- From Rihanna to Emily Weiss, more young women are disrupting the beauty space with cosmetic lines that thrive on social media.
- While millennials are leading the way with the industry’s disruption, other generational outliers — notably 21-year-old Gen-Zer Kylie Jenner and 62-year-old Anastasia Soare — are also key players in the trend.
- Over time, beauty industry marketing has evolved from word-of-mouth and traditional ad campaigns to Instagram tutorials and user-generated content, making it easier than ever to launch a new brand.
- This has opened the door for celebrities and influencers to create their own beauty brands and sell them to their strong social media followings, transforming fanbase numbers into revenue.
- This has given rise to a new generation of wealthy women, who sit on top of beauty empire fortunes they created with their own digital prowess.
- Visit BusinessInsider.com for more stories.
Social media has minted a new type of money maker: the “selfie-made billionaire.”
That’s what Natalie Robehmed of Forbes dubbed Kylie Jenner, the world’s youngest self-made billionaire ever.
Jenner’s $1 billion net worth comes largely from her eponymous cosmetics line, Kylie Cosmetics, which launched in 2015. Three years later, revenue was an estimated $360 million, the company worth $900 million, Robehmed reported.
While Jenner may be one of the more extreme examples, she isn’t an anomaly — a long history of women have accrued wealth by building beauty empires. The first female self-made millionaire, Madam CJ Walker, built her fortune off a line of hair care products she developed in 1905, according to Isis Madrid of Broadly. Beauty mavens Estée Lauder and Bobbi Brown started their brands decades before the millennium.
In 2018, Jenner was a newcomer to Forbes’ richest self-made women list, along with Forbes’ other “Instagram-savvy makeup moguls” — Anastasia Soare, Huda Kattan, and Kim Kardashian West, who all also have their own beauty lines.
Then there’s Emily Weiss, founder and CEO of cult beauty brand Glossier. On March 19, the direct-to-consumer beauty brand hit unicorn status with new funding that put its value at $1.2 billion, reported Katie Roof and Yuliya Chernova of The Wall Street Journal.
While these women aren’t the first of their kind to build wealth by tapping into the beauty industry, they are part of a growing number of women who have successfully done so by leveraging social media. What’s changed isn’t the idea of starting a cosmetics line, but how millennials are disrupting the process in today’s technological age while propelling fast company growth and amassing personal fortune.
Estée Lauder and Bobbi Brown got their start through word-of-mouth
“Getting a brand known has from the beginning involved word-of-mouth and getting attention from an influential journalist,” Geoffrey Jones, a professor at Harvard Business School and author of the book “Beauty Imagined,” told Business Insider.
Consider Estée Lauder: “She gave away 80 of her lipsticks as table gifts for a charity luncheon in the Waldorf-Astoria,” Jones said. “The rich guests then walked over to the nearby Saks Fifth Avenue to ask for it.”
In 1947, Lauder received her first major order for $800 worth of products from Saks. She grew her business with traditional print advertising and word-of-mouth campaigns, believing that women who liked her products would spread the word. In 2018, the company reported $13.68 billion in net sales and Bloomberg estimated the Lauder family to be worth $24.3 billion.
The beauty behemoth now has nearly 30 brands in its portfolio; in 1995, it acquired Bobbi Brown Cosmetics, making the line’s namesake founder a millionaire, reported CNBC’s Catherine Clifford.
Being bought by a big firm is a sign of success, Jones said. Bobbi Brown, who told Inc. she began the line with $10,000, also favored a word-of-mouth strategy. By talking to strangers and friends, she found a business partner, landed a mention in Glamour magazine, conducted market research, connected with a Bergdorf Goodman cosmetics buyer, and secured regular appearances on The Today Show, according to Clifford.
But that was before the disintegration of traditional distribution channels, which Jones said has happened over the past decade.
Look no further than Soare’s Anastasia of Beverly Hills line to see this shift in action. According to Forbes, it’s one of the first beauty companies to use a successful social media strategy — but Soare didn’t begin that way.
The aesthetician first became a celebrity favorite in the early 1990s for perfecting the eyebrow. In 2000, she took the traditional route, launching her first line of products in 20 Nordstrom stores, reported Forbes. But it didn’t really take off until Soare took to Instagram in 2013 with a viral social media campaign, which helped land her products in Sephora.
Today, the company’s Instagram has 19 million-plus followers, and the company has a Forbes estimated value of $1.5 billion. Soare herself is worth an estimated $1 billion, making her one of the world’s richest self-made women.
A shift to digital means brands can make the consumer an influencer
As Soare’s success indicates, “Social media has become the new door-to-door,” Jensen said, adding it “allows consumers to research, investigate, and…