Jessica Cooper
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Women Leaders of Beauty

Women Entrepreneurs are Becoming Titans of the Beauty Industry


It's a very exciting time to be in the beauty industry.   New trends pop up everyday and the industry is changing fast.  The beauty business is a multi-billion dollar a year industry that is still growing with new companies making their mark each year.


As with most industries, men still have the majority of control of top positions in most major beauty industry companies and big name brands, but that is starting to change.


Women make up the largest consumers of beauty products and services by a very wide margin.  The impact of a male dominated leadership overseeing a majority female customer base has left a lot lacking in terms of developing products women really want, and resulted in a back lash of criticism from women everywhere about the inadequate range of choices available in beauty products. 


Seeing the writing on the wall, investors are starting to understand the value of having more female representation in leadership positions in beauty companies.   As common sense would dictate, it is difficult to try and predict beauty trends and product choices that women will gravitate to without hearing from women themselves.


To fill the void, we are now seeing a huge increase in the number of women lead beauty start-up companies.  In the last to years or so women have dominated at least 40 prominent beauty companies making  up over the $445 billion in sales.  Investors are now starting to invest heavily in these companies, and see real potential in their growth and money making potential.


Beauty startups created by female entrepreneurs that have majority women leadership positions are attracting money from well funded venture capitalists.   As a result of this shift, iconic beauty brands such as Loreal, Estee Lauder and others are feeling the pressure from shareholders to diversify their leadership.


The new companies popping up over the last several years are showing a focus on offering rationalization services to help determine the best colors and products for each individual skin type, hair type, and eye color.  We are now seeing personal stylist type tools on beauty apps and websites which help find a customer’s perfect foundation shade, perfect eye shadow palette and most flattering lip colors.  This trend is turning out to be very popular. 


This new personalized approach is also in response to a growing demand for more products that cater specifically to women of color.  The beauty industry at large has faced longstanding criticism about the lack of products made for women of color.   Many consumer spending studies have shown that Black women, in particular, spend significantly more on beauty products than other groups of women.  In terms of a purely economic view point,  it's good for business when industry leaders recognize the potential and tap into the demand for a better selection of products for all types of women.


This shift in thinking is having a huge impact on the industry.  Market reports are indicating that beauty companies with more women at the helm make better decisions since they have their finger on the pulse of what women want to buy and where market trends are headed.


We've compiled a list of some of the most successful women entrepreneur's and leaders in the beauty industry.  These influential women are paving the way for a new future of beauty industry where women reign supreme.



Michelle Phan


Michelle began her empire by amassing over 8 million YouTube subscribers by creating and staring in her own makeup tutorial videos.  With a huge fan base already in tow Michelle went on to co-found Ipsy with Jennifer Jaconetti Goldfarb who was working with Bare Escentuals cosmetic line and Marcelo Camberos, who was CEO of Funny or Die.  



Ipsy is company that offers monthly subscriptions to receive a gift bag of cosmetic and beauty samples each month, and is specifically catered to their clients needs and wishes.   Ipsy has become an extremely popular business and now has over 1.5 million monthly subscribers.  The company has really capitalized on what women are looking for - personalized products, and the desire to try new products every month.


Jamie Kern Lima

Jamie Kern Lima co-founded IT Cosmetics about 10 years ago.   She started her career as a TV Broadcast journalist.  While working as a TV journalist she developed a hereditary skin condition called rosacea and was dismayed to find that most foundations on the market made her skin look worse. 


In her own personal search for a foundation that would look good on her skin, she started to devlop her own skin care line.  

She created a foundation formula that could work on women with skin problems like acne, wrinkles or rosacea.  Her brand quickly became very popular with celebrities and she eventually sold her IT Cosmetics make-up line to L'Oreal for $1.2 billion in cash.  Jamie stayed on as CEO of the company and is now worth over $410 million.  She has the earned the title of being the first female CEO in L'Oreal's long 108-year-history.



Toni Ko


At age 25 Toni Ko started her own cosmetic line called NYX Cosmetics using a $250,000 loan from her parents.

The company was focused on providing high quality, trendy colors of eyeliners and lip glosses sold at drugstore prices.


Her line became so popular that beauty industry titan L’Oreal bought her business in 2015 for an estimated $500 million. 


Ko is now worth over $270 million and ranks No. 57 on Forbes list of America’s most successful self-made women.






Former fashion model and beauty icon Iman started her own cosmetics line, Iman Cosmetics after seeing the need for more foundation choices for women of color. 


For years makeup artists would mix their own shades to compliment Iman's beautifully dark complexion.  Iman decided to create Iman Cosmetics in 1994  which provides a range of makeup products for all women, but was designed to specifically provide better choices for foundation for women of color.  Her cosmetic line offers a variety of makeup shades for darker complexions with over 16 different shades.


Iman made a licensing and distribution deal with Procter & Gamble to sell her unique line of cosmetics.  Her business is now worth over $25 million and is sold all over the world.



Marcia Kilgore 


The creator of popular spa brand Bliss, Marcia Kilgore began her career in skin care by taking aesthetician classes and offering facials to her friends in New York.  The  growing demand for her skin care services eventually led her to open her own spa business.  


Marcia founded Bliss Spas in 1996.   Bliss started off as one spa in Manhatten, and under her leadership expanded to become a large chain of spas and accompanying  skin, bath and body product line sold all over the world.


She eventually sold Bliss in 1999 for $30 million dollars.  She went on to start skin care company called Soap & Glory and Fit Flop, which has now done over $130 million dollars in sales.



Emily Weiss 

Emily Weiss formerly  worked as a Vogue and W Magazine fashion assistant for many years, and then eventually started her own beauty blog as a side job.  Her blog, 'Into The Gloss'  eventually attracted more than 1.5 million visitors a month.


The blog is beloved by beauty insiders and has celebrity followers who have given the website rave reviews for it's current beauty trend insight, and product information.  Emily has developed a clear brand identity, and natural ability to connect with beauty consumers on a more personl level.   She created an online experience of learning about new products with interactive features that encourages feedback from her readers. 


Emily was able to identify with customers who want to try out luxury and professional grade skin care and beauty products in a way that makes them feel more accessable.  


Emily  then went on to found Glossier -  a direct-to-consumer line of beauty products that feel like luxury brand products but are easily accessible and affordable.   Her products are beloved by a number of big name celebrities including, Sienna Miller, Tracee Ellis Ross and Sofia Coppola.  



Lisa Price


As the story goes, Lisa started her own hair care line in her kitchen with an initial investment of only $100.   She created Carol's Daughter, which has become on the most popular brands on the market that cater specifically

to women with natural, curly hair textures.  Her brand is now sold in major US stores like Ulta and Target. 


Lisa opened her first store in Brooklyn in 1999.  She appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show in 2002, which helped bring more attention to her products, and helped her open a second store in New York.  After she successfully grew her brand name, she also got the attention of some big name celebrities like Jay-Z, Will Smith, and Mary J. Blige, who went on to invest in her company. 



The line was eventually acquired by beauty indistry giant, L'Oréal in 2014.  In a statement released about the merger, L'Oreal's President of the US division and CEO Frederic Roze said, "the acquisition was part of an effort to "build a new dedicated multi-cultural beauty division.”


A truly self made beauty business entrepreneur, Lisa Price has been very successful in developing what has now become the premiere multi-cultural beauty brand of the United States, and is now estimated to have a net worth of over $12 million.  


Pat McGrath


Pat got her start as one of the fashion idustry's most influential and makeup artists.  She has worked behind the scenes of some of the biggest name fashion shows, and had photos of her work featured in fashion magazines including Vogue, W, and Harper's Bazaar. 


After making her name as one of the world's best, and most sought after make-up artists, she went on to work as the Global Beauty Creative Design Director for beauty industry giant, Procter and Gamble. 


She just recently founded her own make-up line, Pat McGrath Labs, which is sold in stores like Sephora.  Her wildly popular lip colors sell out almost as soon as they become available.



Katia Beauchamp

Katia Beauchamp, a Harvard Business school graduate, co-founded and is now CEO of beauty start-up Birchbox, with fellow alumni Hayley Barna.  Birchbox is a monthly subscription service that delivers personalized beauty samples. Samples range from small independent beauty brands to high-end beauty products.  Customers love that each package is a unique surprise of products.


Birchbox is a great example of success with personalization and product variety.  The products for each customer are specifically catered to their personal taste, preferences and skin type.  For a small monthly subscription fee, customers are able to get high-end beauty products for very little cost.

Katia Beauchamp has become one of the most influential businesswoman in the beauty industry and now has a net worth of $1 billion.  She has been named as one of the top ten female CEOs on several lists.  




Jamie O'Banion

Former model and Texas native, Jamie O'Banion co-founded Oranicare at age 25 with her physician father in 2008.  She has since gone on to found and become CEO of Dallas based beauty company Beauty Bioscience

Beauty Bioscience is a luxury skin care line that created the

wildly popular skin care device called GloPro.  The GloPro is a a $200 at-home device that stimulates collagen production and helps skin absorb anti-aging ingredients.   Women have long desired to have the abilty to use professional grade dermotology devices and products available to them at home rather than pay for costly and tome consuming visits to Dermatologists for skin concerns.  

The line now has 15 professional grade anti-aging skin care products,  including  the popular RetinoSyn-45, eye creams and skin-firming body creams


Jamie has been very successful marketing her brand by telling her personal story on the HSN, and also sells on QVC.




Karen Behnke

Karen Behnke is a truly self made power house of the beauty industry.  She started her career off by founding one of the first wellness companies in the Unite States, called PacifiCare Wellness Company.  The company provided health and wellness screenings and developed workplace fitness programs for major corporations. 


Her company, PacifiCare eventually merged with the multi-billion dollar United Healthcare/PacifiCare corporation in the 1990’s.  Karen then went on to lead the Healthy Lifestyles investment team for a firm that had majority shareholder control of popular gym chain, 24 Hour Fitness.


She also served on the Board of Directors at 24 Hour Fitness and was an Operating Executive for seven years.  During this period of time, 24 Hour Fitness grew from $75 million to over $1 billion in revenue. 


After an already extensive and successful career, Karen had her first child.   She became concerned with the amount of harmful chemicals in her skin care products during and after pregnancy.  She then decided to work on the development of safe and effective skin care products.  That marked the beginning of Juice Beauty, which Karen founded and is currently CEO.  In her time running Juice Beauty, Karen has shown a remarkable ability to understand and provide what women are looking for in their beauty products. 


Juice Beauty is an organic eco-chic beauty products company that specializes in making skincare, makeup, and haircare made with organic ingredients.


Karen has received numerous awards for being a very successful entrepreneur, and continues to be an industry innovator and leader.  


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