The Beauty Dept / Let’s start from the beginning
WORDS BY BEAUTY PIE Staff
Let’s start from the beginning...
It’s possible you’ve heard of Marcia Kilgore or maybe you live on Mars, but if you’re a woman, or a beauty junkie, or just love shoes, you’ve heard of one of the five (yes, FIVE) companies that she’s launched over the last two decades.
First came Bliss Spa in 1996. It was the first spa to wrestle facial-giving from the Eastern European monopoly and make it cool. Bliss was awash with top-models, actresses, the literati - Oprah, Calvin, Madonna, Christy, Conan and Donatella were Marcia’s clients - and the line to get in was longer than any who’s who nightclub. In 2006, Kilgore launched the playful product line, Soap & Glory, which was bought in 2014 by British drugstore Boots, and as if she weren’t busy enough, 2007 marked the launch of her hugely popular ergonomic footwear line, FitFlopTM, which today is sold in over 60 markets globally and whose latest campaign is fronted by Uma Thurman (a former Bliss client, natch).
What’s she up to now? Enter Beauty Pie™ - Kilgore’s self-declared ‘best idea yet’, a disruptive, direct-to-consumer luxury beauty brand that is giving the mainstream luxury beauty brands a run for their money. Below, we speak to the brains behind all those women-centric brands, to learn who she is, how she got here, and what we can expect next.
Let’s start from the beginning— how old were you when you began brainstorming ideas for companies?
I have never brainstormed, as such, but rather, since my early twenties, been struck by gaps in affordable and democratic product offerings that deliver what I believe ‘women want’. I’m aided, obviously, by the fact that I am one. With Bliss, it was about a friendly, non-judgmental place to get a facial, with FitFlop, I wanted to create a shoe to empower and provide the platform to help all women to feel confident, and with Beauty Pie – I think my best idea yet - it’s about giving women (and at the moment 4% of men) the same experience I have when I go to our labs in Italy, France, Switzerland, Japan and Korea and walk out with bags stuffed with the world’s finest skincare and cosmetics. I mean, what woman doesn’t want that?
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 have the ability to connect the dots in new ways. I do it. I love who I meet and what I learn along the way. It’s like my oxygen.
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. For me, it’s about delivering an idea that improves daily life for my customer. If it’s better for her, I’m interested in delivering it.
Your latest venture Beauty Pie was launched at the end of 2016, just two years after Boots/Walgreens bought 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 negotiating margins with retailers, pretending that luxury products are worth up to 10X more than they actually cost to manufacture, that has always made me really uncomfortable.
"I am many things, but I am not a faker."
I’ve been a skincare and beauty expert for a very long time, but with the advent of the internet and the power of social media I realized: THIS IS THE WAY FORWARD. I know skincare better than anyone. I know makeup. 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.
How did you come up with the member/non-member concept for Beauty Pie?
Well, if people don’t want to join, they can just buy our products like they do with any other brand. It’s up to them.
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 co-op, where if you do just decide to join (and you can choose how much you want to access each month) you can shop for products from the world’s best beauty suppliers, from Switzerland, France, Korea, Italy, Japan, without paying for middlemen, the celeb marketing, the retailer markups.
“I just think the customer deserves more. And I’d like to be responsible for bringing it to her.”
Think of it this way: As a member, you can get a Swiss-formulated, high-performance anti-aging moisturizer for about £11 (the actual cost to produce, test, warehouse and pick). Normally, it would cost you upwards of £130 (the typical price of something that leaves the factory costing £11, if you add labour, marketing, corporate overheads, retailer margins). 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 (including a £10 membership) around £21, instead of £130.
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 the most profit margin, but simply the best. Even Tina Turner couldn’t argue with that.
How have consumers reacted to the Beauty Pie business model? Have you found there to be scepticism surrounding the low prices?
When I first showed up on the magazine beauty editors’ doorsteps, even they reacted with disbelief. (Let’s just say there was a lot of nervous laughter, and concern about what big corporate advertisers would have to say). So there is certainly education that needs to take place before civilians realize that the mainstream luxury beauty industry can often have 10X+ markups, despite the fact that they may be selling pretty much the same type of luxury products BEAUTY PIE is.
But I think companies like Everlane have led the way with price transparency. The difference between Everlane and Beauty Pie is not only how you can buy, but also that in cosmetics, there are maybe 10 -20 great third-party factories that BEAUTY PIE sources from, that the mainstream luxury cosmetic brands are also sourcing from, and the difference between the products we all sell is often pretty much down to packaging choices (at the PIE, we avoid landfill, while focusing on minimalist luxury) and marketing.
In short, what are your main goals with Beauty Pie?
I want to make our members feel like they can log on and experience a luxury cosmetics fairy tale, where they can access the best in luxury beauty nonstop (at prices so amazing, even a splurge is a steal). Because I believe there should be no guilt in getting gorgeous!
In what areas do you hope to grow and expand Beauty Pie?
A great company is not only about what you do, but what you don’t do. We’re about Beauty. Anything and everything to do with Beauty. We’re not going branch out into jeans, or yoga mats. Our goal is to find the world’s very best beauty products (for hair, skin, the best highlighters and foundations, mascaras, amazing scented candles, killer lipsticks, luxury perfume (we’re launching in November), bath oils, great body products, vitamins, the best sunscreens) and save our members a lot of money on them. Given the size of the market, and how much the average woman spends, we think there’s a lot of room for organic expansion at the PIE.
And - last question - I promise: 5 must have products from BEAUTY PIE?
Well, as a card-carrying member (I’m on the 30/month membership so I can buy a LOT) I’m lobbying for autoship on the Super Retinol System, because anybody who is over 35 should be using this nonstop. Our One Powder Wonder is the best invisible powder ever, nothing beats our Flash False Lash Mascara, I own pretty much every WonderColour Eyeshadow Crayon and will not be caught dead without a tube of Cowboy Nude.
At BEAUTY PIE, our mission is to make you feel like a kid in a cosmetics candy store.
To bring you the fairy tale. To deliver the absolute best in beauty nonstop, at prices so amazing, even a splurge is a steal.
Because there should be no guilt in getting gorgeous.