In Ep. 27 of Earned, Conor talks to former supermodel and clean beauty pioneer, Josie Maran. Her eponymous brand powered $3.6M EMV between January and April of 2021, achieving a 38% year-over-year surge.
In the episode, we unpack why Josie decided to expand the brand’s distribution by launching in Ulta, and learn about the 14-year-old company’s upcoming rebrand. Josie reveals why she set out to “help the beauty industry become healthier to the planet and to the people,” discussing the early challenges that came with launching her own brand. We then take a step back as Josie recounts her modeling career, which began at age 12, and describes how she “manifested” becoming a Maybelline model, before chronicling her transition from model to businesswoman. Next, we chat about Josie Maran’s successful partnership with QVC, hearing how Josie built a passionate community of “arganauts” and started a “rev-oil-ution” by telling the story of the brand’s hero Argan Oil. Finally, we explore how Josie Maran pivoted its strategies during the pandemic, and where Josie is setting her sights moving forward: social media.
We’ve included a few discussion highlights from the episode below, but be sure to check out the full video above, listen to the podcast below, or tune in on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or Google Podcasts!
The following interview has been lightly edited for concision.
“You shouldn’t have to sacrifice your health for beauty”: Josie Maran’s Mission Behind the Brand
Conor: You’re rebranding next year, right? What prompted that?
Josie: Fourteen years is a long time to be doing the same thing. When I started, my whole thing was to help the beauty industry become healthier to the planet and to the people. I didn't understand why there were not good ingredients, healthy ingredients—[there were] things that were making people sick, like my grandmother, my mother—in the beauty world. I thought this was supposed to beautify, not hurt-ify. So as a little girl, I was just like, wait, why are people getting sick off their beauty products?
I grew up in Northern California around a lot of crunchy, hippie, natural people and all the good, healthy [beauty products were] in the back of a health food store, and they were dusty and muddy and brown and just not sexy at all. So I was like, why should we have to compromise luxury and chicness and sexiness and trendiness for health? And you shouldn’t have to sacrifice your health for beauty. So what if we brought these two worlds together? I call it “chicological”, so chic, and good for you, good for the planet: chicological.
And it was really the first time, I think, that someone did it. But then after 14 years, it's being done [now]. And honestly, I told myself at the beginning, I'm super competitive, but the whole point of doing this is so that the beauty industry changes, like everybody jumps on the bandwagon and goes clean and green.
We didn't have “clean” back then, but you know, healthy, non-toxic, good for you, and green, good for the planet. And now it’s happening, it's big, it's real, it's becoming normalized. So, yay! And so now I’m like, where is my next push? My next creative, innovative—just moving the dial. Where does the beauty industry need to go next? I have a gift of envisioning the future a little bit, and so I'm now re-imagining what that looks like.
How Josie Maran Built a Passionate Community of “Arganauts” Through QVC
Conor: So let’s talk QVC. Obviously Sephora was near and dear to your heart, but from what I read, QVC is like two-thirds of your revenue, or at least was in the past. Tell me about that part of the journey. When did you start working with them? What’s that been like?
Josie: Yeah, I've been on there for about 11 or 12 years. They found me, I did an exclusive with Vogue to launch the brand and they found it. They came and met with me. And it's actually funny, when I first launched on QVC, it was on Earth Day, and you know me, I was like yes, changing the world on Earth Day. They had an Earth Day program, but it was not successful, nobody cared. And I went on the program looking kind of like this, but more natural, and it didn't work out. I sold this lip palette, it totally bombed. So I got scared and went home and I was like, “oh, nevermind on that idea.”
But then argan oil at Sephora took off. And we started learning a lot about how argan oil is this amazing thing. I mean, we knew it was an amazing thing, but in the world, it created an oil category. I call it the rev-oil-ution. It was like this huge, big deal, and I was like, wait a minute, let me tell the story of argan on QVC. That is the power here. That's my special sauce. That's obviously what was meant to be with them.
So I went on and I took people through the journey of how I found it, how I discovered it, how all these beautiful Moroccan women make it, how powerful it is, and kind of how, at that point, big of a disruption it was just to put an oil on your face. Everyone was so scared of putting an oil on their face.
Conor: Yeah, there was a lot of negativity attached to oils at one point.
Josie: Yeah. I think that's honestly part of what made it so powerful and special and contagious in a way. One person would try it, and I would tell them, “I know it sounds scary, but trust me, putting one pure, high-quality, amazing ingredient onto your skin is going to change your life. It changed my life. Let me see if it can change yours.” And then people would be like, “oh God, oh God,” and [after they tried it] they'd be like, “oh my God, that's good.”
Literally when you're dry or you're oily and you put this on, something happens. I think it takes you to another place. Like I can't measure the magic, but I'm pretty sure there is. And so what was cool about it is that this woman would get the courage to put it on her face, and she was so proud of herself and had this amazing, magical moment that she had to tell everybody about it. So everyone was telling [people about it], because they felt so empowered. They were like, “I did it and it changed my life, and if you're smart and you're courageous, you'll do it too.” So everyone was kind of in this challenge to put an oil on their face, and so it just went crazy and spread so fast. So I went back on QVC and it sold out the first time I was on, and here we are, we have this amazing argan oil business at QVC.
QVC has been amazing. I kind of was like an original influencer. I was now this educator and lover of argan oil and wanting to make the industry healthy, and I just got to use my voice. I got to use QVC’s amazing platform to just spread the love and share the love and tell everyone how I can help them with this organic, simple ingredient. And we just fell in love with each other.
Now we have this amazing [community] of “arganauts” or “argan beauties.” We're just a community there that plays with each other and they call in and I talk to them and we just hang out. My whole thing is, I want to empower people to feel good in their skin and take care of themselves and just have an amazing life. So it's been this back and forth love affair with my community there, and just learning from them what they want. A lot of my products come from their asks.
You can watch the entire interview here, or listen to the full episode on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or Google Podcasts. To catch up on our other 26 episodes, featuring leaders from brands like ColourPop, Gymshark, Summer Fridays, and Ulta Beauty, visit our Earned Podcast page.