Tiffany Masterson could literally become tipsy by the success she’s experienced from Drunk Elephant, the non-toxic, clean skin care product line she launched in 2012. Almost immediately the collection became the gold standard of what was safe, ethical and effective. She started with six items; today the brand offers 18. “The clean movement didn’t exist when I first launched Drunk Elephant and now it’s present in multiple channels and retailers,” said the Texas native. In 2015 she started selling in Sephora and quickly became their fastest growing skin care brand. In 2016 the brand became available in Australia. Canada was next. Last year Drunk Elephant entered the UK. And, Singapore followed in November. Today, the brand has offices in Houston and Newport Beach, CA. Somehow, Tiffany, a 2018 CEW Achiever Award winner, found time to talk to with Beauty Insider for our 5 Minutes With… feature.
BI: What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in the industry since you started the company?
Tiffany Masterson: I think there is a lot more awareness around ingredient safety. Consumers have become their own advocates.Brands are more connected and accessible through social media. I also see increased interest in the health of skin moving from covering it up with foundation to a bare face. This is a very exciting time and it’s becoming more and more important to deliver not only clean formulations, but skin-compatible formulations. They aren’t the same thing.
BI: What are some trends you’re seeing now?
TM: I think if I made a conscious effort to pay attention to trends or where the market is going it would throw me off. The only one that jumps out at me is the CBD oil trend, which I think is very interesting. Other than that, I just try to focus on what I’m doing and innovate from my gut.
BI: You’ve recently expanded to Singapore. How do you feel Drunk Elephant will compete in the Asian market?
TM: When I launched in Singapore, I noticed that all anyone wanted to talk about was the “Suspicious 6” – something Drunk Elephant has always avoided. They were so excited about it and genuinely interested, even more so than the other places I’ve launched. I don’t know what will happen as we move out into more Asian territories, but I’m hopeful they will be excited to experience a different approach to skin care and give us a chance.
BI: Why have you remained an independent company thus far?
TM: There hasn’t been a reason to sell yet. When I brought in my first round of funding with VMG, it was intentional. We needed to scale our team up with the goal of becoming a global brand. If I were to sell the company, it would be because the company needed innovation or funding to help reach a goal or manage a specific need necessary for growth. I would never just sell to sell and I’m not interested in stepping away, it’s still my baby.
BI: What’s your approach to developing a successful company?
TM: I always put myself in the shoes of the consumer. That way I’m never tempted to cut corners. And I listen to my gut. The products also need to work and stand out. I think having a different approach, a unique philosophy and brand experience and a consumer-first policy can all lead to success.
BI: What are some specific strategies you’re using to reach a younger consumer?
TM: We don’t implement strategies for different sectors, we don’t advertise or pay influencers. If people like the product and it works for them, they will talk about it and tell their friends. We do have young consumers, but we have all ages, all ethnicities, male and female, teens to 80s. Our philosophy “skin is skin” resonates very well and it happens to be a genuine belief of mine, so it’s not an attempt to target or market the product, it’s based on how I developed the philosophy and formulations.
BI: What are the marketing strategies behind your launches?
TM: I only launch what I’m personally missing and needing in my routine. Once I develop it, I use it for around a year. This allows me to experience any weaknesses or strengths and really learn how to educate and speak to it effectively.
BI: What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned over the years?
TM: I’m still learning every day, all day. Everyone has an opinion and that’s fine, but I’ve learned to stick with my strategy and stay true to myself and my philosophy no matter what anyone says…just because it hasn’t been done before doesn’t mean that it can’t. There’s a lot of noise out there, stay focused and surround yourself with people who have your best interest at heart.
BI: Greatest accomplishment thus far?
TM: It would have to be the team I/we’ve built. You can have a great product but without great people to help support your vision and make it happen every day, you won’t go very far. There isn’t one of them who I don’t feel could speak for me and for the brand. That’s so important.
BI: Biggest mistake you’ve made?
TM: Letting the negative stuff on social media bother me. We are living in an environment suddenly where others can bully people, mischaracterize and gang up without accountability or consequence.
BI: What product (not your own) is your favorite?
TM: Must de Cartier has been my perfume since I was in high school. My mom would buy me a baby size at Christmas and I made it last and last. I spray it on my outfit before I get dressed!
BI: Best advice for newbies entering the business today?
TM: It’s critical to have something unique and authentic so you can make your mark in a very crowded space. Use your own ideas and don’t look around. Anyone can copy what’s already worked, it’s way more interesting to come out of left field.
BI: What’s something no one tells you when starting a business?
TM: That not everyone will want the best for you. It’s hard to understand that there are people who want to tear you down and hurt you as you grow. That’s why it’s so important to surround yourself with solid, good people who will be there to support you no matter what.
BI: What’s a mantra you live by?
TM: Use your manners, tell the truth, be kind, own your mistakes, put yourself in other’s shoes and always, always leave things better than you found them.
BI: If you were to write the note found in a fortune cookie, what would it say?
TM: No matter what you have or haven’t done, the best days are still out in front of you.