Bringing Big Beauty Savvy to Her Own Brand with Courtney Baber, Co-founder of The Route Beauty

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Through time, some of the strongest relationships have led to the biggest successes. Cory and Shawn from Boy Meets World were a dynamic duo, Turk and JD from the television show Scrubs are the traditional sitcom-bromance most friends envy. But what happens when friends become business partners? 

A powerful co-founder relationship is not just needed but relied on — especially when you leave a successful career to do your own thing. You need someone you can lean on, trust, and go to when things are rocky. That’s what Courtney Baber did when she launched The Route Beauty with best friend and now co-founder, Nancy Pellegrino. 

Courtney left a successful career with some of the biggest beauty brands in the game, Sephora, L’Oreal, and Urban Decay to bring her own skincare solutions to the counter in a big way. 

“When Ulta said, ‘yes, we want to launch you.’ I can’t explain that feeling. I just laid down on the floor of my daughter’s room and just started gyrating, I don’t take anything for granted. I built strong relationships in my career and people believe in what I can do; it’s all about working hard and giving the retailer and the customer something that they need and they want.”

Featured on Oprah, promoted by Khloe Kardashian, and sold on HSN, The Route Beauty is making big moves in the beauty world, now available on the shelves of big retailer, Ulta. I’m excited to bring you the story behind Courtney and Nurse Nancy’s beautiful and thriving partnership as co-founders of The Route Beauty, up next on Marketing Trends. 

Main Takeaways:

  • Test out New Tools: There are so many new marketing tools and channels to get your message out there to the right people. Be creative by testing out new platforms. Not all of them will be here to stay, but the opportunity to be first on a new platform could be a great advantage for an emerging brand. 
  • Pivoting to Fill the Needs of a New Business: Think through all of your business options and have a sense of where you can take things if something happens to plan A. For example, you may find yourself needing to shift your plan from selling or marketing  B2B to D2C suddenly, or retail to online… complications occur for a multitude of unforeseen circumstances. Sometimes you get caught behind some insurmountable roadblocks and you’ve got to have a sense of where you can turn to keep the business thriving. 
  • Getting It Perfect: Especially as a new brand, with a limited number of skews on the market, it’s important to take the time to get every little detail of new products perfect before putting them on the market. You only get one first impression and making a good one is worth the extra time so don’t be afraid to push back on launch deadlines to get things dialed. 

Key Quotes:

“I hit a point after we sold Urban Decay to L’Oreal — I stayed on for four additional years as their head of marketing and merchandising — and I was passionate about what I was doing, but I was tired of building dreams for other people, and I wanted to try to do it for myself. That’s really why I took the leap of faith.”

“I would have probably never done this by myself. I have a BFF, my skincare BFF, my BFF in life, “Nurse Nancy.” I’ve been her patient for over 10 years. And we always, when I would be visiting her to help fix my skin, And it was with these medical-grade products and she would always talk about it. She always wanted to work together. And we both hit the same point at the same time. It was kind of this magical moment where we said, “Well, let’s do something together.”

“When they said yes, when Ulta said, ‘We want to launch you.’ I can’t explain that feeling. I just laid down on the floor of my daughter’s room and kind of just started gyrating, I don’t take anything for granted. I built strong relationships in my career and people believe in what I can do, it’s all about working hard and giving the retailer and the customer something that they need and they want.”

“I couldn’t be happier with the partner that I chose, but you really have to find that yin and yang and in a partnership like that, it’s no different than a marriage.”

“We’re going to test a new platform called Comments Sold later this year, which is really interesting to me. It’s live streaming to your social channels and people can buy right then and there. It’s like Amazon live, like HSN, but it’s really more targeted at your unique followers.”

“It’s kind of a challenging world, the influencer world. It’s gotten very hard to play in that space without spending a lot of money. When I was at Urban Decay we could get people to do things for us by just giving them early access to a product. You can’t even talk to somebody without first paying the agent. So what we’ve decided to do is go kind of a much more micro route and really kind of build relationships at a grassroots level. And then also we’ve really built this group of what we’re calling our “Routies” they’re really are true brand devotees who have been with us from the beginning and they are influential. They’re not millions of followers because but this group of individuals, we kind of have an affiliate program where they get some kickbacks from us. They love the brand, they love talking about it, but we also want to reward them for continuing to do that. So it’s a small group of people like that. And then we’re really how we were really growing our awareness and following and email list through working with like-minded brands that aren’t skincare brands. They’re hair brands or they sell chocolate that is high-end or one wine brands  — we all want to scratch each other’s backs and all win together. And so that’s been really successful.”

“I’m not looking a lot at what other people are doing. I’m looking at what’s right for our brand and what is innovative in other industries and the medical world. And because that’s how we’re going to be able to stand out and have a point of difference.


With more than 25 years of experience, Courtney Baber has built brands for some of the beauty industry’s top heavy hitters like Sephora, Urban Decay, Estée Lauder and more. Courtney’s passion for skincare, makeup and fragrance has led her around the world to help evolve the face of beauty—literally. She pioneered the path to debut up and coming beauty brands for Sephora internationally and was behind the global roll-out of Urban Decay to 30+ countries

She is a former Miss Ohio USA, and her mom was also a beauty queen. For Courtney, competing in Miss USA was about so much more than winning a crown, it was a once in a lifetime opportunity that helped instill independence, perseverance and self-confidence. It pushed her outside her comfort zone—she believes if you are uncomfortable, you are growing.

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Episode 262