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QVC Queen Laura Geller On Reaching Millions Through Makeup

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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."

2 Min Read
Business

How I Built My Business From The Side Of My Daughter's Hospital Bed

It all started when I began documenting my daughter's 436-day hospital stay on Instagram.

She was a perfectly healthy 3-year-old and out of nowhere had a ruptured appendix made worse by a failed immune system. Sepsis began to consume her body and talking about it on social media was my way to cope with the fear of the unknown.

The doctors saved her life that night in January of 2018, but it was touch and go for a while until the doctors decided she was ready for a bone marrow transplant.

By then my daughter Theresa and our family had gained attention locally and nationally because of the rarity of her disorder. It doesn't even have a name. People would comment day and night on my Instagram posts wanting updates about how she was doing and wanting to see her on video.

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436+ days in the hospital with Theresa taught me how to prepare to be productive during shelter in place . When you really couldn't go anywhere often while in the hospital . Not like there was anywhere TO GO... just waiting day in and day out for answers that took a long while . Didn't want to venture out much because didn't want to get Theresa sick . It feels VERY similar to now. Little within your control no matter how much you'd panic and worry . You realize you can see this as an opportunity for growth or an opportunity to let fear and worry consume you . . Let me give you my best advice on how to tackle shelter in place, from someone who gets it all too well . . 1️⃣ Develop your new routine: some may say to keep your normal routine but chances are we've gotta adapt things, like training schedules and coaching calls to fit with the fact the kiddos are home 😅 . 2️⃣ Fill your cup first: get an iced latte, take a walk, take a nap, whatever you gotta go to feel your best before you pour into working on your new project or content . 3️⃣ communicate: talk to your spouse and kiddos and ask for their support in your balancing life, family and work. Ask what they need from you right now and share how they can best support you . 4️⃣ Create as much as you consume: it's easy to get sucked into scrolling and the next thing you know the sun has set ☀️ set a timer ⏱ to step away from your tiktok for you page (just me? 😂😂) to write an email or post to your IG feed . 5️⃣ dont try to do it all alone: it's a crazy time and your feelings are valid. You don't have to navigate this by yourself. Ask for help, reach out... you know I always have your back❤️. . . Comment below: what are you up to this weekend?
A post shared by Kayla - LAUNCHING EXPERT (@kaylaybanez) on Mar 21, 2020 at 4:04pm PDT

It was in the Fall of 2018 when people started to ask me how I was doing certain things on Instagram. I didn't realize how good I had become at utilizing hashtags, posting easily digestible content and building up a loyal community around my daughter's journey to health.

I realized that the months I spent learning everything I could about using Instagram the way I had been, gave me skills that small businesses and online personal brands would pay for. For the longest time this was a way to make myself feel normal (because living in the hospital for over a year isn't normal) and now, people were ready to pay me. It was a surreal experience.

I started by offering one time consultations and the more demand increased, the more I realized that I had a very specific niche in mind. I wanted to help online business owners use Instagram to make genuine business connections without spamming or "cold messaging" them.

I made it my personal brand to "stop the 'hey girl' messaging movement," which is essentially the unfortunate standard of small business owners randomly messaging anyone they cross paths with online and asking them if they want to purchase their products.

Especially while we were in the hospital I would receive dozens of spam messages a day from people trying to sell me their products without even taking a moment to look at my page to see what my family has been going through let alone learn my name. That's where the "hey girl" comes from, because they couldn't even be bothered to look at the name on my page.

I called out these sleazy business tactics because I believe social media is meant for true relationship building and connection.

My message took off! My personal brand has become instantly recognizable because I am speaking out about things business owners feel but have been afraid to talk about because nobody else was talking about it — as a result, my business boomed!

I went from focusing on working with people 1:1 into working with more group coaching. This allowed me to scale my business to the point of making over $300,000 in revenue since I started in the fall of 2018, all from a system and strategy I created while in my daughter's hospital room.