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Bobbi Brown first built her makeup empire – for the first time – in the 90s, a time when shades often had to be heavily mixed to match skin tones and bigger looks were preferred over subtle ones. Her namesake brand, Bobbi Brown Cosmetics, was acquired by Estée Lauder in 1995, but Bobbi remained closely involved as creative director until 2016.
After signing a 25-year non-compete contract, she passed the time by pursuing a series of entrepreneurial ventures, from becoming a regular on the Today Show to launching a boutique hotel in her hometown of Montclair, New Jersey.
In 2020, the day her non-compete expired, she launched Jones Road Beauty, a minimalist makeup brand focused on clean ingredients. The brand is the culmination of her decades of entrepreneurship and beauty wisdom and a physical representation of her personal values. “It’s about being comfortable in your skin and looking better. To me, that’s what makeup is,” Bobbi said. “Makeup doesn’t have to be fabulous, [to be] someone else and change you. It’s being yourself.”
Early in entrepreneurship, Bobbi was inspired by the lack of availability of shades in the industry and took risks, jumping straight into meeting chemists to turn her vision into physical products.
“I could have said, ‘Okay, here’s an opportunity. Let me go home and write a business plan. Let me try to get financing. Leave it to me… “I didn’t do any of that,” Bobbi said. “I didn’t know what a business plan was. I didn’t know what marketing was. I dove in and just did a lipstick. I saw an opportunity, I took the plunge and did it. And that’s probably the difference of how many people are considering starting their own business today.”
Launch of Bobbi Brown Cosmetics
The brand started out selling direct to consumers using a mail-order system, but after meeting the right people, Bobbi was able to scale faster than expected. The first big growth step happened while having lunch with a friend who happened to be a writer for Glamor magazine. “They said, ‘Can I write on [your brand] in Glamor Magazine?’ and I’m like, “Why would you?
You never know who might be interested in your work. Voluntarily sharing what you have done allows external actors (such as the media, investors or customers) to support you. Bobbi then attended a party in Manhattan, where she met an employee of Bergdorf Goodman Cosmetics. “I told him about this lipstick line and, you know, it wasn’t as easy as snapping my fingers, but that’s how I got into Bergdorf Goodman,” Bobbi said. While these interactions weren’t initially strategic, Bobbi’s drive to say “yes” and consistently put herself, and therefore her brand, on the map has largely paid off.
But Bobbi’s entire entrepreneurial journey didn’t fall into place so simply. Following your dreams is the ultimate goal, but it’s not as easy as simply quitting your current job to pursue your passion. It is important to assess your financial situation and have a realistic plan that does not ignore the realities and necessities of life.
“You have to buy milk. You have to pay the rent,” says Bobbi, “A lot of people are pretty much stuck in these high-paying corporate jobs because of finances. So what do you do? Do what you love on the side – see if there’s a way to make something work.” If your side hustle suddenly becomes an economic possibility, Bobbi said, then you know when you can switch to putting more time and energy into it. Some budding entrepreneurs end up quitting day jobs to take on temporary jobs in the evenings, that way they can devote more time to their passion without risking their financial well-being.
There will always be naysayers, so being able to look within and motivate yourself in the midst of negativity is very helpful when working as an entrepreneur. “There’s always someone who says, ‘The world doesn’t need another makeup line’ or ‘You’re too old. No one will be interested,'” Bobbi said. “I heard it all. You listen and move on. It’s just noise, and it’s not your noise, it’s their noise.”
Juggling parenthood and business
The conversation about work-life balance is always in vogue because it’s one of the hardest parts of professional and personal development to achieve, especially for mothers. With entrepreneurship being such a demanding path, Bobbi faced her fair share of challenges raising her three children an hour from Manhattan.
She didn’t do it alone and shared that choosing a life partner is one of the most important decisions you make, both in your personal and professional life. “From the start, it was really difficult. If I hadn’t had my husband, who was an incredibly supportive husband, when the children got sick, when they had to do something, it would have been impossible to do” , Bobbi said.
It means there is no shame in asking for help. In fact, if she could have gone back in time, she would have asked for more. Sometimes parents have to be selfish by taking what they need and being a little easier on themselves – doing it all is way too much for one singular person. “Susan Sarandon, when I was doing my makeup, said to me, ‘Go and hire someone for the weekends, not to play with your children, but to be at home, clean your house and put your house in order. your house’, and I did don’t listen to that,” Bobbi said. “And that’s one of the things that I regret. I sent my children with my husband and I did the housework and I did the shopping, and, by the way, I didn’t receive no rewards! Try to figure out how you could spend more time with your kids.”
As she got older, Bobbi was able to start “hacking” parenthood – learning the tricks and shortcuts to completing what she needed to do and still feeling fulfilled and successful as a mother. “I made sure I had staff at home no matter what that meant,” Bobbi said. “I’ve always understood how to make things work. I think it’s being an entrepreneur, not just of business, but of my life.”
It’s a constant juggling – after all, there are a finite number of hours in a day. Entrepreneurship requires you to prioritize, take risks, and learn as you go. You need to know what’s most important to you because it’s easy to get lost in the hustle and bustle of business. “Your time and energy are valuable – know what’s worth it and stop the things that aren’t,” Bobbi said.
“I had a successful eyewear line for a while, then it wasn’t anymore. I [said to myself], ‘Okay, it’s not working at the moment. I won’t. Luckily, I had other things to take care of, but I don’t consider those things a failure. I see them as an opportunity to learn what doesn’t work and what I can’t do.”