When E.l.f. Cosmetics went public in 2016 after a majority investment from TPG just two years earlier, it seemed like the sky was the limit for the millennial-minded beauty brand.
"E.l.f. has always been this brand that had the best of beauty, but made it accessible at these incredible price points," E.l.f. Chairman and CEO Tarang Amin said on the Glossy Beauty Podcast.
The company had just reached about $100 million in yearly sales when TPG invested -- in part by cracking how to sell $1 priced makeup online -- and was growing 20% annually, according to Amin. But 2018 saw a slump in both the company's sales and relevance online.
"For us it seemed like death," Amin said.
The year-long slowing of color cosmetic sales overall didn't help his outlook. E.l.f. closed its 22 standalone stores in February 2019. But freeing up $13.7 million in capital helped the company focus on e-commerce and wholesale via its "Project Unicorn" plan to turn the business around.
Thanks to a repackaging campaign (favoring colors, not just black); a renewed focus on fewer, but better prestige-level products; and a TikTok brand challenge, E.l.f. has seen four quarters of growth. And in many cases, the company has bested its competitors in the makeup segment.
Amin talked about the ongoing headwinds in the color cosmetics category, the white space opening up in India, the company's plan for incubation and M&A and his indifference, at first, to the rise of influencer-driven brands.