Search
Generic filters
Exact matches only
Filter by Custom Post Type
Jazz Shapers

Shaper: Marcia Kilgore

Transcript

Elliot Moss
Welcome to the Jazz Shapers Podcast from Mishcon de Reya. What you are about to hear was originally broadcast on Jazz FM however the music has been cut or shortened due to rights issues.

Good morning and welcome to Jazz Shapers; it’s where the Shapers of Business meet the Shapers of Jazz, Soul and Blues. My guest today is serial entrepreneur, Marcia Kilgore, Founder of Beauty Pie, the radical, luxury cosmetic buyers’ club and a hell of lot more on top of that too. Growing up in Canada the youngest of three girls, Marcia’s father died when she was just eleven. It was at that moment she resolved to be independent. “I was driven” she says, “by the idea that no one would look after me but me.” Graduating while holding down three jobs and winning bodybuilding championships, she moved to New York City to study. Her interest in beauty came from a desire, as she says, “to fix her own skin” and while working as a celebrity facialist, Marcia had the spark for her first company, the revolutionary Bliss spa, an international spa and skincare company and it is sat in the building I worked in many years ago too. Aged 29, Marcia was Time magazine’s cover star, one of the new generation of young entrepreneurs destined for great things and indeed she has gone on to found multiple successful companies such as Soap & Glory, a bath and beauty brand with annual sales topping 100 million, and FitFlop, an ergonomic footwear brand that energises you while you walk. But Marcia’s biggest, most disruptive idea yet, challenging the beauty industry head-on is Beauty Pie. We’ll find out all about it with Marcia in a few minutes and we’ll ask her why the question ‘So What?’ is crucial to any new business idea. We’ve also got brilliant music on Jazz Shapers today from amongst others Kenny Burrell, Bob James and Miriam Makeba. Here’s Lonnie Liston Smith with Expansions.

That was Lonnie Liston Smith with Expansions. I am very pleased and excited, overjoyed, to say that Marcia Kilgore is here with me, right now here on Jazz FM. It’s brilliant to have you here.

Marcia Kilgore
Elliot, it is brilliant to be here.

Elliot Moss
Can I ask you a question? You… we met a few minutes ago and here we are having a conversation, hopefully it will be both informative and engaging and all the usual things that it is on Jazz Shapers but it strikes me immediately you are someone who is so in the moment that nothing has ever happened before and nothing’s worrying you about what’s going to happen in the future. Is that true?

Marcia Kilgore
I think they call that attention deficit disorder.

Elliot Moss
Is that what it is? I mean but seriously, there’s something very present about you.

Marcia Kilgore
No, I don’t think so. I do give in to enjoying my moments, yes. We only go round once.

Elliot Moss
Well that’s true but why is there that sense that I feel like there’s a carpe diem about you, a seizing the day which is very powerful, there’s that moment in Star Wars where they go ‘The force is strong’ in this one and I feel the force is very strong before we even talk about although I think it is related directly to everything you have achieved and will continue to achieve. What is that about?

Marcia Kilgore
Why thank you. Oh God, I don’t, you know, I don’t know, I think maybe a little bit of… my sister would always say I am fearless and that I have always been a bit fearless and it’s probably because I come from nothing so I know how to be happy with nothing and I know that you can be very happy with very little as it’s about your relationships and how you are experiencing things that don’t cost that much and so, I am not that worried about, you know, what the effects of something might be although, of course, I would never want to do something that hurts another person so I’ll live kind of freely, I am a freethinker.

Elliot Moss
And, if that’s the case then, what drives you to carry on setting these businesses up? Which by your own admission, and you’ve done a few now, is stressful and it’s inherently stressful because to give birth to anything, whether it’s a human or a business, is incredibly difficult.

Marcia Kilgore
It is super difficult to start a business and super difficult to ride it out, I think, I always say it’s like pushing a boulder up a hill every day until you get to the point where it starts to roll by itself and then inevitably it will hit a blockage and then it starts to roll backwards on you and then you have to push again and I think it’s probably a combination of liking to be intellectually stimulated so I love a challenge. Life is, you know, started out being quite difficult for me, not like some people, certainly everything is relative but I never had it very easy so I am comfortable in a difficult situation, I life having problems to solve but I also really love that big community that a business gives you. Lots of people to talk to, fun and interesting people, you know, especially now, you have social media, you have customers that are coming in and out, it’s like a big family really and I love that because I don’t want to be bored and I don’t want to be lonely.

Elliot Moss
And that makes sense a level but just to push on the freethinking thing and the fact that you don’t need much. Going towards business, I mean, by definition as you said, well, I’m not really interested in the effects but there are positive effects from business whereas in other… you could have become a religious person, you could have become a teacher but there is something about you which was drawn to business. What do you think that was?

Marcia Kilgore
I am an underdog so I love to learn from other people and I think I probably when I was younger didn’t have enough stimulation, I lived in Saskatchewan in Canada and, you know, there were two television channels which were quite average and one local newspaper and it was 40 degrees below zero for eight months of the year and there was only a library a couple of miles away so, it was a situation where I found myself bored a lot and I think in business you do run into a lot of great minds that you can learn from, there is a lot of psychological studies out there that you tap into and a lot of other fascinating people who are trying to solve other problems, and it’s kind of like being in the game when you are in business, you don’t always run into that many people, you know, in your daily life if you are not doing something that will challenge you.

Elliot Moss
And those challenges started pretty young for you, I mean you went off to study and then found that you couldn’t quite afford to study when you wanted to and you ended up…

Marcia Kilgore
It all worked out.

Elliot Moss
…it worked out brilliantly though but the… we’ll talk a lot more about how beauty became intrinsic to your life but at that point you, you know, before when I was trying to introduce you seriously, you were flexing because of course there’s a…

Marcia Kilgore
The body building thing.

Elliot Moss
…there’s a bit of a bodybuilding thing. Where…?

Marcia Kilgore
You could see that about me now, right? The pecs.

Elliot Moss
I can still see that. You are in fine form. But where does that, where did that interest in the body, the physical, come from at that stage or was it just because?

Marcia Kilgore
Well, you know, we were talking just briefly about Myers-Briggs, right? And if I am really an INTP or there is such a thing as INTP even though Adam Grant says there is no such thing as the Myers-Briggs.

Elliot Moss
‘I’ is the introvert not the extrovert, ‘N’ is the intuitive not the… is it sensing?

Marcia Kilgore
Of data, yeah, like data-based. ‘T’ is a thinker instead of a feeler and ‘P’ is a perceiver rather than a judger.

Elliot Moss
Perceiver. Which is basically, think you can be, hold things lightly, be ambiguous quite happily.

Marcia Kilgore
Yeah, and you wait for more information to come in before you make a decision on something because you don’t think you have the whole picture yet and you’d rather not rush forward and then have to go back and clean up. I’d put it that way. I’d rather wait.

Elliot Moss
You’d rather wait so if you are all those things you were saying…

Marcia Kilgore
Yeah, well, apparently the thing that destresses you is exercise, hardcore exercise, actually, so one of the things that you are supposed to do if you are an INTP to relieve your own stress, is to exercise in a very extreme way so, in fact, my father died when I was eleven and I probably had a lot of stress so, you know, hindsight right? The hindsight bias is really easy to analyse yourself if you go backwards but I started doing long distance running and then my sister at the time, my middle sister was dating a guy who was a bodybuilder and his brother had a gym, now I am in the middle of Saskatchewan, right? There’s not that much to do so I did long distance running and then I joined the gym because I got a free membership so, I ended up being a bodybuilder because it was something challenging to do and it also relieved I suppose the stress of being in a family where I had lost my father, where it was, you know, a very unsettling situation where I maybe didn’t feel that security that you would probably want to if you had the super perfect childhood.

Elliot Moss
Stay with me to find out about how the not super perfect childhood has helped Marcia Kilgore become who Marcia Kilgore is, which is a very successful entrepreneur. Time for some more music right now before we go back to her, it’s Kenny Burrell with Wavy Gravy.
That was Kenny Burrell with Wavy Gravy. Both Marcia and I quite like the name and then Katy who is with us here at Jazz Shapers who works with Marcia, saying maybe it’s something to do with a Sunday roast, we don’t know. We’ll never know because we haven’t spoken to Kenny unless someone knows and wants to let me know here at Jazz FM. So, we were talking before about you and the formative years when you were young and the fact that things were quiet and the fact that where you grew up and you needed stimulation so there were books on the one side, there was the gym on the other and serendipity and so on and so forth took you so far. At what point was there a moment of clarity or focus where you went, ‘Okay, I like my life and my life is cool but I’ve got, there’s something I am going to do now beyond bumping into opportunity’ because you talked about the gym membership and then you become an expert in that and I don’t know, maybe that’s unfair, maybe you will say to me ‘No no, no, no, I am always, I’ve been focussed since I was born’.

Marcia Kilgore
No, I mean I was focussed obviously on delivering at school and I think it’s maybe because I’m the third of three girls and the two older daughters in my family were not so focussed so I always felt for some reason that I had to bring up the rear, in many ways, just kidding. Squats, lunches, just kidding.

Elliot Moss
Lots of that.

Marcia Kilgore
Yes. So, I just felt like, I suppose, for my mum, I wanted to make sure that she wasn’t worried about me and that she wasn’t worried about the family and, you know, she was as thin as a widow and that must be very tough so I did kind of want to relieve that weight from her by having her know that I was going to achieve things although I was kind of focussed on schoolwork from a young age. When I moved to New York, I don’t think I necessarily had a focus because I didn’t have that example, like the mentorship that some people have or if you’ve got a parent who has achieved quite a lot, I think it’s easier to see yourself going through that kind of stream whereas I didn’t really so I kind of, I think muddled around and tried different things and, you know, I was a personal trainer and then I met a lot of people through that and I had contacts doing that and then my skin got really bad, it was all, it was all just my own experiences leading to things that I wanted to solve and then thinking, well there must be other people out there who need to solve these same kind of problems.

Elliot Moss
You mention mentorship and we talk now and here we are in 2020 and everyone says you need a mentor and we need great examples and there’s this whole kind of piece around diversity and making sure that those people without opportunity are given it, however, if go back to you said or I didn’t have one, in a way that has helped you.

Marcia Kilgore
Yeah, I actually don’t really believe so much in mentorship itself.

Elliot Moss
Yeah, I mean I am kind of with you in the sense that surely you know your children have got you as a role model and that on one level is great, on another level it must be frightening.

Marcia Kilgore
I feel for them sometimes.

Elliot Moss
Yeah, I mean seriously because, you know, if you see really successful parents, that’s almost as paralysing as not having any, right?

Marcia Kilgore
Possibly, yeah, and you think you have to measure up to a certain standard and of course I have high standards so I try, I try not to lean on them too much but, you know, me not leaning on them too much is probably, you know, 140% instead of…

Elliot Moss
Well, Marcia, they work for you, right? I mean, when they work for you, you’ve got to you know, I mean seriously, there are things to complete on time, I can imagine.

Marcia Kilgore
Of course, you know. Yes.

Elliot Moss
Tell me about the very first big business. The first one was?

Marcia Kilgore
How big is big?

Elliot Moss
Well the big one was Spa, I guess Bliss.

Marcia Kilgore
Bliss, I guess. Before that I had a little facial studio, called Let’s Face It.

Elliot Moss
Okay.

Marcia Kilgore
And it was, you know, was busy but it was three rooms of people coming in and out for facials all day but that was really where all the celebs started coming in, you know, where Demi Moore would be in there in her robe with her facemask on trying to get the key for the bathroom and I remember, it was a great story actually, we had clients who would kind of sit in the waiting room but the waiting room – to get to the bathroom, you had to go through the waiting room and then into the hallway because it was one of those sort of loft buildings in New York. I remember once giving her a facial and I had left her with a facemask on which was opaque, you know, so you couldn’t really it was Demi Moore but she’s short and she has a very distinctive voice…

Elliot Moss
She does.

Marcia Kilgore
..so, we, I left her in there and then she came out in her robe and she says, and there were about four people waiting for their facials on just this sofa that we had and she came out and said, “Can I go to the bathroom?” and I had to give her the Mini Mouse key and send her out into the hallway and I remember one of the people on the sofa going, “That sounded like Demi Moore.”

Elliot Moss
And you went ‘No, no, no’.

Marcia Kilgore
I was like, “Yeah, it did, didn’t it.”

Elliot Moss
But you go from, Let’s Face It, you go from Let’s Face It to Bliss. And Bliss was then…

Marcia Kilgore
To Bliss. It was in the same building, it was just four times bigger. So, an art gallery had gone out of business and we decided to take that space because we had a waiting list of about 1,800 people and we, you know, built up more rooms and then opened in 1996.

Elliot Moss
And, how did you scale that so fast? Because it was, I mean it was international within years, right?

Marcia Kilgore
Oh well, within three years we sold a majority of it to LVMH and the we moved, we doubled our size by opening another spa and therapy building in 57 Street and then I think there was, you know what, I lose track.

Elliot Moss
Yeah, of course.

Marcia Kilgore
Because there has been so much so I am not very good at remembering the exact dates.

Elliot Moss
That’s fine but what, I guess what I am interested in just for a moment and then we’re going to play some more music actually because there’s lots here on Jazz Shapers today. What I am interested in is that moment where this young – how old were you at that time?

Marcia Kilgore
26.

Elliot Moss
Right, a 26 year old. You are now, and this is when you set up the business?

Marcia Kilgore
I was twenty… no, well, 23 when I had the first one and then 26 when it turned into Bliss.

Elliot Moss
Okay and then LVMH is three years later…

Marcia Kilgore
29.

Elliot Moss
…so you are 29 years old. This is when the front cover of Time I guess happens as well.

Marcia Kilgore
Yep.

Elliot Moss
How does a 29 year old have a clue about funding, about dealing with an LVMH, about realising value? Just in that moment, if you can just… what did you, how did you know what to do?

Marcia Kilgore
Well, so when I was 26, I didn’t fund, right? I had just saved all my money so I was very frugal. I usually build things organically and you know if you can’t then probably the product that you are trying to sell isn’t good enough and if you have to get funding over and over and over again, it’s probably not a viable business that you are trying to operate so, I think that’s a really organic way to think about it.

Elliot Moss
And in terms of the LVMH thing though when it happened?

Marcia Kilgore
Yes, well we had a bunch of the big cosmetic companies coming to us and LVMH had Christian Dior and a few other French businesses and they wanted to increase their footprint in America and so they were really interested in us at the time because we were, you know, hot. Hot, written about in all the magazines, all the celebs were coming in so, we had them and then a couple of other large beauty companies and they kind of went into a bidding war which was really exciting, flattering, funny. I never, you know, had any money in my life really because everything that I made, I would invest and re-invest into the business so it was a very interesting sort of moment and I remember calling my mum, right? And saying, “Mum, LVMH wants to buy 70% of Bliss for, you know, X million dollars” and she actually said to me, and this was like quite funny but it’s so my mum, she said, “Oh, I don’t know.” “Mum!”

Elliot Moss
It’s like Fargo. That’s what it is. It’s like…

Marcia Kilgore
It was very Fargo. Very Fargo.

Elliot Moss
Very Fargo. Stay with me for much more very Fargo with Marcia Kilgore here. She’s my Business Shaper, she’s a multiple Founder in multiply successful businesses. She’s going to be coming in a bit but first we are going to hear from one of our partners at Mishcon de Reya with some words of advice for your business.

You can enjoy all our former Jazz Shapers and indeed hear this programme again with Marcia by popping Jazz Shapers into iTunes or your preferred podcast platform. Alternatively, you can ask Alexa to play Jazz Shapers and there you will find many of the recent programmes. But back to today and back to Marcia, serial entrepreneur and Founder of Beauty Pie amongst others, the radical, luxury cosmetics buyers’ club. We were talking about that moment and you talked to your mum and I can see that family is obviously important to you and you talk about your sisters and you talk about, you know, and your mum too, and you say that business is like a family. That’s about being surrounded and connected to people. My question is now, over the years you’ve seen a gap that only you have seen, you’ve gone and invented around it and then you’ve gone and created and an invention isn’t the same as creation because invention is, well hold on a minute, it’s in my head, creation is actually something that comes to life. Where are you when you have those moments and are they epiphanies? Is there a physical place? Are you doing something? What’s happening that enables you to create the mental space to actually have the breakthroughs?

Marcia Kilgore
No I talk about this a lot as connecting the dots or lighting up the path and I think that all of your… I have this theory that, you know, no matter how hard your life is or the bad things that you go through, they are parts of your story and they are parts of your picture and they are parts of the dots that connect any kind of opportunity for you. So, if you are going through a hard time, it might be hard at the moment but then it gives you something later, a different perspective on something that other people may not see, a little bit of toughness or muscle that other people may not have and I think that idea helps people get through quite a lot because it opens up new ways to think about things and I have had so many different experiences and been lucky enough to meet so many different people and I also love to read, love to read in detail about things that I am interested in but then I love to read sort of, I love to scan things that I am not interested in and I will put up with a book or an audiobook and just listen to it because there might be something in there that puts another little piece of light in my sky or a little dot on my grid so the next time that I am trying to come up with a new idea, if there a next time, if there is another idea in there, there is just one more dot that I have available to make a picture. I forgot what the question was Elliot.

Elliot Moss
But that is… the question is whether, no but that you described the fact that everyone has their own unique story that evolves, that the connecting of the dots is critical and when and, if there is a well, and is there the metaphorical whiteboard where you’re, or a pad where you are scribbling stuff? I mean, I remember…

Marcia Kilgore
In my head.

Elliot Moss
In your head?

Marcia Kilgore
There is a whiteboard with all of those little dots and all those little points of data, you know, data isn’t necessarily just numbers, right? They would say, Yuval Noah Harari who wrote Sapiens? He talks about, it was a great Ted Talk that I listened to and he talked about how data is actually measuring emotion so when, you know, people are measuring your data online, they are measuring your emotional reaction to something and for me, I have never been a big numbers person although I am decent at numbers, I don’t really stare at numbers to try and come up with ideas or read the data on people, I just think in my gut, ‘People will love that’ or ‘This isn’t good enough’ but I think your gut is just a bunch of points of data that you maybe can’t explain in words or maybe there are too many of them and it’s too overwhelming to try and put it down but you know it.

Elliot Moss
But at some point you do put it down because at some point it becomes a proposition.

Marcia Kilgore
After.

Elliot Moss
But when is after? That’s what I am trying to get at because if you’ve got this in your head, loads of stuff buzzing around and then you go ‘Hold on a minute. Why isn’t there a pair of shoes like that?’, take FitFlop, and you go at that point you have to articulate it.

Marcia Kilgore
Yes.

Elliot Moss
And, where are you when you are doing that or doesn’t it matter?

Marcia Kilgore
Where you come up with the idea or where do I come up with the ideas? Usually when I am moving around.

Elliot Moss
On your own?

Marcia Kilgore
Um, yes, always on my own, yes. I mean, I will be out for a walk. I will be in the shower, right? Some people sing really well in the shower like Katy. I, just go, you know, I’ll be scrubbing my leg or something and then come up with ‘Oh’ that’s sort of that last point but you know, there is some research to show that when your body moves around, it connects the neurones in your brains more. Your brains… did I just say brains? I obviously don’t have one.

Elliot Moss
No but there’s collective brains. So, the neurones are moving around and what you are really saying is the best thing to do is move.

Marcia Kilgore
Yes, if you are stuck and you don’t have the answer to something, the worst thing you can do is sit and stare at a screen. You’ve just got to get up and you have to move around. Steve Jobs, apparently would only have walking meetings. So, if he needed to solve a problem, he would have someone come to his house and they would go walk around the block.

Elliot Moss
Well, funnily enough, my wife always says I am best at solving problems when I am walking. Normally, we’re walking straight. Apparently boys even more than girls, men more than women are apparently better at solving, you know, talking about emotions especially.

Marcia Kilgore
When they move. There’s a school in London, I can’t remember which one it is but I think they have orange and yellow outfits, Hill House maybe?

Elliot Moss
Could be something like that.

Marcia Kilgore
They make… and it’s a boys’ school and they make the kids get up every twenty minutes and do jumping jacks or walk around the block. You see these kids out all the time walking around and maybe that’s why.

Elliot Moss
Well, maybe for listening sitting down, you should get up right now and walk around the room or wherever you are if you are listening to us on a podcast. Stay with me for much more here on Jazz Shapers. I am with Marcia Kilgore and we are talking about where ideas come from. Time for some more music right now, it’s Bob James with Westchester Lady.

That was Westchester Lady from Bob James. Marcia Kilgore is my Business Shaper. We have been talking about the roots of ideas, connectivity and don’t worry about being in, you know, in a difficult place because that itself is juice for the future. The other thing about the last twenty or so years or however many you have been doing this for is that you do something, you do it for a few years, you go ‘Thank you very much’, you gracefully and graciously say ‘I think you can run this now’, you might move yourself onto the next one. What happens for you? Is it that just know you are better at the, or you enjoy the stimulation of the creation rather than the day-to-day running of something once you think it is up and running and safe?

Marcia Kilgore
Well, yeah, I think when I can’t do that much more to really move the dial forward and it’s not hard enough or it’s repetitive then I do get a little bit bored so, it’s better to go and, you know, start something again. The struggle, that struggling part where you really have to knit it all together to make it work and to make it go is what I am good at and I enjoy it.

Elliot Moss
But there’s also, you don’t leave it, you know, plenty of people that try stuff and they spend a few weeks or a few months and it goes away, yours, you’ve left legacy in each one of these which is there’s a robust, substantive business so it isn’t like it’s, you know, day three that you shift on. Do you…?

Marcia Kilgore
Nothing takes, I mean it takes a long time, yeah, I think people underestimate how long it takes to just get a new idea cemented into people’s minds as something that is viable.

Elliot Moss
Are you already thinking though, okay this is a five year plan? This is, I’m done or is it?

Marcia Kilgore
Oh no. No. You never know. But you know if it’s a good idea and because you want to buy it, right? I never… listen, I cheat a little bit, I always make things that I want to buy so, it’s not, you think oh it’s so brilliant, well it’s not really, I just really want great shoes that are incredibly comfortable and are less taxing on the body and make me feel energetic when I walk and look good, you know, so that’s really easy to sell, isn’t it? Now I have to find a biomechanist. The hardest part actually at the beginning was finding what I needed, I thought I needed shoe designers and I needed a biomechanist.

Elliot Moss
This is for FitFlop?

Marcia Kilgore
Yeah, so I was interviewing shoe designers and telling them, “I want a shoe that does this and that, and this and that”, and they would all just stare me with this blank look on their face saying, “I don’t know how to do that, I just draw shoes” and I thought ‘wow, there’s nobody in the industry who actually knows how to’… as it turned out, I was also friendly with a Dean at the University of Swansea who had invented intense pulse light therapy and he said, “Oh you should come up and talk to our biomechanics department” and that’s where I knew I needed a biomechanist instead of a shoe designer. So, it’s by getting out there and, again, that was a point of light, right? If I wouldn’t have ever come across the word ‘biomechanics’ I wouldn’t have known that that’s who I needed to invent that shoe so it’s sort of going out there and digging around until you connect all those dots.

Elliot Moss
In terms of the, I’ve read about something you said around failure, you said ‘It’s not a failure, it’s a, I didn’t have enough data, I learnt something, it’s about succeeding and it’s about learning’.

Marcia Kilgore
Yes.

Elliot Moss
There must have been tens of ideas, hundreds of ideas which have never made the cutting room floor or rather are on the cutting room floor, they never actually made it into the movie. Where do those go? Are they still just in your journey and in your connective tissue that you look up to?

Marcia Kilgore
Well, I think, you know, as a person I suppose with a slightly creative mind I will always come up with ideas just, you know, walking around experiencing the world and the good ones are the ones that I think I would buy that myself which is always the litmus test, if I am not going to buy it myself for the price that I’ve got to charge for it then I will never sell it because I just think that’s bad karma, more than anything else but I wouldn’t be interested in promoting it because it’s so hard, right? You have to give so much energy and there are so many ups and downs that if you don’t have, if it’s an idea that isn’t really big or viable eventually you’ll just let it go so, I have a lot spinning around in my head at any given time and usually the ones that aren’t that important, they drop.

Elliot Moss
And, do you settle Marcia? Are there moments when you can be calm? And I don’t mean that you’re not.

Marcia Kilgore
What are you saying Elliot?

Elliot Moss
Well, I detected quite a lot of energy. No, but in a totally, from a serious point of view, are there moments where you just go, ‘I can really switch off from all of this’ because I can even see now that there’s like fifty things that you are thinking about and that’s just the kind of person you are but can you slide it down to ‘Okay, I’m just relaxing now’ or is it that you have to go and do the intense walk, you have to walk up the hill to really chill out?

Marcia Kilgore
Well, I don’t do a lot of sitting around relaxing but if I am off, I am 100% off but then when I am on, I am, you know, 300% on I suppose. But there’s not very much off. But off for me is walking up a hill, but alone. You know, where I can kind of pull my thoughts together.

Elliot Moss
Stay with me for my final chat with Marcia, plus we’ll be playing a track from Miriam Makeba. That’s all in just a moment, don’t go anywhere.
That was the incredibly upbeat, Miriam Makeba, Pata Pata. Positive song, a positive sound. You are a very positive person. It doesn’t seem to me that your feathers are ruffled very often, in a negative way. Is that how you lead people as well? Is that what your team would say about you? This is a person who will always see the positivity in it or is it a bit more sanguine than that?

Marcia Kilgore
I think, it’s a choice, right? To be positive or negative or whatever else in between so I certainly always try to give people the energy and give people the path and the optimistic outlook on things because it is that or the opposite. It’s that simple.

Elliot Moss
But it’s you, isn’t it? I look at you and it’s your personality. It’s not like something you said, ‘Well, in business, one needs to succeed by being positive’, you are naturally I think someone who has made a decision to be positive.

Marcia Kilgore
I’m really grateful. Yes, I have made a decision to be positive, absolutely, and it takes practice. It’s a habit, like everything else. You can look at something as being, you know, terrible or you can look at it as what am I getting out of this or what am I learning from it? Like any muscle, right? It’s a positivity muscle so you have to exercise it. And then it becomes easy. Natural.

Elliot Moss
I think that you do. And in terms of exercising it, here we are now, we are how long into Beauty Pie, your recent?

Marcia Kilgore
Three years.

Elliot Moss
Three years and I have read about it again, it said the Netflix of the beauty world and, you know, the subscription model, you get it, great stuff but it’s not expensive and so on. Are you loving your… we talked earlier about your role as an outsider and yet you are inside it because you are part of, you are sort of, you know, recognising the beauty industry as one of the people. Are you quite loving shaking it up or are you loving the fact it’s a viable business or both?

Marcia Kilgore
No. Well, you know, the beauty industry is a really tough, old, stodgy industry and the way it’s been done for so many years doesn’t actually benefit the customer and I worked in it for such a long time and realised that my favourite part is really just going to the labs and building these beautiful products and seeing people enjoy them but the part in between, I really didn’t enjoy, which was the retailers and the mark-ups and trying to value engineer things backwards to make sure that you made enough money when, you know, retailers take 60% of a retail price and I thought, you know, no one goes into product development anymore in beauty thinking ‘What does the customer want?’. They think all the way backwards from, well the retailers’ saying this and I need to have a 60% margin for them and I need to back out of it blah, blah, blah and the product doesn’t end up being, you are not focussing on the customer and I just wanted to do it backwards so I was a little afraid, I have to say, at the beginning I thought ‘Oh my God, I am about to tell everyone that, you know, their face creams and their high-tech Swiss moisturisers that they are paying £100 for, actually really cost $10 to make or £10’ and I thought a lot of people would be really upset with me if I did that, a lot of people in the industry and I did have that moment where I thought ‘Oh, I can’t do this because everyone’s going to kill me’ and then I thought, ‘I have to do this because so many more people will love me’. And it really came down to that decision of well, someone’s got to shake it up and think about the customer again, right? And get rid of all those irrelevant layers that are in the beauty industry now so why not me?

Elliot Moss
And, have there been voices that are negative? Have there been outwith attacks or has it been a bit more subtle than that?

Marcia Kilgore
Nothing.

Elliot Moss
Nothing.

Marcia Kilgore
Because, what we are saying is true so I don’t think anyone can really say anything. Well, Beauty Pie, you know, what they are saying about the prices of luxury beauty products and how much they really cost to make, is true.

Elliot Moss
And at Beauty Pie, there was a pop-up a few weeks ago?

Marcia Kilgore
Ah, yes there was.

Elliot Moss
Where abouts?

Marcia Kilgore
It’s still going.

Elliot Moss
And where is it?

Marcia Kilgore
At Harvey Nichols.

Elliot Moss
Harvey Nichols.

Marcia Kilgore
Now, that was a shock for us because we are a real disrupter, right? We are showing people the bare bones of luxury beauty and we’re kind of pulling the mask off a bit and Harvey Nichols came to us, you know, they’ve always been very tongue in cheek, they’ve got a good visionary leadership there and they really understand what’s hot now and what customers want and they actually came to us and said, “Will you do a pop-up in the middle of Harvey Nichols luxury beauty floor?” so, for me I thought that was pretty brave of them.

Elliot Moss
And talking of knowing what’s hot and what’s not, you obviously are not bad at this game, right? You’ve been doing it for a while, you keep kind of getting a tick in the box. If I was the headmaster or the headmistress, I would be saying, “Well, this student of the world of business is doing pretty well.” What do you think is next because if it’s true that the money has no effect and you only have to go and Google Marcia and find out that many businesses have sold for many millions and you’re, you know, you are sitting here like a normal person talking to me about what you are doing now and is as excited as you were about…

Marcia Kilgore
Comparing Uniqlo.

Elliot Moss
Yeah, we are comparing Uniqlo with Cos and other wonderful brands and anything else that we might be wearing. So, obviously it’s not the money that drives you? Where in five years is Marcia Kilgore going to be?

Marcia Kilgore
Well, I think Beauty Pie will still be going very strong because it’s such a big concept and, you know, like a Spotify or like a Netflix, it takes a really long time to really grow that and build the business in a wide way they can reach enough people and the bigger it gets and the more members we have obviously the more that we can do for people. I do have a couple of other ideas.

Elliot Moss
Of course you do.

Marcia Kilgore
Yeah, but I don’t know if I, I can’t tell you right now because they are in the patenting phase.

Elliot Moss
You’re not just telling me, that’s the truth, I’ve got to let you into a secret, there’s a other people that might…

Marcia Kilgore
There’s other people listening?

Elliot Moss
Apparently.

Marcia Kilgore
Yeah, then I can’t.

Elliot Moss
There’s a few, there’s at least three.

Marcia Kilgore
I tell you what, I’ll come back.

Elliot Moss
You can come. I want you to come back. Will you do an encore and you can come back in a couple of years and you can tell me when you’ve set these ones up. Is that a deal?

Marcia Kilgore
It’s going be a really fun one to talk about.

Elliot Moss
I can’t wait to hear. Seriously, I can’t. It’s been an absolute pleasure and an honour to meet you. Your energy is totally infectious.

Marcia Kilgore
Likewise, Elliot.

Elliot Moss
But before I let you wonder off into the distance, what’s your song choice and why have you chosen it?

Marcia Kilgore
Well, I thought that Ain’t Misbehavin’ was really relevant for me, the beauty industry and, you know, being a disruptive entrepreneur because I am really not, not trying to be bad.

Elliot Moss
Of course you’re not.

Marcia Kilgore
It just comes out that way.

Elliot Moss
She says with a smile on her face and a twinkle in her eye. It’s Sarah Vaughan, it’s your choice, it’s Ain’t Misbehavin’.

That was Sarah Vaughan with Ain’t Misbehavin’, the song choice of my Business Shaper today, Marcia Kilgore. She saw herself as the underdog always fighting the system as it were. She talked about the decision she made to be positive. What a brilliant way of looking at life. And finally, she talked about that creative phase that she’s always in, it’s all about connecting the dots. That’s it from me and Jazz Shapers, have a good week.

We hope you enjoyed that edition of Jazz Shapers. You will find hundreds of more guests available for you to listen to in our archive. To find out more just search Jazz Shapers in iTunes or your favourite podcast platform or head over to mishcon.com/jazzshapers.

Serial entrepreneur, Marcia Kilgore, is the Founder of Beauty Pie – the radical, luxury cosmetic buyers’ club as well as Bliss, Soap & Glory, FitFlop and Soaper Duper.

Coming from humble beginnings, Marcia’s drive and ambition led her to Found Bliss Spa, selling a majority stake to LVMH in 1999. In 2006, she launched bath, body and cosmetics brand Soap & Glory, selling it to British drugstore giant, Alliance Boots/Walgreens in 2014.

Marcia then created a practical solution to optimizing every step and launched footwear brand FitFlop in 2007.

And the list doesn’t end there as Beauty Pie is Marcia’s latest venture, flipping the luxury beauty industry upside down, with a direct-to-consumer membership business model and totally transparent pricing.

Follow Marcia on Twitter @marciakilgore.

Interview highlights

I have made a decision to be positive and it takes practice.

I give in to enjoying my moments. We only go round once. 

The beauty industry is a really tough.

I come from nothing so I know how to be happy with nothing.

You can be very happy with very little, as it’s about your relationships and how you are experiencing things that don’t cost very much.

My theory is that no matter how hard your life is or the bad things that you go through, they are parts of your story, and parts of the dots that connects any kind of opportunity for you.

I am a freethinker.

I didn’t have it easy, so I am comfortable in difficult situations.

If you’re stuck and you don’t have the answer to something, the worst thing you can do is sit and stare at a screen. 

I wanted to make sure that (my mum) wasn’t worried about me and the family.

I never had any money in my life really because everything that I made, I would invest and reinvest into the business.

I don’t really stare at numbers to try and come up with ideas or read the data on people, I just think in my gut, ‘People will love that’ or ‘This isn’t good enough’.

People underestimate how long it takes to just get a new idea cemented into people’s minds as something that is viable. 

Shaper: Sir Martin Sorrell

Sir Martin Sorrell is the Founder of WPP – the advertising and marketing services group, and S4 Capital – an advertising and marketing company for the digital age. Sir Martin was CEO of WPP for 33 years, building it from a £1 million “shell” company in 1985 into the world’s largest advertising and marketing services [...]

Read More...

Jazz Shapers - 3 months ago

Shaper: Julie Chen

Julie Chen is CEO and Co-Founder of The Cheeky Panda Limited – one of the UK’s fastest growing fast moving consumer goods brands, which was recently ranked in the country’s top 100 start-up companies. Growing up in China, Julie knew the potential and many uses of bamboo, the world’s fastest growing plant which grows thirty [...]

Read More...

Jazz Shapers - 4 months ago