Meet the woman rethinking the beauty industry

Gregg Renfrew is rethinking the cosmetics industry.

ByABC News
May 12, 2017, 1:41 PM
Founder and CEO of Beautycounter Gregg Renfrew speaks onstage during Vanity Fair?s Founders Fair at the 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge, April 20, 2017, in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Founder and CEO of Beautycounter Gregg Renfrew speaks onstage during Vanity Fair?s Founders Fair at the 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge, April 20, 2017, in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Andrew Toth/Getty Images for Vanity Fair

— -- If there’s one lesson Gregg Renfrew, the founder and CEO of skincare and cosmetics brand Beautycounter, has learned in her career, it’s that you should never underestimate the power of a compelling story.

“I think they say it’s seven takes. Seven times for someone to actually acknowledge a brand, and so I think part of it is being consistent and clear in your communication. People want to hear the actual authentic story,” Renfrew told ABC News Chief Business, Economics and Technology Correspondent Rebecca Jarvis on an episode of ABC Radio's “No Limits With Rebecca Jarvis” podcast.

Renfrew, who studied English at the University of Vermont and now guest lectures at Stanford Business School, says it doesn’t take a business degree to be an entrepreneur.

“I always say I don’t have a business degree. I studied English because I felt having a strong command of the English language was really important for business,” she said.

Those communications skills came in handy when Renfrew, a co-founder of The Wedding List, cold-called the then-CEO of Saks Fifth Avenue, Philip Miller, at 7:30 a.m. one morning.

“I remember calling him and I said you know I have this business called The Wedding List and it’s bringing in younger consumers, and you need me.”

That tenacity and knack for telling a good story earned Renfrew a lifelong mentor in Miller.

Today she is focusing on building a new brand, Beautycounter.

“I wanted to do something important with my life and I think that I always felt that from day one,” she said.

After Renfrew learned about the potential toxins in many seemingly harmless makeup products, she says she felt she had to use “commerce as an engine for change.”

She says Beautycounter uses nontoxic products to counter the more than 80,000 chemicals currently used in the cosmetics industry.

“I felt a need to educate people on the need for safer ingredients and the products that they use every day,” she said.

Today, Beautycounter can be found online and through partnerships with household names including goop, Target, and J. Crew. But it’s the company’s network of over 20,000 independent consultants that have transformed Beautycounter from a brand into a movement.

“I think we’ve powered our business through storytelling. It’s why we decided to work with a network of independent consultants because they’re out there telling their story, but they’re telling it on the greater platform of our story as a company.”

For Renfrew, you don’t have to sacrifice your values for your bottom line.

“You should be able to build businesses that are highly profitable, create tons of jobs for people, but are simultaneously moving markets and doing things that are good for the world.”

To hear how Renfrew is building Beautycounter and what she says her most successful independent consultants are doing, listen to this week’s episode of "No Limits With Rebecca Jarvis".