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Beauty Redefined: A Conversation with Bobbi Brown

Learn how the makeup mogul has distilled a lifetime of knowledge into an inspiring new venture.

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Photo by Rebecca Miller

Bobbi Brown hates the term “ageless.” As an icon of an industry where creams promising to erase fine lines and treatments aimed at winding back the clock run rampant, this fact may come as a shock.

“I don’t think about age,” shared the beauty industry trailblazer, who, at 63-years-old, launched her mega-successful second-act start-up venture, Jones Road Beauty, in 2020. “A lifetime of beauty knowledge, distilled,” Bobbi describes the brand, which stays true to the “no-makeup makeup” look that established her as an industry revolutionary more than 30 years ago.

While Jones Road has quickly become a makeup-bag staple, most know Bobbi by the namesake brand that jettisoned her from freelance makeup artist to industry icon. In 1995, when beauty giant Estee Lauder approached Bobbi about acquiring the brand, she jumped at the opportunity. And as a hungry 30-something, she didn’t think twice about signing the accompanying 25-year non-compete that wouldn’t expire until she was in her sixties. Surely, by then she’d be ready to rest on her laurels…

Bobbi Brown as a young makeup artist in the 80s

“I had no idea what I was doing,” admits Bobbi of the non-compete that has since become an infamous inflection point in her story. “When Leonard Lauder bought Bobbi Brown, he said I would have complete autonomy. And for most of the time, I did.” After more than two decades of industry success and a change in leadership, Bobbi decided it was time for her to part ways with Estee Lauder and her namesake brand — four and a half years before the expiration of her non-compete. “I didn’t think I was going to go back into beauty,” she recalls. “I walked out of the exit meeting, and was like, ‘now what?’”

While many in her shoes would happily retire to a life of leisure, it didn’t take long for Bobbi to realize she wasn’t yet done making her mark in the beauty industry. In 2020, after quietly building and testing, Bobbi launched Jones Road Beauty on the very day her non-compete expired.

Today, the 67-year-old continues to push the boundaries of the beauty industry and beyond. Jones Road’s roster of clean multi-use high-performance products has created buzz among beauty lovers of all ages and backgrounds. Since the brand’s launch in 2020, Bobbi has opened five brick-and-mortar stores across the country and isn’t done yet. “I figure I’m in the teenage years of the second half of my life,” she says. “[I] just want to have fun.”

This spring, we gathered an intimate group of world-class female business leaders from across the country for a three-day retreat featuring thought provoking programming and inspiring conversation. Steph Wagner, National Director of Women & Wealth, sat down with Bobbi to discuss how her decades-long career as an industry trailblazer prepared her for her latest venture.

Read on for a brief excerpt from their conversation, or watch the full thought-provoking interview to hear insights and reflections from the beauty industry icon — including what it was like building and leaving behind her eponymous brand, the inspiration behind her most successful products, working with her children, and her newfound fame as a TikTok star.

The following interview excerpt has been edited for clarity.

Steph Wagner: You’ve spoken in other interviews about some of the supply hurdles you’ve had to overcome while launching Jones Road Beauty — talk about a problem solver!

Bobbi Brown: Well, you do become a problem solver. I kind of knew that people would like the Miracle Balm product. During COVID, I gave little bits of it to all my friends, and they would literally knock on my door and ask for more. So I'm like, okay, this is something good. I’m on to something. We launched the Miracle Balm, and we sold out of the Dusty Rose shade in just a couple of weeks. And I thought, uh oh, what are we going to do? It was going to be four months before we had it back in stock. So, we said to everyone, it's sold out. And all of a sudden someone on my team called me and said, ‘Bobbi, we found 2500 Miracle Balms in the warehouse. But we ordered boxes to ship them, and it will be about a month before they arrive.’ And I said, ‘No, just go to the store, get a white sandwich bag, print the ingredients on a card, and we're going to send it out.’ We sold 2500 in one day and people got their orders in a white sandwich bag with a piece of neon pink tape. No one cared because who needs those boxes? They go in the garbage anyway.

SW: And they were sent with love!

BB: Yes, exactly.

SW: You gotta do what you gotta do.

BB: And that’s it. You gotta do what you gotta do.

SW: There’s so much wisdom in this incredible woman, so much life that has been lived over six decades.

BB: Yeah, I figure I'm about half done!

SW: And you say your sixties has been the best decade ever, right? Can you talk about that?

Rosann Mitrione in a field
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