How much fun is it to track a brand’s success? A lot, especially when it’s el.f. Cosmetics, one of the first digital beauty verticals that went on to gain retail distribution, open branded stores and become a publicly traded company. If you don’t quite remember how e.l.f got its start, this amazing timeline tells why it built a website in the first place, and how it grew up from there.
June 2004: The company was founded by Joseph Shamah, then a 23-year-old New York University business student; beauty entrepreneur Scott Vincent Borba, and Joey’s father, Alan. E.l.f., which stands for eyes, lips and face, filled a gap in the marketplace for inexpensive, high quality cosmetics. Originally the company maintained a $1 price point for its 13 products.
In a unique move, e.l.f. was born and only sold online, making it one of—if not the first—digitally native beauty brands. The positioning came out of necessity when Glamour magazine wanted to feature one of the brand’s items in its pages, but couldn’t unless it was nationally available for readers to buy. Joey and his team went to work and launched the brand’s web site. At the time, Joey noted it made e.l.f. look like a “national player,” while also acting as a test market to determine the most popular products.
October 2004: E.l.f. donates 20 percent of proceeds from its Shimmering Facial Whip to research for Win Against Breast Cancer. It also provides Color Therapy Care Packages to breast cancer patients in an inner-city hospital in Los Angeles.
March 2005: Target takes on a limited assortment of e.l.f. to offer a value brand in its beauty assortment and help differentiate its cosmetics department.
April 2005: Upscale supermarket and regional power house, HEB, begins to stock e.l.f. Healthy sales prove that a lower price point can build impulse and incremental sales rather than trade beauty shoppers down.
June 2007: E.l.f. is once again ahead of the curve when it launches Ask Achelle, a beauty blog and online advice column talking about celebrities and beauty tips. The length of customer visits to the website triples.
August 2007: Joey earns PETA’s Trailblazer Award for his commitment to never testing on animals. The brand uses products that are 100 percent cruelty-free and donates proceeds of certain items to PETA.
October 2009: Target sets up its first e.l.f. holiday endcap solidifying e.l.f.’s place in the chain’s beauty lineup. The endcaps continues to be an integral part of Target’s holiday offering.
March 2010: Target installs e.l.f. and its Studio collection within inline planograms.
January 2011: E.l.f. Cosmetics agrees to a minority investment from TSG Consumer Partners, a private equity firm, to foster online and retail distribution. International distribution now totals 17 countries including the U.K., France and Australia.
March 2012: E.l.f. becomes a leading mass brand in share of online beauty traffic, according to the company. Physical store distribution stretches to Wal-Mart, Kmart, Walgreens, Meijer and Supervalu.
April 2013: E.l.f. opens its first freestanding Studio store, a 1,200-square foot site at 741 Broadway in Manhattan.
October 2013: E.l.f. joins the subscription service Beauty Bundle offering full-sized items.
February 2014: TPG Growth, the middle-market, growth-equity investment arm of TPG, acquires a majority stake in e.l.f. Tarang P. Amin is appointed President, Chief Executive Officer and Director of e.l.f. Cosmetics. He succeeds former CEO Joseph Shamah, who continues on as a significant investor and director with an ongoing management role in the company.
August 2016: E.l.f. files for an initial public offering. Product assortment now stretches beyond 300 items including gift sets, bath products, professional tools and mineral-based makeup.
September 2016: E.l.f. rings the trading bell on Wall Street. The company posted $96.8 million in sales for the first half of the year, up from $75.2 million in the prior-year period. The business has $191.4 million in sales for 2015, up from $144.9 million in sales for 2014 and $135.1 million for 2013, according to filing documents. Sales at Target Corp. account for 28 percent of e.l.f.’s net sales for 2015, while Wal-Mart Stores Inc. sales brought in 23 percent of the total. The mass-market beauty company’s stock, priced at $17 for a $141.6 million raise, closed at $26.50 on its first day of trading on the New York Stock Exchange.
E.l.f. expands to the West Coast with a store in Sherman Oaks and plans for locations in Glendale and Culver City. Retail is viewed as a good way to build brand awareness and prompt product trial. E.l.f. store count is up to 12 freestanding units.