The founders of Glossier and Outdoor Voices, Emily Weiss and Tyler Haney, respectively, spoke at TechCrunch Disrupt in New York today about how they’re taking a bite out of the massive beauty and apparel industries. Key to both startups’ success? A digital-first, and friendly, approach to everything from sales to product development.
On Glossier’s part, appealing to millennials meant launching the brand on an Instagram account in 2014, not with a formal website or e-commerce app. As the company grows its brand and product assortment, that also means taking in thousands of customer and follower recommendations before developing new cosmetics or skin care items.
When it comes to marketing, Weiss said that Glossier has overturned some fashion standards. “Even though I come from a fashion editorial background, at Glossier I’m just a girl sharing her opinions about this product or that one. We hire people who are just sharing what they know and like. There is nobody in a showroom telling you what you have to use or do for your skin,” the CEO said.
She also pointed out that Glossier’s social accounts feature customers who talk or write about their full beauty routine, including products that aren’t made by Glossier. “Traditional beauty companies had been reluctant to acknowledge that customers shop across different brands.
Glossier also keeps its catalog pared down, with about 20 products available at a time, each meant to be “modern essentials that are universally flattering.” That’s a split from the overwhelming number of products consumers see in a mainstream store or site like Sephora or Ulta.
Outdoor Voices similarly keeps its catalog pared down to certain “Kits” with items recommended for different activities. The company also reverses course for marketing its athletic wear. Tyler Haney said she views her brand as “a best friend” to people who enjoy movement for recreation and not for competition.
Outdoor Voices encourages customers to gather at their stores, and join community running clubs or low-key dog-walking clubs. “It’s about being human not super human,” Haney said. “We want people to think of us as a hiking buddy who brought the snacks.”
Both brands are expanding their brick-and-mortar operations in the U.S. and manufacturing operations around the world to meet increasing consumer demand for their products.
Glossier is on the brink of international expansion to Canada, this summer, and the U.K. to establish a European beachhead office after that, Weiss said. And Outdoor Voices is going to open shops in Los Angeles and San Francisco next, Haney revealed. “We’re unlocking the west coast.”
The startups have both raised funding from institutional venture firms, and share an investor in Forerunner Ventures’ Kirsten Green. TechCrunch’s Katie Roof asked the CEOs what helped them convince male-dominated venture firms to invest in companies mostly serving women, also run by women.
Haney said, “We took investors on a walk around the block to spark a bond and create a conversation.” The gimmick helped demonstrate her passion and fresh point of view about active wear and fitness, that for a huge number of potential customers, it’s not about crossing a finish line first but just having fun and feeling good.
Weiss said, “Beauty is not traditionally a VC kind of business. But it’s a quarter-of-a-trillion dollar market globally, and ripe for disruption. The data speaks for itself. . . But you also wouldn’t believe how excited people get when you put a bag of products on the table, men and women.”