CEW honors indie beauty brand founders

By Deanna Utroske

- Last updated on GMT

2019 CEW Female Founders Award winners (left to right): Errett, Renfrew, Twine, Tsai, Gores Ireland, and Hewitt
2019 CEW Female Founders Award winners (left to right): Errett, Renfrew, Twine, Tsai, Gores Ireland, and Hewitt
Last month in New York City, the professional organization Cosmetic Executive Women held its first Female Founders Awards event, celebrating the brands and business built by Amy Errett, Lauren Gores Ireland and Marianna Hewitt, Gregg Renfrew, Vicky Tsai, and Nancy Twine.

This year, CEW is also celebrating its 65th anniversary, which president Carlotta Jacobson acknowledged in her opening remarks: “We’ve been recognizing and empowering women for the last 65 years. And tonight, we get to honor the women who have really disrupted this industry: female founders,” ​Jacobson told a packed house at the Harmonie Club, in New York City’s Lenox Hill neighborhood last month.

“We’re champions of bold women and their ideas,” ​she said, “and, it’s my pleasure to recognize CEW’s first class of Female Founders Award recipients.”

Building a beauty brand

Each of the women honored at the 2019 CEW Female Founders Awards identified an opportunity in the market and built a brand that does more than simply meet consumer needs and fill market niches.

Madison Reed, Summer Fridays, Beautycounter, Tatcha, and Briogeo are all thriving brands that are, growing and inspiring movements in the cosmetics and personal care industry. At last month's awards ceremony each honoree gave short acceptance remarks; and then the group had a discussion about their experiences of entrepreneurship in the beauty business. Here are some highlights, from the honoree’s acceptance speeches:

Amy Errett, founder of Madison Reed

“I started Madison Reed and knew nothing about hair color and had never been in the beauty industry; but what I did know was that women deserved something better,” ​says Erret.

She explains that the brand and business that is now Madison Reed started with several hopeful questions, including: “Could we make hair color with ingredients we felt good about? Could we use technology as a way to color match? Could we use photo recognition? And in a four-wall business, could we prove that we could apply our hair color in 60 minutes for a price that you would feel great about?”

And Errett acknowledges the importance of organizations like CEW, saying that the group is “really making sure that there’s a space for the diversity that should exist [because] diversity creates better businesses and better solutions.”

Lauren Gores Ireland and Marianna Hewitt, founders of Summer Fridays

Gores Ireland and Hewitt launched Summer Fridays not much more than one year ago. They note that “we both came from nontraditional new media backgrounds. So, we hope that by sharing our journey, we inspire other women to the CEO of that thing that they love to do.”

And the brand itself is built on the premise that “as women we all lead super busy lives…and we wanted to give women permission to take a little time off and to also give back to themselves. From the start we envisioned our brand as a self-care support system for women so you have that Summer Friday feeling no matter how stressed out you [are].”

Gregg Renfrew, founder of Beautycounter

Presenting Refrew with her award, Jacobson emphasized that she “started a popular movement for clean beauty, mindful ingredients, and high standards,” and that the “direct sales model offers [40,000+] women financial independence and a mission that they all believe in.”

“[When] I started concepting BeautyCounter, back in 2010 and then launched in 2013, no one was really talking about clean beauty,”​ says Renfrew. “I saw an opportunity to bring a new type of brand into the marketplace, an opportunity to move this industry to a newer and better place,…to bring products into the market that were high performing and significantly safer for health.”

Vicky Tsai, founder of Tatcha

Accepting her award, Tsai was clearly speaking to a room of allies. She was more thankful for the help and encouragement she’s received from CEW members over the past 9 years than for the award itself.   

In recounting her founder story, Tsai says, “I heard about CEW and I signed up. Aand I got Jill Scalamadre as a mentor. And since then, every single person who has changed the trajectory of my life and Tatcha has been from CEW.”

Nancy Twine, Founder of Briogeo

“My path into this industry was not a traditional one,” ​acknowledges Twine. “I started my career in finance.…[but] sometimes in life, the universe has a way of shaking things up and putting you on the path that you’re supposed to be on. In 2010, I unfortunately lost my mother very suddenly in a car incident and that experience really changed me.”

“Growing up my mother taught me how to make my own body scrubs, moisturizers, and hair treatments…at a young age, I learned that you can take pure ingredients like natural oils, extracts, and butters and actually transform them into effective beauty products,” ​says Twine who describes Briogeo as “a clean hair care line that’s focused on using naturally derived ingredients to solve a diverse array of haircare needs.”

“Winning the Female Founders Award,” ​she says “is a true testament to what women are capable of when we put fear aside and we let our passion and hard work fuel our destiny.…CEW has been a tremendous resource to me and has allowed me to build a network of mentors and business partners that have been invaluable during my journey.”



Deanna Utroske, CosmeticsDesign.com Editor, covers beauty business news in the Americas region and publishes the weekly Indie Beauty Profile column, showcasing the inspiring work of entrepreneurs and innovative brands.

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