Christopher Skinner, chief brand officer of Front Row and beauty industry veteran, fell in love with the transformative power of beauty early in his career, which he would later connect with his entrepreneurial drive, launching Front Row, a marketing services and e-commerce growth acceleration company, in 2023 with Alex and Matt Beer.

To discuss how Front Row works with companies on the brand-building process, Skinner was joined by Diarrha N’Diaye-Mbaye, chief executive officer and founder of Ami Colé; Cherry Robinson, global general manager and founder of Symphonic M.D., and Sheena Zadeh, founder of Kosas.

For both Zadeh and N’Diaye-Mbaye, the creation of their brands was a deeply personal experience, which made defining brand DNA a meaningful and important challenge. Zadeh told the audience that with Kosas every element reflects how she genuinely lives her own life. It made the brand authentic, but as the company grew, she could not be everywhere to tell the story — it needed to be formalized.

Sheena Zadeh, founder of Kosas.

“There came a time where we were expanding pretty wide and had two bay gondolas in Sephora and that’s when I realized there’s so much meat on this bone and it’s so complicated, and layered and complex and colorful and sometimes contradictory, that if I’m not there to tell the story, the story won’t be told,” said Zadeh. “But there needs to be a way to hand that off to someone and still capture the essence of Kosas.”

By formalizing Kosas’ brand DNA, Zadeh said she can now onboard her team as she expands into global markets. The brand DNA has been formalized but remains personal.

Similarly, when N’Diaye-Mbaye partnered with Front Row for Ami Colé, she said she was looking for guidance in building her brand in a way that would include authentic cultural attributes and speak to an elevated audience across generations. She found inspiration for her brand in so many places, that it could be comparable to a “Goldilocks experience.”

One moment that stood out, she said, was creating the packaging with Front Row. She came with many different touch points, needing to find a clear presentation for her audience.

“I just kept dreaming,” said N’Diaye-Mbaye. “Everywhere I would go I would collect things that I gravitated towards, so it was [asking] how do we make everything a medley, and more importantly, think about the brand in a classic, timeless way.”

Packaging, she said, was to be orange but “not too loud” and include details that would feel luxurious. “We thought about all of those things and it was so much fun and I was surprised by what [came back],” said N’Diaye-Mbaye who noted she loves now seeing it on Sephora’s shelves. “It was really a labor of love.”

Diarrha N’Diaye-Mbaye, chief executive officer and founder of Ami Colé, and Cherry Robinson, global general manager and founder of Symphonic M.D.

Reflecting on her story, Robinson said that when founding Symphonic M.D. she thought about defining the brand story every step of the way. She credited her team for always looking three steps ahead, utilizing years of experience to create the brand.

“Solving a problem is how you earn trust,” said Robinson. “When you define the challenges and what you want to overcome, you can determine what’s going to make you push to accomplish your goals and then reverse engineer in terms of how you want to get there. From our perspective, science, innovation and future were the three most overused words in our industry but they were the three engines that were going to get us where we wanted to go.”

Across the panel, the founders all agreed that while defining a brand’s DNA, making it formalized has been an important step in the growth of their brands. Storytelling, they said, is paramount to creating a connection with their followers and building an emotional bond.

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