Amy Carr, '04
Amy Carr ‘04
Interviewed by Nora Peterson
Amy Carr ‘04 is the co-founder of PYT Beauty™, a high performance, clean, and affordable color cosmetics brand based in San Francisco. Prior to starting PYT Beauty™, she was Senior Director of CRM and Loyalty at Sephora and Gap. Before entering the world of fashion and beauty, she was a consultant at Arthur Anderson, and graduated from Booth’s Full-Time program in 2004.
What inspired you to found PYT Beauty™?
The idea came from my co-founder, Mary Schulman, a friend of mine from college. She has daughters who were just starting to wear makeup. Mary was not a makeup junkie herself but knew a lot about consumer products, having launched a natural snack food business which ultimately sold to Utz Quality Foods. She was looking for her next venture. Going by what she saw in the foods business and wanting healthier snacks for her daughters, Mary now wanted the same in makeup, so she reached out to me. We always wanted to start a business together and had known each other for 20 years. Imagine how delighted she was when I told her that I was at Sephora and seeing this trend towards natural makeup as well!
We agreed to give it a go and spent two and a half years in research and product development before we brought our first product to market, the No BS Eyeshadow palette. It really was a labor of love, but much needed in this market, as consumer need for clean cosmetics is growing fast.
How has marketing in the Cosmetics industry changed the most within the past few years?
Social media in general has changed lots of consumer products, but especially makeup. Instagram is one thing, but whether it is Facebook, Twitter, even Pinterest, the power is in the hands of influencers and consumers. With as fast as beauty is changing, it looks and feels more like tech than any other consumer product at the moment. It is no longer about simply buying a page in Allure magazine, or giving out samples in a department store. The influencers and consumers have a lot of power. The consumer has also very much changed, and companies that don’t get behind a true social or digital experience are not going to be successful.
Are you using influencers?
Yes, you have to in order to be successful in beauty. But “influencers” are a loaded term. There are some influencers who have 20 million followers. They’re very expensive, and if you pay them for a post, they have to report it as a sponsored post. That’s one segment. We are not doing that as an indie beauty company—it’s not even an option right now. So that narrows it down to what we call “micro influencers” (usually defined as 5,000-100,000 followers) where they reach out to us or we reach out to them, we find people who are like-minded and share our values. The influencer must be able to relate to our brand, as a clean beauty company. We spend a lot of time finding influencers and right now it’s a very manual process. We send them products and ask for feedback, and if they would like to post about PYT Beauty on their Instagram handles. Most of our Instagram stories are content from these influencers, which we then re-post.
What do you want to see change next in the beauty industry?
Recently, beauty has gotten complicated and out of reach. By out of reach, I mean, very famous people with very glamourous lives are pushing products. Unfortunately, it’s not attainable for most Americans. Celebrity endorsements have been around for a while, but it is not real life, and that’s what I would love to see change. We call our photography style “IRL” meaning In Real Life. We like to show our products in real life situations (like doing your makeup in a taxi or on your way to work), and we’d like to see the beauty industry aspire to something more real.
The other thing that I’d like to see is more government regulation. One of the reasons we felt so strongly about launching this brand is because we were so frustrated with “BS” or Bad Stuff we were seeing on the back of the labels, and that little was being done to educate or protect consumers. In the EU, they ban 1400 ingredients from cosmetics. In the U.S., the FDA bans roughly 60.
Any other advice for anyone starting to build beauty brand?
It’s harder than I thought it would be, but more rewarding too. Like many consumer companies, most days are spent on the phone, calling retailers, and talking to customers. And then it is really all in the hustle, and if you are not willing to do that then it’s going to be hard to be successful.
You also have to solve a consumer problem that has a real market. You can have the greatest idea ever, but if it doesn’t solve a real need in the marketplace, it’s just an idea. We spent a lot of time in our initial stages understanding what the true consumer need is and how to solve for it. We found that people really want to have clean cosmetic choice without compromising on performance, and they cannot afford to spend $40-50 on mascara every 4-6 weeks, thus we created a $20 mascara that is clean, with no harmful ingredients, which looks amazing on and really lasts.
What was the most valuable lesson you took away from your time at Chicago Booth?
In one of Professor Waverly Deutsch’s Entrepreneurship classes, she talked about how luck plays a role in success. It was lucky that my partner called me at the time she did, and that I was ready to make the move from Sephora. Sometimes when the unexplainable things happen, it’s a little bit of luck.
The other thing I learned is to not be afraid to work your network. I do it all day long. Everyone is receptive, people want to help people, especially women. Women should just stand together.
Entrepreneurship is the fastest growing and most popular concentration at Booth currently; what aspects of entrepreneurship do you think can and cannot be taught?
You cannot teach the hustle. You have to look for money, for sales, for vendors—we have a meeting with a retailer in New York and I have school event I have to attend the night before in San Francisco. So I’m talking a red-eye flight just to make it there in time. You can’t really explain that until you are doing it. So the exhaustion, the work, the tradeoffs with family… I talk to my kids about the tradeoffs. Maybe with a little “luck” and lots of hustle, this business will take off, and then it will make all our lives better. It’s hard to teach that part.
How can people connect with you?
Connect with me on LinkedIn. For anyone interested in trying out our beauty products, I have created at 20% coupon code for all Booth alumni: PYTBOOTH