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The event last month marked the first time that the Paris-based company offered comprehensive training for nonemployees.
The two-hour class attracted 125 invited Sephora customers from the Bay Area who paid $25 (redeemed for a Sephora coupon) to attend a two-hour beauty class led by Bare Escentuals founder Leslie Blodgett. It was almost a full house in the long, bright white classroom of square tables for six, outfitted with mirrors, tissues, makeup brushes and jars of Bare Escentuals signature mineral-based powder foundation, blush and eye shadow.
"We would like to roll this out to the rest of the country," said Karen Kenney, vice president of education and development in North America. The training center, called Sephora University, opened in October as the prototype for the company's expanded education programs for its staff.
The decision to periodically hold customer makeup and skin care classes at SU, beyond what's offered at Sephora's 515 stores in 14 countries, was a logical step, Kenney said. "Our clients have been asking us for more and more dedicated training," she said.
In turn, more in-depth SU sessions also provide a marketing window into Sephora customers — executives compared the training to a big focus group, where free makeup gift baskets were raffled off.
Located in a downtown San Francisco office building on Market Street, next door to Sephora's North American headquarters, SU seemed to naturally make the transition to an after-work consumer beauty clinic. The all-woman audience represented a wide age range, although most were in their 20s and 30s.
After a welcome reception, guests carried their wine into the classroom where Blodgett gave a Bare Escentuals coaching session as two makeovers were under way from a raised platform. The products demonstrated were from a new line of Bare Escentuals makeup kits for Sephora, like a $34 Rocker Eye and $28 Buxom Babes Lip Polish.
"There are no hard-and-fast rules in applying makeup," Blodgett told her attentive audience, while making one exception: Women shouldn't go without blush, she instructed. Among questions she fielded was one from a woman allergic to corn starch. Blodgett replied she'd have a corn starch-free foundation created.