How This Beauty Blogger Created a Cult Brand (and Raised $34 Million)
How this beauty brand went from a blog to the color on every makeup blogger’s lips.
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
Editor's Note: Inc. Magazine will announce its pick for Company of the Year on Monday, December 11. Here, we spotlight a contender for the title in 2017.
Among connoisseurs of the dewy skin look, 2017 may go down as the year Glossier achieved cult status.
In mid-September, the beauty brand that promises to hide blemishes without covering up your freckles or pores released its first line of body products called Body Hero. The products' advertisements -- which ran on social media and old-fashioned billboards in New York City and Los Angeles -- featured nude photos of women. From basketball player and Olympic gold medalist Swin Cash Canal, to entrepreneur Tyler Haney and plus-size model Paloma Elsesser, the models were all different colors and sizes.
Fans swooned for Glossier's body-positive messages as much as the new products, which include daily oil wash and perfecting cream. It was the company's seventh product launch this year (that's one every six to eight weeks) and was quickly followed by the release of its first fragrance, Glossier You. "Inclusivity is really our number one value," said Emily Weiss, Glossier's founder and CEO. "We want to inspire but we also want to be realistic and show beauty in real life."
The Body Hero campaign was a hit: Fans flooded social media with appreciation for the campaign. Yet the company has never released two products the same way, Weiss said -- a mighty feat since it's created 26 products in three years. For the Glossier You launch, the company mailed free samples to customers a month before the perfume went on sale and encouraged them to post about it on social media.
"I think this is the year we went from niche to cult," said Weiss, who aims to makes Glossier (pronounced "Gloss-ee-yay") the Nike of beauty. "I've always dreamed of Glossier being not a makeup line or a skincare range but a beauty company and I think this is the year that we really started to grow into that destiny."
Weiss launched Glossier in 2014 as a spinoff to her popular beauty blog Into the Gloss. She built a following dishing the skincare secrets of celebrities while strengthening her reputation as a beauty expert who had tested and reviewed hundreds of products. When she started making her own cosmetics, she turned her trusting readers into trusting customers. Glossier launched by selling four items all geared towards skincare: a face mist, concealer, skin salve, and priming moisturizer.
Since then, the New York City-based company has been the word -- and color -- on beauty bloggers' lips. Glossier declined to disclose revenue figures, but said it experienced 600 percent year-over-year growth from 2015 to 2016. Glossier also raised more than $34 million in three rounds of funding over three years, closing its largest round of $24 million in November 2016.
The plunge into body products wasn't the only milestone Glossier hit this year. The company started shipping to Canada and the U.K., with London driving the fourth-most sessions to Glossier's website of any city in the world (even when it didn't ship there), according to Weiss. Additionally, Glossier continued to run its brick-and-mortar showroom in New York City's SoHo and expanded its nearly year-old representative program, where sellers hawk products for a commission.
But it isn't all Millennial-pink packaging and emoji stickers. The cosmetics industry is a massive space -- Forbes reported the industry is worth about $445 billion in sales -- dominated by legacy companies like L'Oreal and Estee Lauder. Glossier, which competes with other direct-to-consumer brands like Stowaway and Onomie, will need to continue to differentiate itself. One way it already does that, Weiss said, is by delivering on customers' requests. For example, when customers asked for a sunscreen, Glossier spent years developing an SPF product.
As for what comes next, Weiss kept mum about the company's future products but hinted that Glossier would be working on its digital presence. "We just want to make people happy in whatever small ways we can," Weiss said. "Especially in the times that we live in."