

Okay.

Jodi Katz

Learning about her childhood and her story. I never would have known this, and no interview that I would have ever dug up would’ve told me what she was able to tell me in 200 pages. And it gives me a real appreciation for her hard work in a different way than I get to see in the industry where she’s on stage talking about fabulous products.

Marcia Kilgore

I think anytime you see anybody on stage who’s built a company, you know they have sweated it out. It’s a grind. And every time, you’re starting from zero, and it is a roller coaster ride. And nothing is easy. And you’re finding your way and you’ve got blinders on at the beginning. And it’s about slowing chipping those blinders off. I said to somebody the other day, “It’s like pushing a boulder up a hill.” Right? And you just have to keep pushing that boulder up that hill until it starts to reach a flatter area where it’s a little less hard to push the boulder up. And that boulder pushing works your muscles.

And if you think the analogy of pushing this boulder, which works your muscles, and the your muscles get stronger, and then you learn more. And it’s all about developing the muscles and how to be entrepreneurial, how to be tough, how to be persistent, how to be smart, how to learn, how to be porous. You have to be able to look at things and be open and honest and reflect and not be defensive and keep pushing the boulder.

Jodi Katz

Right. So I’m at this moment, I’ve run my agency. This is my side hustle, the podcast. But my agency, I’ve run it for 11 years and I feel like I’m tired of all the wonderful lessons the universe has taught me. I’m exhausted.

Marcia Kilgore

Yes. It is exhausting.

Jodi Katz

How do you move through that?

Marcia Kilgore

Well, I always think things are temporary. Right?

Jodi Katz

Right.

Marcia Kilgore

So you will have great, easier times.

Jodi Katz

Yep.

Marcia Kilgore

But depending on how passionate you are about what it is you’re trying to accomplish, I think that’s what makes it easier. So you have to make sure that what you’re doing, if you’re going to go into this and try and build something new, and especially if what you’re trying to build is new, it’s radical, or different, or in a crowded space, you better love it because you’ve got to get that joy from doing what you do at the end of it because that’s the only perk you’re going to have, often.

Jodi Katz

Right.

Marcia Kilgore

So for me, doing Beauty Pie for instance, something totally new that people just can’t even wrap their head around because it’s been done such a different way for such a long time. For me, just being able to talk to one customer on Instagram or on Facebook, who’s saying, “Oh my God. This is amazing. I can’t believe what you’re doing for women. This is incredible. You’re making it democratic,” that is all I need to keep going. But I love making women happy. So make sure that you’re not just doing it for the money.

Jodi Katz

Right. Well, I’m definitely not doing it for the money because I’m not seeing it.

Marcia Kilgore

Hopefully at one point you will.

Jodi Katz

I think that’s what gets in my way. I get stuck on this notion that it’s hard and it doesn’t feel temporary for me. In my head, I feel like this is my forever and it scares me.

Marcia Kilgore

Then you’re doing something wrong. Then you need to sit back, maybe for two full days and think, “Okay. What am I doing? I keep repeating what I’m doing and it’s not going any differently.” Right? So I used this just the other day. And again, this is me taking other people’s advice and taking the little snippets that really help me get through the day. So the definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result. Right?

Jodi Katz

Right.

Marcia Kilgore

So you can take whatever you’re doing, sit back and go, “What am I doing wrong? Why is this not changing?” And you probably find that despite knowing intellectually that maybe what you’re doing is just going to lead you to the same result, you don’t change that. You probably never take the time because you’re on a treadmill to just stop, sit back, reflect. Sit back and reflect for one day. What can I do differently to make this outcome different? And then actually plot it out as a plan and follow it and chart it and put a grid on the wall in front of yourself. You’re a visual person. Right?

Jodi Katz

Yes.

Marcia Kilgore

And you’re also a words person. But visually, maybe you need to make a grid on the wall and just put, when I did this, this is what happened. So now I want to do this, and I want to get here. Doing it this way isn’t going to get me here. So what can I try? And you try different things each time and chart. Where did that get me? And put it in front of your face. Don’t put it on a spreadsheet. I find, actually, the wall so incredibly helpful. And with team building, if you’re trying to do this with your team, and you’re all trying to figure it out together, you actually put tape on a wall in a grid and say, “We did this. It got us here. And that’s not where we wanted to be. We want to be here. How do we get there?” It’s like playing checkers.

Jodi Katz

What you’re saying is making me smile and giggle a little because, of course this is what we do for our clients. Right? We unravel [crosstalk 00:06:29].

Marcia Kilgore

Yeah. But you’re not doing it for yourself.

Jodi Katz

I’m not.

Marcia Kilgore

Who ever does?

Jodi Katz

Right.

Marcia Kilgore

right. Sometimes it just takes somebody else to step back and go, “Okay.” And also, we can be defensive because thinking that we’re not succeeding is scary. So we don’t want to say it out loud. And when you don’t say it out loud, you can’t share it with anybody. First, if you have a problem … Okay. Have you ever carried a shopping bag that’s incredibly heavy by yourself?

Jodi Katz

Yes.

Marcia Kilgore

Now have you ever done the thing where there’s somebody with you and you say, “You take one handle. I’ll take one handle”? There’s not weight anymore.

Jodi Katz

That’s right.

Marcia Kilgore

Right. So if you think about that as your problems. Think of that heavy shopping bag as whatever it is that you’re trying to solve. Share it with someone. And then suddenly the weight is lifted and you can be open and you can discuss it. They can help you carry that load, number one, and probably also solve it. But many women, especially women in leadership positions, will tend to just not say, “Hey, wait. This isn’t working,” because they’re either ashamed to admit they don’t know what they’re doing or they’re afraid to just say it out loud, this isn’t working. Or to just go to somebody and say, “Can you help me? Can you help me. I can’t figure out why this isn’t working. Would you help me?” And people would be delighted to help, and to get some outside perspective because also, we get rolled up in our own things and you cannot see it.

And so one of my hiring principles is looking for people who are not defensive. If you ask an employee or somebody who’s on your team a question and they don’t even listen to the end of the question and they’ve already started to answer it, bad, bad. You need people who listen.

Jodi Katz

Can you see that in just a series of preliminary interviews?

Marcia Kilgore

Yes, certainly. And then you can also see it when people first start. And then you can try to help them see what they’re doing and change their behavior. But some people, it’s so ingrained in, you can’t. And I think the worst thing that you can do is keep people on your team who aren’t listening because insight, insight is the most important thing. You can have a lot of people who are very strong, but if they’re not insightful, you just keep marching. You could be marching really in a strong way up a really, really steep hill that leads you off the edge of a cliff. Or someone could stop and listen and realize there’s a small path that goes around to the right that actually gets you there without sweating at all. What would you rather have? The really strong person who’s not listening, or the person who’s kind of looking around to see. Wait. Let’s just look around for a little while and figure out if there’s a better way to do this. So if you can’t be that person, find somebody to help you.

Jodi Katz

I love this. Asking for help is actually really hard for me. For many, many years, I thought if I don’t know it, then I’ll have to figure it out all by myself.

Marcia Kilgore

Why?

Jodi Katz

I don’t know. Because it’s just part of my story, part of my history.

Marcia Kilgore

Okay. I’m going to [inaudible 00:09:18] from somebody else now. There’s a brilliant woman named Byron Katie, and she has this method called The Work. She works out of California. I’ve never done the method. I’ve never gone to her school. I think it’s a nine day immersion program. But a friend of mine has done it and is a certified practitioner of The Work. And there are two really simple techniques she uses. So you say, “I can’t possibly ask for help.” Why? Now why can’t you? In your mind.

Jodi Katz

Yeah. I really believe that it was all about self doubt and insecurity.

Marcia Kilgore

Okay. So when you’re thinking, “I can’t ask for help,” you’re thinking because someone will think I’m …

Jodi Katz

Not capable. And I think that reflected my lack of confidence. Outwardly, I looked confident, but I really wasn’t.

Marcia Kilgore

Okay. Who would you be with the thought that you can’t ask for help?

Jodi Katz

Happier.

Marcia Kilgore

So what the hell are you doing?

Jodi Katz

Right.

Marcia Kilgore

Okay. Then her second one would be, in this same situation where you feel like you need to feel confident, and you’re with another person, and so you must be feeling like I need that person to feel that I’m what? What do you need from that other person that … You know.

Jodi Katz

What do I want from that other person?

Marcia Kilgore

What do you need?

Jodi Katz

What do I need?

Marcia Kilgore

Yeah. So here’s me and you’re trying to appear to be your capable self, but you actually really need help. What is it that you’re needing from me?

Jodi Katz

I don’t know.

Marcia Kilgore

You need me to think that you’re capable. Is that why you’re not asking?

Jodi Katz

I think that there’s a fear deep inside me that maybe I’m not as good at this as I think I am.

Marcia Kilgore

So it is. But you’ve got to phrase it as a you need question.

Jodi Katz

I need you to think I’m super smart.

Marcia Kilgore

Okay. So actually, do you know what this means? Change the I need you to I need me.

Jodi Katz

I need me to think I’m super smart. Right.

Marcia Kilgore

Okay. Do you think you’re actually quite smart?

Jodi Katz

Yes. But self doubt, it sneaks in.

Marcia Kilgore

So just stop. Just stop and think, “Wait. Who would I be without this thought?” What would I do if I didn’t have that thought. I’ll do it.

Jodi Katz

That stuff is so easy on a regular day. When it’s not easy is when the cash flow’s low, when the retainer fades away. All the stuff that I can practice, I have my coach, I have my therapist. I have my other coach. The village it’s in work. But the days when it’s harder, I get in the hole a lot quicker.

Marcia Kilgore

Yeah. But you need to just learn to get out of the hole and to climb.

Jodi Katz

Yes.

Marcia Kilgore

Because when the retainers are low, or when the cash flow is tight, you’re thinking what?

Jodi Katz

Now I start to have self doubt. Oh, maybe we’re not as good at this as we think we are. Maybe this vision of mine won’t come to fruition.

Marcia Kilgore

And you know what, it’s good to actually have a bit of self doubt because it makes you work harder.

Jodi Katz

You can say that again.

Marcia Kilgore

Yeah, but at the same time, bring other people in. You don’t have to be this goddess of I know everything. The best things that I’ve ever done is brought people in who are better than me to question me. And a lot of people are very happy to be asked to give their opinion. And you can take it or leave it, but boy, it’s eye opening when you listen.

Jodi Katz

Yes. I do appreciate this because I need it. I need these little boosts.

Marcia Kilgore

Boosts, yeah, little snippets.

Jodi Katz

I’m a work in progress.

Marcia Kilgore

Little snippets. And also, if you’re having a crap day, one of my favorite things to do, you wake up, the weather is bad. You think, “Oh my God. We tried this thing. It didn’t work. I really thought it was going to work, but it’s not. Now we’ve got to figure out the next thing to try.” And if I just stop, and this is easy for me because I have a lot of thank you notes I always have to write because I always write a handwritten thank you note to journalists who write about Beauty Pie. Because for me, it’s like they’re handing me, here’s 100 pounds, or here’s $100, or whatever it is. It’s a gift when you get a piece of journalism, whether it’s a blogger, or print media, or whatever, or a podcast, where you can spread your word to people who otherwise wouldn’t have known. So I sit down and I write three thank you notes. And then suddenly I feel very lucky.

Jodi Katz

Yeah. It’s almost like a gratitude list. Right?

Marcia Kilgore

It’s almost like cognitive behavioral therapy. You’re looking at a television channel, which is saying, “Everything’s terrible. It’s so hard.” Blah, blah, blah. Suddenly you change the channel to, thank you so much for helping me. I can’t tell you how much it lightens the load. And you do that three times, you’re looking at a different TV channel. And then your whole day is different. So if you wake up and you feel like, “Ugh,” write three thank you notes, maybe to a client that you lost.

Jodi Katz

Yeah.

Marcia Kilgore

Right. Thank you so much for giving us this opportunity. We’re working really hard to get it again, and we’ve learned so much and I’m grateful.

Jodi Katz

I love that.

Marcia Kilgore

And suddenly you think, “Wow. Those people actually put their confidence in me.” And it makes you feel like they put their confidence in me. And you’re a different person. And it’s a really easy one. That costs nothing.

Jodi Katz

That’s right. I love that.

Marcia Kilgore

Yeah. It’s a good one. I use it all the time.

Jodi Katz

Yeah. That is going on my refrigerator next to the mantra, I am competent, capable, and confident, which I actually have to read.

Marcia Kilgore

Which is a really good one.

Jodi Katz

This is super duper exciting for me, and I want to give some backstory. I have been thinking about you for many years, and I want our listeners to know why. Very early in my career, I was a freelance copywriter. I’m 42 now, so like 20 years ago, maybe 18 years ago. And I had the opportunity to freelance writer for the Bliss Catalog. And this is a time when I think you had just moved into Dumbo. And the creative manager was my friend from day camp. Her name’s Jennifer Hymowitz.

Marcia Kilgore

Jen, yeah.

Jodi Katz

Blitz now, so hi Jen. And my job was to try to capture your voice. I think the team was trying to get you to not write everything. For so many years you were doing all the work.

Marcia Kilgore

It was a lot of weekends of writing catalog copy.

Jodi Katz

And your voice was so breakthrough. I mean, it was incredible. At the time, nobody did this.

Marcia Kilgore

Well, I think talking to your customers like they were humans. And we had this conversation last night because we were at an industry event. And everyone was speaking about customers and about what they do in code. And I walked out and I was saying to my wonderful PR, who is just funny and real and great. I just said, “You know what, I think I understand now.” I’ve never worked in an industry as such, so I’ve never been part of a big corporation. I’ve always just worked on clients and with people, and with people. So I speak people. My language is people. And then there’s this corporate language. And actually there were people on this panel, I didn’t even know what they were talking about.

So for me, they would start to use this lingo and I thought, “Well, no wonder they don’t connect necessarily so easily with customers,” because they’re not speaking people. They’re speaking corporate. And you if you speak corporate all day long, it’s very hard to go into speaking people. But I’ve always spoken people. And so I think also, if you’re a trained writer, so if you studied journalism, or you studied writing, or English literature, or a more formal process of putting your thoughts on paper, that has structure. And the structure in terms of copywriting should be thrown out the window because no one want so read structured copy. They want to read people.

Jodi Katz

That’s right. I love that. That’s such a great way to think about it. Well, it was a thrill of mine at the time to be able to try to capture your voice. And I actually, after we first talked a few weeks ago, I dug through my old bins of old work to try to see if I can find some of it. I couldn’t find the actual catalogs.

Marcia Kilgore

Do you have any here?

Jodi Katz

I have some in my office. I have scans. Back in the day we had to have portfolios of the pages. Right?

Marcia Kilgore

Yeah.

Jodi Katz

So I have some scans. Oh my God, this is a long time ago.

Marcia Kilgore

Yes.

Jodi Katz

So I’m super honored to have had that opportunity years ago early in my career.

Marcia Kilgore

Thanks for helping me. It’s so great. It’s so nice. I always feel really honored that anybody will come in and work with me, for me, alongside me, trying to get something done because there are a lot of choices of where a talented person with energy can go and spend their time, and life is limited. So when somebody chooses to come and work for me, I feel really honored.

Jodi Katz

Well, my sense is that people feel like they’re part of something bigger than a product company. Right?

Marcia Kilgore

Yes.

Jodi Katz

They feel like they’re on-

Marcia Kilgore

Yeah. Some kind of crazy journey trying to make something better. Somebody, it was Ray Dalio, have you read his book? Wow. That’s a good one. It’s really a business book. I think I read about it probably in some in flight magazine. It’s called Principles. And he is the guy who started Bridgewater Associates, which is a hedge fund in Connecticut, and one of the most successful hedge funds of all time. I think, “This guy’s successful, so let me read his book even though I could care less about hedge funds, or VC, or private equity.” Again, that’s not a language I speak. I speak people.

So he talks, however, about how he will structure his office and how he looks at dealing with the people in his office. Now I’ve forgotten completely where we got onto this thread. How’d we get onto this thread? What did you say before we talked about Ray Dalio?

Jodi Katz

Well, I think that people probably work with you because they feel like they’re on a journey bigger than the product.

Marcia Kilgore

Okay. So he was talking about the meaning of life. That’s where you got. You know, we all this about: What is the meaning of life? Now up until recently, sometimes in December I was reading about Blaise Pascal, who’s a French philosopher, who said that the meaning of life is to be alive. I like that one because it makes sense. Right? It’s simple. We get this chance to be here and let’s do it. Let’s be alive. Let’s enjoy every minute of it. Let’s enjoy each other. Learn. Move.

But then Ray Dalio. So I was recently listening to his audiobook and he said that the meaning of life is to evolve, but it’s evolution, which also makes a lot of sense to me. So up until recently, the meaning of life. What is it, procreation? What? You could debate it forever, but none really make that much sense. For me, the idea of evolution really makes sense because we have evolved since we were tadpoles, and then apparently fish, and then frogs. We went through an ichthyo stage. And so to think that, yes, we are all here to get better at something really resonates with me because I’ve always tried to become better or more efficient at things. And then at the same time with business, every time I’ve seen an opportunity, and we all have to support ourselves, but I’ve always started new business ideas because I thought, “I can do this so much better. I can be so much better for the customer.”

And Bliss was about first making a place that you could come and have a treatment where they didn’t shame you, where you could actually leave feeling amazing, which is the whole idea of going in and treating yourself. Should be that you walk out feeling like a million bucks, mentally and physically. That your skin looks gorgeous, but your brain is glowing and you feel happy. And that wasn’t what existed back then. What existed back then was sort of the Romanian shaming culture of, oh my God, your skin is so terrible. Buy these 80 products. And I thought how much better to have a place where you can come in and glow mentally and physically.

With Beauty Pie, it’s the same thing. When I was going back into the beauty industry because I love making products and naming them fun things and finding ingredients that work together, but what I realized was the industry works backwards, where you come up with the price that you want to charge at retail. And then you figure out. How cheap can you make that product for so you can pay all the bills and the layers in between? So your goal, if you’re in the typical beauty industry, is to make something really expensive and sell it at a very high price and make it for as little as you can. That is not good for the customer.

So it’s just evolution, trying to think of new ideas. How do you evolve this to make it better? And there might be something in there for you in terms of your agency. How do you evolve from the model that there is right now? What could be better for the customer? And what can you do to make it better for the customer? And when you can identify that, and I bet there’s 10 things you can identify that make it better for the customer. How does that work for you then, also? Because in the end, when you come up with an evolved idea, everybody wins. The customer wins. You win. It’s a beautiful, pure, natural thing with no friction.

Jodi Katz

I do want to talk about Beauty Pie because it’s a really fascinating concept. But first I want to know. What are you doing with your day today?

Marcia Kilgore

I have meeting, after meeting, after meeting, after meeting, after meeting. Then I get to meet with one of the best fragrances in the world because we’re going to do some fragrance from Beauty Pie, which I wouldn’t call a meeting. That’s like a gift. And then I’m going out for dinner with the first person who bought my footwear brand in New York.

Jodi Katz

Oh, cool.

Marcia Kilgore

Yeah. So 11 years ago when we just launched Fitflop, this was the first store to reach … Actually, I reached out to him because I had bought shoes from his store before and I said, “Can you try these? We’ve sold a lot of them in the UK.” And he bought them, and he’s been a customer ever since.

Jodi Katz

Oh, that’s wonderful.

Marcia Kilgore

Yeah. So I just wanted to check in with him.

Jodi Katz

Is the day so stuffed that there’s no time for lunch?

Marcia Kilgore

I do get to go to the bathroom. Lunch, I don’t know. Might be a protein bar. I’m not here to eat.

Jodi Katz

That’s awesome.

Marcia Kilgore

You’ve got to make your choices.

Jodi Katz

And your skin looks so incredible.

Marcia Kilgore

Thank you very much. I’m piling on the layers of … I’m always testing something new because at Beauty Pie, we have labs send in their very best this, that, or the other. Or we tell them, “Hey. We want the best combination of ingredients that is going to hydrate.” So I’ve always got my favorites. I use Retinol every day. I use vitamin C capsules every day. But then I’ve always got some other serum that I’m layering in there. And today, it’s a triple hyaluronic acid serum with C fill which is something that pumps up the surface of your skin immediately, epidermal-ly, which is something that is supposed to be sculpting, helping with the jawline. It’s loaded with a whole bunch of ingredients.

Jodi Katz

And do you give yourself permission to wear other brands’ products?

Marcia Kilgore

I’ll try them once in a while. But generally, I’m disappointed. It’s the beauty industry, so again, there’s this oxymoron going on where it’s supposed to be the best such and such. But I guess the motivation for beauty companies is not to bring the customer the very best because that’s expensive and that cuts down margins. So I do test things from time to time. And if there’s something that’s really, really hot, normally I know where it came from because of the way the beauty industry works.

Jodi Katz

Okay. So tell us about that because I find this super fascinating.

Marcia Kilgore

Okay. So it’s not necessarily always true that a brand will have something that’s very exclusive to them, or that they went into a lab and formulated something. That’s part of the marketing story. Part of the, I guess the magic, is that a founder of a brand, or a makeup artist, or a skincare, they’re these special chemists. Now certain brands, some of the bigger ones, usually they’re more mass, will have their own chemists. But the majority of labs out there are third party, which means that anyone can order from them. So there are I’d say about 20 leading third party laboratories in the world, some in Japan. There’s a new on in Korea that I really love. Although, I’ve only actually found one great one in Korea. There’s a lot in France and Italy and Germany, couple in the UK, few in America, in terms of luxury, quality, high tech product.

Now what happens with these labs is that they will produce collections so that they are the ones who have teams of chemists working all year long to produce new textures, to study new ingredients. And they really do all of that groundwork. And then once or twice a year, you will visit the lab. And they show you a collection of product, almost like Prêt-à-Porter. Sorry.

Jodi Katz

Yeah.

Marcia Kilgore

Prêt-à-Porter. Sorry. I get it mixed up with Net-a-Porter and Pret-a-Manger. So they’ll show you a collection. You go in and they’ll say, “Here are six new lipstick formulas that we’ve come up with using such and such of elastic polymer. Or this one is all natural.” And they’re better than last year’s because X, Y, and Z. And they’re on trend with the trends because the trend is about aqualicious, and so we’ve used this aquatic polymer or this hyaluronic acid, or whatever. And you test these lipsticks. They’ll show you this one’s more expensive because blah, blah, blah. This one is sort of medium priced. This one is quite mass. It’s very inexpensive.

And you test them, usually on your arm, your lips, or whatever. And then you ask them for samples and they put all the samples of the ones that you like into a bag. And you’re sitting in a room next to the next brand, which is sitting in the next room down. And there’s another brand sitting in the next room down because they usually do this all at the same time. There’ll be two weeks in a year where all the brands from around the world come in to shop these products. And then you take them away. You test them. We have six people on our product development team as well as myself, who test on the first [inaudible 00:27:36]. And we choose what our favorite one is, and then you color match. But everybody gets the same product.

Now it might be then if you want to have a story, you’ll drop in .001% of Melissa extract or something like that, so that you can say it’s a flower lipstick, et cetera, et cetera. But it’s all the same. And so very rarely will you find a makeup product that’s really somebody’s own.

Jodi Katz

Right. So this is the truth of the industry that the consumers really don’t-

Marcia Kilgore

They don’t know yet. And so what I realized was shocking. I had Soap and Glory, which was more of a mass market brand before I sold that to Boots Walgreens, who was really our biggest distributor. And they just really wanted it. It did very well for them. And it was less markup there because it’s shower gel and body butter. But in something like a luxury lipstick, if you buy that lipstick from the lab. The lab formulates the lipstick. They come up with the trends that go into that lipstick, and it’s all done before they show you.

You then color match. So you’ll go and find a color, usually from some other brand that’s a popular color. And this is what everybody does. And you bring it to the lab and say, “We’d like this formula in this color, please.” So they’ll then match the formula that you chose to the color that you like. And you’ll do that for your range, and it’s kind of what everyone does. You may have a makeup artist who says, “I’d really like a color this or a color like that,” but those are usually those far out colors that you don’t buy that often anyway.

So you create your line like that. And the finished product, depending on what your packaging costs, because that’s where you’re going to have a higher cost or not, and it’s also landfill. So we try and avoid adding extra layers onto packaging because it makes them less recyclable when you have gold over shells and things like that. But we do use classic sort of beautiful packaging, which is really high quality. That product may leave the factory costing, luxury lipstick, let me say $3.40. And normally by the time it gets to retail, it’ll cost 10 times that because a retailer takes 60%. You have to pay for free samples that are going to all the sales people on the floor. You have to then have enough money to send this out to all the beauty editors and the bloggers, who get everything free, which isn’t really fair either.

You have to pay your overhead, your lights, your electricity, your staff, the people flying around the country to train all of the different representatives in the stores. So basically, a product that should cost you $3.50 ends up costing $35. What is wrong with this picture? It’s not right. Who wants to spend $35 on something that costs $3.50 to make? Now you still want a beautiful lipstick. But if that lipstick sort of, by the time it was all said and done, could cost you like $7, isn’t that better?

Jodi Katz

Right.

Marcia Kilgore

That’s the idea for Beauty Pie is that women customers who don’t care about that crazy retail experience can get a bigger piece of the Beauty Pie.

Jodi Katz

I love the concept and I also love that it really, I think, honors the unsung heroes of our industry, which are the labs, are really the ones doing all the innovation.

Marcia Kilgore

Yes. I had a shocking conversation with one of the labs just in between, again, before I started Beauty Pie. Again, it was one of those dots. You know these connect the dots things where the lab said. I said, “Well, what is the manufacturing margin? How much do you make?” And they said, “Anywhere between 20% and 30%.” So on a lipstick that they’ve done all the work on, all of it, it comes out of that factory in the packaging in a box. Right? You’ve designed. Maybe you’ve put the graphics on that box. You put the graphics on the packaging. Or maybe you designed the packaging. But you amortize that over hundreds of thousands of units, it still shouldn’t cost that much. They’re making maybe 60 cents, or maybe 90 cents off the lipstick. And then the brand is making 1000% markup. This is wrong.

Jodi Katz

Yeah. Sometimes I get, for lack of a better word, feel like I have a sense of vomiting what’s happening in our business.

Marcia Kilgore

It’s unfair.

Jodi Katz

It doesn’t feel right.

Marcia Kilgore

Yes.

Jodi Katz

And I usually get caught up in the marketing nonsense, like the churning. And I think it comes mostly with the in-authenticity.

Marcia Kilgore

Faking.

Jodi Katz

Yeah. This is to show stories.

Marcia Kilgore

I have a hard time faking.

Jodi Katz

This is just one of those things. And I think the reason why I identify with Beauty Pie so much is because it’s really as authentic as you can be. But you’re saying, “They’re doing their job, and they’re doing their job well. We’re going to pay them for their job. We’re going to pay my team to do their job. And then that’s it.”

Marcia Kilgore

Yeah.

Jodi Katz

You get to buy what you want to buy, use what you want to use, explore and try and play, which is the point of our business.

Marcia Kilgore

Yeah. And be able to really use the best product because we go into the factory. Instead of saying, “Hey. Can we get it a bit cheaper? What can you take out of that because we need 20 more cents.” We’ll be saying, “Hey. Do you think if you added vitamin C this would work better?” And they’ll say, “Yeah. But it’s going to cost you 20 more cents.” And we say, “We don’t care. She doesn’t care if she pays 20 cents more to get something that’s that much more efficacious.” And the labs working with us because we’re not squeezing them. Right? We’re saying, “Hey. Make something beautiful.”

Jodi Katz

You’re celebrating them.

Marcia Kilgore

Yes. Make some beautiful. What’s the best you can do? And we’re not just working with … It’s not our lab. We’re working with the best guys or women from all over the world. So we have makeup. We have skin care. We have the best makeup brushes, which is incredible. When have you ever bought yourself a makeup brush?

Jodi Katz

Right. We have a client in the makeup brush industry. I’ve been in beauty for a long time. And we started working with this client. I’m like, “I never wash my brushes.” I am disgusting.

Marcia Kilgore

No, because you don’t want them to fall apart though, too.

Jodi Katz

I have this, I’m kind of now proud of it, a Miss Piggy toothbrush that I got in middle school that I use to brush my eyebrows because I always have a very full brow. You can imagine that I had like a uni brow. I still have it. It’s never been washed.

Marcia Kilgore

Wow.

Jodi Katz

That’s pretty nasty.

Marcia Kilgore

If you could actually afford good makeup brushes-

Jodi Katz

And not a Miss Piggy makeup brush.

Marcia Kilgore

I mean, makeup brushes are ridiculously inexpensive, even the great ones. So we have a whole range of makeup brushes that keep selling out on beautypie.com because you can actually afford a nice set of makeup brushes at home, one in your desk. You could even leave a small set at the gym.

Jodi Katz

What you’re doing, I think, for the customer’s mindset is, she doesn’t feel like she’s at war with a brand. Right?

Marcia Kilgore

Yes.

Jodi Katz

And I think that’s really the heart of why I feel so compelled by it.

Marcia Kilgore

It’s democracy. It’s democracy. It’s power for her. And she can use, as you get older also, so once you’ve kind of passed 35, you do see a lot of changes in your skin. And even though you think, “Oh, this will never happen to me,” it happens. And up until recently and Beauty Pie you couldn’t get a really great triple vitamin C serum or a stable vitamin C product for a decent price, or Retinol micro encapsulated, Swiss formulated. It’s going to be $150. And so being able to bring all those things to people so that they can test a lot of different things, see what works for them. Use it on their face and neck. You can use it on your neck. It’s not going to bankrupt you. And then buy what really works every month, and afford to buy a couple of other things to test, what a beautiful thing. Why should only people with a lot of money be able to try and find the best thing for their skin? It’s not fair.

Jodi Katz

You’re in a position where a lot of the industry’s probably looking at you with envy because the idea is genius. And then a lot are probably looking at you with a grimace. Right? Because you’re really undoing what they’ve worked so hard to maintain.

Marcia Kilgore

Yes.

Jodi Katz

And with our industry changing so much, I feel like brands already are feeling like they’re trying to suffocate whatever they can because they’re so terrified. It’s so hard. It’s so hard to move through this business. It used to be pretty easy to follow a handbook. Now it’s sort of like the wild west.

Marcia Kilgore

It’s splintered all over the place. Yeah.

Jodi Katz

What is it like to be at these industry events? You were at one last night. You’re going to be at one on Monday. When you’re walking through the room and you know this, that you’re doing so revolutionary that some people are in awe of it and some people are really challenged and devastated by it.

Marcia Kilgore

Sure. I don’t think anyone’s devastated yet because we’re just starting, and so we’re small. And while we’re making a dent, we’re not Netflix yet, but we will be. I really think that Beauty Pie is the future beauty industry. It’s lab direct like Ali Baba. Right? You can get things direct from these labs. Now we curate them and there is a lot that goes into product development, even just, we’ve got to order this jar and this cap and get it here. And it goes in this box. And it has to fit. So there are all of these elements that you put together. Labs are not just putting it all together for you and then shipping it to you. So there is a lot of kind of go between.

But, and I’m going off on a tangent, but you can amortize that go between over so many more products. So as a good example, we had a lip oil that we ordered. We didn’t know if our customers would really want … And you’re going to have to bring me back to the question later. We didn’t know if people would really buy this lip oil, so we only ordered 1000 pieces from this lab. And we looked at other lip oils on the market that were, not necessarily similar, because ours was actually better. And they were about $28 each. And our first lip oil sold for $6. That was the factory cost because we only made 1000. But it was so popular. It sold out in about two weeks. So we reordered. We reordered 5000. The price came down to $3. So not only does making more of it make the price even lower for all of the people who are members, but it amortizes that initial work across many more units.

Jodi Katz

What’s so sweet about that in many ways is, it’s the community doing a favor for itself. Right?

Marcia Kilgore

Everybody wins.

Jodi Katz

[crosstalk 00:38:11]. And you get to share that story with the [crosstalk 00:38:14].

Marcia Kilgore

Why wouldn’t you tell you friend? So that, I think, is incredible for us. Now back to the industry question. I have always been kept on my toes and done a better job when I had competition. So should we care about the industry or should we care about the customer? At first, when I came up with this idea I thought, “I can’t do that. Everyone’s going to hate me.” And then I thought, “Wait. I have to do this because there are so many more people who will love it than who will hate it.” And putting all that money that people are paying for something that isn’t relevant anymore, brands used to be really relevant. And you used to identify with a brand. Right? You’d say, “I’m a such and such girl, or I’m a so and so shopper.” And it made you feel like a certain person.

The brand that’s relevant today is your own brand. Everybody has an Instagram page. How you portray yourself there is more important to you than any brand you buy from. Right? So why pay that much more money to buy something that has a brand stuck on it? It’s just so obvious that women don’t need that anymore. And therefore, why should they be paying for it? And so I had to do it because I didn’t want to go to my death bed in 60 years thinking, “What if I would’ve tried that?” You also see that there are a lot of people doing similar things in other industries. And that’s often where points of light come that develop your picture.

So someone like Everlane is doing sort of like what we do in clothing. If you think about Warby Parker, which everybody talks it, they’ve done it in glasses. Right? And it’s better for customers. More people can afford great stuff. What’s wrong with that?

Jodi Katz

I love it. Our last question is not related to work. I imagine your brain is always thinking about work. But how do you spend your time when you’re not working?

Marcia Kilgore

Oh, yes. Well, I work a lot. I read lot of books. I have kids, got two little boys. They’re not that little anymore. They’re almost both taller than me now, 11 and 13.

Jodi Katz

Oh, that’s cool.

Marcia Kilgore

Yeah. And we ski a lot. And I try and get a little bit of yoga in. And yeah, I guess I don’t have that many hobbies. Hobbies for me, I’m so enthused I guess by Beauty Pie and talking to customers and seeing how they feel about it. It’s really fun for me. You know what they say about marriage. The first one’s for love. The second one’s for money. The third one’s for company. Have you ever heard that?

Jodi Katz

No.

Marcia Kilgore

Well, I think there might be something too about that in business. So the first one’s for love because you loved what you did and you just leapt into it, so Bliss for me. I just loved it. It was like a social club in there. The second one for money was me with Soap and Glory, thinking, “Okay. How do I take what I know and try and kind of mass it out and use this entertainment factor to do something and make it bigger and broader?” And the third one, okay, it is an incredible idea. But I want to stay in there and be able to have an interface with the customer. And for me, that’s actually fun. So I guess it’s a bit of a hobby.

Jodi Katz

That’s so interesting. I’m going to think about that. That’s actually really meaningful for me. Thank you for sharing that.

Marcia Kilgore

What a pleasure.

Jodi Katz

Yeah. So thank you so much, Marcia, for sharing your wisdom with us today.

Marcia Kilgore

It’s been great and I had no idea we would go off on so many tangents, yet, but it worked.

Jodi Katz

That’s what happens in this room.

Marcia Kilgore

Yeah. I suppose. There’s some good juju.

Jodi Katz

And for our listeners, I hope you enjoyed this interview. Please subscribe to our series on iTunes. And for updates about the show, follow us on Instagram at Where Brains Meet Beauty Podcast.

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Thanks for listening to Where Brains Meet Beauty with Jodi Katz. Tune in again for more authentic conversations with beauty leaders.

 

 

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