We checked in with the serial entrepreneur exactly one year after the launch of her latest venture, Beauty Pie.
by Nora Maloney
This is one of those stories that makes the rest of us question practically everything we’ve achieved in our own lives up until this point. Maybe you’ve heard of Marcia Kilgore or maybe you live on Mars, but one thing is for certain, you’ve heard of one of the five (yes, five) companies that she has launched over the last two decades.
First came Bliss in 1996, the spa that made spas cool again with its top-model clients. LVMH bought a majority stake in the company for a reported $30 million, just three years after its initial launch. Then, in 2006, Kilgore launched the playful product line, Soap and Glory, which sold in 2014 to the British drugstore giant, Boots, for a supposed $50 million. And as if the aughts weren’t keeping Kilgore busy enough, 2007 marked the launch of her hugely popular ergonomic footwear line, FitFlop, which today is sold in 64 markets globally and whose latest campaign is fronted by Uma Thurman.
December 6th, however, marks the official one year anniversary of Beauty Pie, Kilgore’s self proclaimed ‘best idea yet’, a direct to consumer brand that is giving the traditional market structure a run for its money. Below we speak to the brain behind the beauty brands to learn who she is, how she got here, and what we can expect next. Because with Marcia Kilgore, there is always something next.
Let’s start from the beginning— how old were you when you began brainstorming ideas for companies?
I have never brainstormed ideas for companies, as such, but rather, since my early twenties, been struck by gaps in affordable and democratic products that deliver what I believe ‘women want’. I’m aided, obviously, by the fact that I’m a woman. With Bliss, it was about a friendly, non-judgmental place to get a facial, with FitFlop, a shoe that recharged you when you walked, and with Beauty Pie –I think my best idea yet - it’s about giving women (and 4% of men) the ability to feel like a kid in a candy cosmetics store.
Do you think people are born with the mind of an entrepreneur or is this something that you think is developed over time?
Ah, nature or nurture. The oldest debate in the book, right? I’d say that certainly the circumstances of my upbringing, the fear I experienced and the uncertainty- when my father died of brain cancer when I was 11- contributed to an early sense of needing to ‘fend for myself’. There are apparently studies about the link between serial entrepreneurs and the death of a parent during childhood. But at the same time, I think that certain people are blessed – if you want to categorize it that way- with a sense of how to connect the dots that others might not see or look for. It may be an innate survival mechanism based on your earlier circumstances - epigenetic studies have shown that the circumstances your parents experienced can actually have an effect on your genes.
So, at what point then, did you realize that you yourself are a serial entrepreneur?
Given that the term serial entrepreneur really wasn’t part of the zeitgeist until maybe 5-6 years ago, I would say 5-6 years ago, when somebody referred to me as a serial entrepreneur! I would caveat this by saying that I generally don’t launch companies just to launch them. I never sit down and think about doing a business plan in order to launch a business. For me, it’s about delivering an idea that improves daily life for the customer.
Your latest venture Beauty Pie was launched at the end of 2016, just two years after selling Soap & Glory. How long had you been thinking of this new concept?
Probably my whole life. I love beauty. I love being able to help women look better and feel more confident. It’s fun. It gives me an enormous amount of energy. It’s my ‘thing’. But dealing with retailers, pretending that a product is worth 10X more than it costs to make, that has always made me really uncomfortable. I am many things, but I am not a faker.
I guess it took me 25 years, and the advent of the internet and the power of social media to think: THIS IT THE WAY FORWARD. I know how to formulate. I know the best chemists and the best suppliers. I want to give people a bigger piece of their BEAUTY PIE.
Well, if people don’t want to join, they can just buy our products like they do with any other brand.
But I want to democratize access to the best beauty products in the world. To blend the concepts of Netflix and crowdfunding, of a luxury kind of beauty Costco, where if you do just decide to join (and it’s $99/year, or $10/month) you have access to products from the world’s best beauty suppliers, in Switzerland, France, Korean, Italy, Japan, at the prices they come out of the factory for (without the typical 1000% markup).
Think of it this way: As a member, you can get a Swiss-formulated, high-performance anti-aging moisturizer for about $12 (the actual factory cost). Normally, it would cost you upwards of $120 (the typical price of something that leaves the factory costing $12, if you add labour, marketing, corporate overheads). You pay $10/month for your membership. So if you buy your Swiss anti-aging cream from Beauty Pie every month, instead of from a cosmetics counter, you’ll pay around $22, instead of $120.
The really beautiful thing? Because we don’t have to hit any kind of margin, our product development team goes out looking for THE BEST product. Not the cheapest, or the one with th