MECCA MUSE

How to build a beauty empire according to the founders of Morphe

Founded in 2008 by LA-based sibling duo, Chris and Linda Tawil, makeup mega-brand Morphe has rapidly evolved from its small beginnings as an affordable brush brand to the makeup brand of a generation—the Instagram generation. Seriously; we can almost guarantee that one of their jaw-dropping 35-pan eyeshadow palettes is behind about 90 percent of those bright, fearless eye looks on your feed right now. With high-performing pigments that blend like a dream, and ongoing praise, support and collaborations from the biggest and boldest beauty gurus on the planet—namely Jeffree Star, James Charles and Jaclyn Hill (whose Morphe collaboration palette sold well over a million units in 2017)—it’s no surprise that the brand has catapulted into the industry icon that it is today.

To say that the Memo is lucky to have spent time chatting to Chris and Linda about Morphe’s evolution is a total and utter understatement (we’re still feeling #blessed about it all). As we continue to fangirl, read on to discover the simple secrets to the duo’s seemingly unfathomable success.

1: Be inclusive and accessible.

“The vision for Morphe has always been the same,” Linda started, “it was always to create products that were very affordable and accessible to everybody.” Having “had a lot and then losing everything,” during their early teens, this philosophy of accessibility and inclusivity was crucial when developing their brand, and continues to stand as the true essence of Morphe to this day.

“My dad always did what he could to put a roof over our heads and to feed us, Linda continued, “but I always had a passion for makeup and fashion, and I never had the opportunity to study it or to buy makeup, because everything was so expensive. It sucked!” Linda and her brother, Chris, believed there was room for a brand that made killer products that weren’t expensive, and they ran with it. “When we looked at the market and we saw how much prestige brands were charging,” said Chris, “we were like ‘oh my god, I can’t believe they’re ripping people off like that!’, so accessibility was truly a motivating factor.”

“It’s just about having options, and having options for everyone,” shares Linda. “If you have a sensitive face, great, we have synthetic brushes. But not only just a few brushes, we have practically every single shape in a synthetic fibre that we have in a natural fibre, and we can pretty much accommodate for every person, product or look—whether it’s the brush length, fibre, shape, density or size… round or tapered… I could go on! No one had provided so many options before, so it was scary for us! It was a lot of money to invest, but that’s what people love—options.”

2: Calling for support isn’t a weakness—it’s a strength.

“A lot didn’t come to life until we took on partners, because we just didn’t have the knowledge or resources,” the duo speaks of their 2017 investor partnership with Elevate Brandpartners. “But as soon as we did take them on, we were able to make products we had always dreamed of, like foundation, face powders and lip colours. These were all huge undertakings and totally foreign categories to us, so we felt super validated and content when we finally had interest and support from partners. It meant we could finally make all these things happen.”

According to the Tawil’s, the same went for packaging. “We always had a vision to create amazing packaging and killer aesthetics, but we just couldn’t do it ourselves—we didn’t have the resources, we didn’t have the know-how. We were doing everything we could to hold on to the craziness that we were dealing with—it was just growing so fast! Chris came from automotive, I came from education, and we were just trying to navigate through the beauty world, with the least possible experience. Being able to have partners who knew what they were doing changed everything.”

READ MORE: Here's how to make the most out of Morphe with the beauty favourites you already own

3: Build genuine, authentic relationships and nurture them.

When Morphe launched in 2008, we were only just starting to sign up to Facebook, and the words Instagram, Snapchat and Tik Tok might as well have been a foreign language. “We embraced social media in about 2011,” the founders shared. “We went to a trade show, met some ‘influencers’—the biggest one had 12,000 Instagram followers at the time—and from then on it just went crazy. We’d give them free product in exchange for free posts, and we just began to cultivate these relationships—we really just partnered up.” Embracing this new, unknown “phase”, the siblings were quick to realise the potential of social media, and ran with it. “Back then nothing really cost us money, everything was just in exchange for product or partnership. It was really based on trust too.”

The bestselling brand is now famously synonymous with the online beauty community, fiercely leading a ten million-plus tribe of professional and amateur artists and creators. Speaking on the official ‘Morphe Babes’, a (growing) group of fearless, rule-breaking beauty gurus, Linda tells the Memo; “Jaclyn Hill, Jeffree Star, James Charles and Manny MUA—to name a few—are truly one of a kind. They have been so loyal to our brand, and have just supported and believed in us all along. They’ve been such huge drivers and it’s been so loving.”

“Jaclyn, for example, is so connected to her audience and is so authentic. She’s such an educator and is so passionate about makeup. She doesn’t do things for the money—she does it because she loves it and has a passion, and that’s really it. We get along so well, and Jeffree’s the same—he’s so real and raw, everything he does is organic. We don’t pay him to do anything, he just does whatever he wants, you know? And Manny is the same. The people that we have really close relationships with have the same vision that we do, and that’s why we get along so well; it’s not just a business thing, it’s a relationship. We’re not the kind of brand that will get someone to do a campaign and then say see-you-later. We grow together.”

READ MORE: Watch: Lipstick Nick creates the ultimate bronze smoky eye with her favourite Morphe palette

4: It’s not about the profit, it’s about the people.

While the brand’s success has been nothing but incredible, the high demand for their iconic palettes and affordable brushes has caused some hiccups for the Tawil’s. “We’ll never sell ourselves or our customer short. We just won’t.” shares Chris. “But it’s been challenging.”

“The most difficult thing for us has been managing stock,” revealed Linda. “It really just doesn’t stop. We’d launch a product, and then it would sell out instantly, and people would just start attacking us. They’d want makeup and they’d want brushes, and we’d cultivated these relationships that we really believed in and wanted to uphold. With how new social media was—and not knowing when someone was going to speak about one of our products—Chris and I didn’t have a way to accurately forecast sales. Someone could wake up tomorrow and say ‘oh my god this is my new favourite brush!’, I’m going to get on the internet and talk about it’… and then it sells out. So, then we’d have to place a new order, get it shipped, and we’d be left without product for 90 days! We never wanted to disappoint our customer and always wanted to be able to deliver and make people happy, but we just couldn’t control the conversations on social media—we didn’t know how to, and honestly, we still don’t!” Thinking back, Linda added; “oh my gosh, we would spend thousands of dollars in air-shipping. We weren’t making as much of a profit on our products, but we were like, if we can just keep our customers happy at this point in time, then that’s all we’ve got to worry about right now.”

5: Dream big. And then dream even bigger.

While Chris was always “a risk taker and a hustler” according to his sister, Linda never aspired to own her own business. “I wanted to work for someone and have a guaranteed income and benefits—just live my life in comfort and not take risks.” Much to her own surprise she did the exact opposite, and looking back on the incredible journey and success of Morphe, it worked out. Big time. “Oh my god,” she exclaimed, with genuine disbelief in her voice, “honestly I just don’t even know how this has all come to be! It’s so crazy! So wild. I can’t even wrap my head around it, but now I can only imagine it getting bigger and better.”

Now, dreaming of a Morphe skincare line, salon, and hey—even a Morphe bakery—the co-founder speaks of her initial discovery of affordable mega-palettes, and how they’ve inspired her to dream, create and hustle. “We were at a tradeshow, and this girl was walking by our booth, opening an 88-pan rainbow palette she had just bought. And I was like ‘oh my god we need that!’, so I ran from our booth, hunted her down and asked her where she got it from. The girl said it was only 20 bucks, and I so clearly remember thinking ‘how the hell… that’s crazy!’. So I went and bought the palette, Chris and I did our research and figured it all out, and not long after we were able to bring our very own to market. They sold like hotcakes.”

“It’s like art to me,” Linda speaks of creating new palettes. “I don’t know why I enjoy it so much, because, well—I say I’m not creative but I know that I am, otherwise this all would have never happened—but, I don’t know… it just comes to life so easily. I sit at my desk and look at all these shades and shadows, and next thing you know I will have created two palettes in an afternoon. I’ll put together the colours, swatch them on my arm, and then I’ll bring girls in with different skin tones to swatch on them. You’ve gotta be in a vibe, in a mood, and dive in. It’s really taught me embrace my creativity.”

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