Rea Ann Silva, Founder and CEO of Beautyblender, addresses the challenges of sudden, massive change as a global indie brand; reinventing social media content; and emerging from the current crisis stronger, smarter and better.
It is really easy to be overwhelmed by massive change that happens so quickly. The world has stopped. I think about everything with a new lens now.
Nobody knows how long this is going to last. I consider myself an indie brand — I own Beautyblender 100 percent—and I am trying to figure out what happens in one month, two months, three months. I need to re-strategize supply chain, sales, day-to-day work, and how each of my team members coordinate together. I’m figuring out launches, and how will we be scheduling and pushing things out.
My focus has shifted from trying to sell product and teach about product toward content that is geared toward health and wellness. People don’t actually need to buy more product right now. They need to get through these times and be mentally fit to be able to live their lives. Our whole lives have changed, so the content we are creating now revolves around ways to manage that change in a healthy way.
We have a full schedule of Instagram Stories. We are leveraging our relationships with past clients, including my relationships as a makeup artist as well as celebrities that I know. We are also leveraging experts in different segments of the industry. We have done meditation, yoga, workouts. We haven’t eliminated beauty from the fold, but we’ve added elements that tell the story from the angle of wellness. We are seeing engagement increase by double digits with every Instagram Live that we do. Makeup artists and influencers asking to be part of a cobranding, and also fitness trainers, meditation experts and hairstylists.
Because I retain everything under one roof, I am able to create different offers. If we want to collaborate with another brand and do something unusual in a limited edition run, we have the ability to turn that around in a matter of days because we control the whole process.
When China was first experiencing the virus, we weren’t affected because we manufacture Beautyblender in America. With regard to logistics and operations, that is done in Pennsylvania under my roof, so we are still able to get our orders out. Supply chain is a challenge because a lot of companies in the US, Europe and around the world have shut down. Fortunately we have a good planning system so we have inventory to sell for the sales that are coming through.
My business is deeply rooted in retail. Beautyblender was born at a time when bricks-and-mortar was the way that you launched a product, but over the last few years we really have made an effort to grow our digital business. Retail is down, but our partners globally are starting to come back. China is a big customer for us, as well as Europe, the Middle East and Australia. We were lucky to have our digital business in play which has really picked up a lot. We have our own D2C business on our own website and work through Amazon as well. Now we are testing various things on D2C, seeing what works and what kind of advertising resonates. Obviously we are supporting our Sephora.com and Ulta.com channels as well. They have been instrumental in helping us do that. We are doing well considering there is no bricks and mortar.
I’m very fortunate that in the last year I brought on a president, Carsten Fischer, and he is helping us navigate these challenging times. Carsten lived in Japan for over 15 years and worked as Chief Operating Officer of Global Business and Corporate Senior Executive Officer at Shiseido Company, Ltd. He has a unique skill set because he lived through Fukushima in Japan, the earthquakes in Japan, and had to look at a company very critically during these crises and understand the most important things to focus on. One of the things Carsten talks about is protecting cash flow and making sure you have great relationships with everyone you’re in business with, including communication with your vendors, bank, customers and retailers. It’s a very mindful way of dealing with everything.
Most of my team is based between Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and Manhattan. I also have a skeleton group of people in Los Angeles where we create the content of Beautyblender. I consider my team my extended family, and I am trying to make sure that they get through this with me as their business family. Normally I’m traveling every other week, if not every week. I am getting a good amount of sleep now. I’m also taking time every day to walk outside either by myself or with my husband. It’s a form of meditation. I’m finding time to do a lot of internal, self-care activities.
I was a single parent for a long time so there were a lot of dark days as I was trying to figure out my life. It made me realize that everything is temporary and we will get through it. It can’t rain forever. Just knowing that this is temporary helps. It’s too easy to look at your life right now and see so many things that could be considered in a remarkably bad way. Be open to the universe, accept the changes, and know that this is not going to last forever. Hopefully you’ll come out of it smarter and stronger and with perspective on ways to live and problem-solve. The next time something comes your way, you’ll be able to handle it better. We’re going to be okay, and that’s an important message for people to hear.