The Queen of Clean is back.
One year after stepping down as executive chair and chief brand officer of Beautycounter, the brand she founded in 2013, Gregg Renfrew is returning as chief executive officer.
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She replaces interim chief executive officer Mindy Mackenzie, who assumed the role after industry veteran Marc Rey left the post about 13 months after being named in early 2022.
“I’m really excited to be coming back and focus on what we do well at Beautycounter — driving innovation, disrupting the industry and putting power to the people,” Renfrew said in an interview with WWD. “I started this business with a mission of getting safer products into the hands of everyone and to lead by example. What I fell in love with over the past decade was the opportunity to work side-by-side with incredible women who wanted the opportunity to use their voice to make meaningful change.”
Renfrew was an early pioneer in the clean beauty space when she launched Beautycounter, creating the first of its kind “Never List,” with more than 2,800 questionable or harmful ingredients that the brand does not use in the company’s product formulations. In 2021, Renfrew sold a majority stake to The Carlyle Group, in a transaction that valued the business at $1 billion.
Throughout the growth of the business, Renfrew has been an active force on the legislative front, a key player in the passage of MoCRA (the Modernization of Cosmetics Regulation Act), which goes into effect this year.
Beautycounter initially launched as a direct-to-consumer business, expanding to a salesforce of 65,000 direct sellers, and subsequently entered retail distribution, most recently with Ulta Beauty. Currently, there are about 40,000 representatives, or “advocates” in Beautycounter parlance. They are a key component of Renfrew’s plan moving forward.
“We are going to focus back on the core of who powered up this mission in the first place. My first priority is focusing on our internal and external community,” Renfrew said.
She said the company will continue to build its omnichannel model as well. It’s currently in about 550 Ulta Beauty doors and has two freestanding stores in New York and Denver.
“Making sure the channels work synergistically is a big focus for me. When we do those things successfully, the advocacy piece becomes easier because we have the power and momentum of our community,” she said.
In terms of opportunity, Renfrew plans to hone Beautycounter’s digital and social media strategy to better break through in what has become a crowded landscape.
“We can reach more women quickly through the power of storytelling and content and being in the right social channels with the right messages,” she said, “telling our honest story and making people understand why it matters.”
Even with the increased competition, Renfrew believes that Beautycounter will be able to claim its share of the clean beauty pie, noting that inexpensive coffee abounds, yet people still line up for Starbucks. “They were the disruptor and they had to reimagine and reinvent. We are in a moment where we’re thinking about revolutionizing and redefining the business by thinking about what is important to today’s consumers and how do we meet their needs,” Renfrew said.
“It’s not going to be easy — we as a team have a lot of work ahead of us,” she continued, “but I’m encouraged by the prospect of what we can do if we use the power of our collective voices and I’m up for the challenge.”
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