For many entrepreneurs, selling their company to a large corporation is the ultimate goal. But 10 years ago, the creators of skincare brand Rodan + Fields decided that wasn't going to be their endgame — and now they're sitting on a business with over $1 billion in sales.
Rodan + Fields, founded by dermatologists Katie Rodan and Kathy Fields, was acquired by Estee Lauder in 2003 for an undisclosed price, and its products were made widely available in department stores.
However, over the next few years the women said they came to believe that "retail was dying," Fields said. So they made the risky decision to buy back Rodan + Fields and make the products available to independent contractors and online sales in 2007.
"We were witnessing this whole decline of retail and the rise of social media," Rodan said in an interview. "During the recession was when entrepreneurs were born. People were hungry for different opportunities."
Rodan + Fields' products are now sold through 200,000 independent consultants using a marketing strategy that encourages salespeople and customers to promote the products through social media. Their most valuable tool is the selfie — before and after — which shows the effectiveness of the products on regular people.
"Everything in Rodan + Fields is run on your smartphone," Fields said. "We don't use the regular marketing and advertising."
The company hit $1 billion in sales in 2016 and has continued to grow. It was the top-selling skincare brand of last year, according to Euromonitor.