In only five years, Tiffany Materson 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 (non-toxic products) was a mainstream thing.
How Tiffany Started
"I have no background in the industry and I never envisioned myself being an entrepreneur," she 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 lead 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 include 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 [getting Drunk Elephant products into] 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." She 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!
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So…some great news! I’ve decided to partner with Shiseido. I couldn’t be more excited that we’ve found someone who respects my vision and the brand identity and is willing to let us stay who we are. Shiseido is a really beautiful company with a beautiful culture. ⠀ I know what you’re wondering because I am a consumer and I always think/wonder the same things when brands I love are acquired. I want to reassure you.The formulations won’t be changing.I’ll remain in my same role. My same incredible and lovable entire team will stay with me. If it wasn’t announced, you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference; that’s our main goal. Our prices will not be increased. And, we’ll remain cruelty-free. I wouldn’t have signed on for this unless both parties could agree. Fortunately, we wanted the same things; we share like values.I feel so honored to join this global powerhouse. ⠀ The best part in my opinion is that we’ll be able to act more quickly to accomplish a few things that you all have told us are very important to you and are also important to us:1. Attain sustainability across the brand. 2. Get to the markets who have been requesting the products. 3. Share our philosophy in a louder way, spreading awareness so that we can hopefully help more people reconnect with their skin all over the world. 4. Ignite our anti-bullying campaign on a bigger stage. ⠀ We are feeling excited and positive and a little overwhelmed (in a great way)! As always feel free to ask any questions you may have or share any concerns. 💚 ⠀ Finally, we’d like to celebrate by sending out a cozy token of our gratitude to some of our followers. This community has been the most loving, kind, supportive, inquisitive and lovely community I could ever have dreamt of and I will be forever grateful! Please share below something you’ve loved about Drunk Elephant, and that you agree should never change! We’ll choose 100 and notify you on the DM. ⠀ With love and gratitude 💚💚💚TM
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.
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 every 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 it learn. Tiffany still currently resides in Houston with her four kids.