On a cloudless, warm summer day in Los Angeles, several thousand teens, the parents who adore them and the sales and marketing machines that cater to them, all gathered in the stuffy halls of the Los Angeles convention center to attend Beautycon Festival — a day-long paean to the new model of marketing to millennials.
The industry trade show/concert/meetup event borders on being almost a caricature of itself, living (as it does) at the intersection of high commerce, entertainment and social media celebrity. But Beautycon Media is very, very real. And the company has just raised $9 million to prove out its chief executive’s aspirations for the business as a new model for entertainment and commerce.
Moj Mahdara, a former MTV executive and the chief executive of the new media company, sees Beautycon as a new way to harness this generation’s interest in beauty, fashion, entertainment and itself.
For the current generation of consumers, YouTube is the gateway to a new kind of celebrity — a self-reflexive “person-of-the-people” that speaks directly to the camera (and their audience) in a way that’s seen as unmediated, unvarnished and “real.”
This pseudo-celebrity has become the spokesperson for a generation that prefers to talk with their icons rather than be talked to by them.
It’s precisely this impulse that Beautycon harnesses — with meetups, branded goods (like a subscription box) and its own curated social media channels — and it’s what has netted Mahdara, the gay daughter of Iranian immigrants — $9 million in new financing for her company.
The money is coming from a motley assortment of new strategic investors and pedigreed family offices, including A+E Networks and Main Street Advisors. Previous investors include YouTube celebrity Bethany Mota, CAA, BBG Ventures (AOL’s venture fund), L’Oréal, Hearst Media and Jay Brown.
Mahdara sees Beautycon as a way to tap into the new multi-cultural, multi-ethnic voice of America’s future generations.
And with the new funding, she’s looking to expand the company’s media footprint. Part of the money is going to hire a new head of content, so that Beautycon can not only harness a generation of new media influencers, but have a more active hand in creating them.
The business began as a Los Angeles event planner that booked and coordinated conferences linking YouTube stars, their audience and the brands that want to shill to them IRL. Targeting young women between the ages of 18 and 25, Beautycon estimated that the demographic represents $4 billion a year in spending on cosmetics, another $5.7 billion on apparel and accessories and $8.2 billion on computers and electronics.
“The conferences are now officially festivals,” says Mahdara. And now it’s time for the company to expand its footprint. Mahdara has set up a small shop for Beautycon swag, but sees opportunities to sell its own brands of cosmetics and (potentially) other apparel.
The company will begin testing its products later this year, and is looking to create more original media itself.
“We’ll always be a creator-centric brand,” says Mahdara. And that’s especially true in the current environment.
“I think we have a responsibility to represent the culture and the generation that we work with on a daily basis and it’s no secret that “Gen Z “and women with ethnic and diverse backgrounds have an experience and a point of view in these times,” Mahdara says. “We’ll be out there championing for women’s causes and women-based issues around our brand, our content, and our channels.”
In addition to new content, Beautycon is also making a huge push into data and analytics. “We’re starting to be a larger partner to the brands we work with, and starting to publish white papers on the learnings of young women in the beauty space,” says Mahdara. “We’re going to publish that data to our partners and then publish some segment to the larger press.”
For A+E Networks, which already has a partnership with Vice, the expansion into the beauty space is merely an extension of the media company’s embrace.
“Beautycon has done an incredible job growing and evolving their business into a major player, not only in the experiential marketplace, but also the digital content and e-commerce businesses,” said Nancy Dubuc, president and CEO, A+E Networks. “As a co-founder of Beautycon and a strong supporter of women, Moj has created a global movement for beauty and fashion enthusiasts. We are thrilled to partner with Beautycon, and look forward to exploring a number of synergies particularly with our Lifetime brand.”