Bobbi Brown talks about career development, parenting and seizing opportunities

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Bobbi Brown first built her makeup empire in the 1990s, at a time when shades often had to be heavily mixed to suit skin tones and bigger looks were preferred over subtle. Her eponymous brand, Bobbi Brown Cosmetics, was acquired by Estée Lauder in 1995, but Bobbi remained closely involved as chief creative officer until 2016.

Bobbi Brown

After signing a 25-year non-compete agreement, she passed the time pursuing a range of entrepreneurial ventures, from becoming a regular on the Today Show to launching a boutique hotel in her hometown of Montclair, New Jersey.

In 2020, the day her non-competition clause expired, she launched Jones Road Beauty, a minimalist makeup brand focused on clean ingredients. The brand is the culmination of her decades of entrepreneurship and beauty wisdom and a physical representation of her personal values. “It’s about feeling good and looking better. To me, that’s what makeup is,” Bobbi said. “Makeup is not to be fantastic, [to be] someone else and you change. It’s being yourself.”

In the early entrepreneurial days, Bobbi was inspired by a lack of shade in the industry and went on the run, jumping right into meeting chemists to turn her vision into physical products.

“I could have said, ‘Okay, here’s an opportunity. Let me go home and write a business plan. Let me try to get funding. Let me…’ I didn’t do any of those things,” Bobbi said. “I didn’t know what a business plan was. I didn’t know what marketing was. I dived in and just made a lipstick. I saw an opportunity, I dived in and I did it. And that’s probably the difference from how a lot of people watch these days to building their own business.”

Launch of Bobbi Brown Cosmetics

The brand started out selling direct to consumers through a mail order system, but after meeting the right people, Bobbi was able to scale faster than expected. The first big growth step came over lunch with a friend who happened to be a writer for Glamor magazine. “They said, ‘Can I write about it? [your brand] in Glamor magazine?’ and I’m like, ‘Why would you want that?'” Bobbi said. The impromptu meeting turned into a function, leading to an immediate influx of calls and attention to the company.

You never know who might be interested in your work. By voluntarily sharing what you’ve done, outside actors (such as media, investors, or customers) can support you. Bobbi later attended a party in Manhattan where she met a Bergdorf Goodman Cosmetics employee. “I told her about this line of lipstick and, you know, it wasn’t as easy as snapping my fingers, but that’s how I ended up at Bergdorf Goodman,” Bobbi said. While these interactions weren’t strategic at first, Bobbi’s willingness to say “yes” and consistently put herself—and thus her brand—out there paid off.

But not everything about Bobbi’s entrepreneurial journey fell into place so easily. Chasing your dreams is the ultimate goal, but it’s not as easy as just quitting your current job to pursue your passion. It is important to evaluate your financial situation and have a realistic plan that does not ignore the realities and necessities of life.

“You have to buy milk. You have to pay the rent,” says Bobbi, “A lot of people are pretty much stuck in these high paying corporate jobs because of finances. What do you do then? Do what you like on the side – see if there’s a way something could work.” If your crowds suddenly become an economic opportunity, Bobbi said, you’ll know when to switch to put more of your time and energy into it. Some aspiring entrepreneurs eventually quit their day jobs to take up temporary evening jobs, that way they can spend more time on their passion without jeopardizing their financial well-being.

There will always be opponents, so being able to look inward and motivate yourself in the midst of negativity goes a long way when you’re working as an entrepreneur. “There’s always someone who says, ‘The world doesn’t need a new makeup line,’ or ‘You’re too old. No one will be interested,'” Bobbi said. “I’ve heard everything. You listen and you move on. It’s just noise, and it’s not your sound—it’s their sound.”

Juggling parenthood and entrepreneurship

The work-life balance conversation is always popular as it is one of the most difficult parts of career and personal development, especially for mothers. Because entrepreneurship was such a demanding path, Bobbi faced many of the challenges as she raised her three children for an hour outside of Manhattan.

She didn’t do it alone and said that choosing a life partner is one of the most important decisions you make, both for your personal and professional life. “It was very difficult from the start. If I hadn’t had my husband, who was an incredibly supportive husband, when the kids got sick, if they had to do something, it would have been impossible to do,” Bobbi said.

The point is that there is no shame in asking for help. In fact, if she could have gone back in time, she would have asked for more. Sometimes parents have to be selfish about taking what they need and be a little bit easier on themselves – getting everything done is way too much for a single person. “Susan Sarandon, when I was doing her makeup, said to me, ‘Go hire someone for the weekends, not to play with your kids, but to be home and clean your house and tidy up your house. “And I didn’t. Don’t listen to that,” Bobbi said. “And that’s one of the things I regret. I sent my kids with my husband and I cleaned and I ran errands, and besides, I didn’t get any awards! Try to figure out how to spend more time with your kids.”

As she got older, Bobbi was able to “hack” parenting – coming up with the tricks and shortcuts to get what she needed to do and still feel fulfilled and successful as a mom. “I made sure my home was staffed, whatever it meant,” Bobbi said. “I’ve always thought about how to make things work. I think being an entrepreneur is not just of business, but of my life.”

It’s a constant juggling – after all, there are a finite number of hours in a day. Entrepreneurship requires you to prioritize, take risks, and learn as you go. You need to know what’s most important to you, because it’s easy to get lost in the hustle and bustle of business. “Your time and energy are precious — know what it’s worth and stop doing the things that aren’t,” Bobbi said.

“I had an eyewear line that was successful for a while, and then it wasn’t. I [said to myself]”Okay, this isn’t working now. I will not do it.’ Luckily I had other things to do, but I don’t consider those things a failure. I see them as an opportunity to learn what doesn’t work and what I can’t do.”

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