People 13 February 2017
The minute you meet Laura Geller it is easy to see why she has been able to sell hundreds of millions in beauty products, reaching countless women across the world over the QVC airwaves.
With her conversational New York accent, bubbly personality and a smile that seems to exist permanently on her face, Geller is a beauty rule breaker who introduced now cult categories, like primer and baked highlighters to the market. To be sure, another part of Geller's modern legacy is her enduring television presence, as she has been featured on the direct sales network for more than 20 years. Geller, also a single mother, is the longest standing beauty founder on QVC, known for her lighthearted, uncomplicated approach to makeup and dedication to teaching women how to do their own makeup.
“People will often say I'm a 40 year overnight success," Geller tells SWAAY. “I just knew that for me beauty was a business I wanted to be in. I didn't know if it meant I would stay a makeup artist for a zillion years, which I was, or if it would mean owning my own line of cosmetics. My path came about by seeing need and following that venture. Every time an opportunity opened up, every time I saw a niche that I could follow I walked through that door. I never got comfortable. I never got stable and thought; 'This is it. I made it. I'm done.'"
“Laura Geller Beauty is a brand that is founded on education. It's often said about me that people identify with me. People who don't know makeup, or are afraid of makeup don't feel threatened when they work with me."
The numbers speak for themselves; Laura Geller Beauty is currently available in more than 1,200 points of global distribution. One of Geller's groundbreaking primers called Spackle is sold every 90 seconds, while one of her Baked in Italy bronzing and highlighting powders is sold every 48 seconds. When Geller introduced her Baked Gelato Swirl Illuminator in Gilded Honey, the entire inventory sold out just one week after launching.
“Had I known them I was starting a whole category that would become a staple in every woman's handbag, I would have done something more important to protect that," says Geller of Spackle's success. "But I am so proud of it. It makes us unique and iconic. And as [far as] Baked, it's an artisanal way of baking products with all natural pigments. It has very few ingredients because it's good for your skin."
Clearly, the magic Laura Geller formula is one that takes the consumer deeply into consideration, and it has paid off.
“My inspiration has always been the customer. I always say it's not just good enough to create a product. The product has to not just touch her, but she has to have a way to connect with you. She has to feel like there's somebody behind this brand. If it's not the founder, it has to be somebody who cares."
It is apparent that Geller's relationship with QVC has been a win-win for both parties. For Geller, QVC provided a platform to reach millions of women with her story, and for the television network, it allows them to continue their mission of showcasing brand founders who speak directly to the consumer.
“QVC dreams to continue to have founders of their own businesses out there really sharing their mission, and that's generally what's been the perfect marriage and success for the QVC platform," says Geller. “We are the longest standing color brand today at QVC. I am very honored that QVC gave me a platform when I wasn't known. They helped me to build my brand recognition."
“It was really all about supply and demand. As the brand grew, customers demanded more and more product, and thus I grew the product line."
"When I get on QVC I'm a teacher. So, it's not just the teaching aspect, but then we went on to have a mission to give people products that's different and unique."
Geller, who opened her first store in 1993 says her company was originally completely self-funded. Geller said rather than seeking investors she borrowed capital from friends and family who believed in her mission, and she poured her own money into the business. Although Geller says she didn't have the business acumen, she was able to learn how to navigate her company's growth by bringing in others.
“When I started I was a working makeup artist so I didn't know the path," says Geller. “It was just me, myself and I. I didn't have the business acumen. If I could go back and talk to my younger self I would say there comes a point when you realize you can't do it all yourself. You have to find a way to trust and engage people who might know a little more than you. You can't get to where you want to get when you're doing everything."
To wit, in 2012, Geller decided to bring on a private equity investor, selling a majority stake of her company to Tengram Capital Partners, a firm that focuses on branded consumer and retail businesses. Although numbers were not disclosed, industry sources reported Tengram typically spends between $15 million and $40 million on each acquisition. Just last year, newly-formed Glanasol (co-founded by former Revlon President and CEO Alan Ennis and private equity firm Warburg Pincus) acquired Laura Geller in its first round of acquisitions, along with indie brands, Julep and Clark's Botanicals.“[Sometimes} you're better off being a lesser percentage and having somebody with an interest in the business and having some balance in your life," says Geller, who recently spoke on a panel at the White House on entrepreneurship, and has served as a participant in the FounderMade Challenge. “As I kept growing, I realized I needed more support to help me run the business. That's why a strong, supportive team is so key to growing a brand."
“When I launched Laura Geller New York, there weren't many brands educating women on makeup and how to use it. QVC gave me the platform to fill that white space and connect to customers in a different way."
For Geller, who is focused on future expansion in international markets, says part of her brand philosophy is to keep evolving as the customer does.
“We keep breaking ground; we listen," says Geller. Thank god for social media today. It's a platform that has helped me build my product range based on customer need and desire, so everything we are doing is to fulfill the need of the customer, and to make makeup fun."
“I am so not done yet," says Geller. “I think the next phase for this brand is to continue not just to grow in US but internationally too. You are going to see a lot more of retail expansion a lot of great things. Also, we have an amazing new mascara launching this spring that will show you how to be the boss of your lashes. We also have a new hydrating foundation that literally feels like a splash of water, but with coverage! Plus more for lips and eyes as well."
When asked what she learned throughout her journey to beauty founder stardom, Geller says there are countless lessons, but her biggest is to keep your brand identity regardless of what happens.
"Be true to yourself and true to your brand heritage," says Geller. "You don't always have to do what others are doing. Do what is best for your brand. And of course, it's so important to stay on top of global trends and growing social media presence."
5 Min Read
Elizabeth Warren majorly called out "arrogant billionaire" Michael Bloomberg for his history of silencing women through NDAs and closed-door settlement negotiations. Sound familiar? Probably because we already have a president like that. At this point, Bloomberg may just spend the remainder of his (hopefully) ill-fated presidential campaign roasting on a spit over a fire sparked by the righteous anger of women. A lesser punishment than he deserves, if you ask me.
At last night's Democratic debate, Michael Bloomberg could barely stammer out an answer to a question on whether or not he would release any of his former accusers from their nondisclosure agreements. His unsatisfactory response was basically a halting list of what he has done for certain nondescript women in his time at City Hall and within his own company.
But that certainly wasn't enough for Elizabeth Warren, nor should it be, who perfectly rephrased his defense as, "I've been nice to some women." Michael Bloomberg is basically that weird, problematic Uncle that claims he can't be racist, "Because I have a Black friend." In a society where power is almost always in the hands of straight, white, cisgendered, men being "nice" to a lucky few is in no way a defense for benefiting from and building upon the systematic silencing of all marginalized communities, let alone women. Stop and frisk, anybody?
Here is a brief clip of the Warren v. Bloomberg exchange, which I highly recommend. It is absolutely (and hilariously) savage.
But let's talk about the deeper issues at hand here (other than Warren being an eloquent badass).
Michael Bloomberg has been sued multiple times, yet each time he was able to snake his way out of the problem with the help of his greatest and only superpower: cold, hard cash. Each time these allegations have come up, in Warren's words, he throws "a chunk of money at the table" and "forces the woman to wear a muzzle for the rest of her life."
As reported by Claire Lampen of The Cut, here are just a few of his prior indiscretions.
- Pregnancy discrimination—Bloomberg reportedly told a former employee of his to "kill it," in reference to her developing fetus.
- Sexual harassment—You could literally write a book on this subject (someone did), but for the sake of brevity...
"I'd like to do that piece of meat" - Michael Bloomberg in reference to various women at his company.
- Undermining #MeToo—Not only did he defend the accused, but he went on the disparage accusers every step of the way.
- Defaming transgender people—Though he claims to support trans rights, he has also been qupted multiple times as referring to trans women as "some guy wearing a dress."
Yeah... That's not a winning formula for me, Mike.
Furthermore, Warren points out the simple fact that if, as Bloomberg claims, these instances were simply big misunderstandings (He was just joking around!) then why go to all the trouble to cover them up? Does Michael Bloomberg think women can't take a joke? Or can we only surmise that the truth of these events are far darker and dirtier than we could even imagine?
Certain commentators have called Elizabeth Warren's debate presence "agressive," especially in regards to this instance but also continually throughout her entire campaign. If asking poignant questions to known abusers who are seeking to further their own political power is considered "aggressive," then I am here for it. Bring on the aggressive women, please and thank you.
Calling a woman aggressive for being confidant and direct is a gendered complaint. You don't see anyone whining that Bernie is "aggressive" when he goes off on a screaming tangent. Also, have you seen our president? He's basically the poster boy for political temper tantrums. But still, it's Warren that is deemed "aggressive," for honing in on the exact issues that need to be considered in this upcoming election.
This type of derisory label is another aspect of how our society silences women—much like Bloomberg and his NDAs. Because "silencing" is more than just putting a "muzzle" on someone. It's refusing to listen to a person's cries for help. It's disregarding what a woman has to say, because she's too "aggressive." It's taking away someone's power by refusing to truly hear their side of the story. Because if you aren't listening, responding, or even just respecting someone's words, they may well have said nothing at all.
"Silence is the ocean of the unsaid, the unspeakable, the repressed, the erased, the unheard." - Renecca Solnit
Nondiscolusure agreements are a legal gag for people who have experienced harassment and abuse at the hands of those above them.
Gretchen Carlson, possibly the most famous person subject to an NDA, is one of these people. Her story is so well-known that it has even been immortalized on film, in 2019's Bombshell. Yet she is still forced to maintain her silence. She cannot tell her side of the story even when Hollywood can. She was cajoled into her current position after facing harassment in her workplace. She didn't have the power then to do more than accept her fate. And now, she doesn't have the power to tell her story.
She was, and still is being, silenced.
After her experiences, Carlson was moved to fight for all women to have the power over their truths. In a recent op-ed for the New York Times she declared: "I want my voice back. I want it back for me, and for all those silenced by forced arbitration and NDAs."
Carlson may still be tied to her NDA, but there are those who go a different route. Celeste Headlee, who wrote an op-ed on SWAAY about her experience, chose to break her nondisclosure agreement. Though doing so undoubtedly opened her up to numerous legal ramifications, she knew that she could no longer "sign away [her] right to justice."
Because that is what an NDA is all about, signing away a person's right to justice. Their story is their justice. Their NDA is a lock and key. Headlee may have broken through that lock, but she must face the consequences.
Neither Carlson nor Headlee are any less brave for how they have handled their journeys. They are both actively working to shift the cultural and political norms that led them here, and their work will, with hope and time, lead to real change. But they are just two drops in an ocean of women who are held hostage by their nondisclosure agreements, by men like Michael Bloomberg, and by a society that would rather silence them than let truth and justice be had.