20 Questions

Health and Beauty Mogul Bobbi Brown Shares The Biggest Time Sucker -- and What You Can Do About It

The founder of Bobbi Brown Cosmetics says to skip meetings -- you'd do just as well getting on the phone.
Health and Beauty Mogul Bobbi Brown Shares The Biggest Time Sucker -- and What You Can Do About It
Image credit: Courtesy of Bobbi Brown
Entrepreneur Staff
Staff Writer. Covers leadership, media, technology and culture.
8 min read

Editor's Note: Entrepreneur's "20 Questions" series features both established and up-and-coming entrepreneurs and asks them a number of questions about what makes them tick, their everyday success strategies and advice for aspiring founders.

Today, you can walk into just about any department store and find Bobbi Brown’s eponymous makeup brand. But 26 years ago, Brown was a scrappy, up-and-coming entrepreneur who was hustling as a freelance makeup artist.

She launched her company in 1991 with a mission of giving women simple, flattering makeup that would make them feel like more confident versions of themselves. The brand that started with 10 lipsticks was sold to Estée Lauder after just a few years in the cosmetics space.

Besides being at the helm of Bobbi Brown Cosmetics under the Estee Lauder umbrella until 2016, when she departed the company, Brown has also been the beauty and lifestyle editor of the national radio show Elvis Duran and The Morning Show, the editor-in-chief of Yahoo! Beauty for two years and now also serves as the contributing beauty and lifestyle editor of Health magazine and the beauty editor for The Today Show. Brown is also the creative consultant at Lord & Taylor, where she has developed JustBobbi, a digital boutique under the store’s auspices

She also released her ninth book in the spring, Beauty from the Inside Out. The title of the book is the driving force behind her latest initiative, justBobbi.com, an upcoming lifestyle platform that is all about confidence, wellness and feeling empowered.

We caught up with Brown to ask her 20 Questions and find out what makes her tick.

1. How do you start your day?
Lemon water and a double espresso. It clears my mind, gets me ready for my workout and energizes my body for the day.

2. How do you end your day?
Cozy in bed with an iPad, TV on, dog on my feet and a book next to me.  I think [the process] just helps me shut off my mind. It tells me that I'm done for the day. I've checked everything and I'm done.

3. What’s a book you always recommend and why?
Breaking Night: From Homelessness to Harvard by Liz Murray. The story is so inspiring. Her story is that she was homeless and on the street. This is after her parents had passed away from drugs and she was on the last dollar in her pocket. She had to decide between getting a piece of pizza or taking a subway to school. Somehow she found a teacher who believed in her, and she ended up going to Harvard. If you read Liz's story you will never, ever complain about having a bad day.

4. What is a book that changed your mind and why?
Liz’s book because [it just made me realize] how positive actions and attitude can be life changers.

Related: Use This Successful Entrepreneur's Scheduling Secret to Have Your Most Productive Day

5. What’s a strategy to keep focused?
Exercise and keeping hydrated. From personal experience I am way more focused when I am hydrated; I'm moving my body and breathing. Water is such a key to keeping your energy and focus. People think it's caffeine, but it is really water. It is a night and day difference once you are used to being hydrated with water.

6. When you were a kid what did you want to be when you grew up?
A teacher and a mom. I've always loved littler kids, even when I was a kid. I guess I just am by nature a nurturer.

7. What did you learn from the worst boss you ever had?
It’s so much easier to be nice and encouraging [than to be mean].

8. Who has influenced you most when it comes to how you approach your work?
My husband and Mickey Drexler. They have influenced me to be the entrepreneur I’ve always wanted to be. I think both of them have paved their own way. And they both have very different styles, but yet, are similar. They both strong-minded men that never really followed any traditional "corporate" way of living. They focus on work and family. [They really model how to be] yourself in a business role and that's what  I've gotten from both of them.

9. What’s a trip that changed you?
Europe for the first time, and every time. The culture, the food, the lifestyle [always inspires me]. I love everything from how food is served -- the beautiful china, the salt and pepper shakers are always a little bit special. The food is I think far superior than what we have in this country. I've always loved everything from the traditions, meaning a nice quiet late dinner to the afternoon tea to the five o'clock martini. They're all really wonderful traditions and well-designed. They take time and things matter. It's not just how [the food is] prepared  but how it actually looks on a plate.

Related: This Successful Entrepreneur Shares The Trick That Helps Her Tell The Difference Between Being Productive and Being Busy

10. What inspires you?
Creativity, openness and making things up as I go. Being open is [important because] you never know what's going to happen. The best laid plans sometimes get derailed and there is always the reason for everything. You have to be very nimble, quick and able to move and change. If you don't want to be like that you better just go get a job and be a subordinate.

11. What was your first business idea and what did you do with it?
I had a store in my basement with two girlfriends called LBJ; we sold handmade jewelry. The only problem was there was no foot traffic.

12. What was an early job that taught you something important or useful?
Being a freelance makeup artist taught me the value of entrepreneurship and networking. It really taught me that if I wanted to constantly build the amount of clients I had that hired me, I had to continually reach out when things were quiet. I had to reach out and remind people sometimes or show them some new things.

So being an entrepreneur, you have to constantly do that and you can't be afraid to cold call someone or go up to someone at a party or be open to an introduction from someone.

13. What the best advice you ever took?
My husband taught me that meetings are a time sucker. Just pick up the phone and get it done.

14. What’s the worst piece of advice you ever got?
That I need to change my hairstyle and wardrobe to be noticed.

Related: This Entrepreneur Shares The Lesson Every Founder Must Learn to Be a Powerful Leader

15. What’s a productivity tip you swear by?
Clear your brain with aerobics and get important things done early.

16. Is there an app or tool you use in a surprising way to get things done or stay on track?
Notes. I write everything down, so it doesn't clog my brain and then my problem is I write it down in different places and sometimes I email it and other times I put it on my notes. So, I need to get better at keeping it to one or two ways.

17. What does work-life balance mean to you?
There is no such a thing. It’s just important to prioritize health and family so you can work more efficiently.

18. How do you prevent burnout?
Pay attention to your wellbeing. And drink more water and less coffee. Sometimes it takes longer [to recharge], but if you can, just let it all go. Leave the piles and the mess behind and take a walk or get a massage. I take a lot of hot baths with Epsom salt and then throw my robe on and get back into bed. You drink water slowly start moving again. Honestly you just have to let go and wait until your body tells you it's ready. You can't force your body into being ready.

19. When you’re faced with a creativity block, what’s your strategy to get innovating?
I walk away and watch a movie or anything mindless to [help me take a break]. And never worry about what has to be done at night, because at night everything looks bad and overwhelming. But if you are able to close it and think about it in the morning, then things just are more doable.

20. What are you learning now?
I am studying to be a health coach. I have always believed beauty starts on the inside out, and I’m always open to what else I can do to better myself and others.

My Queue

There are no Videos in your queue.

Click on the Add to next to any video to save to your queue.

There are no Articles in your queue.

Click on the Add to next to any article to save to your queue.

There are no Podcasts in your queue.

Click on the Add to next to any podcast episode to save to your queue.

You're not following any authors.

Click the Follow button on any author page to keep up with the latest content from your favorite authors.

The Young Founder of This Celebrity-Loved Activewear Company Shares Why You Should Always Trust Your Instincts