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Bliss





Summary

Bliss is a remarkable cruelty-free skin and bath care line that was originally founded by Marcia Kilgore in New York in the mid-nineties. The Bliss skincare line emerged from the original spa that Kilgore opened in 1996 to cater to her celebrity clients. Thanks to its mass popularity and simplistic approach to the spa experience, the brand grew into a phenomenon and actually started a revolution within the spa industry. What was once a place for wealthier and older individuals to relax somehow became the perfect hangout for young women all over the country. As the number of spas boomed thanks to the influence of this new business, Kilgore began to understand the need of bringing the spa experience into everyone’s home. She wanted to create products that clients could use at home and which would give them the same results as visiting her spa. That is why she created the Bliss-Lab line of products which she sold out of her New York spa. Her product line was made with the best ingredients to focus on healing the client’s skill rather than simply treating it on a day-to-day basis.

After this spa became a huge name in New York and across the country thanks to well-known clients like Oprah Winfrey, the spa gained international attention. In a historical move, LVMH the French luxury giant decided to make its first North American acquisition by buying the spa and the associated product line. Of course, Marcia Kilgore couldn’t let her baby lose its identity. Marcia tagged along with the move to maintain the brand’s quality and personality.

Today, the infamous brand continues to create high-end skin care and bath products that are definitely on the pricier end of the scale. However, Marcia assures customers they are worth it. Even given this high price point, this brand’s products continue to sell out rapidly due to their amazing quality, cruelty-free status, and more simple ingredients. The most astonishing thing about this brand is that although it is a luxury skincare line, it still maintains its down-to-Earth personality that makes young and older people want to keep buying it. This brand is not intimidating or daunting like other luxury brands.

The Origin Story

The name of the brand actually refers to a small high-end spa that was opened in 1996 in New York City by a woman named Marcia Kilgore. Marcia wanted to create a skin wellness experience that tailored to different skin types and used methods and products that were gentle on people and the environment. Bliss spa mainly catered to celebrity clientele who were friends or acquaintances of Marcia Kilgore when the spa first opened in New York in the nineties. The Bliss skincare line grew out of the spa with the same name; and was geared towards creating the perfect spa experience right at home.

The Founder

As previously stated, Bliss was founded originally by a rather extraordinary woman named Marcia Kilgore who is one of the original serial entrepreneurs in the cosmetic and skin care industry. Marcia was actually born and raised in Saskatchewan, Canada where spas and the like were nowhere to be found. In the time following her visit to New York City at the age of 15, Marcia became infatuated with the place and knew she had to go back one day for good. As a teenager, Marcia moved to New York after graduating high school and being accepted into the very prestigious Columbia University. Due to the financial burden of attending Columbia University, Kilgore had to work many jobs to pay off her student loans. One of those jobs happened to be a personal trainer.

Later, as she spent some time working as a personal trainer in New York City trying to make ends meet, Kilgore began to amass a following of regular celebrity clients. Due to her working schedule and the expenses she had to pay to live in New York City, Marcia began to miss payment deadlines for her student loans that helped her attend Columbia University. As the result of one of these missed deadlines, Marcia was no longer able to attend classes in the university.

Fast forward to post Columbia University years, Marcia began taking some part-time classes at New York University and focusing more on starting her own business rather than working odd jobs to make ends meet. After attending beauty school to learn to deal with her own skin issues, she began giving friends and acquaintances facials out of her apartment and soon after opened her very own one-room spa in 1991 in the city. As the result of having a lot of success in the field, in 1993 Marcia Kilgore decided to expand into a three-room fully functioning spa called: Let’s Face It!.

Kilgore has stated that her inspiration for starting this spa was her own battle with acne as a teenager. Thanks to her time as a personal trainer that resulted in many connections with well-known celebrities, Kilgore was able to establish a celebrity following for her Let’s Face it! spa. After Let’s Face It! in 1996, Kilgore decided to open a larger and more well-established spa also catering to celebrities. This spa was called Bliss! Although Marcia did not have the funds to create a luxury-looking spa, she knew she had the talent and skill required to create quality products and give quality service. Marcia wanted to give her clients what they needed and didn’t stress about the extras.

How this Brand Changed the Spa Industry

In the few years that it was run by Marcia Kilgore, Bliss became a phenomenon among celebrities and wealthy New Yorkers alike. The spa was so successful that it is actually credited for making spas a thing in the mid-nineties! We have all seen those nineties movie montages where young women go for a spa day. That’s right! That was all thanks to Bliss and Marcia Kilgore. After the mass popularity that Marcia Kilgore’s spa collected due to her well-known clients, spas started to pop up all over the country.

Marcia changed the stigma around spas that was well established before Bliss. Most people viewed spas as a very quiet place where older, stuffy rich women went to get pampered. However, Marcia had a totally different approach. Instead of the quiet and rather boring atmosphere created in most spas, Marcia decided to make her business more youth-friendly and familiar to clients. The spa became a place where all women and men came not only to get pampered, but also to have fun, socialize, and to feel young again! It seems as though selling the idea or feeling of youth was a smart move by Marcia Kilgore because her business only gained more popularity through the years. The unintimidating nature of the spa also made clients feel more at ease and made Bliss the place to be to get the best treatments and best service.

After the huge boom in the spa industry that Bliss caused and thanks to the raving of some very famous clients including Oprah Winfrey, Julia Roberts, Uma Thurman, Jennifer Lopez and even Madonna, Bliss started to receive attention from huge luxury corporations from around the world. In 1999, less than five years after Bliss was opened by the now thirty-one-year-old entrepreneur, it was acquired by the industry giant LVMH for a whopping $30 million. In fact, this was LVMH’s very first North American acquisition. Before Bliss, LVMH only acquired high-end European luxury brands from fashion, to jewelry, to beauty.

From One Acquisition to Another

The acquisition of the Bliss spa by LVMH was truly the first of its kind. LVMH is a French giant that is well known around the world for its over 60 subsidiaries. LVMH brands today include Sephora, Hennessy, Marc Jacobs, Louis Vuitton, Dior, Givenchy, Makeup Forever, Bulgari and many more. Although LVMH currently owns several North American based brands, back in 1999 Bliss was the first. Rather than allowing LVMH to change the identity of Bliss, Marcia Kilgore came along for the ride and made sure that her brand identity was preserved within the large company.

Thanks to LVMH, Bliss spa went international with the opening of the very first European Bliss spa in London in 2001. Bliss was acquired in 2004 by Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide a subsidiary of Marriott International where it was added to the brand’s hotel chains. Bliss was acquired again in 2010 by Steiner Leisure Limited. Currently, Bliss spa locations can be found in several states including New York, Georgia, Massachusetts, California, Texas, Illinois, Florida, New Jersey, and District of Columbia. Bliss spas are also found in many international locations including Barcelona, Doha, and Hong Kong.

Brand Identity

From the very beginning, Marcia Kilgore had a vision in mind to create a skincare wellness spa and brand that was built on quality rather than seeming luxury. She liked her products and services to be simple yet effective. The most important things about her products was that they were made with high-quality ingredients, smelled fantastic, and looked simple. Bliss products were branded with catchy names, bright colours, and simple designs. The youthful look of the brand was completed with the addition of “Blissgirl” who was a fun character featured on the brand’s products, websites, and marketing material. Bliss products today include bath and skincare products that are all PETA-certified, cruelty-free, paraben free, phthalates free, SLS free, and SLES free.

The Bliss spas all sell the brand’s skincare and bath products and follow the same theme as the original products created by Kilgore. The treatments are simple and luxurious, but most importantly, they work. The same fun youthful atmosphere is kept in the spa by using bright colours, never over decorating, and always having a beautiful and refreshing scent in the spa. The spa also features the same brownie bar that was in the very first Bliss spa so that clients can snack and relax at the same time. The spas provide facials, massages, waxing, nails, and laser hair removal as well. Today, clients are able to book appointments in anyone of the international or local brand spas by using their online appointment booking page on their website.

What Now?

Historically, the headquarters for Bliss has been Downtown New York. However, due to the changes in ownership over the past few years, headquarters for the brand have shifted to Los Angeles. Bliss spas are functioning all over the world and appointments can be made by anyone on the spa website. The brand’s skincare products are sold within the retail section of the spa, on the company website, at Kohl’s, Target, and Ulta, as well as online with several e-commerce websites such as Perfume99.com. The most infamous products created by this brand include Fabulous Foaming Face Wash, Facial in a Box Night, Body Butter, and Lemon and Sage Supershine Shampoo.

As for Marcia Kilgore, she went on to become a serial entrepreneur and a leading feminine voice within the beauty industry. After the monstrous success of Kilgore’s first business, she went on to create several well-established beauty companies. These companies include Soap & Glory which produces and sells bath and body cleansing products, Soaper Duber with a similar concept, FitFlop which is a shoe brand that Marcia started, and finally BeautyPie which is a subscription-based beauty product retail website. Marcia continues to create more amazing beauty companies and seems to only be getting better with time.

Conclusion

Bliss was a small little mom and pop shop created by a young woman looking to create a spa experience she would enjoy. However, this small little spa grew into a phenomenon that kept its identity at the same time. Thanks to her leadership and strong presence in the company, Marcia Kilgore was able to keep her vision of simple, effective, and high-quality products without the fluff. One young woman’s passion for a healthier spa experience became a multimillion-dollar empire and created a revolution in the industry. Today Bliss products continue to be heavily sought after and loved by clients all over the world.

Resources Cited

  • Ayala N. (2004, January 21). Starwood acquires Bliss from LVMH; Bliss spas to debut in w hotels as part of acquisition of spa, catalog and beauty products company. Retrieved from https://www.hospitalitynet.org/news/4018292.html?query=starwood+bliss
  • Chitrakorn, K. (2017, December 1). Finding success as a serial entrepreneur. Retrieved from https://www.businessoffashion.com/articles/video/finding-success-as-a-serial -entrepreneur
  • Edwardes, C. (2017, January 24). Beauty Pie founder Marcia Kilgore: ‘I’m liberating women we’re finally taking the power back’. Retrieved from https://www.standard.co.uk/lifestyle/london-life/beauty-pie-founder-marcia-kilgore-im -liberating-women-were-finally-taking-the-power-back-a3448161.html
  • Ellenberg, C. (2017, January 6). This new beauty startup is selling luxury lipstick for less than your daily latte. Retrieved from https://www.vogue.com/article/beauty-pie-marcia -kilgore-bliss-soap-glory-makeup-startup-disrupt
  • Krastan. (2008). Make a statement. Retrieved from https://web.archive.org/web/20080313070841/http://www.karastan.com/statement_mk.a sp
  • Maloney, N. (2017, December 6). How Marcia Kilgore is changing the business of beauty, one brand at a time. Retrieved from https://www.vanityfair.com/style/2017/12/how-marcia -kilgore-is-changing-the-business-of-beauty-one-brand-at-a-time
  • MCM. (2010, January 5). Steiner Leisure buys Bliss. Retrieved from https://multichannelmerchant.com/mcm/steiner-leisure-buys-bliss/
  • Raz, G. (2018, January 22). Serial Entrepreneur: Marcia Kilgore. Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/2018/02/06/579203522/serial-entrepreneur-marcia-kilgore
  • Reuters. (2004, January 21). Starwood buys Bliss spa to build w resorts. Retrieved from https://usatoday30.usatoday.com/travel/news/2004-01-21-w-bliss_x.htm
  • Wood, D. (2017, August 24). The cosmetics executive who says a $2 lipstick is as good as a $28 one. Retrieved from https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-cosmetics-executive-who-says-a-2 -lipstick-is-as-good-as-a-28-one-1503598011
  • Young, T. (2018, December 8). Marcia Kilgore, founder Of Beauty Pie, on disrupting everyone from Estée Lauder to Glossier. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/tiffanyyoung1/2018/12/08/marcia-kilgore-founder-of -beauty-pie-on-disrupting-everyone-from-estee-lauder-to-glossier/#27c9ce412d45