Scott Oshry [00:00:23]: Hi, I’m Scott Oshry, the Chief Marketing Officer at Maesa, and to me, it’s a matter of conceptualization.
Kelly Kovack [00:00:38]: While brands are the consumer-facing manifestation of the beauty and wellness industry, there’s a vast ecosystem behind the scenes that brings them to life and keeps them in business. I’m Kelly Kovack, founder of Beauty Matter. A new trend has emerged from this ecosystem, and it’s called brand incubators. These turnkey operations are uniquely equipped with the infrastructure and knowhow to fast-track made-for-retail lines often done in collaboration with an influencer or an entrepreneurial celebrity. For big box retailers like Target and Walmart, these incubator brands have helped reinvigorate their beauty aisles with brands that are not only relevant, but exclusive. Success requires creative vision, business acumen, and an organization that runs like a well-oiled machine. Scott Oshry, the Chief Marketing Officer at Maesa and his team are pioneers of the incubator model. While it seems like a new incubator pops up every day, this business model is one that is far more complicated than it appears.
So Scott, thank you so much for joining us this afternoon. I know it’s taken a lot; we’ve been trying to sort of plan this for months. Schedules, sickness, but here we are. I think COVID has slowed everyone’s schedules down. So, it’s really good to see your face – well, or hear your voice, because I see your face, but it’s a podcast. You know, so, maybe we should start with a little background on Maesa, because Maesa is sort of a behind-the-scenes player in the beauty industry, and responsible for many brands people know, but can you explain what Maesa is, and sort of as a company, and what you guys do in the ecosystem of beauty?
Scott Oshry [00:02:38]: Maesa is a – although I thought we used to say this and we were unique, but no longer are we unique, a beauty brand incubator. So, we pride ourselves in identifying white space globally, and conceptualizing brands that fill that white space. So, at the highest level, that’s what Maesa does. We break that down into two categories: one category is we help existing beauty brands bring new products to market, manage brands that they have, they sort of outsource their work to us, and we manage that work for them. We do it in an ala carte way, but I would say the majority of our business now would be full turnkey for other beauty companies that come to us. We help them identify growth within their brands, new categories, new product launches, and then manage all of those said launches from a formula, packaging, manufacturing, regulatory standpoint, and we ship them products. On the other side of what Maesa does within incubating is when we incubate directly for retailers, and that, actually, is broken down into two segments. One might be a retailer coming to us saying, “Hey, can you help us identify a white space?” or, “We’ve kind of identified a white space,” or “We’re kind of thinking about a brand, can you create something for us?” For example, Urban Outfitters was looking for something new and different and we conceptualized with them the brand Ohii, and then provide that turnkey to them. What Maesa then does at the highest level, is when we incubate a brand for a retailer, that starts off exclusive at that retailer, with the idea that post that exclusivity being up, that brand will then ship everywhere; no different than a full CPG company. So, that is when we look again at a white space not only particular to that retailer that we would be launching in, but being sure that it not only works for that retailer for launch, but then has the ability to then go to a multitude of different retailers post-launch, and when we do that, we do that regionally. So, that’s happening in the United States, but we also have retailers in seven other countries. So, we take those same brands, and we’ll launch those brands under the same model in those other regions where they will have some exclusivity for a certain amount of time, and when that exclusivity is up, they will branch out.
Kelly Kovack [00:05:31]: You know, I also – I think that, I mean Maesa has sort of grown into a very sophisticated business and a very large business. You had a business before this called Zorbit that you founded with some other colleagues, and that’s, I think, where I first met you and Scott Kestenbaum who was supposed to be on the podcast with us today but isn’t, and you know, you guys have really been innovating on the supply side of the beauty industry for a long time. You know, Zorbit was kind of this new way of selling packaging, even from how you guys designed it, even to how you guys did new business, it made the supply side of the business seem fun, and the supply side of the business is not usually very fun. Can you share a little bit about those Zorbit days? Because they were kind of crazy; they were kind of the seeds of what you built at Maesa.
Scott Oshry [00:06:32]: Yeah, it’s a little hazy. Zorbit was a lot like being in a fraternity. I’m not sure…I think I blacked a lot of that out, but thank you for the compliments. You know, it was a group of us, but I think what made Zorbit work, and what ultimately is making Maesa work, is that we didn’t come from the beauty industry. So, we were in a completely separate industry, we had built a company up for 10 years, and like Maesa, it was a very fast-paced company; we were on Inc 500 five years in a row, and we exited that company to a pretty sizeable company and kind of went on our own way, and sort of did all those things that people do when they sell a business, and Scott Kestenbaum, I wish he was here to expand on the story, but stumbled into doing a project for Victoria’s Secret Beauty, and that’s what sort of brought us into the business, and we all came from a different business where we were full turnkey and we were fully vertically integrated outside of contract manufacturing, so we had in-house industrial design, in-house industrial engineering, in-house branding, in-house graphic design, in-house everything, and we would fight for retail space and build brands, and we were our own CPG company and we would support said brands all throughout the United States. So, when we started supplying people, we took the same approach: we would walk in, and they would say, “Gee, I’m kind of thinking about this bottle,” and we would come with full CAD work, everything spec’d out, graphics done, mechanicals done, this sort of concept of you have a graphic designer and then you have a mechanical person and they’re not one and the same and everything was engineered, and we took into consideration undercuts and fill weights and we just sort of…that’s how we had to be when we were our own company, so we started servicing other people, we just kind of took that same approach, but I guess that’s sort of what thrusted us fully quickly, and on top of that, we also weren’t pigeon-holed that we would only do molding or only do plastic or only do glass or only do some segment, because in our old world, we were doing everything. So, we just started doing everything and we were kind of an anomaly within the business and sort of not bound by conventional thinking because we were just a bunch of freaking knuckleheads that just came from all over the place and so under your comments of, “What was it like?” and “It seemed like you guys were fun,” I guess we were, because we were just a bunch of kind of kids.
Kelly Kovack [00:09:11]: You threw great parties!
Scott Oshry [00:09:13]: Yeah, everybody was paying attention to these kids, and we were out there going, “We could do this and we could do that,” and we did, and yeah, it was fun. It was definitely fun.
Kelly Kovack [00:09:23]: I have…I think there are three people who used to work for me who work for you guys now, and you know, I guess because I’ve known you guys and I also understand the culture because it’s sort of very similar to how I’ve run the businesses that I have, but you have this culture, you had it at Zorbit and it exists at Maesa where it’s like, work hard, play hard, you know, like you guys work so hard, but you also have a lot of fun doing it, and you’ve created a culture where people actually like, hang out – well, probably not now, because nobody is working in the same place anymore, but there is this culture of like, people actually like to hang out and socialize together, and it’s a really kind of special culture. It’s not an easy culture, because you guys really work hard and have very high standards, but you know, how has that evolved during the last five months? Because that culture is something really special, I think. It’s not for everyone, but it’s very special.
Scott Oshry [00:10:23]: Yeah, I mean, a lot of accolades, thank you. So, everybody that works – all of the sort of founders, partners in this company, we’ve never worked for anyone else, ever, so we don’t know how it’s supposed to be. So, we just kind of do it the way…we just, again, going back to sort of that collegic statement, we just do it normally, so we don’t have really a hierarchy, and we like to – so, I’ve got a lot of isms, and one of my isms is we don’t have bosses, it’s just a lot of people working together, trying to create something new, better, different, relevant, and accessible, and everybody’s voice matters – everybody. So, it does feel…it is a tough environment, one of my other statements I bring up to people when they’re interviewing is, so they say, “So, what’s the corporate culture like here? What would it be like to work here?” and my response is, “Well, I guess it would be like working, living, breathing, in a submarine during wartime.” That’s what it’s like at Maesa, so if you can thrive in a submarine during wartime, you’ll do great here. So, the reason I state that is because you brought up how we’ve been sort of transitioning over these past five months which truly have been awful for the world. The new saying is, “It’s like working in a submarine during wartime with a torpedo in the water.” So, everyone has upped their game. The red light is on, we could be sunk, and that hyper-sense of adrenaline rush, whereby you know, you’re threatened and you’re alert and astute, that’s just where everybody works for us went, and man, it’s so funny you bring it up, because we were just having an upper management meeting today discussing next steps, when we’re going back to the office, working to ever-navigate these waters right now, and we were just reminiscing about how proud and kind of in awe and humbled we are about how everybody just stepped up and not one thing has been missed, our growth plan for next year is unwavered, our sales are unwavered, we’ve had a couple small downsizing, which hurts, but all in, we’ve kept that same kind of family feel, and we’re lucky. Lucky.
Kelly Kovack [00:13:15]: Yeah, and your team has grown. I mean, it’s not a small team anymore, but it does feel sort of like, you know, it doesn’t feel like a big business, but it definitely is a big business.
Scott Oshry [00:13:26]: Yeah, we just moved into a new space, unfortunately right before COVID, and I was space planning that space and we were moving in…what are we now? I guess it’s maybe like 30,000 square feet, 35,000 square feet, and it was going to last us four years, and now we’re looking at, if everything goes right, at six months from now, we’ll be out of space.
Kelly Kovack [00:13:53]: That is amazing. But, you know, you intimated that what you used to do was sort of…you were one of the only people kind of incubating brands, and now I feel like every one considers themselves a brand incubator. There are so many of them. You know, I still think that the way you guys go about things is very different. I think having had the opportunity to work with you guys, one of the things I love is nothing is ever a problem, anything custom, no problem, we can do that. Have you, I guess, during COVID, because you do have sort of these competitors, but I would say, you know, you guys have had all of these years to refine the supply chain, which is really the secret sauce, but your model is heavily reliant on retail. How have you navigated sort of the retail shut-down?
Scott Oshry [00:14:50]: It’s another one of those things where we’re just fortunate in the industry that we’re in. So, if you think about it, places like Walmart, Target, Amazon, CBS, those places – Dollar General – those places are thriving, their numbers are up, and that makes up the bulk of our business, those are the people that we sell to. So, I hate to say things like this, because people have lost their lives during COVID, people have lost their loved ones, they’ve lost their business, the disruption that has happened to them is life-changing. So, I hate to make statements like, “Wow, we’re having some of the best weeks that we’ve ever had,” but we are, because those retailers are thriving.
Kelly Kovack [00:15:36]: No, I do think, you know, during this period, it’s really a matter of were you considered an essential retailer or not? But, I think even before COVID, I was really sort of impressed by what was happening in the food, drug, and mass channel, much more than department stores. What Hy-Vee has created, it looks like a Sephora in a food store, and you know how Target has reinvented themselves and what Walmart is doing, almost the mass outlet seems more exciting and more dynamic in many ways.
Scott Oshry [00:16:20]: I’m a huge believer in retail, because I’m a huge believer in experience, and I think when you look at the people who have succumb, I mean obviously COVID has accelerated the retail channels and retailers that were struggling a little bit, so it certainly accelerated it, but you had retailers that were doing great and going, and it was because they offered a reason to shop. I said it a moment ago, which is we show up to work every day and try to think again how we can be new, better, different, relevant, and accessible, and there’s retailers that fill that space. You had department stores closing in Manhattan, but Nordstrom’s was expanding. You have retailers like Hy-Vee who the numbers they put on the board are crazy, but you have Target who is gaining ground tremendously and new categories they’re getting into are growing, and you look at that and it’s not hard to understand why, because they’re offering something with a point of view; they’re offering something that is different, and it’s just now that the threat of online shopping really started to sink in. Amazon Prime came around, it changed Amazon, it changed how we shopped. Again, COVID has accelerated that, but I think it didn’t so much change how we shopped, I think it changed how we find product, and that’s the key differentiation. Whether I’m walking down the store aisle with my legs and my eyes and looking for something, my legs are just a carrier for my eyes to go see, no different than if I’m thumbing through webpages with my thumbs and looking with my eyes, my thumbs are just a way to go see. So, retailers that bring interesting products to purchase do well, and consumers are searching that out, and consumers will talk about experiences all day long and stores that they like to go to all day long, so I think retail is going to make a resurgence because post-COVID, people are going to want to go out, they’re going to want to be with their friends, they’re going to want to walk, they’re going to have those life experiences, they’re going to be able to take selfies and picture and film and create moments outside of their home, and places that offer a reason to be, I think consumers will hunt those out.
Kelly Kovack [00:19:07]: You know, it just actually occurred to me that the channels we’re talking about, the Hy-Vee, the Target, the Walmart, they also don’t have the same issues of a Sephora or an Ulta or a department store where the biggest question now is what does that experience look like, because it was very high-touch, but you can’t touch anyone. Testers were probably always disgusting and probably should have gone away a long time ago, but that, you know, in the channels that are sort of thriving right now because they were open, they’ve always had to think about the category differently, because it wasn’t as high touch and it was more open sell. So, they almost have, I guess, a competitive advantage in this kind of environment because the expectations are different.
Scott Oshry [00:19:55]: I agree with you, but also I think that those environments aren’t super new anymore. So, I think you would pop into an Ulta and a Sephora because you were out, and now that you’re not out, you’ve found other ways to buy, so then you ask yourself the question, I’m going out, do I want to go to Sephora, do I want to go to Ulta, and maybe think to yourself, “Eh, I guess I kind of don’t have to. You know, I’ve been there a bunch and nothing’s really changed, I guess I can maybe get it online,” so again, I think that it goes back to experience. This is an example I was using the other day when we were talking about fixturing and experience and how that can drive. If you live in Manhattan, I urge you to pop into the Restoration Hardware in meatpacking. So, this is a huge space, huge space. It’s what, five floors, six floors, with a restaurant on top.
Kelly Kovack [00:21:00]: Oh, it’s massive.
Scott Oshry [00:21:02]: And, it’s full. Every single day. The restaurant, packed. And there’s just people drinking coffee, sitting on furniture, hanging out. Just there with their dogs hanging out. And, they finally reopened post the shutdown here in New York, and I went there to look at a color for a couch that we were going to order, and we walked in the door, and it was packed. So packed that they were actually asking people to leave because it was too many people post-COVID. So, that just goes to show you that people do want to get out, and that’s still a fresh, new experience, and so people want to experience that. So, I wonder if again, Ulta and Sephora are going to be pressed to create something that feels a little new to kind of pull their customer back in.
Kelly Kovack [00:22:06]: Yeah. I mean, what retailers, I mean, not just in the beauty space, but what retailers are you sort of inspired by, that really do create sort of experiences and reasons for people to shop? Or at least – maybe not even shop, sometimes I think retail is about the experience itself, and you might buy it only, but it’s an important piece to the path to purchase.
Scott Oshry [00:22:35]: Yeah. Well, the aforementioned one, Restoration Hardware, I think is doing a really, really great job creating experience. I was very anxious to go to the new mall here in New Jersey, 85% experience and 15% shopping, because the idea was if you’re really enjoying the experience, it will draw you back in to then come and shop, so they have indoor skiing and a waterpark.
Kelly Kovack [00:23:02]: Oh, the one in New Jersey?
Scott Oshry [00:23:04]: Yes, I was very anxious to go see what that’s like, because it’s taking that concept to the highest level. I think, to be quite honest with you, although it’s less about experience and more about just a tribute to constantly thinking product at a higher level, Target has still not disappointed. They just continue to challenge themselves and I find that refreshing. There’s some newness that’s coming out from a retailer that I can’t mention, I wish I could, because it’s going to be really interesting.
Kelly Kovack [00:23:45]: Okay, well you’ll send us the press release.
Scott Oshry [00:23:47]: Yeah, it’s the retailer that you’re not expecting, a really fresh concept in a very interesting price strategy, and it’s going to be…if it works, it’s going to really challenge Walmart and Target at the same time.
Kelly Kovack [00:24:12]: Interesting. You know, I couldn’t agree more about Target. Living in Manhattan, it’s not so easy to get into a Target and really experience it kind of the way you do in the suburban stores, but I spent most of the past five months in Maryland, and I was just recently in a Target, and I was really blown away, because I had seen the pictures and I had read about it, but I was impressed by the experience. It was beautiful, it was clean, it was easy to shop, Kristin S. looked amazing. But, yeah, I’d like, you know, if I lived here, I would shop beauty here.
Scott Oshry [00:24:52]: Yeah. Actually, here’s another one thing that I should have mentioned, and shame on me. Five Below. So, if you’ve never been to a Five Below, again understanding that it’s geared for a young adult, they take design pretty darn seriously. You walk in there and you start picking up headphones and beauty products and home products, and you look at the packaging, and its four bucks and you’re pretty shocked. So, they have built a very interesting experience for that age group, for pre-teens and teens, they have this huge candy section that looks like you walked into Willy Wonka and candy everywhere and entertainment. You could see the kids shopping, it’s like a little slice of Disney Land. They’re running around, they’re looking, they’re picking up, they’re wanting, they’re asking, “Can we get this? Can we get this? Can we get this?” and smartly done. You might drive by one and look at the logo on the outside of the store and maybe think, “There’s not something special there,” but they’re also built an experience, and they were thriving pre-COVID – thriving.
Kelly Kovack [00:26:09]: And now, here’s our Trend Minute, brought to you by big thinkers that aren’t afraid to make predictions.
I’m Shayne Hart, Founder and CEO of creative and branding studio BLKBOX. Here’s what’s trending this minute. Bench. Quip. Oscar. Ladder. Hum. Bloom. Step Up. Luck. Expa. Honest. Brain. Tool. Frog. These are all new brands. Well, actually, not all of them. Most of them we just made up. Now, imagine restrained mid-range palettes and a nearly Serif-less logo, last but not least, layer in a friendly tone of voice that lets you know that the folks who made this thing know you better than any of the other big guys ever could, or maybe even you know yourself. Now you’re in the world of bland. Here we are in the cut-and-paste world brand offerings, and there are capital and market forces driving them. Think about this: Ben Schott wrote this recently. He writes, “All start-ups seek to disrupt and disintermediate a smug status quo, or originate and dominate an entirely new niche. But, what makes a brand a bland is duality, claiming simultaneously to be unique in product, groundbreaking in purpose, and singular in delivery while slavishly obeying an identical formula of business model look and feel and tone of voice. Sound familiar to you? So, what’s next? It’s got to break; breaking the mold, breaking the mold; a craving for distinction and real authenticity. This won’t last forever; the fever will break. If you want to build a brand that will last, there is a truism that lasts. It’s this: history favors the bold. Look, even the most committed and boring eventually get tired of chicken and a salad every night for dinner. Sooner or later, folks are going to get bored and see through all of the faux, “I’m here for you” and start looking for something new to show up for them. They’ll start to figure out that all of this “I see you,” is really just an IPO or an exit strategy, and there’s signs that this is happening already. To learn more about it, head over to Bloomberg Business where Ben Schott has detailed and deconstructed what so many of us have been thinking about this business lately. It’s anything but bland. I’m Shayne Hart, and you find that information in the links to this podcast.
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Kind of going back I guess to COVID and how you’re working, because among…I mean, you’re responsible for a lot of things, but one of the things you drive is the creative process, and the creative process is so much about, you know, kind of meeting, looking, doing. How has that translated now that you’re all not in one place? Has it been difficult or have you had to find a different way of working?
Scott Oshry [00:30:04]: It’s…we’ve mastered Teams, I tell you. So, if you haven’t played with Microsoft Teams, I suggest you do. So, it’s a function of using Teams, FedEx, and for the most part, we’ve had a couple of off-sight meetings that we’ll do when we have a lot of stuff to review. We’ll go to somebody’s backyard, set it up, everybody will come in, but I have to say, it’s going back to everybody just being diligent and also FaceTime is pretty darn wonderful, too. So, all of those elements have allowed us to review things together, and we just keep passing things around from house to house.
Kelly Kovack [00:30:46]: Interesting. You know, there are a lot – you have a lot of competition now, but what is the criteria you look for in a partner? Like, you have a couple influencer brands, but you are very sort of early on. What is your vetting process?
Scott Oshry [00:31:07]: So, it’s kind of a simple one. It goes back to that saying I said before, which is a point of view. We don’t look for influencers or talent or celebrity, we look for CEO, founder, partner, entrepreneur. Two completely, completely different things, and we need people that, “Hey, I’m an influencer, that’s how I make my money, but I’m really an entrepreneur.” “Hey, I’m an actress, also a celebrity, also an influencer, but that’s just how I make my money. My real disposition, if you look at how I became successful at what I do, it’s because I’m a complete Type A entrepreneur and visionary. It’s just I’m that when it came to creating content to post, or that when it came to being an actress or an actor, but don’t forget, I also own my own studio, so it’s different,” and that’s the vetting process. We – although this sounds…I don’t want it sound like, “Hey, everybody wants to work with Maesa!” I’m not saying that at all. I guess what I’m trying to say is it’s a two-way street. When we have people contact us and they want to talk, perhaps, about investigating something, it’s not just, “Oh my god, we got a call from X, you know how big that person is? Oh my god, we’re going to totally do something with that person!” It’s, “This sounds interesting, but we have to – to use your term, vet them, the same way they have to vet us. They have to be a founder partner. They have to bring vision and be adamant about their vision, because we don’t just incubate brands, we bring products to market that have to be right for the market, and they have to be sustainable. Another thing we throw around all the time is that any fool can launch a product line; it takes a genius to make one successful. So, we are looking for a founder partner sometimes to make a successful brand, and my lord, ever since this beauty brand incubation thing has become the kind of “it” thing, there are brands launched everywhere, and they come right in and right out. So, it’s tough. It is absolutely, positively a tough business, and tougher now, because the barriers to entry are low, and everybody wants to play this game. Post-Kylie, it’s turned into like, the game to play.
Kelly Kovack [00:34:09]: Yeah, you know, the influencer thing, I mean it’s fascinating on many levels, you know, we just recently did a webinar with a group of investors, and I asked them what they thought of influencer brands, and there were four people on the webinar, and they’re like, “We won’t touch them. Not where we’re investing. The liability is too high,” yet there’s so much money being funneled into funding these brands, and you kind of – to your point, like the barrier to entry is pretty low, but you know, there’s also a ton of people that just because they have a bunch of followers doesn’t mean that they can convert sales and run a business. It’s really different.
Scott Oshry [00:35:00]: For sure.
Kelly Kovack [00:35:01]: I mean, where do you see the whole influencer trend evolving to? Because I think one thing that at least I’ve been seeing in COVID, that very kind of highly-contoured, perfectly lit, perfectly done hair, during this period of time, just felt so wrong and so kind of out of touch, and I wonder if we’ll eventually go back to that, or you know, are we in sort of a kinder, gentler place where flaws and imperfections are embraced?
Scott Oshry [00:35:40]: That’s a really good question, starting with your latter part of your statement. It’s so hard to know. There’s a huge side of me that just feels like we’re going to eventually settle in exactly right back to where we were before. Humans are very much creatures of habit, and we kind of just start to…we start to rely on what’s comfortable for us. I mean, look, smoking kills you; people still smoke. Don’t text and drive, don’t drink and drive. So, we want to do what’s comfortable for us.
Kelly Kovack [00:36:11]: Wear a mask.
Scott Oshry [00:36:12]: That’s right, wear a mask. So, I definitely think that there will be some lasting changes that come from this. I think you’ll see more people working from home, I do think you’ll see people doing rotation within businesses where maybe you’re three days in the office and two days at home or some fashion thereof. I think some businesses that are going to turn out like the insurance industry, where we really didn’t need an office in the first place, where they’ll look to save that revenue. So, I do think we’re certainly going to see some lasting changes, but I do think ultimately, we’ll slowly start moving back to where we were before and this thing that was the everything in our life will kind of be a thing in the past, like often happens with us. I think influencer, influencer brands, where that’s going to go, boy, it is such a hard one. I keep…because I’m a person that enjoys experience, my life is built of experience, I think you can’t create things if you’re not present, so I’m not on Facebook, I’m not on Instagram, on purpose, because then I won’t be present, and being present allows me to be better at my job. I don’t know I could do what I do if I’m not present, because it’s about people and textures and colors and lighting and feel that you can’t get by looking at a screen, but on the same hand, followers aren’t shrinking, the alpha generation is going to be plugged into their phone, so I do feel that influencers, as we call them now, will evolve into something and more as all things do, but I do believe that the alpha generation is going to be moved by them and always will be.
Kelly Kovack [00:38:19]: Yeah. You know, touching on being present and the fact that, you know, you want to touch and feel and experience things, you know, you guys…you guys have to be so creative at such sort of not only a high level, but you turn out an enormous amount of concepts. Where do you find your inspiration, and how do you keep your creative team and the marketing team that helps sort of creating these concepts, how do you keep them engaged and kind of working creatively at that level? And, how do you get them unstuck when they’re stuck?
Scott Oshry [00:39:05]: It goes back to a few things. Talent, for sure. We’re really lucky to be surrounded by really, really talented people, and it’s this sort of think tank, there are no bosses, we all work together, element that allows this talent to thrive. And then, from there, we are very careful about structure, and the way we work that structure is to not exhaust people, is our big entrepreneurship is broken down into a bunch of little entrepreneurships. So, when you might look at Maesa and go, “Wow, look at what you guys produce,” that’s just the house. There’s a bunch of rooms in that house filled with a bunch of people, and each one of those rooms might only be responsible for one thing or two things. So, that person wakes up every day and eats, sleeps, and drinks that, and it kind of goes back to when we were talking about partnering up with founder partners that have vision. That’s what we’re lucky to surround ourselves with within Maesa. So, each person that’s in that little house in that big house is freed up to have that vision, that passion. They’re a true entrepreneur that eats, sleeps, and drinks that brand every single day, and they push, they push, and we push them to push, and they’re in an environment that they know and are taught you don’t take no for an answer, you don’t stop, you wake up and you second guess every day that fools live in the black and white and the geniuses live in the gray, so do not be afraid to wake up and say, “No, I absolutely have to rethink this right here right now,” and that’s how we don’t get stale.
Kelly Kovack [00:41:20]: So, what is inspiring you now? I think this period of time, on a business perspective, it’s tough. I mean, people are struggling to keep their doors open, but there has been so much creativity that has gone on as well. I think, you know, creative people are always looking to solve problems, right? But, what are some of the most creative solutions or things that have inspired you most recently?
Scott Oshry [00:41:55]: I don’t know about being inspired creatively from the past five, six months here, but I think from an entrepreneurial standpoint and a management standpoint, although I hate to use that word, but I’ve been inspired to be the best version of myself I can, to be sure that everybody that I’m fortunate to work with understands that everybody matters, everybody counts, that we are just a group of people that are vulnerable to a multitude of things, whether it’s a virus or whether it’s discrimination, or whether it’s a sense of feeling ignored and needing to be heard, because we’re human, just like everybody else. So, those have definitely inspired me to try to do everything I can to keep Maesa a place where you know that you have a job, and you can come to work and feel like you’re part of something. That’s the most important thing. I feel sad for people that go to work and there’s sort of two personas, there’s my work persona, and god forbid at work I be my real persona, and on the weekend you might dress differently, talk differently, act differently, compose differently, and that’s a disgusting way to have to go through life, because you’re going to give the majority of your good, waking years to your “employer,” and my lord man, if you can’t show up and be yourself, that’s just…that’s painful. So, I’ve just been inspired to try to double down on that and just know that be here, be yourself, do what you can to just try to make the world a better place, a more pretty place, a more tolerant place, more accepting place, I mean, we should wake up and the whole world should just be beautiful in every way, shape or form, otherwise, what the eff? So, I’ve just been trying to double down on that.
Kelly Kovack [00:44:11]: You know, I think one of the most interesting things that’s come out of this time is so many people, because they’re working remotely, have decided to go home and spend time with family, which kind of gives you a whole different perspective on life. It’s made us all slow down a little bit, and really sort of appreciate those things in life that matter, and you know, like you said, work is a big part of that and what role does that play? It should play a meaningful part, it shouldn’t just be a paycheck, I don’t think.
Scott Oshry [00:44:42]: Yeah, it should, and as I said, I mean, if you really – I’d say do the math and I did it once and it’s scary, but do the math of when you got your first job to the day that you’ll retire, and you are going to give, outside of sleeping being number two, being one, you’re going to give more waking hours to your job, with second being sleeping, and so that’s why it’s important to understand that not only as an employer, but as a person.
Kelly Kovack [00:45:18]: So, I have one last question. You know, you and Maesa, you kind of have a unique perspective in the beauty industry, because you’re incubating brands, and in many ways, you’re brand owners, but you also have very unique insight into retailers and what’s going on because you’re also building brands for them, and you’re also a very global business. So, you guys were dealing with COVID way before anyone else was because a lot of your manufacturing is in China. Given that perspective, and knowing that at the end of the day, the beauty industry will always be sort of inspired by indie beauty brands and entrepreneurs, but if there was one piece of advice that you could give someone just getting started in the industry right now that could change the course of their business, what might it be?
Scott Oshry [00:46:14]: I personally feel that we live in a world like we sort of live in…or not sort of, we do live in identity politics, people want to associate themselves with people they feel represent them in every way, shape, or form. I think that is now translated or transformed into the products that we buy. We want to buy stuff from companies that are like us. Who are they? Who works there? What do they stand for? What do they stand for in every way, shape, or form? Do those things mean something to me? And, if they do, I now have the luxury that I could find those places, and that’s who I’m going to support. So, I guess if I can give one piece of advice, it’s be sure that you’re making something that is truly authentic to its core, because people are going to want to buy, I feel personally, and driven by, and driven to, buying products that are authentic to them.
Kelly Kovack [00:47:25]: I agree. There’s a lot of just stuff in the world, but the stuff that has purpose and meaning is the stuff that sells, I think, or is around for the long-term.
Scott Oshry [00:47:35]: I agree.
Kelly Kovack [00:47:36]: Scott, thank you so much for having this conversation, and you know, I’m a huge fan of the work you guys do, and I also – I love the culture you have, because you know, when people ask me, because you grow so fast, you’re always looking to fill positions, and when people ask me, “Do you know anything about Maesa? What is it like to work there?” and I’m like, you know, for people who are really young, I’m like, “You’ll never find a place where you can learn more faster, but you have to be prepared to work really, really hard,” and I really do think you create a really unique experience for people to kind of build careers, because they are exposed to so much at kind of a very early stage of their career, and I know that you guys are very, very committed to kind of support people’s growth within the organization, and that’s also rare now, I think. So, big fan of you guys, thank you, Scott, for joining us, and I look forward to seeing you in real life, soon, I hope.
Scott Oshry [00:48:49]: Yes, if you haven’t been, I would love for you to come and see our new office. We’re very, very, very proud of it.
Kelly Kovack [00:48:55]: I haven’t. Yeah, it’s in my neighborhood, I live downtown, so I definitely will when we’re back to some state of normal. So, thanks, Scott.
For Scott, it’s a matter of conceptualization. Running a successful brand incubator requires not only equal parts right brain and left brain thinking, but fully integrated thinking, where creativity happens through the lens of concept viability grounded in cost of goods and supply chain realities. For two decades, Maesa has quietly worked behind the scenes of the beauty industry fine-tuning the incubator model and the operational infrastructure. They are the engine behind Kristin S Haircare launched with Target, and Drew Barrymore’s Flower Beauty launched with Walmart, as well as countless other brands created for retailers around the world. It seems like Maesa was purpose-built to capitalize on this unique moment in the beauty industry. By retaining their entrepreneurial DNA and building a culture around it, while leveraging the well-oiled machine that’s been refined over decades, private label has never looked so good. So, in the end, it’s a matter of conceptualization. I’m Kelly Kovack, see you next time.
Scott Oshry [00:50:21]: Hi, I’m Scott Oshry, and what matters to me is conceptualization, because if it’s not new, better, different, relevant, and accessible, it might not work.
Kelly Kovack [00:50:35]:
It’s A Matter Of is a production of Beauty Matter, LLC, copyright 2020. You can find more content and insights on www.BeautyMatter.com
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