In today’s episode of Earned, Conor has the pleasure of sitting down with two incredible guests: Rose-Marie Swift, veteran celebrity makeup artist and founder of clean beauty brand RMS Beauty, and her partner in crime for 15+ years, Chief Strategic Officer Elaine Sack. The brand powered $13.4M EMV from January to October of this year, a 50% year-over-year growth. RMS has also blown up on TikTok, with the brand’s share of EMV from the platform surging 150% YoY.
To start the episode, we hear why Rose-Marie was inspired to disrupt the industry and create her own clean beauty line after years of being a professional makeup artist to the stars, while Elaine shares why she decided to join the brand 15 years ago. Next, we discuss the recent explosion of expert-founded brands (i.e. professional makeup artists, hairstylists, dermatologists, etc.), and the reasons why Rose-Marie and Elaine believe these brands will stand the test of time. We unpack RMS Beauty’s impressive EMV growth over the last year and hear about the brand’s approach to working with creators, then learn why Rose-Marie herself decided to get on—and take over—TikTok. (#RoseMarieSwift has over 20M views!) Rose-Marie then shares why she believes her unfiltered content resonates across generations on the platform.
We switch gears to discuss Rose-Marie and Elaine’s “husband and wife” working relationship, and how it has evolved over the last decade. The pair shares their rationale for bringing on financial partners, and why Highlander Partners and current CEO David Olsen were the perfect fit for them. To close the show, Rose-Marie, Elaine, and Conor discuss their craziest “middle-of-the-night” ideas for their companies.
The following interview has been lightly edited for concision.
“I don’t just talk the talk, I walk the walk”: Rose-Marie Swift on Why Consumers Are Veering Toward Expert-Founded Brands Like RMS Beauty
Conor Begley: Over the last five to 10 years, I’ve really seen category experts, whether that’s a professional makeup artist or hairstylist, emerge as some of the most successful brand founders. My observation is that a lot of your clients, like Gisele [Bundchen], have gone from just being celebrities to some of the largest publishers in the world. She's got a bigger audience than almost all the magazines. So I'm curious from your perspective, what is it that's caused these category expert brands like yours to really explode?
Rose-Marie Swift: Well it's interesting, because when I started this, I was very lucky to have girls of that caliber to promote me without having to get advertising or putting an ad in a magazine. And there is something that really makes a statement when somebody's launching a product and they really know what they're talking about.
I don't just talk the talk, I walk the walk. And I have right from day one. I scrutinize every single ingredient and I broadcast my opinion out there, which has gotten me into trouble a few times, but I'm not going to back down. I think people, whether they love you or hate you, they do like the fighter that has something to say because I'm always going to make it interesting. Plus, I have a little bit of a comedic streak, so people can relate to me as more of a layman's makeup artist rather than some celebrity makeup artist that’s all fancy schmancy going around to all the private jet jobs.
Conor Begley: Elaine, from your perspective, why do you think it is that brands that have celebrity hairstylists or professional makeup artists have done so well recently?
Elaine Sack: There are several buckets. Celebrities or celebrity makeup artists or people who already have this massive following or platform, they already have an audience and a built-in customer. Stores want to partner with them because they hope it will be like, “Hello, JLo. Will you bring your customers to Sephora for us?” Those types of examples.
So there's definitely a wonderful bucket there, but I also think there's a bucket where customers like myself look at it and say, if I'm going to buy a glycolic peel for my face, I'm going to buy it from a doctor or a dermatologist-based brand, because I trust that. If I'm going to buy a teeth-whitening product, I'm not going to buy it from an influencer. I'm going to buy it from a dental brand. It's the same thing with makeup. If you really want beautifully made makeup that will work on camera, will work in person, will work when you're out to dinner with your friends, a makeup artist really knows what works and how to get that quality.
And so I think over time, our products have stood the test of time. They speak for themselves. They have such a great reputation around the quality of the products. And it's because Rose-Marie is such a scrutinizing creative who wants to take [the products] on set. Also, I think if Rose-Marie puts her name on the brand, she wants to be really proud of it. She's not going to just take formulas off the shelf that could be okay. They come from her heart, and it’s so apparent that it's who she is. And I think that's why you're absolutely right—there are these experts creating leading brands, and I think they're going to be the ones that really stand the test of time.
“It’s the perfect balance. We don’t have egos that are clashing”: Rose-Marie Swift and Elaine Sack Talk About Their 15+ Year Working Relationship
Conor Begley: How has your relationship evolved from when you first started working together? I'd imagine at this point you guys hardly even have to talk to know what the other one's thinking, right?
Rose-Marie Swift: Well, we're very, very honest to each other. We have our disagreements, of course, but we just speak it out, speak our minds, and we usually get it settled very easily. She'll listen to what I have to say from a makeup artist’s perspective, and I listen to what she has to say from the money perspective and the accountability for the price of things. So it works out really well. We just have always gotten along, but in all honesty, I think it's helped that I'm not there being a hawk and micromanaging all these girls. I've given them their freedom. Even the girls that Elaine [manages], she also lets them do their thing. That’s just showing respect, and it lets the employee be more creative. They feel more valuable, and they like that. They don't want to [have someone hovering] over the top of them all the time.
Elaine Sack: I also think that Rose-Marie’s like the quintessential creative. I always say to her, I won't let you come to the office because you would go into a corner and cry if you had to see what we do sometimes, with the spreadsheets that come across. That would stifle her creativity. Like if she saw what an RTV looked like, that would paralyze her. So I’ve always said that it wasn't so much that it'll drive me crazy [if she’s in the office], but more that I need you to be at your best, and that's not under this roof. And she protects me in the same way. She knows when I need space. We want the best for each other's lives professionally and personally.
Rose-Marie Swift: It’s just the perfect balance. It just works: she's not trying to get into my territory, I'm not trying to get into her territory. We don't have egos that are clashing. It makes for a really powerful relationship.
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