About the Company
Founded by Dean and Davis Factor, great-grandsons of Hollywood makeup legend Max Factor, Smashbox Cosmetics began as an offshoot of the brothers’ Smashbox Studios. Created and tested in the Los Angeles studios, Smashbox makeup is designed to stand up to an unforgiving professional environment and outlast an all-day shoot. The brand’s debut product, Photo Finish Foundation Primer, made to minimize touchups and and enhance the look and longevity of makeup, remains a bestseller today.
We were introduced to Dean and Davis Factor through a mutual connection. The Factors were considering taking on an outside investor but wanted to be certain that any partner would add significant value to the business, in addition to providing capital.
We loved the authentic brand DNA that came from Smashbox Studios. It was highly differentiated and a positioning that allowed the company to expand across categories and channels. Additionally, Smashbox had a significant leadership position in the primer category, and we saw meaningful opportunities for product innovation.
In advance of an investment, we performed detailed analysis for the founders, including channel-level profitability, consumer research, and an evaluation of sales mix by product type. We made recommendations regarding some significant changes in their distribution, namely to shift away from department stores and toward open-sell retailers such as Sephora and ULTA. Thanks to those efforts, we had the fortunate opportunity to invest in the business in February 2006.
We supported the Smashbox team with their analysis of channel profitability, market share by product category, and consumer research to help inform decisions around distribution strategy, product innovation, and marketing.
We improved information systems and reporting, and refined the marketing message to hone in on core products and the brand’s key points of differentiation. In addition, we helped build out the management team, a process that involved a great deal of trust.
From a product perspective, we assisted Smashbox with expansion into under-penetrated categories such as foundation, powder, and mascara, and built on the brand’s authority in primer to create a family of priming products.
Lastly, we concentrated on expanding distribution into higher-margin open-sell retailers, increasing support for Sephora and entering ULTA Beauty.
Working with Dean and Davis Factor, we sold Smashbox Cosmetics to Estee Lauder in 2010. The Estee Lauder team was especially attracted to:
Smashbox’s leadership position in open-sell retail, which was taking share from department stores and a channel where Lauder had yet to find success
The studio positioning and using the studio itself to create unique content
The company’s range of highly differentiated products
During the life of our investment, revenue tripled and profitability expanded from roughly breakeven to approximately 20% EBITDA. The exit was a fantastic outcome for the two founders, and we are incredibly proud of what we were able to accomplish together.