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Founder Behind Beautycounter's Success Story Returns as CEO After Selling the Firm for $1 Billion

Beautycounter's founder sold the $1 billion business and lost her job—now she's back as CEO.
Cover Image Source: Gregg Renfrew speaks onstage during EWG's CleanCon™ 2023 | Getty Images | Photo by Emma McIntyre
Cover Image Source: Gregg Renfrew speaks onstage during EWG's CleanCon™ 2023 | Getty Images | Photo by Emma McIntyre

After decades of dealing with the impact of chemicals, consumers look for products that are free of such additives and are also environment friendly. Driven by a vision to cater to this demand in the cosmetics industry with products free from harmful chemicals, Gregg Renfrew established the billion-dollar brand Beautycounter in 2011. Initially, the company commenced operations by offering makeup and hair care products directly to consumers via its website and through a network of advocates. Today, the brand boasts approximately 65,000 advocates, many of whom promote its products on social media platforms and earn commissions on sales.

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Beautycounter operates two physical stores, located in New York and Denver, and formed a partnership with Ulta Beauty, extending its reach to 500 retail locations across the United States. Throughout its evolution, Renfrew and Beautycounter secured over $93 million in investments.

In 2021, the private equity firm The Carlyle Group acquired a majority stake in the business, valuing Beautycounter at $1 billion. However, less than a year later, the group decided to appoint Marc Rey, a seasoned cosmetics executive, as CEO, thereby displacing Renfrew from the position she held as the founder.

Accustomed to steering the ship and possessing a strong conviction in her leadership capabilities, she found it difficult to accept the change. Nevertheless, her tenure as CEO was short-lived, lasting only 16 months.

Beautycounter founder Gregg Renfrew attends the 10th anniversary of
Image Source: Beautycounter founder Gregg Renfrew | Getty Images | Photo by David Livingston

But at the beginning of this year, The Carlyle Group announced Renfrew's comeback as CEO. Renfrew, embracing the opportunity, expressed her unwavering commitment to guiding Beautycounter through its next phase of growth while fortifying her legacy as its founder.


In an interview with CNBC Make It, Renfrew candidly reflected on her tumultuous journey, acknowledging the challenges of relinquishing control of the company she nurtured from its inception. "All I can do is surround myself, which I always have, with the best and brightest, to lean into the community of people that have built this movement, and to be curious, to ask tough questions, to think about where things are going, to be willing to flex and to change," she said.

Her decision to reclaim the role of CEO was motivated by a sense of duty to fulfill unfinished business and uphold the company's vision. She envisions a promising future for Beautycounter, characterized by expansive opportunities for growth and impact.

"One of the things that I think is important for us at this moment is to really focus on why I started this business in the first place. Who are we, what do we stand for? That’s something that only a founder can really impart to the team," she added.

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A post shared by Beautycounter (@beautycounter)


Renfrew highlights the unique perspective and vision that founders bring to their companies. "People say founders are crazy, or whatever, but they’re just passionate people who see what seems impossible and know that it is possible. They are problem solvers," she said. 

"At the end of the day, the founder has the vision. And I think that executives can take over from founders if they respect the original vision — the DNA of the brand, the core tenets of why the brand exists," she remarked.