The Escentual Ingredient
Leslie Blodgett, CEO of Bare Escentuals, makes you look good – naturally
By Taylor Mallory
Leslie Blodgett, CEO of Bare Escentuals, has transformed a $6 million environmentally friendly bath product company into a $395 million natural cosmetics line in over a decade — today overseeing 122 boutiques and nationwide distribution through Sephora, Ulta, Nordstrom, Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s and QVC. Blodgett considers herself an entrepreneur even though she didn’t start the company. “It was a totally different business before I got involved,” she says.
What she did start was a sustainable-makeup revolution. Cosmetics giants like Neutrogena and CoverGirl, as well as Trish McEvoy and Laura Mercier, have validated Bare Escentuals’ success by launching their own natural products. “Once we told women about the chemicals in liquid foundation and that our product is actually good for their skin,” Blodgett says, “we started a trend that’s here to stay.” Due to passionate customers and great products bareMinerals has been recognized as the No. 1 selling brand on QVC.
Wakes up at her home in Tiburon, Calif., and watches her 15-year-old son, Trent, eat breakfast. “In 2005, I worked such long hours that my family got annoyed and I gained 15 to 20 pounds from stress-eating. Last year I got balanced — started working out and promised to have breakfast with Trent every morning. I’ve already lost 35 pounds.”
Works out and drinks a protein shake with strawberries while deciding what makeup to wear. “There are too many colors to choose from. I need to strategize.”
While working at Max Factor, Blodgett realized that “big companies put so many chemicals in their liquid foundation. We created a completely pure line made from minerals that are actually good for your skin.” Sustainability is a priority for Bare Escentuals, which donates excess in ventory to charity and packages many products in recyclable material.
Arrives at the office. Snacks on string cheese while making phone calls and writing notes. “As our company grows, it gets harder to stay close to the customer, but if you sell anything, you need to. I have an awesome COO to build and manage our team so I can connect with customers. I get thousands of letters a week from customers with suggestions [like creating a compact] and personal stories about how our product improved their skin and confidence. I read most of them and then call about 20 people per week — and write notes.”
Meets with Sephora to decide on merchandising and product exclusives. “We’re the No. 1 brand there and in Ulta. The best-selling product is the bareMinerals starter kit at $60.”
Snacks on hard-boiled eggs before running around the office barefoot, “busting in” on meetings. “I connect with my team to re-energize. We’re close. I tell people I love them and hug them. One woman came in wearing great jeans that I loved, so I invited her into my office so I could try them on. That might seem weird in traditional offices.”
Conducts a meeting about next season’s products. She brings in 10 different women wearing the same shades. “If it looks good on a Latina, a redhead and an African-American, it’s a good color. I have zero attention span, so I try not to meet for longer than one hour. In the old days, I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings so I let them
go on and on. Now, in a loving way, I say, ‘Make your point. Got to run.'”
Initiates impromptu office dance party via e-mail. “Sometimes we’ll meet in the lobby, play Justin Timberlake or Christina Aguilera, and dance barefoot for a few songs. New people are mortified, but eventually everyone gets into it.”
Have office girlfriends. “I am personally and professionally dependent on Stacy Wilson [senior vice president]. She’s funny and positive. If a customer has a bad experience, I feel horrible and overreact —wanting to immediately call the woman at home. Stacy calms me down and helps me be rational.”
Snacks on cottage cheese while planning up – coming bus tour. “We’re going to five cities to meet customers firsthand.”
Leaves office “energized from thinking all day.” At home, her stay-at-home husband, Keith, has his award-winning New Orleans gumbo dinner ready. “Over dinner, we talk about Trent’s day, and he’ll look up jokes online to tell us. He recently asked us about drugs. I was honored he came to us. It let me know our communication is good.”
Snuggles with Trent on the couch while watching recorded episodes of Scrubs.
Reads fitness magazines in bed before sleep.
This article originally appeared in the October 2007 issue of PINK Magazine.
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