Beauty Pie Founder Marcia Kilgore: “We All Need That Lift, Don’t We?” retail industry

BEither way, starting and then selling two companies would be enough for most people to retire happily. But not for serial entrepreneur Marcia Kilgore. “I just like doing things,” says the Canadian businesswoman.

At 53, she’s on her fifth venture: makeup and skincare buyers’ club Beauty Pie. She was the founder of shoe company FitFlop and beauty brand Soaper Duper; you

sold a majority stake in her skincare brand, Bliss Spa, to LVMH for reportedly $30 million in 1999, aged 30; and in 2014, her affordable beauty line Soap & Glory was bought by the owners of drugstore chain Boots.

“I make things that I want to buy,” says Kilgore. “I’m like, ‘Would I buy that?’ and if I wanted to, I would want to do it – and do it better and better and better. It’s challenging, like solving a puzzle. I don’t know why, I just love selling stuff.”

Splitting her time between Beauty Pie’s headquarters in London, her home in Switzerland and New York, where the company has just opened an office, Kilgore admits waking up at 1am leaves her feeling “exhausted”. . But she shows little sign of tiredness as she sits in a west London studio, chatting animatedly about the beauty industry and scrolling down stats.

Kilgore has been in the industry since her late teens, although she “fell in” after taking a skin care class to try to improve her acne. As a college student in New York, she began giving facials to make a living. She opened the Bliss Spa in 1996 – her clients have included Uma Thurman and Madonna – and later created an accompanying range of products.

She founded Beauty Pie in 2016 in response to “enormous markups” in the industry — a practice she was “competent” in early in her career. Kilgore recalls being told that by one of the biggest beauty brands in the world


Age 53

family Married, two sons aged 18 and 15.

education School in Saskatchewan, Canada. Studied part-time at New York University (NYU) and City College of New York, but left without a degree as her Bliss Spa business gained momentum.

Counting “I’m a volunteer.” Kilgore says she’s not paid by Beauty Pie. “I’ve left a few companies,” she says. “What should I do – take a big salary? It’s a bit of an oxymoron with what I do.”

Last holidays Family trip to Costa Rica: “It was amazing.”

The best advice she got “My friend, the costume designer, Emilio, told me he woke up one day and thought: Why not me? If you want to achieve something, you can decide: yes, I will do that.”

Biggest career mistake “When I had a gut feeling something was wrong and let people convince me they knew better. I listened to this and had to clear up clutter.”

phrase that overuses them “Can someone give me access to this document?”

How she relaxes Meditation.

They had an “each product cost of goods target of 8%” – which implied huge profit margins.

Dubbed the club for luxury beauty buyers, Beauty Pie sells its own-brand skincare and cosmetics products through its website at “factory cost” prices to “members” in the UK and US, who pay an annual fee of £59 (or $59 ) pay one month free trial. Membership allows them to choose from around 400 products developed in leading cosmetics laboratories.

Beauty Pie, which now employs 180 people, says its pricing is transparent because it eliminates retail markups, excess packaging or the cost of in-store promotions. Orders – in distinctive pink boxes – are dispatched from our own warehouses.

Kilgore calls the brand “the Netflix of cosmetics”.

is reluctant to use the term subscription service. “We’re not sending you anything; you order it,” she says. With beauty subscription boxes, buyers don’t get to choose what they get each month.

Kilgore won’t reveal Beauty Pie’s current membership, though she says it’s grown every year since launch, up 40% this year alone. Expansion to other countries is planned.

Membership has had a boost in the pandemic, prompting many consumers to give e-commerce a try, but Kilgore says few members have left and describes the brand’s retention rates as “extraordinary”.

But will cash-strapped consumers in a livelihood crisis have enough disposable income to shop for cosmetics on Netflix? And will its annual subscription – sorry, membership fee – clash with the exodus hitting Netflix and Amazon Prime as households count their cash? According to Kilgore, Beauty Pie has yet to see any changes in customer behavior, and experience has taught her that sales don’t necessarily dip during a downturn.

“I work in makeup, skincare, beauty and footwear. We’ve been through several crises and people still buy beauty and they still buy shoes.”

In fact, the brand’s most expensive product is also its most popular, says Kilgore, calling his £44 face serum “Youthbomb”.

Beauty Pie made a pre-tax loss of almost £1m on sales of around £40m for the year to 31 March 2021, according to the latest reports. Revenue increased 140% year over year. Recent sales also point to the return of the sometimes discredited “lipstick effect”: where spending on small beauty products is said to increase in a recession. Lipsticks have been selling well in recent months, Kilgore says, although that could be due to the launch of several new lines.

The brand has almost 350,000 followers on Instagram, where Kilgore regularly hosts live skincare Q&A or conducts online polls for new product names.

She has also shared the ups and downs of the company, such as: B. a pandemic-related supply chain disruption – during which items were temporarily out of stock – and struggles with shortages of truck drivers, congested ports and shortages of essential ingredients. That makes it “much more of a community,” she says.

Members also seem keen to share their opinions: hundreds of them review the brand’s products on their website and have given the company an average rating of 4.7 stars out of five on Trustpilot.

“She [the Beauty Pie customer] buys something new, something fun that’s a bit of a treat because we all need that boost, don’t we, because the news is so bad right now,” she says.

According to recent data, consumer demand for such small treats is increasing across the board. According to market research firm NPD Group, lip gloss sales in the UK rose 20% in April compared to the same month in 2019, while sales of all other lip products rose 61% in April compared to pre-pandemic levels.

Kilgore has further expansion in mind: During the pandemic, she completed two rounds of venture capital funding, a first for one of her companies. The second round, which concluded in 2021, raised $100m (£89m). The brand has recently expanded into clothing and beauty gadgets, selling pajamas and an electric facial cleansing brush.

But after leaving previous deals, when will Kilgore sell at Beauty Pie?

“If I felt like I was bringing as much value as possible,” she says. “If I ran out of ideas and thought that someone else would be better placed to do this than I am right now, then I would reconsider.”

Meanwhile, her next business idea is already in development. She’ll just say it’s related to “wellness” and that she’s working on making a prototype.

She laughs: “What else am I supposed to do all day? I would stand by the fridge and that can be dangerous.”

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