Photo above: Tyra Banks with models from her hit show America’s Next Top Model.
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Founded: March 2015
Headquarters: Los Angeles
Executives: Tyra Banks, Founder
One of the latest champions of our industry comes straight off the runway. In September 2015, supermodel Tyra Banks flung open the doors of TYRA Beauty, a fun and fierce new direct selling company with hot, trendy and easy-to-use cosmetics; a legion of “Beautytainers,” thousands of whom sat on a waitlist until the company’s official launch; and a passionate leader whose message of empowerment isn’t just talk. She walks the walk. Banks believes so much in her new venture, in fact, that she left her own talk show, FABLife, in November after just two months to focus exclusively on TYRA Beauty. Although throughout her career she’s delved wholeheartedly into numerous projects—she’s been everything from a supermodel and talk-show host to producer, author, actress, singer and philanthropist—her entrée into direct selling is highly personal. Hear her story, and you’ll quickly understand why she’s pouring her energies into an industry she’d never considered until a fateful meeting opened her eyes.
First and foremost, Banks’ platform is to develop, nurture and protect the self-confidence of women. When women realize their potential for greatness, she says, their achievement has an impact that long exceeds their time on this earth, inspiring future generations of girls to understand their worth and strive for something more. Her mother, Carolyn, had a profound impact on Banks and, to this day, remains her closest confidante and mentor.
Banks’ parents divorced when she was 6 years old. Her mother stayed in the marriage longer than she wanted to, Banks says, because she had neither the financial independence nor the self-esteem to believe she could make it on her own. She finally mustered the strength and left, moving Tyra and her older brother into a one-bedroom apartment in a neighborhood that wasn’t particularly safe. That first night she told her children they’d be there exactly one year, after which they’d move to a two-bedroom apartment. For the next 12 months, Banks shared a room with her brother, while Carolyn slept on the floor in the living room. She made good on her promise, working hard and earning enough money to move the family to a two-bedroom apartment exactly one year later. Again, on the first night in their new apartment, Carolyn told her children they’d move in one year, this time into a three-bedroom apartment. She promised Tyra and her brother that, in the three-bedroom apartment, they’d have their own bedrooms and would get to decorate them in any way they wanted. “I’ll never forget picking out yellow paint and a bedspread for my room,” Banks recalls. “I saw my mom work two to three jobs, pick me up from school, then make a pot pie for us and leave for another job while my brother babysat for me. She’d come home at 3 a.m. and get up at 7 a.m. to go to work.”
One of Carolyn’s multiple jobs was a home-based business as a beauty photographer. “Women would come to her, and she would do their hair and makeup, throw scarves over them… she took beautiful black-and-white photos. I saw the transformation,” Banks says. In fact, a young Tyra often served as her mother’s assistant, passing the makeup brushes and colors, and holding the light meter during photo sessions.
Later, as a model working in the company of some of the world’s top makeup artists, Banks spent hours upon hours sitting in a chair, for sessions so long that she’d sometimes fall asleep, while some of the top makeup artists in the world transformed her face. “I have so much respect and humility for what makeup can do,” Banks says. “I wasn’t one of those models who could wake up, put a little moisturizer on my face and be ready for the camera. I always say that I would never have been a supermodel without makeup. I’m convinced that those products made me a supermodel.”
Eventually, she started asking questions, studying how makeup artists transformed her face so that she, too, could master their craft. Before long, she was giving makeovers to other models. While the results were fabulous, these transformations weren’t realistic beyond the confines of the modeling world because they required several hours to complete. Could a typical woman transform herself without the help of a renowned makeup artist, or by spending hours glued to a chair? And didn’t every woman have the potential to be fierce, fabulous and gorgeous?
“Natural beauty is unfair,” she says. “People often point out women and say, ‘She’s so natural; she doesn’t need makeup.’ We tend to look down sometimes on women who do need it to transform. Makeup is the beauty equalizer. If you weren’t born with it, so what? You can have it just like that woman who was born with it.”
Banks next took her calling to help women transform themselves during her years on America’s Next Top Model, a competitive reality series Banks executive produced and hosted from 2003 to 2015, and which is now syndicated in 180 countries. One of the show’s most-loved segments was the “Ty-over,” in which a woman would be “discovered” from the streets of her own hometown, then be treated to a model makeover. “People all over the world would ask me on social media, ‘How would you do my Ty-over? Which features on my face would you want to enhance?’ ”
Banks recalls. “Remembering those long hours in the chair, I wanted it to be simple and easy. Women don’t have 45 minutes to transform themselves. Even though I’d worked with top makeup artists, there were still things I was intimidated to do. Now imagine the woman at home looking at a drawer of cosmetics.”
Banks had been planning to start a cosmetics company for quite some time, and in true form, she wanted to make sure she did it right. It’s the reason she enrolled in the Owner/President Management Program at Harvard Business School, which she completed in 2011. While in the program, a professor studied her plans for TYRA Beauty and determined she already had an extremely broad demographic, a rare find for any company, and one on which he advised her to capitalize in her new business. What she thought at first was a “demo dilemma,” he said, was, in fact, a “demo delight.”
Harvard’s program didn’t cover Direct Selling 101, so Banks started on the traditional route of getting her cosmetics line into the hands of consumers. “I knew I wanted [the products] to be quick, fast and navigable, but I thought they would be on the shelves of department stores or Sephora,” she says. “I had great meetings with heads of a lot of huge companies who were ready to have me sign on the dotted line and have my products distributed through their brick-and-mortar and online presence.”
But then, fate intervened. Banks was at a meeting with her longtime mentor to discuss The Tyra Banks TZONE Foundation to promote self-esteem in young girls. The discussion turned to her work on the for-profit side, as Banks shared the details of her plans to launch TYRA Beauty. When she mentioned how she planned to distribute her products, she got a response she never expected.
“He said, ‘Tyra, you have this personality, this platform where you focus on helping women around the world with empowerment, about being the CEO of their lives, and how dare you think that you can just put this in a package with some cute saying on it and put it on a shelf. It’s a disservice to you as a businesswoman and to your audience. You have the opportunity to encourage women and actually give them tools to become the CEO of their lives—not just you talking about it and giving them a couple of tips.’ When he opened up this world of direct selling to me and gave me the deep dive, I thought about my mother. If something like TYRA Beauty was allowed and if she had a mentor, then perhaps she would have taken that opportunity and left my dad sooner. I called my mom, and she said, ‘Ty, this is it!’ ”
Beautytainers celebrate where beauty and entertainment collide.
The Philosophy: Fast, Fierce, No Fuss
Ask a woman why she doesn’t wear makeup, and you’ll often hear one of these two possible responses: 1) She doesn’t have time; 2) It’s too complicated. With those typical roadblocks in mind, the entire TYRA Beauty line has been designed to present simple, fast, streamlined beauty. “I wanted people to know what to do with any one of our products just by looking at it,” Banks says. Further, “forgiveness of the product was important to me,” Banks says. One of her signature products, Oops Liner, is a liquid eyeliner in a pen in which one side is the liner and the other side is a corrector. Liquid eyeliner takes skill to apply, requires patience and usually involves more than a few “oops” before perfecting. The product was truly outside the boundaries of traditional manufacturing. “My manufacturer was saying we couldn’t make one side [of the pen] white, but I pushed and pushed, and they made it work,” she adds. Banks also spent two years developing TY-Glide Technology, a formula designed to provide a smooth glide across the skin for easy application—and touchups, in the event of another “oops.” TYRA Beauty products require no brushes or applicators, just “Four Fast Fierce Fingers,” as Banks says.
Across the entire TYRA Beauty line, packaging is designed with maximum attitude, showing off sassy product names like “Get Lippy,” “Pop it Clean” and “Smack My Fat Lash.” “I wanted the products to be fun, and I wanted them to transform women’s faces, giving them self-esteem from the outside in. It’s easy to smack some blush on and feel better. After that, we dig deeper. It’s not what she sees in the mirror, but what she’s feeling when she looks in the mirror.”
Initially, TYRA Beauty did a soft launch in March 2015 with 200 hand-picked independent “Beautytainers,” or consultants who were soon dubbed the “Fierce 200.” Banks wanted to test the waters, work out any kinks and solidify her company’s infrastructure as needed before the official launch in September 2015. Between March and September, Banks’ name recognition drew thousands of women to her site, Tyra.com, who wanted to become Beautytainers. Some 7,000 women were put on a waitlist until the doors opened to the masses. The Fierce 200, Banks says, represent the lion’s share—more than 80 percent—of the field’s growth. While the salesforce continues to grow at a rapid pace, those core Beautytainers are largely responsible for starting the company’s initial momentum.
|Tyra Banks shows off a favorite lip color.|
Banks premiered her talk show, FABLife, at the same time that TYRA Beauty started to gain traction. While she’d always put full effort into everything, Banks soon realized she was stretched too thin, and she cared too deeply about her new direct selling company to give it short shrift. Her schedule became so overwhelming that she’d hold quick meetings and test products for TYRA Beauty while on commercial breaks for FABLife. “I started this talk show and decided to do this as a wonderful platform to connect with existing Beautytainers and future Beautytainers in this country and around the world. But I learned you can’t run a business doing what I was doing, especially when I see TYRA Beauty as a legacy. Shows come and go, but I see TYRA Beauty as something that, when I’m not here anymore, is still in existence. At the pace I was going, I was exhausted. It was insane. I had meetings when I was tearing up because I was so tired and couldn’t be there for my company like I wanted to be.”
Ultimately, Banks made the decision to leave her talk show behind just two months after its premiere. Now, she’s getting ready to hit the road and meet her field members where they are. “It’s one of the reasons I started this company,” she says. “Speaking to groups and connecting to people is not only my strength, it’s my passion.” While she won’t divulge the details just yet, she’s got a lot planned for summer 2016. “This summer will be the beginning of something that soon will be just normal,” she adds. “To now have the talk show behind me where I can do this for my field and be there for them is amazing.”
Where Beauty and Entertainment Collide
At the core of TYRA Beauty is the concept of “Beautytainment,” a term that Banks defines as the place where beauty and entertainment collide. It’s a hard concept to explain, but experience it, and you’ll understand. While Beautytainment takes many shapes through a multichannel approach, the overarching idea is to crank up the volume on the experience TYRA Beauty delivers to Beautytainers, whether it’s training, education, events, incentive trips, marketing or anything touching the TYRA Beauty brand, so it commands its own distinctive space in the industry. With events, “we’re teaching through immersive experiences where Beautytainers actually enter a space, and they’re transported with sights, sounds and smell to introduce them to new products, how to sell those new products, the properties of those new prods and the aspects that will make those products different,” Banks says. “They’re actually walking through a place where there’s projection and there’s art.”
With education, “I’m always pushing to my team that when we’re teaching and educating, to write it out, read it and process it. I ask them ‘If you took our name off that, could that be another company’s material? What makes it quintessentially our business? What could you add to make it interesting, to make it fun, to make it TYRA Beauty?’ We’re only at the very beginning of Beautytainment. I have some very interesting ideas about how we can improve our training and make it an immersive journey based on you climbing through the ranks of TYRA Beauty.”
|supermodel Tyra Banks|
“It’s an experience, and at end of the day, the education is memorable,” adds Anita Krpata, General Manager of TYRA Beauty. “It’s not about the medium. We believe that everyone’s different and processes information differently. We do everything, and we do it with a purpose. The core concept of Beautytainment is that we want people to remember what we’re about.” And with all of these visionary, creative ideas, Banks has learned to pace herself. In an effort to avoid a plateau, her mission is to take a more phased approach, strategically adding oomph to keep Beautytainers and their customers energized and excited.
One of the strongest factors behind Tyra Banks’ worldwide appeal is her connection to her audience. Her signature style is all about self-acceptance, with a little self-deprecation thrown in for fun.
Banks’ rock-star status makes her particularly unique among direct selling CEOs, but she really just wants to keep it real. “When I meet Beautytainers at first, they’re excited, they want to take selfies,” she says. “That’s fine at first. But something I’ve told my Beautytainers is that I want them to become numb to me. I want to be normal, not a celebrity that walks into a room.”
Along the way, Banks and team learned from the challenges associated with any startup company. At the end of 2015, they realized that 2016 could be explosive, and so far, that’s proven to be true. TYRA Beauty blew past January and February projections anywhere from 100 to 300 percent, Krpata says. In March, the company introduced a new starter kit and a new enrollment process. “It’s really taking off,” Krpata says. “We’ve seen people come in and move to the top of the ranks and start to earn a really meaningful income.” At the same time, “being in the startup phase isn’t without its challenges,” Banks adds. “We’re making sure we’re prepared for hyper growth. Prioritization is happening now.
“With my Beautytainers, so many of them are telling us a similar story,” Banks continues. “They’re stuck in relationships where they’re not happy and TYRA Beauty has allowed them to either leave or create a nest egg so they have the power to do that. I’ll continue to share my mother’s story because it’s going to affect so many people. By no means is this brand built on leaving bad relationships. I know I’m preaching to the choir, but there are so many things that direct selling does for women.”
As we move further into 2016 and beyond, TYRA Beauty will focus largely on building out the product line while continuing to refine the company’s infrastructure and domestic operations to prepare for international expansion. Banks will remain committed to using her broad reach to tap new audiences.
“A lot of things we want to do are so different and so out of the box,” she says. “We already have a built-in audience who’s asking for this. The day that we announced our waitlist, we had people from other countries sign up and tell us they wanted it now. That’s something we definitely want to work toward; we just want to make sure we’re very tight with our domestic operations before we expand internationally.”
At every step, the company’s mission is to help Beautytainers leverage the power of Tyra Banks, her reputation as a businesswoman, friend and mentor to help build their own brand.
“Tyra’s vision is beyond anything that you could ever imagine,” Krpata says. “To say global domination is on the to-do list is to put it lightly.”
And with every step, Banks remembers the woman who inspired her dreams, the woman whose face appeared in her mind that day in her mentor’s office, when she decided to take the less-traveled path into direct selling.
“TYRA Beauty has this wonderful world of direct selling, which has such a rich history,” Banks says. “But what I’ve been laser-focused on is bringing it to a different generation and creating a snap and a sass and a sizzle. We want marketing, a voice, a message that speaks to the woman who wants to step out of her day-to-day, who wants freedom to express herself, to walk that hallway like a runway, to be her fiercest self. And that’s my mom.”