clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Michelle Phan Is Building a Beauty Empire (Full Video)

Phan's e-commerce startup Ipsy now has an $84 million run rate. Its slightly larger competitor Birchbox is valued at $545 million.

Asa Mathat

At the Code/Mobile conference last week, the speaker lineup included two self-made stars who have built their personal brands to translate across many mediums: Kim Kardashian West and Michelle Phan. While Kardashian West is better known, the deliberateness and effectiveness of Phan — who first rose to fame making make-up tutorial videos on YouTube — is pretty stunning.

Today, Phan has translated her seven million YouTube subscribers into makeup lines, a newly debuted book and (most interestingly to us) an e-commerce startup. That would be Ipsy, a subscription beauty service that mails a “Glam Bag” of four to five full-size makeup products per month to an audience of young women and girls.

Ipsy now has 700,000 subscribers — at $10 per head, that’s an $84 million revenue run rate — and a long waiting list.

“If you can get it for free, we’re not going to make you buy that,” Phan said of Ipsy onstage. “And you’re not just getting products, you’re getting substantial content — videos from myself and other beauty stylists who are using the products who are showing and demoing how to use every single product. Not only are the users happy, but the brands are ecstatic because these videos are getting hundreds of thousands, sometimes even millions of views, and we’re getting tastemakers using the products.”

Ipsy, which has raised minimal funding, has more than 100 employees, Phan said. The site today gets 70 percent of its traffic from phones, in keeping with its young demographic.

By the way, Ipsy’s better-known competitor Birchbox, which also sends out monthly boxes of beauty products, said earlier this year it has 800,000 subscribers. After its most recent funding round, that company was valued at $545 million. Birchbox does also sell full-size products, but you can get a sense of what Ipsy might be worth.

To hear where Phan is coming from and where she’s going, check out the full interview video here:

This article originally appeared on

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for Vox Recommends

Get curated picks of the best Vox journalism to read, watch, and listen to every week, from our editors.