SVP Ali Weiss on Glossier’s growth, culture and challenges

Beauty brand Glossier has seen rapid growth since it was born from founder Emily Weiss’s blog, Into the Gloss, in 2010. The brand has become a darling of the digital community for its fresh approach to building a loyal community through social media — a community that guides many of Glossier’s product development and brand decisions. The digital-first brand now has two stores in New York and Los Angeles and has staged several pop-up shops to great fanfare in recent years.

As senior vice president of marketing at Glossier, Ali Weiss leads the team that builds the important relationships with customers that set the company apart. In September, she’ll join a panel of executives to talk about cultivating community in a session produced by Fast Company at Shop.org. We caught up with Weiss to learn more about the secret of Glossier’s rapid success and what it’s like to work there.

Ali Weiss, senior vice president of marketing for Glossier, will speak at the Shop.org conference in September.

Ali Weiss, senior vice president of marketing for Glossier, will speak at the Shop.org conference in September.

What’s the magic of Glossier? From your seat, what has been the driver of its rapid success?

The magic of Glossier has always been the people. Even when we started ITG [Into the Gloss] back in 2010, it was never about beauty products — it was always about learning about products through people. When we launched Glossier, we adopted the same philosophy. People want to learn about Glossier products through other people, their friends, the people they follow on Instagram or watch on YouTube ... not through an airbrushed ad or a brand-appointed spokesperson in a department store. Our customers are what make Glossier so unique.

What has been the most fun — or challenging — thing about navigating Glossier’s rapid growth? 

Something that's been really inspiring and challenging to navigate from a marketing perspective is expanding our brand reach from niche to multi-niche. I think it's always challenging for a new company to expand outside of their core, highly engaged, early adopter customer base. We ask ourselves: How do you start marketing to new people without isolating the community who have been with you from the start? How do you broaden the appeal of your brand without sacrificing the brand qualities that have made you so successful to date? I continue to find this a really inspiring challenge to tackle as we grow.

More about Ali Weiss

The future of retail is: The internet.

The biggest challenge for the retail industry right now is: Perpetual discounting, and customer experience.

What’s something you think the retail industry should come together around: Mobile shopping.

I want to learn more about: The psychology of communities. 

When it comes to the future, I’m most excited about: Human desire for active participation.

My proudest career moment was: Whenever I see my team succeed together.

A fun fact about me is: I used to teach spin classes!

Tell us about the culture at Glossier. What do you look for in an employee? 

Glossier is a lot like any fast-growth startup in many ways, and also completely unusual in others. I’ve learned that it’s important to hire people who are comfortable being uncomfortable. You’ll probably have at least two different managers during your time at Glossier, your scope might change, you may even move departments. It’s also important to hire people who know that there’s always new things to learn every single day. You have to be completely committed to the vision and be willing to be flexible as the business develops and evolves over time. 

How do you personally stay current and open to change? 

In over three years at Glossier, I’ve ridden waves of change by staying motivated by and focused on our always-consistent mission and vision. It’s easy to get overwhelmed on a daily basis, and there have definitely been trying weeks and months, but I'm really inspired by what we're trying to do at Glossier — giving a voice to beauty. 

Tell us something about your career path that wouldn’t be included in your bio. 

Before ever starting my career, I trained for many years as a ballet dancer. This experience taught me values I rely on everyday — specifically, I constantly remind myself that great results require patience, discipline and preparation. 

To hear more from Glossier and Weiss, attend Shop.org, September 12-14 in Las Vegas.