A pretty face that won’t cost an arm and a leg

E.l.f. founders bring bargain beauty to the masses

By Cathy Poley

Originally appeared on CNN.com

Many men just can’t understand why women spend so much money on makeup.

Joey Shamah and Scott Vincent Borba were among them, and they realized there was money to be made in helping women look good for less.

Their company is e.l.f., which stands for eyes, lips and face. It offers a full line of makeup and skin-care products, and almost every item costs only $1.

“We feel women shouldn’t have to skip lunch or not go out for dinner or have other cutbacks to afford a makeup,” Shamah said.

Borba says the idea for the company came from driving by 99-cent stores in Los Angeles, California, and seeing BMWs and Mercedes in the parking lot. Inside he saw women with obviously expensive tastes buying bargain-price cosmetics.

“I saw all these women with Louis Vuitton purses, and they were just buying truckloads of lip balms and nail polishes,” Borba said. “And I thought there’s a major market here.”

Borba met Shamah at a party in 2002 and shared his vision of a bargain beauty line. Shamah was enthusiastic, and the two decided to form a company.

They wanted to “create a line of cosmetics to cater to higher-income shoppers, approaching the dollar market, offering them higher quality and innovation, all at a low price,” Shamah said.

And they wanted to do it quickly.

“I think three or four days [after the party], we sat back down together,” Borba said. “A business plan was created within months.”

Pretty things made dirt-cheap

Shamah says that having factories that understand the company’s philosophy also has helped keep costs low.

That philosophy is to meld women’s inner and outer beauty, to make the products effective as well as inexpensive.

“We have contacted factories that believe in our vision, that are interested in buying quality makeup at an affordable price,” Shamah said. “So, they’re really working with us. Everyone across the board.”

Borba said that many of the makeup and skin care products e.l.f. markets are designed to alleviate or hide skin issues.

“Based on using our products and how you look after you use our products over time, the consumer feels better inside,” Borba said. “So with the melding of the two you feel so much better — you’re more confident. You walk outside, there’s more of a glimmer.”

Making a name

It was an uphill battle for Shamah and Borba to convince skeptics that something that costs only a dollar can be a quality product.

They continue to fight doubters, but the product seems to be gaining ground. Last year’s sales were around $5 million.

The line is getting media attention and has been featured in magazines such as O, InStyle and Glamour.

“Good Housekeeping actually compared our Hyper Shine Gloss that sells at a dollar, to a prestige retailer’s hyper shine gloss at $24,” Shamah said. “And they said, no matter which one you choose you’ll get the same payoff.”

Currently, e.l.f. products can be purchased at Target stores and regional drug chains across the United States and Canada. But the company’s primary sales vehicle has been its Web site, eyeslipsface.com.

Shamah and Borba hope to eventually make their products available at non-traditional locations.

“Maybe even having e.l.f vending machines [at] rest stops all over,” Shamah said.

“If you forgot your lip gloss at home and you’re traveling or if you’re in an airport, you only need a buck,” he said. “And you just pop it in and you get your lip gloss and you’re good to go, instead of being in a tight spot.”