A letter from Brandon on DECIEM’s partnership with The Estée Lauder Companies.
15 June 2017
A hello - an emotional hello - to you, our followers and supporters -
In the past few short and long years since our inception, your belief in DECIEM has empowered our team to dream vividly and work very hard toward our vivid dreams - dreams of our own micro world of beauty that operates with love, integrity, humility, passion and a deep desire for innovation.
We were a team of just a few loving people in 2013 and are now approaching 300 (just as loving). During this growth, we always resisted raising outside financing to help us grow, despite the many sleepless nights of worry - worry that we would not be able to pay our team on time; worry that we would not be able to meet capacity; worry that we would disappoint our audience; and ultimately worry that we would fail on our mission to do good things in the world of beauty. Outside money would have eliminated all our worries and it has been available to us at every step of the way, but we refused to accept investment because we were too small to be able to retain control of what we do if we were to raise money.
A few months ago, we recognized that we could no longer support the growth of DECIEM without outside support. We may not have talked about the subject much, but you, our loyal followers, did feel that we were falling behind. We started a formal process to raise funds. I was very clear in this process that we would in no way give up control of what we do at the operational level, the directorship level or the shareholding level of decision making. I was also very clear that we would not accept a bidding war between potential investors, because a higher bid could cloud our judgement of who the right partner for us would be. It was an even playing field for everyone.
We were fortunate and unfortunate to engage with some of the most respected private equity funds and strategic partners during this process. Along the way, money mattered the least to me, because we were not accepting bids - the only thing that mattered to me was the chemistry with the party and the love they would share of what we do.
We knew that a partnership with a strategic conglomerate would lead to questions - questions about our values and whether or not they would change; questions about our practices and policies on animal testing, product pricing, formulations and our integrity; and, perhaps most importantly, questions about our soul and whether or not it will survive such a transaction.
If we had chosen private equity, we knew that none of these questions would have been raised - but they should have been. Private equity may seem like an innocuous form of investment, but it, in fact, is one of the most intrusive forms because it carries with it a very clear mindset to sell DECIEM in its entirety within as little as 3 years, meaning that in that timeframe, we would have to exit DECIEM and likely so to a conglomerate who would have full control of everything DECIEM did. This approach would have avoided all the questions and criticisms today in exchange for much tougher questions and criticisms in a few years when I would have no say in what DECIEM does.
The Estée Lauder Companies approached this investment in the most unexpected of manners and with more love than I could ever express in words. The ELC team never questioned our margins, our pricing strategy, our future plans or our disruptiveness - they embraced all of it. They insisted that nothing changes. They did not try to negotiate any control, with respect to now or to the future. They have trusted me and they have trusted us fully in the same way as you, our audience, has trusted us in the past few years to do good things in the world of beauty. While others in the business have criticised DECIEM heavily and refused to accept that we are the force behind a more transparent future in beauty, ELC embraced us with open arms. I truly commend them for this incredible trust - a form of trust which one cannot imagine to come from a conglomerate.
While I do sincerely believe that ELC has embraced everything about us, the facts are nonetheless very clear: they have a minority shareholding position; they do not control our decisions or dictate our direction; and I continue to remain CEO (and there is documentation in place to make it nearly impossible to fire me). We will not change. We continue not to test on animals. We will not change our formulations (unless we are making them better like we just did with NIOD’s MMHC2); we will not increase prices of products we sell to you; we will not change our mindset, our beliefs or anything that you have come to love about us. Ultimately, words may not mean much, but our commitment in the coming years will empower you to reflect and recognize that this partnership enabled us to be more of who we are.
I know you have trusted me and us in the past few years in that we would make good decisions to do good things. I humbly ask of you to trust my judgement in taking this very important step in DECIEM’s future. I have thought about it very extensively, I have evaluated all options and I have chosen this direction with extreme confidence that it will allow us to do more of what we do, to maintain our integrity and to continue to bring innovation to you and to the world.
DECIEM is our baby - and we have raised this very special baby together with you. I will never let anyone mistreat our baby.
Founder and a Benevolent Parent, DECIEM