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Marcelo Camberos: “Think Critically and Independently”


Marcelo Camberos: “Think Critically and Independently”

How online personalities influence buying decisions.
A business man rides an escalator
Coming up with creative ideas is sometimes a solitary venture. | Reuters/Aly Song

Marcelo Camberos is the founder and CEO of ipsy, an online beauty community anchored by the monthly Glam Bag, a personalized beauty sampling service, and a network of beauty creators with large followings on YouTube, Instagram, and Snapchat. Ipsy’s 1.5 million subscribers will bring the company over $150 million in revenue in 2015. As a core part of the community, ipsy’s Michelle Phan and six other creators deliver makeup tips and kinship to more than 20 million people each month. Camberos, who received his MBA from Stanford Graduate School of Business in 2007, explains why community is so important to the future of commerce and how self-expression can turn into a business.

How did you get into this?

Marcelo Camberos
Marcelo Camberos, founder and CEO of ipsy | Courtesy

I’m not passionate about makeup any more than I was passionate about comedy. I was one of the first employees at Funny or Die, Will Ferrell’s comedy company. While at Funny or Die, I noticed that there were a number of YouTube celebrities who were becoming bigger than our “traditional” A-list comedians. Funny or Die was not interested in pursuing that side of things, so I started a company called Real Influence that matched online personalities with brands. That’s how I got connected with Michelle Phan, who is the most viewed beauty creator on YouTube. Michelle saw people coming to her channel instead of traditional magazines and realized awareness would happen online. Michelle understood that this change would transform the beauty industry. Right after ipsy launched, I was introduced to Jennifer Goldfarb, who received her MBA from Stanford GSB in 2002. She previously ran the infomercial business for Bare Escentuals. She is now our president and an ipsy co-founder.

In 10 words or fewer, what is the big idea behind your business?

Online personalities have become the biggest influencers in millennials’ beauty decisions.

How do you describe your primary target audience?

It started out being millennials aged 18 to 25. It has become a lot wider.

What are your biggest challenges right now in building your business?

You can’t be a good entrepreneur without a good support system.
Marcelo Camberos

People. It’s very hard to recruit in the San Francisco Bay Area. Marketing roles are hard. You want someone with a brand and customer focus but who also understands data science. Also, staying one step ahead of the competition; always providing a better and better service; continuing to build the community around our creators.

What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

My mom always encouraged me to come up with what you think is the right thing regardless of what other people are telling you — even if it comes from an authority figure. Do your own research and come to your own conclusions.

What was the most difficult lesson you have learned on the job?

We took a long time to set up a hiring infrastructure, and that hurt us.

What advice would you give other entrepreneurs on how to build a great business?

Make good decisions. Think critically and independently.

If there were one thing that has enabled you to be successful as an entrepreneur, what would it be?

You can’t be a good entrepreneur without a good support system. That means your family as well as your friends and work partners. Without Jenn (Jennifer Goldfarb), we wouldn’t have made it. Without my wife supporting me, we also wouldn’t have made it. There are so many ups and downs and so much stress; you need someone to share it with.

What inspires you/how do you come up with your best ideas?

Listening to what our customers are telling us. After that, it is a little solitary.

What is your greatest achievement?

Building a community that is positive and centered on a viewpoint of unique beauty and self-expression. I have met thousands of people in our community through our events. They are all really unique. Beauty is not prescriptive or about what everyone else is doing.

What do you consider your biggest failure?

Not hiring big enough or fast enough.

What values are important to you in business?

Transparency. Hard work. Not taking yourself too seriously.

What impact would you like to have on the world?

I would like to build up my friends and my broader community.

Why are you doing this?

I love doing things with other people and succeeding with other people. We are doing something meaningful, and we do our best to win.

What was your first paying job?

I played a lot of bridge growing up. I sold lessons online. I learned that you can do things that are not a “normal” job and make money while being independent. Independence is powerful.

What is the best business book you have read?

I don’t enjoy reading business books. I really liked This Is Your Brain on Music. It explains how music and math are related and how your brain interprets music.

What businessperson do you most admire?

My dad. He has run big businesses as a CEO. He is a savvy operator and thinks critically and independently to make the best decisions.

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