On October 8, RMS Beauty, one of the clean beauty category’s founding brands, sold to private equity firm Highlander Partners, marking a new era for the brand.
Sold for an undisclosed sum, RMS Beauty’s founder Rose-Marie Swift is staying on as creative director, while co-founder Elaine Sack moved on to be chief strategic officer. David Olsen, Highlander Partner managing director, moved into the CEO role. RMS Beauty, founded in 2009, was an early pioneer of the clean beauty category and Swift’s relationships with celebrity figures like Gisele Bündchen and Miranda Kerr helped grow the brand in its early years. The Charleston-based brand is currently sold at Sephora, Credo Beauty, Net-a-Porter, Dermstore and Nordstrom, among other retailers.This month, WWD reported that RMS Beauty had reached $30 million in sales, citing industry sources.
Olsen joined Dallas-based Highlander in 2019, after previously being CEO of luxury retailer Cos Bar and global vp at Net-A-Porter. Highlander Partners is unique in the private equity sphere as it does not have outside limited partners. Instead, all funds are supplied by the firm partners. RMS Beauty is the firm’s first beauty acquisition. Olsen said the deal was made after searching for two years and meeting with over 200 brands.
“It is our intention to focus on and grow RMS Beauty, but also continue to grow in the clean beauty category through additional acquisitions,” he said.
Glossy spoke with Olsen following the news, discussing what comes next for RMS Beauty, what it means to “professionalize” the business and how RMS Beauty is positioned in the clean category. This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
What led to the acquisition of RMS Beauty?
“As we started to really get into the details with Rose-Marie and Elaine, they felt they were at a point where they needed some outside help. Any good founder understands when you’ve hit a ceiling and it’s time to get outside help to grow what you’ve already built. That’s the main reason they were open to having us come in. The decision to place me as CEO was agreed upon by everyone. My experience is in digital, and that’s a huge opportunity for the business.”
Where does RMS Beauty fit in the clean beauty space today?
“One of the great things about Rose-Marie is that she has made it her passion [to ensure] that every single product is as functional and effective as anything else on the market. [Customers] know that everything that we put out on the market is going to be truly clean to its core. As investors, we don’t want to lose that trust of the consumer. [But,] of course, if everything is clean, where do we stand out? That goes back to the root of Rose-Marie’s history as a makeup artist. We want things to be easy and functional. We want the [performance] payoff in the product itself and our goal is to keep things simple.”
What are your priorities in your new role?
“First, we want to get in and professionalize the business; [Highlander Partners] thinks that we can unlock a lot of the potential that RMS Beauty has already built, to accelerate its growth. Rose-Marie has built an incredible brand, but we think tweaking the brand a little bit [may help], but I’d say that’s probably less of a priority right now. The two things we want to hone in on in the short term are focusing on our existing retail and growing the direct-to-consumer business. Longer-term, the priorities are continuing to innovate on the product side and enhancing our product assortment. In any organization, I like to say that I will come in and double the business, and then double it again.”
How do you plan to ‘professionalize’ the business?
“In my experience, the No.1 issue for most businesses of this size is focus. They’ve got a lot of great ideas and retail partnerships and innovation in the pipeline. And professionalization doesn’t mean we go in and force everybody to be robots. But it means helping the team focus on the narrow items that are going to help us succeed and giving them the focus and the tools to be able to succeed. In the short term, that means we will probably bring in a handful of people to fill roles, but I don’t think it’s going to be excessive. And also, [we’ll figure out] the five things the organization is going to focus on. Then we need everybody to get on board and understand what each person in the organization has to do to [achieve] those five things.”