How This Texas Stay-At-Home Mom Sold Her Beauty Brand For $845 Million

By Zoey Carter··  4 min read
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drunk elephant

In only five years, Tiffany Masterson went from being a stay-at-home mom in Houston, TX, to creating and selling her beauty brand, Drunk Elephant, for $845 million to beauty giant Shiseido.

The brand, which was named after the myth that when elephants eat fruit from Marula trees in South Africa, they become intoxicated, became a hit back before clean beauty was a mainstream thing.

How Tiffany Started

"I have no background in the industry, and I never envisioned myself being an entrepreneur," Masterson told Fashionista. "My mom was a stay-at-home mom and had four children, and I really just wanted to do the same thing. But around the age of 40, I started getting antsy. My children were going to school full-time, and I started looking for a way to make a little extra money."

I have no background in the industry, and I never envisioned myself being an entrepreneur.

Tiffany started selling a bar cleanser from Malaysia, which made her interested in understanding ingredients and how our skin reacts to them. Unfortunately, Tiffany soon realized the bar she was selling was part of a multi-level marketing scheme, and, shortly after, a one-star review from Beautypedia came out trashing the bar. One of Tiffany's consultants from Guthy-Renker told her, "I think you kind of know your stuff, why don't you do your own line? You know so much about ingredients!" Her investor was excited to get his money back out of this thing and put it into a new line.

Simple and Clean

Her process throughout the years led her to identify what she calls now the "suspicious six": essential oils, drying alcohols, silicones, chemical sunscreens, fragrances, and sodium lauryl sulfate. She realized that whenever those ingredients were in the products she used, her skin was irritated. Many companies use silicone to make a product feel better, dyes to look better, or fragrances to smell better, but they're not exactly great for your skin.

The suspicious six includes essential oils, drying alcohols, silicones, chemical sunscreens, fragrances, and sodium lauryl sulfate.

"Through my research and talking to dermatologists, I really believed the key things you need are a chemical exfoliant, a vitamin C product, a physical sunscreen, an antioxidant-rich moisturizer — in this case I wanted to do an oil — and then I did two bars. Today people are just loaded down with so many products," she said. "There's the whole 'shelfie' movement with photos of 20 products at one time, and it's really difficult to know what's working and what's not working when you're using that many products. I always tell people who are trying to find a skincare routine to start with one or two products. Don't worry about all the noise."

Partnering with Sephora

"Some of the best advice I ever got was when I was talking to a distributor in my first year and he was talking about Barneys or Bergdorf's or Neiman's and he said, 'I could try to get you into these places, but where do you shop for your skincare?' I said, 'I shop at Sephora.' And he said, 'That's where it's going to sell.' That proved to be exactly right." Tiffany partnered with Sephora in 2015.

Her partnership with Sephora proved to be lucrative. In 2016, it was Sephora's top-selling skincare line, taking in $30 million. Sales this year were just under $150 million!

The industry was buzzing with who would buy Drunk Elephant. Estee Lauder and Shiseido were bidding for it (Estee Lauder desperately needs a new skincare line), and Shiseido came out the winner, purchasing the company for $845 million. Tiffany took to Instagram to let her consumers know that even though they're acquired, they won't be changing the formulas.

Closing Thoughts

So much can be attributed to Drunk Elephant's success, from the clean Millennial packing to the clean ingredients, but I think the real success is that the founder is just like us. A consumer. Industries sometimes seem to lose sight of what the everyday girl likes who isn't always on a red carpet. The products are amazing (my personal favorites are the moisturizer and the Vitamin C-serum), and it just goes to show you don't have to be an expert in your field to succeed as long as you're passionate and willing to learn. Tiffany still currently resides in Houston with her four kids.

  Beauty Culture
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