Before social marketing became synonymous with viral marketing, there was a tactic called word of mouth. Old-fashioned word of mouth got Lisa Price, former television script coordinator, and her company, Carol’s Daughter, featured on B. Smith, The View and the brass ring of publicity, Oprah.
Carol’s Daughter is a body care company that creates and sells fragrances, body lotions, hair care and cosmetics. Price started developing fragrances for herself in her Brooklyn kitchen while she worked behind the scenes on The Cosby Show. She was soon producing and bottling fragrances and body lotions and selling them from her home, and in 1993 she started selling at flea markets. She expanded her line to include hair care and set up a catalog in 1994 and then a website in 2000. In 1999 she opened her first brick-and-mortar store in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. In 2004, Price partnered with marketing wunderkind Steve Stoute (See sidebar “The Image Maker”) and assembled a team of investors that includes Jada Pinkett-Smith, Will Smith, Sean “Jay-Z” Carter and Tommy Mottola. The all-star roster paid off, and today Carol’s Daughter has seven retail stores and 73 employees. Its products are currently carried in 72 Sephora stores and will be in 140 by summer. Carol’s Daughter is also carried by Macy’s.
NY REPORT Editor-in-Chief Robert Levin sat down with Price in the home where it all started to discuss strategic partnerships, getting on Oprah and appreciating the journey, not just the destination.
RL: How did creating unique fragrances for yourself evolve into a cosmetics business?
LP: Initially, I started making Christmas gifts out of the products. Then I started to have little holiday sales in my apartment. My family would come and shop. I also had access to makeup artists, some actors and actresses, and hairstylists who I worked with in television and movies; I would give them products either as gifts or samples. That started to build my underground Hollywood following.
When it came time in 1999 to open the retail store, initially, we just took the traffic that was coming to this house and let them know we moved to a real store [on the corner of South Elliot Place and Dekalb Avenue in Fort Greene]. And people would walk into the store off the street. It was very much word-of-mouth, very viral.
When Steve Stoute came into the picture [as a partner in 2004], there was more money to put into website development, packaging and bringing on a PR firm. We just sort of put that viral thing on steroids — e-mail blasts, strategic partnerships with people like Mary J. Blige and having Jada Pinkett Smith as an investor. So, it’s still that word of mouth, one girlfriend telling another girlfriend, but it’s more. It’s beefed up.
RL: Tell me about your partnership with Steve Stoute.
LP: Steve Stoute is a marketing, media, brand and imaging person. He got his start in the music business and went from music to advertising, then from advertising to marketing. He is a very smart guy, a real innovator in the marketing and advertising industry.
RL: Taking on a partner is a big step. Why did you decide to partner with Steve in 2004?
LP: I knew that I had done all that I could do by myself to make the company grow. I was still experiencing growth, but my growth was very subtle, $20,000 one year, $100,000 another year.
I had been on Oprah. I had written a book [Success Never Smelled So Sweet: How I Followed My Nose and Found Success]. While I was waiting for the book to be published, I felt, “How much more can I do to catapult this?” What I needed to do required more money than I had access to — changing my labels, advertising, marketing. I couldn’t save up for it. All I was doing was supplying the product and keeping things going.
Steve really understood what I was doing. He was the only person that I ever spoke to about investing and becoming my partner that didn’t talk down to me, just talked to me directly and knew exactly what I was going through. He appreciates what I’ve done. I found with other people, they were trying to reinvent what I did, and not evolve it. Steve took Carol’s Daughter and evolved it into a beauty brand. He said, “Well, you have fragrance. You have body. You have hair. If you sell color cosmetics, you’re a beauty brand.” Now we’re a beauty brand, and that is, in and of itself, amazing given the fact that there are very few African-American owned and operated beauty brands.
RL: How do you and Steve divide up responsibilities?
Robert Levin is the Editor-in-Chief and Publisher of The New York Enterprise Report. Levin has extensive experience with midsize and small businesses, having previously held CEO, CFO, and COO positions with companies in several industries. He is also a contributor for The Huffington Post. Levin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and (212) 307-6760.