In Conversation With Bobbi Brown
With Bobbi Brown and Emily Washcovick
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In this intimate conversation with Yelp’s Small Business Expert Emily Washcovick, New York Times best-selling author and Jones Road Beauty founder Bobbi Brown shares what she’s learned about reigniting your entrepreneurial spirit, following your dreams, and leading as a female entrepreneur.
Speaker: Bobbi Brown, makeup artist and founder, Jones Road Beauty
Moderator: Emily Washcovick, Yelp small business expert
Beauty icon and entrepreneur Bobbi Brown revolutionized the makeup industry over 30 years ago and continues to innovate what makeup could be with her cosmetics company Jones Road Beauty. Passionate about providing people with natural-looking makeup made from clean ingredients, Bobbi adamantly follows the threads of her curiosity and intuition in pursuit of better, healthier products.
At Yelp, Emily builds a thriving network of local business owners, operators, and marketers through education and networking events. She hosts events and webinars to provide business owners with resources that help them succeed and grow in the world of online reviews. Emily’s expertise lies in customer engagement, reputation management and all things digital marketing. She is also the host of Behind the Review, a podcast from Yelp and Entrepreneur Media.
Emily: There she is. Bobbi, how are you today?
Bobbi: I’m good. How are you?
Emily: I’m good. Thank you so much for being here with us. I’m so excited for you to share your story and your journey. I think there’s going to be tons of takeaways for this audience. So I really just wanted to thank you again for your time.
Bobbi: Oh, my pleasure. I’m looking forward to our chat.
Emily: Awesome. Well, let’s jump right in. Can you take me back to the beginning of those early days? You were a makeup artist to start. What made you say, “I want to make my own line of products. I want to start a business?”
Bobbi: Well, I was a makeup artist in New York city during the ‘80s, when the makeup up was just crazy. And even back then, I never thought it was attractive. So I used to always have to mix and blend things to find the proper shades. And I realized it didn’t exist. And honestly, it was just a chance meeting with the chemist where I told him I had this idea to make a lipstick that looked like lips. And he said, “I could make that for you.” And that’s how the whole thing started.
Emily: I love that. It’s one of those stories that so many can identify with because you saw a need in the market, right? For yourself and for all these other consumers. I think a lot of people, that’s how they get started. They think, “Well, we need this and we don’t have it.” Talk to me more…
Bobbi: But I just want to tell everyone who’s listening, who’s probably trying to figure out their own journey. I could have said, “Okay, here’s an opportunity. Let me go home and write a business plan. Let me try to get financing. Let me…” I did none of those things. I didn’t know what a business plan was. I didn’t know what marketing was. I dove in and just made a lipstick. I saw an opportunity, I dove in, and I did it. And that’s probably the difference of how a lot of people look at building their own business today.
Emily: Yeah. That’s such a good point. Thanks for mentioning that. Talk to me a little bit about the next step in the process when you were getting your products into department stores, what was that process like? That seems like just a behemoth and an uphill challenge. How did you do that?
Bobbi: Well, I don’t want to make it sound easy, because nothing is really easy, but I was selling through mail order back then, through mail order, early D2C. And one day I had lunch with a friend of mine who said, “Come to my party.” Well, first I had another lunch with another friend who said, “Can I write about it in Glamour magazine?” I’m like, “Why would you want to?”
Bobbi: So we got a lot of phone calls, a lot of attention. And one day I was at a party and the woman, I asked her what she did, she said, she worked at Bergdorf Goodman and Cosmetics. I told her about this line of lipstick and you know, not as easy as snapping my fingers, but that’s how I got into Bergdorf Goodman. Not strategic.
Emily: That’s such a cool story. Sometimes you just have to be telling people what you’re up to, right? You have to be willing to talk about what you’re spending all your time growing. That’s incredible.
Emily: Okay. So now let’s transition to when Estee Lauder approached to acquire Bobbi Brown Cosmetics. Were you really looking for a partner like that? Were you hoping that you would find someone like that large brand to acquire you?
Bobbi: Absolutely not. I wasn’t looking at all. They weren’t the first. It was probably the third or fourth company and we weren’t ready yet. It’s what I did. I was a suburban mom with two kids. I would get up in the morning and go to the city, do my things, go to shoots, try to figure this all out. We were not for sale, but when we met Leonard Lauder and he’d basically said, “What if I promise you that you could do what you love and believe in and we could do all the things you don’t like?” And one thing led to another, and they were the right partner at the right time.
Emily: Sounds like a pretty good deal. But obviously so much has happened since then. And we’ll get up to the current speed in just a minute. But I want to quickly take a little segue away from the cosmetics because you’ve done so much beyond your cosmetics career. You’ve written books. You worked with President Obama. Beyond the day to day of running a business, how do you decide what other opportunities you want to pursue? I can’t imagine what it would be like to get a call from the president. That seems like something you don’t turn down, but how do you go about deciding what a good opportunity is and what other things you want to spend your time on?
Bobbi: Well, sometimes, and I guess most of the time, I just kind of guess it feels right, why not? When I was asked to be on the trade committee, my husband said, “That’s ridiculous. You don’t like being on committees.” And I ignored him because I thought, “Okay, President Obama doesn’t call everyone and volunteer this opportunity.” It was a great opportunity. It was really interesting. And so of course I did it, and then other things come up and I’m like, “Oh, that sounds cool and interesting.”
Bobbi: And I am someone who’s really curious. I also like to do things I have no idea what to do. I got a call once from Marisa Meyer at Yahoo and said, “Would you create a beauty magazine, a digital beauty magazine?” And I’ll never… I was still at Bobbi Brown Cosmetics. And I remember saying, “Yeah, I’d love to.” I don’t know how to type so, okay, great. How was I going to do this job? Well, I built a team and I just took a chance, and I did it. I did it for two years, and I learned a lot.
Emily: That’s incredible. I don’t want to put words in your mouth, but it does kind of sound like your success comes from the people you surround yourself with and work with and the people that you bring on to support you. Do you have any advice for how you go about finding the right people to be a part of your team or to really play a role in supporting you on a day to day basis?
Bobbi: Well, look, it always doesn’t work and you make bad choices and you think someone is a certain way. And honestly, the older I get and the more confident I get, it’s when you walk away from that situation and what you do with it. We had business partners that we were not getting along with. It was an awful relationship. I was young, and I didn’t know any better. I dealt with a lot. I’ve learned a lot, and everything you go through is an opportunity to learn.
Bobbi: So a lot of it for me is gut, common sense, taking chances, not being afraid; having an amazing life partner, my husband, who helps me with decisions; having a PR person in basically my neighborhood to kind of talk about different things. So it’s a combination, and honestly, build your posse, your supporters. There’s no formula. You just have to kind of make sure you have good people around you.
Emily: Yeah. Okay. I want to talk a little bit more about collaborations and partnerships for your brand. Calls from the president aside, right? When other people approach you and say, “Hey, we want to work together or collaborate.” Can you maybe give us some insights into how you decide what is a good partnership or not? And maybe what you look for, like signs or red flags?
Bobbi: Well, first of all, time for me is everything right now. When I get called to do a reality show on Netflix, the answer is no. I might live a reality show. It’s bad enough that I’m on TikTok and Instagram. So no, the answer is no, and it’s a time suck and it wouldn’t be… My kids would not think it was a cool thing. So that’s a no. And when I have someone that wants me to do a shoe line, the answer is no. That would require an enormous amount of time.
Bobbi: So for me, it’s so much about creative endeavors and things that I would enjoy, I would not do anything unless I put everything I have into it. And I haven’t always been successful in those endeavors, but I jump in 100%.
Emily: Yeah, that’s really cool. I was saving some of the questions about being a mom for later, but I feel like we should jump right into it because that’s been a part of your whole progression from when you launched all the way to today. So talk to me a little bit about being a mom, building a business, and maybe how you’re able to do it and what you’ve changed over the years to make it work for you?
Bobbi: Well, certainly in the beginning, when I was married and I moved to the suburbs, right from literally our honeymoon. It wasn’t cool to be a New York fashion makeup artist and live in New Jersey. But I did it anyways, and I had a baby almost a year and a half later, so that wasn’t cool either. I had to figure out how to make things work. And it was really tough. And again, if I didn’t have my husband, who was an incredible supportive husband, when the kids got sick, when they had to do something, it would’ve been impossible to do.
Bobbi: I made sure I was staffed up at home, whatever it meant. I always had, when my boys were young, I would hire “mannys” because they would play with them in the backyard. So I always figured out how to make things work. I think it’s being an entrepreneur, not just of business, but of my life. I figured out hacks. So I’m so grateful. We have three sons, two are married, and our family is growing. And my family has always been more important to me than my work, but they kind of meld together.
Emily: Yeah. Okay. I want to dig just a little deeper on that. You said something that I love, “I always make sure I’m staffed up at home.” I think so many women, especially as moms and they’re trying to start a business, they feel like they have to do it all. It sounds like you have a fabulous husband, but you must have had to have some conversation, some communication. Can you give us any insights into how you were able to divide the labor at home and maybe ways that you made that work for your lifestyle?
Bobbi: Yes. And it was a constant juggle. I’ve been married 33 years, and in order to have a happy home for me and a happy work life and everything, I need a happy husband. So, my marriage and my relationship was always as important as everything else. So that’s number one. And we talked about a lot of things and trust me, it wasn’t always just easy. He was in law school. I was running a business and traveling; had a lot of things on my plate. We somehow managed to make it work. And when I say staff up at home, we’re not staff people, I probably didn’t have enough help.
Bobbi: Actually, Susan Sarandon, when I was doing her makeup around that time, she said to me, “Listen to me, go hire someone for the weekends, not to play with your kids, but to be at home and clean your house and get your house in order, and take your kids.” I didn’t listen to that. And that’s one of the things I regret. I set my kids with my husband and I cleaned and I grocery shopped, and I didn’t get any awards by the way, but that would be my advice. Try to figure out how you could spend more time with your kids.
Emily: That’s fabulous advice. I’m so glad we snuck that in the middle. I know a lot of the women who are with us today are momtrepreneurs. So that’s very relatable for them. All right. Let’s shift gears a little bit. I have to talk to you about the Today Show, because I just think that’s the coolest thing, and you are a longstanding regular, but you’re a beauty entrepreneur. So did you always have aspirations to be on TV? How did you land that gig and maybe what’s that done for your business?
Bobbi: Well, I had never had aspirations to be in front of the camera. I never wanted to be an actress. I never wanted to do that. And I did know that the Today Show reached a lot of people, so if I was ever lucky enough to get a call, I jumped at it. And I knew early on that it was going to literally be a game changer. I didn’t know how much, but before there was social media, in any ways to reach the consumer, being on the Today Show was it.
Bobbi: And so I was on maybe once or twice over the years. And I was at a book signing of my very first book. And there was the cutest little lady in the back of the room that called me up and asked me a question and you know, I’m a nice person. I like people. I answered her and she said, “Honey, are you Jewish?” And I said, “I am.” And she said, “I’m so proud of you. Is there anything else you would like to do?” And she said, “I’ve seen you on the Today Show.” I said, “Hmm, I’d like to be a regular.” And she grabbed my arm and said, “You know Jeff Zucker?” The then-executive producer was her grandson.
Bobbi: So that was on a Friday. Monday morning I was on the today show because Grandma Fran called Jeff, and Jeff came down. He says, “What can I do for you?” I said, “Can I be on once a month?” Next month he came down. I said, “Can I be the beauty editor of the Today Show?” He said, “Yes.” He never came down the third month. So I forgot to ask him for money, but I was on for 14 years and I’m just starting to go on again, which is crazy all these years later.
Emily: That is so cool. And I just want to make this relatable for everyone on the line no matter where you are in business. I’ve seen so many business owners take advantage of local news and having a little segment on a local news station or getting interviewed by the local news. So if you ever have a chance like that locally, or you meet someone in line getting coffee or at an event, toot your own horn a little bit and see what sort of opportunity you can get.
Bobbi: That’s the exact advice, by the way, that I gave my sister in Chicago, who’s a health coach, and she wanted to be on the Today Show and she wanted all the things I did. And I said, “Linda, you want people to be clients? Where do they read?” The local newspapers, the local magazines, the TV shows. And now she’s got a full-time business because she did that.
Emily: That’s so cool. I think it’s a perfect time for us to transition a little bit. And let’s tell the story of how Bobbi Brown was your namesake, it got acquired, and then kind of what that process looks like? I have to say when I’m talking about Jones Road, a lot of my friends know who we’re talking about, but when I was telling some folks about the session, they were like, “Wait, Bobbi doesn’t have her Bobbi Brown? She has a whole other line?” So let’s bring everyone up to speed on what happened with your Bobbi Brown line. And can you even talk a little bit about that non-compete and what that period was like?
Bobbi: Sure. So my husband and I sold the company with these partners after four and a half years. I signed a deal to become an employee. So I was a corporate employee for 22 years. Had no idea what it meant to be a corporate employee. That’s a whole other thing. And I stayed. And when we sold the company, my husband said to me, “Well, you know, they want you to sign a 25-year contract that you can’t do anything else and a noncompete.” And I was like, I was in my early 30s and I counted on my fingers, I’m like, “I’m going to be in my 60s. I’m not going to want to work when I’m that old.” Okay. I’m turning 65 on my next birthday. So clearly that wasn’t the case.
Bobbi: So I literally stayed as an employee, 22 years. Things got really rough at the end. I left in the fall of 2016, I think it was, 16 or 17, I can’t even remember anymore. And I had four and a half years on a non-compete. So what does a crazy entrepreneur, serial entrepreneur, do? I renovate a hotel with my husband. I open a TV and photo and event studio in Montclair. I did a line of Just Bobbi counters at Lord & Taylor. Worked on a wellness line called Evolution_18, which doesn’t exist anymore. And ideated Jones Road Beauty.
Bobbi: I didn’t think I was going to go back into the beauty business. I missed a lot of things and I felt I really had something to add and something to teach women. So Jones Road Beauty was launched on the day after. I wanted to do it the day of, but you know, the lawyers said, “Wait till tomorrow.” Okay, I’ll wait one day.
Bobbi: So we launched the day after my non-compete was up. By the way, it was a week before the presidential elections in the middle of the pandemic, in the middle of all the social unrest, and everyone and told me not to do it. And I did it. And we launched on the Today Show with a story in the Wall Street Journal and Elvis Duran. And then the rest kind of was thrown up in the air and said, “Here goes.”
Emily: It’s such a wild story because it has so many different elements in the time period, right? It’s understanding what was happening in the corporate world for so long, wanting to get back to doing your own thing, but not doing beauty. And then coming back to beauty. I want to pause really quickly on the years of that non-compete when you were touching into other industries. Maybe let’s look at the hotel, just as one example. How did you decide to switch into that industry and how did you educate yourself or learn about how to be successful in a completely different industry?
Bobbi: Well, I never said to my husband, “I want to be in hospitality.” Never in a heartbeat, but when I called my husband and said, “I left. I’m done.” He came in and he said, “Well, I just bought this building. What do you think of turning it into a hotel?” And I thought, “Okay.” It’s a 32-room boutique hotel in our hometown of Montclair. I know nothing about anything, except I travel a lot. I know what I like in a hotel. I know what I don’t like. I always think about people’s, the customer’s, experience in whatever they do, whether it’s buying a bag of makeup or coming down to get a cup of tea in the lobby that you don’t need room service for, all those things.
Bobbi: So with my team and his team and a few other people, we literally renovated this old, beat up once-amazing building, and now we have this incredible hotel. We’ve had the most amazing guests from celebrities to just everyday people. And it’s been great. It’s called The George Hotel in Montclair, New Jersey.
Emily: It’s beautiful. I was doing a little searching last night when I was looking things up. I used to work for Marriott, so I’m always fascinated by the hotels of today and what they look like. And you’ve done a really beautiful job with that property. So congratulations.
Bobbi: Thank you.
Emily: I’m trying to think about where I want to take this, because I do want to dig a little deeper into this idea of just trying something and having an interest in something and then not working. Maybe Evolution_18 is a good example of that? Do you want to tell everyone about what that was, kind of how it evolved, and then how you decided to no longer continue?
Bobbi: Absolutely. So part of my contract, I needed permission from the corporation to work on something, and it was a vitamin line. So they gave me the permission. They probably didn’t think it was going to be anything. And it turned out to grow really fast. People were very interested in what my next gig was. So I basically met through, again, and I didn’t go out and look for it, but I met through a mutual friend, a vitamin manufacturer, who basically said, “What do you want to do? Let’s go partners.” And we met with QVC, who I had had a history with, and they said, “Anything you want to do on QVC, we’ll do.”
Bobbi: So I dove in, I put a few people together and it was a, I don’t even know if it was three years, four years, and it had a life of its own. And I approached it the same as I did a makeup company. The difference is instead of selling at Bergdorf and Saks and Neimans, we were selling at QVC, Kohls, and Walmart. Very different. So I’ve had both experiences, Amazon, and you know what? It wasn’t fueling my passion. And it wasn’t having incredible success, a lot of problems, but at the same time, I started doing the ideation and working and building a team on Jones Road. And that, it was clearly what I loved and what I enjoyed and what I knew. So I walked away from it last September.
Emily: Yeah. And I think it takes a big person to decide whether it’s what interests you and what motivates you, or just if the money isn’t coming in to make it worth your time. That’s a hard decision and sometimes being willing to quit and pivot is the best next step.
Bobbi: I don’t look at it as a failure, okay? Because I’ve…
Emily: Yeah. Talk about that.
Bobbi: I’ve had so many successes and when something doesn’t work, it’s like, okay, you could dwell on how and why it didn’t work. I had an eyeglass line that was successful for a while and then it wasn’t. So both of those endeavors, I’m like, “Okay, this isn’t working right now. I’m not going to do it.” Luckily, I had other things to keep myself occupied, but I don’t look at those things as a failure. I look at them as an opportunity to learn what is not working and what I can’t do.
Emily: Absolutely. I’m going to give a call out to everyone who’s with us. We will have some time for Q and A with Bobbi. So hover your cursor over the bottom of the screen, you’re watching us in, you should get a little toolbar pop up, and there’s a little button labeled Q and A, it looks like two overlapping bubbles, type in there. My team will source those questions to me once I finish up with the next few that I have for Bobbi. We’d love to hear what you guys want to know about, and we can certainly throw some live questions her way.
Emily: Now I want to talk about the difference between launching Jones Road in 2020 and when you launched Bobbi back in the ‘90s. I can just see so many differences, but to you, what was the biggest difference and maybe what were some of the learnings or advantages to Jones Road’s launch?
Bobbi: Well, certainly the biggest difference is I knew absolutely nothing when I started Bobbi Brown Cosmetics. I knew nothing. I knew what I thought, but I didn’t know that what I thought was actually very important information. My vision, my beliefs, my experiences. So I listened to a lot of people that said, “No, you don’t know. This is how it’s done.” And you know, sometimes it works. Sometimes it didn’t.
Bobbi: I learned so much being part of this very big brand that when I left was a billion dollars. It was amazing for a girl that got Ds in math to be able to think about her algebra teacher and say, “Haha, I made it anyways.” So when I launched Jones Road, the cool thing was not only what I knew, but what I knew was a waste of time, energy, and money. So that was number one. I literally did things simple. I did it a little bit more indie, I guess, and it was much easier, much easier.
Emily: Yeah. I love that. And I think even just watching how you brand Jones Road, I think so many people can learn from that. So that’s a little shout out and reminder to everyone too, going and looking at how other businesses or entrepreneurs are doing. It’s not stealing, it’s not cheating. It’s getting ideas. It’s getting interesting things flowing across your mind that might give you an idea of what to do.
Emily: I think this goes really well into my next question. You have become a TikTok sensation, but that is like this thing. I’ll be honest, I’m not even on TikTok. It kind of scares me. It’s just a new thing to learn. You got to tell me how you did it, Bobbi. How did you decide to get on there and how have you been creating all this content? Just fill me in on TikTok.
Bobbi: So look, I’m someone who, especially since Yahoo, I’ve had my fair share of trying things social media. I love Instagram. I’m a visual being. I handle four different Instagrams, personally, that I get up in the morning and I have to kind of deal with. I don’t do it because I have to. I do it because I love to. The hotel, 18 Label, my personal one, and BB portfolio, which is my archive. I don’t do Jones Road.
Bobbi: So I’ve just been someone interested in all that. And my son, who is my head of marketing, which is a whole other story, and I had a conversation about content and how we can… We have so much content, because I do so many things. We didn’t have the infrastructure and the editors and all of this. And someone suggested we stop everything and go on TikTok.
Bobbi: All I knew about TikTok… I had one personal TikTok of myself, my husband, and my niece dancing, which I was like, “Okay, I wish I didn’t do that.” But we did it. And then someone just said, “Just do it.” So we picked up the phone and I basically said, “Hi, I’m new to TikTok. What do you want to hear? What do you want me to tell you?” And people went crazy. And I couldn’t… We got a couple thousand people telling me what they want, and all they wanted was makeup tips, a lot for women over 40, over 50. And then I did a second one and it went viral, and a third one went viral, and then magazines started writing about it. I felt like I was Tootsie on the cover of some magazine.
Bobbi: All of a sudden it’s kind of blowing up and, honestly, for all you guys out there, it literally quadrupled our business, which was not a good thing because now we have a lot of out of stocks, which is a whole, it’s a good problem, but it’s a whole other issue to deal with. But TikTok is amazing because I didn’t go on and do what I thought everyone wanted on TikTok.
Bobbi: I kind of was, I am my authentic self. I literally just find good light because I am of a certain age and I literally just press a button. And when my son edits them and puts up, they do well. When I do it myself, they don’t do it as well. So I’m trying to let my son take over.
Emily: So sometimes you need a little bit of a social media expert to help you, whether it’s your son or someone else. I think that’s good advice.
Emily: I also want to circle back to something you just said. You kind of blew my mind there for a minute. When you said that a lot of what people wanted to hear was makeup advice for women over 40 and 50. That just does not seem like the TikTok target demo, but am I wrong? I’m totally wrong.
Bobbi: You are.
Emily: And so that’s a good reminder too, right?
Bobbi: Mm-hmm. And also you try it and if it doesn’t work, I have other friends that are trying it and it’s not working. And so I might look at theirs and give them advice. They don’t want to hear you talking about your business. They want to hear what you eat for breakfast. They want 60 seconds of something they could take away. They don’t want a pitch on your company. That’s what TikTok is.
Emily: That’s great advice.
Emily: Yeah. It’s just about being yourself and letting people know who you are.
Emily: I love that. Okay. Let’s talk about this Jones Road brick and mortar because I think that’s going to be really relatable for a lot of our audience. For one, how did you decide you were going to open a brick and mortar? I think that’s an interesting choice, and you obviously gave it some thought. Just start there maybe, and then I’ll follow up with another question.
Bobbi: Well, I always thought I would love to do a flagship store and most people would find the busiest neighborhood in the coolest place, go to Soho or somewhere in Manhattan. For me, I know that’s not what I like to do. My dream is to have just an empty box and kind of go stand there and say, “What would I do?” I don’t like to plan it out before. I’m also really lucky. My husband is a developer, had this cool building on a not-center street in our hometown of Montclair, and he basically said, “Here’s a space. Do you want it?” The smallest space you could imagine and he gave it to… We’re doubling it finally, but it’s doing incredibly well.
Bobbi: And because of the pandemic, I haven’t been in there a lot, but the team is literally knocking it out of the park, and they’ve built this great business. And hopefully we’ll open other freestanding stores because I don’t want to go traditional retail.
Emily: Yeah. I think that’s really, really cool that you’re just going down this different path. I think a lot of people might think, “Well, why not make the brand big enough and then sell it again?”
Bobbi: And then what?
Emily: And you’ve really decided you want to try this. Right. And then what?
Bobbi: What would I do? Honestly, what would I do if I didn’t do this? I would have to do it again. And you know what? I don’t want to sell. I love this brand. It’s literally, it’s really, this brand is so much about who I am now and what I believe in. And it’s about confidence. It’s about being comfortable in your skin and it’s basically just about looking better. And to me, that’s what makeup is. Makeup is not to be fabulous and someone else and change you. It’s to be yourself.
Emily: I was going to tell you all this towards the end of our chat, but I’m wearing a lot of Jones Road makeup right now.
Emily: I was spoiled a little bit. Your assistant sent me a box of things to try out and I have to tell you guys, this is not anything I was told to say, but I had so much fun getting ready this morning. I haven’t worn eyeliner probably since 2015. So that was fun. Your mascara…
Bobbi: And it’s easy. I know the mascara’s pretty amazing.
Emily: It’s incredible. I don’t know if you guys can see my eyelashes, but this mascara is… And then I have my lip gloss too. Let me just reapply a little bit. And we have a code for all of you guys who are listening so you can get your own Jones Road stuff too. I’ll give you guys that in a second. Okay. I want to talk a little bit about being a female powerhouse in your industry. Even though the beauty industry serves a largely female audience, most businesses in the beauty industry are still led by men. Female CEOs are the exception, not the rule. Was it hard being a woman when you started your career? How has that maybe evolved? And do you have any advice for women who are working in male-dominated industries?
Bobbi: You know, I honestly never felt that I was any less because I had a bunch of men barking at me, and I learned that it was easier just to say, “I hear what you’re saying. I hear what you’re saying,” and just leave the room and do whatever you want than fight with them. And you know, I learned, I’m an observer. So I learned a lot watching women in these meetings who are sitting on the edge of their chair, waiting to kind of pounce with something they have to say and it just didn’t make them sound powerful.
Bobbi: And I saw the men sitting back waiting for an opening and then saying it in a very loud mouth. So I watched this and I’m like, “Okay, I don’t have… I’m five feet tall. I don’t have the Harvard degree or Stanford degree, but I do know what I believe in.” And so I kind of sat back, and I waited, and then I just said it, not in marketing terms, not in business spin, in real words, “What you’re saying is this. And I don’t agree with it.” And literally the people around the table would look at me like, “Is she really saying what’s on her mind?” And I’m like, “Yeah. I am.”
Emily: Good for you. And I think that point about not trying to talk in all these terms or sound like you know the jargon, it’s like, just be direct, say what you’re thinking, stand up for your opinion.
Bobbi: Right. And by the way, it’s all common sense, this business. Like, okay, we have to make a profit, whether you like it or not. And by the way, we need more and new customers. We’re not going to get rid of colors that are for women of color because we didn’t have enough customers. I’m like, “I’m not discontinuing them. Go get me more customers.
Emily: Find more customers.
Emily: Yeah. That’s fabulous. Okay. We have some great questions coming in that I’m going to go through and start asking. But before that I had one last question that I think would be good for everyone. Talk to me about some habits that you’ve developed during the pandemic that you plan to keep in the future?
Bobbi: Well, I am someone that also went back to school and got my degree as a health coach after I left the brand. And I’m someone very interested in health and wellness because I really believe that the way you look is really based on what you put into your body and also how you have the energy to do all the things you do. And being a working mom, you need it.
Bobbi: So I just… I’m someone that I make sure that whatever I’m doing is not a chore. It’s just a routine. So I never ever have a cup of coffee without two glasses of water. I now am taking these greens that I have in one of the waters because it alkalizes my body and I can have my coffee with my organic half and half and enjoy it. And I don’t feel bad afterwards.
Bobbi: And then I know certain foods hurt my tummy. I don’t eat them. I know certain foods make me feel good. I try to eat more of those. And I move my body every day. And to me, moving your body is like the best place to clean out the cobwebs in your brain. And also I use it to pick up the phone and either have a business meeting, talk to someone about what’s on my mind, check in with my mother or a friend. And that’s how I get a lot done.
Emily: Yeah. You mentioned an interesting point about what you eat and drink. And I think so many people, myself included, don’t put a lot of time and thought into that, but it really impacts how we’re able to function throughout the day. And I’ve heard so many people who are just worldly successful like yourself say that those changes really were the groundwork for them, being able to move through the day, every day, with energy and confidence and a clear mind.
Bobbi: Yeah. And honestly, since I’ve already said, I’m in my mid 60s, I’ve been doing this for 30-something years, and I see people that haven’t done it and they don’t walk very well. And they just don’t seem… Their body doesn’t look like it feels good. It all matters. Right? And it’s not about, “Oh, I’m going to go on a health kick.” It’s what you do every single day, whatever. And it’s as little as going for a slow walk. It doesn’t have to be huge.
Emily: Well, and I love your point about you enjoy your coffee, so there’s no need for you to cut coffee, but you need to add water in order for your body to be okay with that. I’m going to do that new trick now, that two cups of water, I’m starting that tomorrow. I love that. Okay. Let’s dig into some of these questions. We have really good ones here. Our first one is from Michelle. Any advice on where to start if you have several different business ideas? She’s feeling a little bit overwhelmed right now.
Bobbi: Well, let me tell you firsthand, you can’t do several things at once. So you need to either choose what you like the most or what’s the easiest on the list. And you know, maybe you’re a person that could do two things at once, but you know, start with one thing. And by the way, don’t be in a rush. You’re learning as you go. And you know what? If it doesn’t work, luckily you’ve got the other ones on the list. But one thing at a time.
Emily: Fabulous advice. How do you deal with different types of adversity, maybe people doubting you or copying your products or you doubting yourself?
Bobbi: Well, that exists and it happens all the time. When it’s doubting myself, it’s often times where I’m not my best self. Possibly I’ve been traveling too much or not eating properly. And I know that kind of sets me into not the best mental state. So I kind of take a step back and stop obsessing about the things I’m feeling and just kind of slowly start to think about it, or have someone you could talk to.
Bobbi: But there’s times where you just need to take a break and say, “Okay, is this working or not?” And as far as… there’s always someone that says, “The world doesn’t need another makeup line.” Or, “You’re are too old. No one’s going to be interested.” I heard everything and you listen and you move on. It’s like, it’s guess what? It’s just noise. And it’s not your noise. It’s their noise.
Emily: I love that. We’ve had so many quotes today, “It’s not their noise. It’s your noise. Got to get staffed up at home.” I’m loving it. Okay. This is a great one. How did you come up with the names Jones Road and The George Hotel? Where did those come from?
Bobbi: Well, The George Hotel, it was easy, and it was my husband’s idea because the inn that he bought was called The Georgian Inn. And it was definitely, we’re not a bed and breakfast inn, it’s a boutique hotel, which is chicer and cooler anyways. So we shortened it and modernized it and made it The George. That was easy.
Bobbi: Now Jones Road, I had a deadline that I had to decide and basically get a name approved, not only by my team, my husband, my kids, but by what was available. And there’s not a lot of things. And I had all these clever ideas. I couldn’t use my name. And I didn’t know if I was literally going to be sued by somebody. So I was very careful. And I had a deadline, and I was really worried about the deadline.
Bobbi: And one day I was driving with my husband, and I was on Waze and Google maps, helping my husband with direction. And I looked down and I see Jones Road, and out loud I just said, “Oh my God, Jones Road Beauty.” And my husband looked at me and he is like, “I love it.” And as soon as my husband loves it, I’m like, “Okay.”
Bobbi: So then I went to the office and I asked them, and they loved it. And guess what? It was available. No one had Jones Road Beauty before me. So it is Jones Road, and by the way, the reason like immediately, I said, “Well, it reminds me of a UK brand.” Because I love the UK. It just seemed like a bespoke brand. And also I can’t use Brown, so I might as well use Jones. And there it is.
Emily: I love it. I think it’s such a fabulous name. And from the first time I heard it, I’m like, “Yep, it’s in the memory. It’s seared in there.” I just know it. And I also love the way that you have your logo. So for everyone who’s interested in product merchandising and design, take a look at how they do all their stuff because the logo is great. And even the sizing of the color and those things, it’s all very well thought out, I can tell it’s very eye-catching, and I grabbed it right out of my big makeup bag that I had spread out this morning. It was like, “Where’s my eye pencil? Oh, there it is. Where’s my lip gloss? Oh, there it is.”
Bobbi: You can also use the lip gloss on your cheeks as a little bit of blushy sheen.
Emily: I love that.
Bobbi: But not on your eyes because it’s got peppermint in it and that would burn your eyes. But cheeks.
Emily: Now, we have to tell these people about the really cool eye shimmer, liquid eyeshadow, that you have.
Bobbi: Yeah. Let me see if I have it in front of me. It’s called Sparkle Wash. It comes in about eight or nine colors, and it’s really great because it’s very glass-like. It dries, it doesn’t smear, and it doesn’t get in your lines. And just a little illumination is good. It’s like wearing your pearl or your diamond earrings. It just adds a little. And you could use this on your cheeks and you can even use it on your lips.
Emily: Yeah, that’s awesome. Okay. Let’s talk a little bit about partnering with influencers or micro influencers. Do you find that a worthwhile marketing strategy for your products, and how big of a marketing pie do you allocate for that, if you do?
Bobbi: Well, first of all, I never wanted to be the brand that depended on just paying people to market the brand. I love people that love Jones Road and write about it. I love people that use it. We give out enormous amounts of makeup to people just to try and get it in their hands. We do have a strategy. We hire content creators that make really great content. What I’ve learned is the people with the biggest platform don’t really move the needle. I have a lot of people that are friends of, FOBs I call them, Friends of Bobbi’s, that have millions and millions of followers. And when they post something, nothing happens. And I have other people that have smaller, but more important, followings that’s more authentic, and those really help. But none of these moves the needle all by itself. It’s honestly a little bit of everything.
Emily: Yeah. And you know, I love what you mentioned about the amount of followers doesn’t always equal the impact. And that’s so important. We’ve found that at Yelp too. We partner with a lot of different people to do things, and you can really get distracted by the followers, right? Like 1.4 million followers, wow! And then they’re not real. They’re not authentic. They’re not engaged. So I think that’s a really good point.
Emily: Okay. Let’s see what else we have here. Oh, this is a good one. I’m in the corporate world right now and I don’t enjoy it after 12 years, but it’s familiar to me. The last year or so I’ve been contemplating taking the leap into what I really love: fine art. How does someone find the courage to leave something they know and go for what they really want to do?
Bobbi: Well, it’s not really courage. It’s more reality. Meaning, you know your financial situation. I never want to say, “Okay, everyone, leave and follow your dreams.” No. You got to buy milk. You have to pay the rent. You know your situation. And a lot of people are pretty much stuck in these high paid corporate jobs because of finances. So then what do you do? Well, you know what’s called a side hustle. Do what you love on the side. See if there’s a way that you can maybe see if something could work. And if it starts to become an economic possibility then you know when to shift. But every situation is different.
Bobbi: So you’ve got to kind of know your own. And there’s some people that say, “I’m so miserable, I’m going to get a waitressing job at night. So I could do what I love during the day.” Those, again, you have to be in charge of your own situation.
Emily: That’s great advice, Bobbi. It’s not just about following your dreams, right? It’s about figuring out all the pieces that can allow you to follow your dreams. So are you leaving corporate America and subsidizing your income some other way that isn’t as emotionally and time draining as your job was? It’s a good point. It’s not always just about feeling bold enough to leave. Sometimes it’s about, can you physically do it?
Emily: Okay. Let’s see. Okay. This is actually a good question. And this might be more back in the day, because obviously you have a lot of different cash flow avenues right now, but how did you know when you maybe needed more cash? Did you go through formal funding and a business loan? How do you think someone evaluates those decisions and knows if they should borrow or not?
Bobbi: Well, again, every situation is different. When we had the idea to launch the lipsticks, and I launched with 10 lipsticks, basically we had partners and we each put in $10,000 and that’s how we started. And I think maybe we put another 10 in at some point. And then we just started making profits and reinvesting. We never needed to ask for a loan. We didn’t know where this company was going anyways. And so I’ve never had to ask for money. And it’s very interesting that with Jones Road it’s self-funded, and now all I do is kind of say no to people that are wanting to give us money. And I’m just so… It’s so nice to not have those relationships where I have one more person that is expecting something from me. So I’m very happy that we’re self-funded.
Emily: Yeah. And for you guys who have questions about that stuff, we do have a funding and finance panel today. So make sure you tune into that or catch it on demand. They’re going to have some great advice for all different levels and sizes of business. I think I can squeeze in one last question before we let you go. What did you learn as an entrepreneur working in corporate before relaunching your brand? So what was maybe the biggest takeaway that you left Estee Lauder and brought into Jones Road?
Bobbi: Well, I was always an intrapreneur. I always tried to do interesting things outside of the boring day to day. And really what I learned the most is that in order to get something to move ahead, you have to make a decision and you have to have the right process in place to get it done. But you didn’t need as much as we had before. And all that usually did was clog up any kind of channel that moves things ahead. So no matter how big Jones Road gets, I will always be a nimble organization because that’s how you get things done.
Emily: What a great way to end. Bobbi, I cannot thank you enough. I’m still blown away that we were able to have you be a part of this event. It really means so much to us. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for your time. And for all of you guys who are listening, Bobbi has been so generous. She created a promo code for all of you to take advantage of through the end this month. So we’ll include it in the follow-up email tomorrow as well. The code is Yelp20, and it gets you 20% off any of the items and products on jonesroadbeauty.com.