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Blodgett's Community-Based Beauty Boom

Rather than give a formal speech, Leslie Blodgett, chief executive of Bare Escentuals, regaled the crowd at the WWD Beauty CEO Summit with a series of stories that had everyone laughing.

Leslie Blodgett

Leslie Blodgett

Photo By WWD STAFF

Rather than give a formal speech, Leslie Blodgett, chief executive of Bare Escentuals, regaled the crowd at the WWD Beauty CEO Summit with a series of stories that had everyone laughing.

The personal touch is typical of Blodgett, who's on a first-name basis with many of her customers and names many of her shades after them. (Customers even named her dog, she told the crowd.) But behind the revelry lay the techniques Blodgett has employed to build Bare Escentuals into a $500 million powerhouse, a feat that no doubt has the executive herself laughing all the way to the bank.

Blodgett's strategy of community-based marketing began in 1996, when Bare Escentuals was a bath and body company that made money in the fourth quarter — but not in the first, second or third. "I'd get up in the middle of the night completely stressed out and turn on the TV," Blodgett remembered. "The only two options were horror movies and QVC," she continued, brandishing a set of stacking rings she bought during a late-night shopping spree. "I made my purchase and I believed in the power of QVC," she said.

About eight months later, Blodgett herself was on the air. She appeared on the channel for the first time in August 1997, selling $45,000 worth of product. In addition to the sales spike, Blodgett's appearance on QVC formed the beginning of an ardent consumer base for Bare Escentuals, which was solidified a year later with Blodgett's first live show on the network.

After that show, she invited the entire audience back to her hotel room for pizza. Since then, Blodgett has gone on cruises and bus tours with customers. "I don't like water that much, but we did it anyway," she joked. Overcoming her aquaphobia was worth it: After the cruise, four attendees sent Blodgett a letter (which she keeps in a bedside file), writing "These friendships have afforded us some wonderful opportunities for travel and laughter and have also sustained us through some difficult times. We now have a network of women who we know we can depend on for help, counsel and a good kick in the rear, if we need that."
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