Luxie Beauty is a luxury cosmetics company specializing in high-end, vegan, cruelty-free brushes. Breanna and Karen’s guest today is Conor Riley, the CEO of Luxie Beauty. Conor took his financial expertise spent as an investment banker and applied his business-building skills to putting Luxie Beauty on the map. In this episode, he opens up about the challenges he faced transitioning from finance to managing a business. Conor’s past entrepreneurial mistakes provided learning opportunities, especially when it comes to relating to people. Learn about how he put the right people in place to allow Luxie to flourish and how he got these high-end brushes into major retailers like Macy’s, Nordstrom, and Anthropologie by fostering the right relationships.
Listen to the podcast here:
How To Manage A Business With Confidence With Conor Riley
Conor Riley, CEO of Luxie Beauty, talks about getting into retail, how his management style has evolved, and his plans for making Luxie the world’s largest makeup brush manufacturer.
We have the CEO of Luxie beauty joining us, Conor Riley. We had an amazing conversation with him. He talks about how he went from the financial business world of venture capital, private equity to running a huge beauty company that is known all over the world for its high-quality vegan and cruelty-free amazing brushes.
He’s a good friend of our brand. I had met him a few years ago at Boxy-Chella with our influencers. He’s just so conversation, easy to get along with, and talk to. That’s something that sold out to me when I first met him because he’s able to talk to all of our influencers and make everything at home. I’m so excited for you guys to get to know him a little bit.
You’ll love how personable he was and how candid. He talks about finding that work-life balance, setting goals for yourself, and things that make him successful.
I love that he snaps to a boss but he doesn’t take himself too seriously.
I totally got that attractive too. You guys don’t want to miss this one. Enjoy the episode.
I am so excited for this episode. We have Conor on the show. He is the CEO of Luxie, Inc. and we have known each other for a couple of years. We met through a mutual friend, Joe Martin from BoxyCharm.
We were on a Coachella trip. That was fun.
It was a Boxy-Chella trip. There are lots of stories from that trip. Everybody survived. We can happily report. We’re so excited to have you on. You’re such a boss and you have such an extensive background. It’s great to have you. We’re excited for our readers to get to know you more.
I’m so happy to be here. This is going to be fun.
Conor, tell us how you went from the financial world and dealing with private equity and capital to making the transition to beauty.
Working in finance was a lot of fun, but it was always transactional. You’re making investments, liquidating investments, and trying to grow a portfolio. It’s all transactional in nature. When I had this opportunity to grow and build something, I thought that would be a fun career change. I love consumer products and I love beauty. Ultimately, the goal of any beauty company is to make their customers feel good, look good, and unlock whatever their personal form of self-expression is. That was appealing to me.
When Tammy, the founder of Luxie, offered me the opportunity to step into the CEO role, I jumped at it. As much as I’d been involved in finance and had all of this background with corporate transactions, I was ill-prepared to step into managing the day-to-day operations of a growing beauty brand. It was a difficult transition. It took a little bit longer than I thought. It took about a year to understand where I was and what was going on, but it’s so much fun and I’m definitely enjoying the ride.
What were some of the first orders of business right when you joined the role?
Coming into a company, and this is true for any entrepreneur that finds themselves in a new position, the first thing to do is figure out where you’re at and how the business is doing. I came into Luxie after the founder had transitioned out. It was a lifestyle business for her. There were a lot of idiosyncrasies in the books and systems that were half-baked. I had to come in and solidify what our business practices were, where we were, and how we were going to grow the company. Once I got a sense of where I was at, then I could make heads or tails out of it and move in the direction that I needed to go to grow this thing.
The pandemic has given us a lot of things to do in the virtual world.
At that time when you joined, you didn’t have any retail partners?
We were in initial talks with 1 or 2. There may have been some eTailers and a few other ones. That was a key focus of mine. I wanted the brand to go from being featured in some of these subscription boxes to making it accessible in premium channels. Expanding the relationship with Nordstrom, getting into Macy’s, building out the relationship with Anthropologie, and Beyond. Focusing on some of the UK retailers was also a key driver for us. Of course, it led to all these other problems because then you’re like, “Now I need product and logistics. Where does everything go?” Whatever was the initial push, it then became like, “How do we problem-solve to deliver against where we want it to go?”
For a brand owner who might be reading, if they have a meeting set up with Nordstrom, which that in itself seems super hard to do, how do you win them over? Do you let the product speak for itself? What do those meetings look like with retailers?
It’s a bit of a misnomer how difficult it is to meet with buyers. Buyers are in their position to look at brands, evaluate brands, and make purchases. Buyers are willing to take a gamble with a small purchase on a brand to see how it does. The first thing that I would tell any brand owner that’s looking at getting into retail is to realize that you’re not going to the finish line. It’s more of a starting line. That’s the beginning of a relationship and it’s a pretty powerful thing that you have to deal with. The second thing is, be honest with the buyers. Tell them whatever your inventory limitations are. Tell them where you’re at and how you work. Be as transparent as possible with them so that you can start having conversations to build a relationship right.
That’s hard to do as a brand owner because as a brand, you want to please the retailers and you want them to be happy with you. If they’re like, “We need 10,000 units next week,” it’s like, “We’ll work on that.” What you want to say is, “We can’t service that level of units. It’s going to take us three months.” You can then create a relationship with them that’s going to be based on transparency and support. That’s the way to look at it. Anybody out there, go contact the buyers. You’ll find them on LinkedIn or find them wherever. Reach out to them, and get the meeting, and then when you have the meeting, speak to your products, process, company and be open to their feedback.
How important of a role does social media play in these meetings?
It’s huge. I don’t have to tell you guys. You guys live and breathe this every day. For most retailers, it’s all about getting traction and getting new customers in the door. If you’re a brand and you want to be in these things, you need to focus on building your social media, content, and brand story, getting some press releases out there, signing up for an affiliate program, and getting as much traction to your site as possible. The first thing that the retailers are going to do is they’re going to go to your Instagram page, see how many followers you have, and see whether you’re verified or not. That tells a story in and of itself. They’re going to look at your website and analytics around traffic to see if they can get an understanding of that, so you got to focus on that. That is important.
Steve Jobs was like, “I would spend my last dollar on PR.” That’s so true. You need to have a team behind you that’s going to be curating your messaging and pushing out the social content even if you think that you can do it all on your own, it’s always good to get somebody else to have a second set of eyes to make sure that the messaging branding is on point. Algorithms are always changing. What worked for you a year ago is not going to work for you now. Even the impact of influencers doesn’t mean anything anymore. It’s good for driving brand awareness but it’s not necessarily the be-all and end-all. You have to pull these different levers and work on a fluid strategy that’s always changing. People that are looking at getting into these national retailers should focus on social media and influencer seeding programs.
Speaking of that, where are you guys at with influencer relations?
Influencer relations are tricky. They always change. We’ve been active with seeding programs but we’ve pivoted from the Instagram influencer to the blogger. What we’ve found is that Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok are great for driving awareness. If you got a big influencer and they start using your product, great. Everybody knows who you are. In terms of getting people down the funnel to make a purchase, they like reading blog articles, reading and learning a little bit more about the brand, and want to spend time with the brand. We think of it as like our sales funnel. The top layer might be those big influencers. The mid-layer is bloggers. The bottom layer is YouTube and tutorials. The final stop is our website or one of our retail partners’ websites.
How did you guys pivot during the pandemic? Did you put a hold on partnerships?
During the pandemic, it was tricky. We didn’t necessarily put a hold on anything but we did focus heavily on bloggers. It was of a boom time for us. Our web traffic increased 5X and our purchases online went through the roof. All of our retail partners that were worried about shutting down ended up getting similar jumps in their eComm. Suddenly we’re like, “We got this Nordstrom program and Macy’s program. We need these bloggers and influencers with their affiliate links and with those different retailers to start talking about our product.” It was a busy time for us.
Everything was going digital. Everyone was shopping online. It was busy in our space, too. How many influencers do you guys send out PR to on a regular basis?
I would say all in. It’s a sliding scale. Let’s include editors or writers as well. We were finding that long-form editorial content goes a long way, too. It’s funny we’re shifting back to a more traditional model where it’s like, “Maybe that pop sugar article is going to be more important than the post-buy-sell itself.” We’re moving in that direction. On average, we’re sending out about 100 to 200 press kit a month. We like making them special. We have the whole nine yards. It’s a fun thing to do. It’s a good time when we can those big press activations going.
We know all about that in our past life.
Are subscription boxes still a big part of Luxie’s model?
We like driving brand awareness through that channel and we were excited to be part of a couple of box programs. From a profitability standpoint and from a brand growth standpoint, we’re focused more on retail and distribution. We do all of our sales directly to our retail partners here in the United States but we’re starting to move to a distributor model internationally. That’s great because then we can enter a market, be in all the best stores in that market, and not necessarily need to be on the ground or making trips all over the world to do that. We have a local partner that understands. Going forward, we’re focusing more on our retail channels and a little less on our sampling programs.
You we’re talking about traveling every week going to different countries but what does your day-to-day look like now? How different is it pre-COVID?
Pre-COVID, we’re always on the move and we’re getting on airplanes. There was one person that worked on the plane serving drinks and whatnot who commented that I was spending more time on the plane than they were. I realized, if I’m on a plane more than the person that works on a plane, I was logging over 40 hours a week in air time. That’s definitely changed. The pandemic has given us a lot of tools to do stuff virtually. Now I’m focused more on working with investors and people that are supporting the business.
Sales is still a big part of my day, and then marketing concepts, marketing ideas, and little product development. I have to wear every hat. I’m the guy that’s involved in all the different meetings and making stuff happen. The day starts with waking up, going to the gym, putting on my clothes, coming to the office, and then it’s a no-holds-barred match of who knows what the day is going to throw at you. You’re chief firefighter, chief everything, and dealing with it. It’s so much fun and no two days are the same.
How many employees do you have?
We have two offices, one here in the US and another one in Singapore. Across the two offices, we have about twenty people that work for us.
Since you’ve spent several years in this role, how has your management style evolved? What do you feel is the best way to manage employees effectively?
That’s probably where most of my evolution as a manager and business person has happened. The other thing is I have a daughter and she’s taught me so much about how to manage people. I’ve embraced that. I feel that, as a manager, there’s this strong feeling to come in and try to be an active participant in every project that your team is doing. You see things and you’re like, “Let me help make that better.” It’s totally the wrong way to do it. When I first had this job, I was like, “Buck stops with me. Let me get in here.”
It’s learning to trust the team and learning to give them enough responsibility for them to be able to do what they need to do. There are parts of the business that I have very limited involvement in and I’m not knowledgeable of some of the shipping, quoting, tariffs, duties, how to account for VAT, and all of this stuff. I feel so fortunate that I’ve been able to build this strong team of beauty professionals that understand the game and the business. My management style now is to contribute in the areas that I feel like I can add real value and not bother the people that are doing their job in the space and the business that I can’t add value.
There are some people that work here where my biggest value-add is buying them a salad for lunch. That’s how I tune in. It’s funny because any business you start, you wear all the hats, and then you have a small team of people and they’re wearing all the hats individually. As you start growing, you’ll go to someone and say, “Instead of doing these five jobs, now you only focus on these two.” There’s almost this feeling of like, “What do you mean? Is my role getting smaller?” It’s like, “No, your role is getting better. We’re now requiring you to be a strong professional in your two areas.” My management style has evolved from that micromanager, nitpicky, worried executive to now feeling confident in the team and everything that everybody does. My job is to contribute as best I can.
Did you make the hiring decisions to put those key people in place who now have a lot of responsibility within the company?
Yeah, that was one of the things that I did with help. I’m overly optimistic and sometimes I get a little excited about the pipe. We had to look at the hiring process. This is true. Anybody who’s an entrepreneur building a business and if you’re a brand owner out there, know your numbers and what the job is. Don’t get caught up in having someone who’s great on paper but maybe not great for that particular role. If you’re hiring for a marketing person and they also are great at product development, maybe they’re great at this, and have connections there, look at their qualifications for the marketing part. Don’t get sidetracked by the other things that they may be able to do.
That took some time. I made a couple of bad hiring mistakes, bringing people in because I felt like I either had to or felt that maybe there was an opportunity that would be missed if they didn’t come on board. Building a team has been an important part of my job. We’ve got a great senior executive team. We’ve got great people that are in the trenches, everybody takes our role seriously, and that’s been great. That worked out.
We’re in that process of having some growing pains. We’re still small enough to where we’re doing all of the hiring ourselves. What are some key things that stand out about a person that makes you say, “I need them on my team?”
Don’t allow paralysis by analysis to happen. When most people think it’s a good idea, get it done.
There are a few things. One thing is the hiring process. Give yourself 90 days to bet the person after you hire. One of the things that we do is we’re like, “We’re going to hire you. Within 90 days, we’ll figure it out and we’re going to do a 30-day assessment, a 60-day assessment, and a 90-day assessment.” The biggest thing that you find is how they perform on the job and that’s going to tell you the whole story. Usually, before the person is hired, I’ll try to assess their excitement for the job and if they’re fit for the job.
I’ve learned to have candid conversations about pay like, “This position only pays this much money. Is this okay or is this not okay?” If they say it’s not okay, then it’s like, “This isn’t a good fit for you.” I’m trying to have those candid conversations upfront and then being clear with the job tasks that are assigned so they can see what’s going on and deliver against those. It’s almost like less about the person and more about the system you’re walking into.
It’s full transparency, so there are no surprises once they start.
We hired some salespeople that came into the company and we thought that we were well-positioned to take them on, and then we realized we didn’t have the necessary sales tools that would allow them to excel. That was one of those things where you’re like, “We don’t have a CRM system, lead generation system, email sequencing, or any of the other outreach tools that any other company would have.” Once we hired them, they were like, “Where’s our stuff?” We’re like, “Here’s the laptop.” They’re like, “No, where’s our stuff?” We’re like, “Here’s a PowerPoint.” They’re like, “No, you still don’t get me.” We’re like, “Oh my gosh.”
Those are the kinds of things that you have to navigate with grace and figure out like, “Let’s start building the tools, building a platform, and holding people accountable.” Our sales team is amazing and they perform so well. Now we have sales agreements with people globally, so they’re doing a great job. That was scary to hire someone and be like, “You guys are doing good but we’re still not getting our sales. What’s going on?” They’re like, “We don’t have anything.”
What’s your thought process before you make a big financial decision for your company? What’s your mindset?
We work in such a difficult space, so the normal thought process doesn’t apply. Most people would answer the question like, “I calculate the ROI, and then I go ahead and make the investment.” That’s BS because there’s no clear way to calculate an ROI when you’re doing an event activation or working with an influencer. When you’re talking about exposure, how are you going to tie that back to web sales? What are you going to do? What I try to do is get as many points of view on the investment as possible. I try to bring in the CFO and the department head of wherever this investment is going to go. I try to shop around.
If I’m talking to somebody or thinking about moving forward on a particular project, maybe I’ll talk to some of their competitors, and then I close my eyes and pull the trigger. I feel like there’s this paralysis by analysis that can happen. Once I get everybody’s point of view, if most people are thinking it’s a good idea, “Let’s do it. Let’s get it done.” That works out better than me trying to do it on my own or make these decisions on a purely financial basis.
I can definitely relate. Karen can, too. Anytime I do anything, I’m texting Karen and screenshotting her. We’re figuring it out together.
For you guys, too, having a business that’s growing and having a continual flow of opportunities, you don’t have time to do the analysis. Who can even analyze some of these opportunities? You just have to be like, “Is this worth it or not?”
I would imagine, too, for every business owner, there’s a lot of trial and error that needs to happen. There’s no way of predicting certain things. What were some of your biggest mistakes that presented the best learning experiences?
There’s been a lot of mistakes made. One of the biggest mistakes was we’re looking at like, “We want to expand into some of these retail channels and we want to get a product, so let’s buy a bunch of products. We don’t have to worry about expiration. Our brushes are robust. They’re not going to go bad.” We felt like, “We could do that.” We ended up buying $1 million with a product that then came over. Just about the time that it was arriving, we decided to redesign all the products. Look at all the bad decisions. The first one is way over-committed to inventory. The second one was we did not communicate to retailers that the old design was going to be the thing that was going to stay around. Lastly, we didn’t have team alignment in terms of how we were going to push the product through and out to our retail. That was a big learning situation where you’re like, “Now we have thousands of sets that are not going to move. What do we do?” That was a big one.
Another one is, what I was doing is not incorporating feedback from people. Another learning thing is if you have someone on your team and you’re feeling good about them and they’re not feeling good about their role, sometimes, as a manager, you want to be positive. You want to be like, “I think you can do it.” They’re like, “I can’t.” You’re like, “No, you got this. Don’t worry about it. You can do it.” I’ve learned not to do that. Now, if I’m like, “You can do this,” and they’re like, “No, I can’t,” then it’s like, “Why can’t you? Let’s talk about it.” I’m not trying to convince them that they can but instead, I’m trying to take their feedback and figure out what the next step is. In the event of the salespeople, it’s like, “Let’s get a CRM system or whatever they need.” Lots of mistakes were made.
How did you liquidate a million brushes?
It was crazy. First of all, it didn’t go away overnight. We ended up working with some of our off-price partners like TJX in Canada and it’s like, “No more brushes. Great.” We did pop-ups and we did all this stuff. It’s one of the biggest mistakes ever and we’re still dealing with it. I had this idea like, “We need to have brushes for professionals.” We are a premium brush brand. Professionals love our brushes and we’re featured all over the place. We’ve done so many things with the Oscars, the Grammys, and LA makeup artists. It’s awesome. I was like, “We need to have professional tools and they’re going to be different than the normal ones. They’re going to be highly stylized and super awesome looking. It’s going to be what we go with.”
We came up with this ProTools line. They’re awesome and great brushes, but at the time, the company wasn’t well known and the people that didn’t know us knew us as the pink brush company. We launched this black brush in the UK and nobody knew what it was, no one knew the brand story behind it, and what we were trying to go for. Those would not move. That was a tricky one and that was rough because I was leading the charge with the PD team trying to do that. I should have listened to some other voices that were like, “Maybe we should just stick with what people know us for.” That was the thing.
The ProTools line is still available, right? They’re beautiful.
They are and such a good value, too. Honestly, we’re selling those for $50 a brush. The handles are beautiful. The way that they fit is beautiful. They’re amazing brushes. It was bad timing for us to try to come out with this stylized, different brush before people knew us. We were just starting out in Nordstrom and Macy’s. It’s tough. There are so many brush brands out there. There are so many different groups out there that there’s no barrier to entry to starting a brush company. It’s important that you’re building a brand and working to build a brand in a consistent way. That’s what’s made us successful.
You guys have done a collaboration with an influencer, correct?
Yeah. We’ve done a couple of collaborations. One that we had was with JadeyWadey. We did a JadeyWadey Nose Perfector, which was cool. That was a good one for us. We have another influencer collaboration that we’re coming out with. I don’t think I can say who it is. It’s a massive top ten YouTuber who’s huge. We’re launching her sets with BoxyCharm and Macy’s. REVOLVE is picking it up. It’s huge stuff.
When you launch with an influencer compared to when you launch without an influencer, do you see a lot of fluctuation in that number?
There’s a degree of influence that an influencer brings to the table. A great example of a successful influencer brand collaboration is what BH did with their BFF palette. That was incredible. I thought that was well executed and their team did a good job there. That’s the high-level that you have to do to get the kind of traction that you want in the marketplace. What we’ve done with our upcoming influencer collaboration is we’re using that more as a way to leverage PR, editorial coverage, and some placements that we wouldn’t get if we were just doing our own thing.
For brands, they need to look at the collaboration not just as a way to get sales but also as a way to raise their profile. As a company, we’ve struggled with that. We’ve collaborated with Warner Bros. and Disney. In those collaborations, we came out with the Jasmine set, which was an absolutely beautiful set. We came out with a Wonder Woman set that was also absolutely beautiful, but we found that did more to get collectors interested in purchasing the brush than raising the brand’s profile itself.
When you’re working with an influencer and doing a collaboration, it’s important as a brand to have that real conversation with the influencer and say, “This is how we want our brand to be presented. This has to be done equitably between the two of us.” Companies will want the influencer to tell their own story. It’s always the same. The influencer comes out, “I’m such a great business person. Here’s my new thing. This is why I did it.” You need to do something more exciting in this day and age. That’s what we try to do. We’re trying to leverage that.
With the Disney brush set, the Jasmine set, for example, were you finding that Disney fanatics were just one-time buyers versus might have repeat buyers?
Yeah. You’d have people that buy five sets and they would say, “I’m never going to use these brushes.” You’re like, “Buy six sets and use that one. What are you doing?” There’s a lot of people out there that love these iconic characters. You can get decent sales, but nobody cares about the brand. What do you guys think about events? When do you think events are going to come back into action?
They’re coming back and we’re a part of some events. We’re excited about it. We’ve already had a couple of photoshoots with major retailers like Walmart and Sephora. We’ve already been on set in LA in June 2021. Things are booming. There have been events back-to-back. There was a little thing event one time, and then the night before it was a Huda Beauty. All the boxes are getting checked from the brands. They’re ready to go and the influencers are ready to get back to that culture. The culture of events goes hand-in-hand with being an influencer. A lot of them pop up.
Our company is joining forces in creating a health and wellness retreat. With influencers, it’s the same blueprint as the Education Summit in 2020. I hope you remember. You guys had have sponsored that. It’s a blueprint over here in the health and wellness space and we’re doing that in November 2021 in San Diego and there’s going to be 250 attendees. Things are opening up and things are booming. A few will also be happening again in 2021. We’re going full speed ahead and this is what’s needed. It’s been slow, especially in the influencer space. Even brands are picking up the pace now on partnerships. I am consistently busy from morning to night with partnerships.
Partnerships are going to come back in a big way. You’re right that the in-person events are going to be huge. The events, at least my hope, are going to start getting better. I feel like the bar is high for events because people have been cooped up for a while. I don’t know what you’re keeping an eye on, but I’m keeping an eye on the Miami Swim Week. I want to see what’s happening there. I’m sure we’re all watching the same people to see what’s going on. That’s interesting. I’m also looking at the LA Fashion Week. It’s going to be big. It’s interesting that there are three different groups that are authorized to do LA Fashion Week.
What group are you going to be going with?
Eating good food and getting enough sleep increases mental acuity.
This is my bone to pick with all of these fashion weeks and this is true with everyone. Their thing is, “Come and be part of our package. It’s a $50,000 package. We can’t tell you what it is and we can’t tell you who’s going to cover it, but it’s going to be great.” You’re like, “What? I can’t give you $50,000 for just hanging out. This is craziness.” That’s true with everyone, even New York Fashion Week. Being someone that works behind the scene, I get why it’s a challenge. You can’t guarantee what editors are going to come to your show. You can invite them. “In 2020, we were featured in this and this,” but you can’t guarantee it.
The car sponsor, whoever the big sponsor that’s coming in, they’re not paying to be there. They’re just tied to the event, then everything is this backchannel construction to get you covered to get views. I get it. I’m not comfortable enough with the concept to pull the trigger on something like that until I either have more of a relationship with the organizers. All the organizers are good. I don’t have a relationship with them yet, so I want to get a better understanding of what’s going on there.
It’s green still. It’s surprising that LA Fashion Week is sometimes or most of the time unorganized. I’ve been a part of the back end of it with brands. It is a storm and I’m like, “Is this what happens in New York, too? People do not know how to handle anything. They have influencers coming but they don’t know how to maximize on the influencers being there. Sometimes there are no seats. It’s all over the place. It feels chaotic.” You’re looking at each other thinking, “What are we doing here?”
We have influencers come but they won’t require the influencers to post and the influencers won’t know what they can and can’t pose. Their brands are there. It’s a little logistically iffy. That is true with New York and that’s true with Swim Week. Swim Week is, “Let’s put this on this show. They’re doing it. Hats off to them. They’re making it happen.” It’s a bold move to use Fashion Week as part of your branding. We want to be part of something because all of these shows require makeup and being in the brush game is a natural fit and it’s so great. It’s a hard sell for us unless we understand, “Is the show really going to happen?”
Doing events on your own and having a Luxie event, is that something that’s on the horizon as well?
That’s something that we’d like to do. This is great advice for any brand owner out there. I see two different events. The first one is the equivalent of desk sides in a town. It’s like taking everyone out to dinner. Everybody likes having a cocktail. Everybody likes a cocktail around 4:00. Go to a cool place, invite all the people that are writing articles or part of anything, sit down, and do the desk side brand. The brand people out there all know each other and most of them are friends with each other. Have a fun afternoon and work with a professional so you can sort out who’s the right group to have. Do one in LA and do one in New York, and you got your press covered.
The next event is the small influencer event. Get 30 or 40 influencers together and have a fun time. Take over a club, end of story. Every six months, if you have those two events, you’re talking about four events a year, one is editors and one is influencers, and you’re going to have so much coverage and goodwill, you’ll be fine. That’s what we want to do. We wanted to start doing it in 2020, but it didn’t work out for us, so we’re looking to establish that in 2021.
What does the rest of your 2021 look like? Can you talk about anything else you’re working on that’s going to launch in 2022?
We’ve got some exciting stuff coming up. We’ve got a dual-end blush brush that’s coming out. Blush has changed and now you’re seeing it creep up higher on the cheekbones. This dual-end blush brush is going to be awesome. It’s impossible to say but easy to use. That’s a good one. We’re adding to our Dreamcatcher line, which is an elevated interpretation of the Luxie brand. It’s higher-end bristles and higher-end brushes. We’re coming out with that. We have three new sets there that are going to hit the market since September 2021. We have a full-size travel set that’s coming out. Our travel set was awesome. It was cute. It had these slightly shorter brushes with a full-size brush head, but people wanted that full-size brush. They like the feel of the handles, so we’re coming out with a full-size set there in a cute carry-all bag. If people are traveling and they need to hit the road, this is the set to deal with.
We got a bunch of stuff coming out. We got some drops in September 2021 that are looking good, and then we have two amazing holiday sets. One is this golden traditional Christmas time set and it’s going to do well. Another one is this silver glittery Ziggy Stardust vibe that’s coming out in December 2021. That’s going to look good and we’re excited about both of them. We’re in the Nordstrom anniversary sale, so if somebody is looking for good savings, check out Nordstrom and go buy some Luxie stuff. They got two great sets. We custom-made it for them, so we’re proud of those.
You’re keeping your product development team busy.
That’s the plan.
I know that philanthropy has always been a big part of Luxie’s ethos. Are you still doing a lot of donations of brushes? I know you’ve worked with some smaller organizations like CityTeam in the past.
That’s still a big part of what we do. In fact, we partnered with ShoppingGives, which is a digital platform that allows a portion of every sale to go to the charity of your choice. It doesn’t cost you anything. It’s just a percentage of sales that go, so that’s been exciting. It means that every transaction has a charitable component to it. We also work with the World Wildlife Fund and we’re continuing to move forward with them. The World Wildlife Fund, we’re the only brush brand that they have and that’s an exciting partnership for us.
Of course, the Second Harvest Food Bank. We like closing the office, getting out there, and making sure that people have access to food during the holidays. We try to give back to the community in that way. That’s a real thing where we go and make those connections. It’s a lot of fun and it feels good. We weren’t able to do it in 2020. We were able to contribute virtually. They’re trying to automate as much in the process as possible, so we still participated. That giving back has always been part of who Luxie is and it continues to be a big part of what we do.
Do you do a lot of fun like team building days with your employees as well?
Yeah. It’s awesome. If we can get together and have fun, we totally go for it. You saw that at Coachella. We’re hanging out and pushing each other in a pool in a shopping cart, which is a lot of fun and a little dangerous, but that’s okay. We’ve matured as a company now. We will do a ropes course nearby and we’ll do lots of lunches near the office. There’s a new Topgolf that opened nearby, so we’re looking forward to that. Topgolf is awesome. We combine the best elements of a bowling alley with the best elements of the driving range.
Another one in golf clubs, so that’s a lot of fun. Above everything, we try to create an environment where people feel comfortable. We recognize that your work family, sometimes you spend more time with them than your family-family. We want to try to create a dynamic where people feel comfortable and where we can celebrate that connection by having some time where we do something fun.
You talked about starting your mornings by going to the gym before you had to work. What other healthy habits do you practice in your everyday life that you think contribute to why you’re so successful?
You got to be disciplined. The only way to make it is to be disciplined. I have times where I’m not disciplined at all, where I eat too much and I drink too much. I make all the mistakes that we all do. Mostly, what I try to focus on is waking up every day early, getting to the gym, and eating salads like a normal person. I didn’t find out until 2021 that everybody eats salad. I was like, “What do you want to eat? Let’s get a burger.” No one was like, “You can’t eat tacos four times a day.” I thought that was normal.
It’s awful. When you have a burrito for lunch, pizza for dinner, and then drink a couple of glasses of wine, and then you wake up the next day and you’re like, “This is intense,” because you had some extra salad. That’s the thing. That’s what you have to do. I wake up, go to boxing, go to the gym, lift some weights, drink lots of water, take vitamins, eat salads, go home, and go to sleep. That’s the day. On the weekends, I try to focus on family time and doing fun stuff. I try not to think about work.
If I’m going to stay up late or get off my routine, it’s going to be on the weekend. During the week, it’s regimented, exacting, and boring. On the weekends, it’s like, “I’m going to stay up late. I’m going to do this. I’m going to do that.” I also try to not have my phone on during the weekend and not have it on at night. That’s been helpful. Sleep is a big thing that gets overlooked. When you get up early, you go to bed early. I’m done at 9:00, so at 9:00, I turn off my phone, crash out, wake up at 4:30, and then charge hard until 9:00 again.
Do you also set goals for yourself, whether personally or professionally? Are you writing them down? Are you reciting a mantra every day?
The goal is to get through the day. It’s like battle mode and it’s super intense. In order to keep it balanced, I think of it as marathon running. I’m on this track, there’s no finish line, and I have to be good to myself. I try to prioritize self-care. In terms of mindset, I have this thing where I have to work, so I’m not worried about that. Every moment of every day, it’s going. I try to balance that with non-work things. I like focusing on gym time. I also stress eat. It’s the weirdest thing, so I try to keep the diet clean.
I focus on putting one foot in front of the other and understanding that it’s okay to take breaks if I’m feeling a little overwhelmed to take some time away from the desk during the day. I don’t have a mantra, I don’t journal, and I don’t take notes. The goal is to turn Luxie into a global beauty conglomerate with a presence in every market in the world. That’s what I have to do. That’s the plan. I feel like it’s always exciting, so it’s a lot of fun to do that every day. What about you guys? Do you guys do that? Are you journaling?
I definitely write down goals. In your early twenties, it’s all about career like, “How do I get to the top? What am I going to do next?” In my 30s, it’s shifted for me to more personal goals like, “I need to buy a house. I want to get married soon. I want to start planning for kids,” and things like that, that I wasn’t thinking about as strongly years ago. For me, it’s definitely shifted to more personal.
I agree that your work stuff is solidified and then it becomes like, “Personally, this is what I want. This is what I’m feeling.” For me, I feel like that’s so fluid that I almost would be scared to commit to paper.
When you’re happiest outside of work, you’re going to perform better at work, too. It’s a full circle like you were saying about self-care. When you have a better work-life balance, your work is going to be that much stronger, too.
You have to look at yourself as like an athlete in a certain sense and reading about what these top-level athletes are investing in themselves, whether it’s golf or tennis or basketball, or whatever. I’m starting to experiment with hyperbaric oxygen chambers and vitamin treatments. We’re in the space. Why not give it a try?
We’re all for it.
Get a better understanding of any situation before jumping in.
I don’t journal are anything, but I do spend a lot of time in prayer. I don’t have a lot of moments to myself during the day because I’m in constant work mode. I’m feeling that things are going to be a lot different with our team. We’re going to have more helping hands. I know that I’m going to be getting to that point where I can start having some more structure because I’m at the realization where I know that I need it, so that makes sense.
I’ve also been on a huge health journey. I’m not sure if you knew that Conor. It has helped change my life from the inside out. I have a personal trainer who comes to my house a few times a week and she interrupts the entire day. From 1:00 to 2:00, I’m with her. I haven’t ever had that before. Those are huge steps. If I was doing this in 2020, I wouldn’t have done it. Now that I’m doing that in 2021, it’s a huge step for me.
Speak to your health journey. I’ve seen this transformation and I love it. It’s great and amazing. It’s been inspirational to me, too because I feel like we’re similar workaholics and things get overwhelming. What has the transformation been? How did you do it?
For years, I have been looking into and researching a vertical sleeve gastrectomy, which is bariatric surgery. I had a lot of underlying health problems and issues that could mostly be solved with the surgery. I did a ton of research. It is a ton of work leading up to the surgery and leading up afterwards but in that process of going through this, I met this amazing group of people in this amazing community that is so niche and tightly knit that I felt like I had an entire new support system.
If you think about the beauty industry, there is that in the health and fitness and wellness industry times ten. These communities are so lit. I’ve lost about 60 pounds and I have about 10 to 15 more to lose. I’m working on developing healthy habits for the rest of my life and maybe hopefully, someday having my own family. Being able to do that myself would be such a blessing. It’s the reason why I did this process, honestly.
How is it been establishing those healthy habits?
It’s hard and mentally toxic. I still have extreme body dysmorphia. I saw a video of myself and I don’t even recognize myself. It’s only when I see an old video, an old picture, or I’m doing a side-by-side where I see my progress because I still am.
I’m also doing the same vibe. I am working with a personal trainer, but I’m doing the same thing every day working. Sometimes, I’m skipping meals, but I’m trying not to. This surgery makes you go to the aspect of, “If I don’t have my meal right now, I’m going to probably feel sick later.” It has made me hyper-focused on my health, which I didn’t have before. Karen and I laugh all the time because we don’t do lunches. We just work through and we’re like, “That’s not normal. People do lunches. People have lunch when they’re working.”
One of the things I find that’s hard about good habits, and I don’t know if you’ve had this experience, but I’ll go for a couple of days where I’m doing awesome like eating salads, and then I’ll be like, “I’ve been doing good,” and then I’ll go on a three-day bender of pizza or weird stuff. That reward mechanism is so hardwired into who I am that I find the biggest challenge is not so much doing the right thing because I like feeling good, but it’s sticking with it over an extended period of time. I can go 1 week, 2 weeks, 3 weeks, and then eventually, I’m like, “Let’s get into some of the yummy stuff that I miss,” or like gym time or whatever. Do you have that?
Yeah. I tried to deprive myself. I’ve tried every single diet up to this point. It’s because of health issues that I was maintaining my weight. I wasn’t even eating honestly, which wasn’t good. I was only eating once a day and it was at nighttime. That’s not healthy. Nine years of that will jack up your body. I definitely don’t deprive myself. If I want to snack, I’ll give myself a snack because I’m confident in the way that I’m eating during the week. On the weekends, I can be a little bit more flexible. When you’re seeing the results, you don’t want to mess that up. Also, I feel better when I’m eating better foods.
I found that if I’m eating good food and sleeping, my mental acuity is higher. At one time, I was like, “Let me go to Jack In The Box.” It’s that kind of thing where you order so much that you have to tell the person that you got it for somebody else who’s not in the car. The tacos are coming in pairs, so two tacos. I got a burger that was the bacon cheesy, and then they have these croissant things. I like their egg rolls or whatever. It’s a mountain of food. I ate that and then stayed up late watching something on Netflix, and then the next morning, I could not put two words together. I felt so dumb and I was like, “Fuck my day up.” I used to eat there a lot. There’s nothing wrong with the Jack In The Box. I’m just saying that the impact of that food was so delicious for the first half-hour, and then I felt so sick after that.
I have a health coach and she constantly asks me what I’m eating, and then I have this community that I want to guide and I know that I’m setting an example for a lot of eyes. It motivates me more to be like, “Do what you’re supposed to do.”
This was fun. Thank you for having me on. I enjoyed it. We’ll be talking soon. We’ll be talking offline about a bunch of stuff.
Where can our followers follow you on social media?
Thank you, Conor.
Bye. Have a great day.
- JadeyWadey Nose Perfector
- Miami Swim Week
- LA Fashion Week
- World Wildlife Fund
- Second Harvest Food Bank
- @Mr.Conor_Riley – Instagram
- @LuxieBeauty – Instagram
About Conor Riley
I love all things beauty. I believe in teamwork and transparency, and feel that there are incredible opportunities for brands to grow in the current environment.
I like to focus on growth and growth opportunities, however I have experience with turn arounds and startups. I feel nothing is more rewarding than taking a small brand onto the global stage and establishing a presence worldwide.