Jean and Jane Ford are sisters and also the founders of Benefit Cosmetics. In this interview you can learn about their early years in New York City as aspiring models, how they flipped a coin between cosmetics and casseroles, what goes behind the creation of Benefit’s most popular products, and even some of their beauty secrets.

How was the concept for Benefit born?
Jean: My sister and I are very tall…we’re both 6’1” – so when we graduated from college at Indiana University in 1970, we moved to New York City together in hopes of becoming successful models.

Jane: We really had no idea what we wanted to do after we graduated college. I had studied marketing & finance, Jean had studied art education. New York City was an exciting place with lots of opportunity. The city lured us in.

Jean: Our life was very simple then. We lived in a tiny narrow apartment together, if you put your arms straight out from you sides, you could touch both walls. We lived in a very artsy neighborhood – everyone around us was a struggling artist of some sort.

Jane: Everyday we would go out on audition after audition and get turned away. We booked a few small jobs here and there, but we barely making enough money to make ends meet so we both had day jobs, we cleaned houses, we worked as sales girls… we did a little bit of everything.

Jean: Our big break came 2 years later, when we booked a series of national commercials for Calgon Bath Beads. We were so excited. It was a dream come true.

Jane: We packed our bags, piled up all we owned into an old station wagon, and drove out west, to California. We settled in San Francisco, and used the money that we earned from those commercials to start our own business.

Jean: We had worked for so many people over the years, doing all kinds of odd jobs. It was our goal to open our own business. The two things we knew best were doing makeup, from all of those years of doing our own makeup as models (before the era of supermodels, gals did their own) and we baked a mean casserole… growing up in the Midwest, we were constantly in the kitchen cooking with mom.

Jane: We flipped a coin to decide. That’s how we ended up here. It was between casseroles and cosmetics. In 1976, we opened up a tiny makeup shop called The Face Place, in the mission district of San Francisco. The business took off! In 1990, we changed the name to Benefit.

Jean: The name Benefit, was created as a result of a vacation to Italy. Jane and I had 24 hours to change the name of our boutiques from The Face Place into a “brand” name…one that people would identify with.

Jane: We were asked quickly to have this done if we wanted a two page placement spread in a very high end catalog.

Jean: Jane was working at one boutique, I in another…Jane had just returned from Italy and commented “bene, bene, bene” “I wish something “fit” with bene…thus Benefit was born.

“The two things we knew best were doing makeup, from all of those years of doing our own makeup as models (before the era of supermodels, gals did their own) and we baked a mean casserole… 

We flipped a coin to decide. That’s how we ended up here. It was between casseroles and cosmetics.”

What is Benefit Cosmetics philosophy?
Jean: Who says makeup has to be serious to be good? We try not to take ourselves too seriously. It’s all about having fun.

Jane: Our philosophy has always been: laugher is the best cosmetic, so grin and wear it.

Where do you get the inspiration for your products?
Jane: The single most important thing when creating a new product is to start with “a need”. This new product must fill a need. The challenge is coming up with something that is completely original. For most products, our inspiration comes from our day-to-day life. Any situation or conversation can give you an idea for a new product or package. We speak with our customers. We find out what they want.

Jean: Over the years, Jane and I have collected vintage pieces for inspiration… we have vintage mannequins, compacts, posters, handbags, & lots of old magazines. There is something very romantic about the past. For our packaging, we use both modern & old-fashion images & styles to create fun products that women will want to carry in their bags or display on their vanity.

Benefit’s Benetint was named in Marie Claire’s 2007 “Top 25 products that changed our lives” list. Why is this blusher so revolutionary?
Jean: We were so honored to receive that award from Marie Claire. It made us blush! It was the first of its kind on the market.

Jane: We actually created Benetint over 30 years ago for an exotic dancer who requested something to make her nipples look pretty & pink. Today, Benetint is best known as the original rose-colored cheek & lip tint. But it does still get some “play” in other places.

Jean: Benetint is a true classic. It continues to be one of our top sellers, 30 years later. And not just here in the US, but across the world, from Korea to Spain to Australia, gals love it. We like to call it… “The sexiest flush you can get from a bottle.”

Which benefit product will get my lashes long and full?
Jane: Benefit Bad Gal Lash mascara. It’s like false lashes in a tube. It has a giant wand that helps you load on the lashes. It’s got tons of attitude and is our number one best seller.

 

Many of your products have names like: Boo Boo Zap, Dr Feelgood, and Badgal Lash Mascara. How do you come up with these funny and creative names?
Jean: Our product naming sessions at Benefit take place on Thursday afternoons. There are usually about 10 of us gathered around our tin table, munching on M & M’s. The naming process is always done by democracy, everyone needs to buy into the name, whether it’s a product name or shade name. Everyone votes, there are no egos and when we get it right everyone just lights up. We start by blurting out name ideas, then we vote thumbs up or thumbs down for our favorites. We don’t try to be clever or witty, we try to come up with names that will make people laugh.

Jane: At one meeting several years ago, we were all sitting around the table trying out a vitamin C face balm. It was like a pomade for your face…with a fabulous finish. It made the skin feel velvety soft and smooth and was chocked full of vitamins. Some one blurted out, “Whoa, baby, does this feel good!” That’s it…I said, Feelgood. It says what it does. Jean then asked, “Remember Dr. Feelgood?” And thus, Dr. Feelgood, was born. We loved the idea of adding romance to this product, so we went through the whole range of doctor, stethoscope, nurse, and ended up with an image of a Doctor making a house call to visit his patient on the front. Instead of kissing his patient’s boo boo, he’s kissing her!

What is new this year at Benefit?
Jean: We have a new precision highlighter for eyes & face called Miss Popularity that comes out this winter. It’s fabulous. It comes with a little lesson that teaches you tricks for brightening the eyes, perking up your smile, slimifying your nose – it’s this little bottle that does it all. I’ve been wearing it everyday.

Jane: It took us 2 years to develop the formula and bottle for Miss Popularity. It’s housed in a custom designed barrel that dispenses just the right amount of finely spun white shimmer powder onto the brush so you can control the highlight and place it just where you need it.

What advice can you give for achieving the no-makeup makeup look?
Jean: Most women would be surprised at how much makeup it takes to get the no-makeup makeup look you see in the magazines, on the red carpet and on the runway.

Jane: Start with a great concealer. Just put it where you need it. Don’t use it all over. Dust a neutral toned shadow on your lids, and use a no-shimmer bronzer to give your skin a healthy look. I love Hoola. Use a lip & cheek tint to add a natural flush to your complexion.

What is it like to run a business together as sisters?
Jane: There is no one I would rather run a business with than my sister.
Jean: Thanks Jane! Right back at ya! Like any sisters, we fight sometimes, we don’t always agree. And that’s a good thing. But at the end of the day, we always work it out. We’ve been together through the good times and the bad.

Jane: It’s been an incredible adventure and we feel really lucky to have had each other through it all.

What is your number one beauty secret?
Jean: I keep all of my face wash & moisturizers by the kitchen sink. That way, when I walk in the door, after a long day, I always remember to take my makeup off. It’s the first thing I do, when I get home. Then I put on a nice face cream and start making dinner.

Jane: Use your fingers to apply your makeup whenever possible. They are your best tools.

What was your most enjoyable element in the creation of Benefit?
Jane: Each day is more fun than the next. We are so grateful for the success that Benefit has had. We love hearing from our customers.

Jean: There is nothing like walking into a bathroom and seeing a gal pull out a Benefit product from her purse. It is such a feeling of honor and pride. We never set out to build a big makeup brand. We just wanted to sell makeup in our little shop and make women feel good. We had no idea it would become what it is today.

What other passions do you have besides running your own makeup line?
Jane: I love to golf! When I’m not at the office you can find me practicing my swing. I recently hit my first hole-in-one. I was in complete shock… looking everywhere for the ball, and then someone said, “It’s in the hole, Jane!”

Jean: My daughters are my greatest passion. We have a great time together. Sometimes we’ll take a relaxing weekend getaway together or we’ll do an afternoon at the spa. Just hanging out and catching up is my favorite.

It was a pleasure to interview the fun and funky Ford sisters check out some of their great products at www.benefitcosmetics.com

Average Rating: 4.6 out of 5 based on 214 user reviews.

There Are 18 Responses So Far. »

  1. Hi!!!
    What an inspiring story!!
    I always LOVE makeup!!!, I have 28 years old and studied Advertising, I always had a confusion on what I want to do with my life and I just realized that what I want is my own makeup line!
    How do I start? How do you make it happen?What’s the process?
    Thank you for your time 🙂 I would really truly appreciate your response 🙂
    Monique 🙂

  2. I am 28 years old as well. I have studied Psychology and I am seriously looking into starting my own makeup line, but I don’t know where to get started. I have alot of great ideas, but I don’t know how to put them in action.

    Brandy

  3. I just tried that program and would say that it really works as a fact. I got the buy and sales forex signals those are appropriate to my investing needs. I could be somewhere close a PC, log in fast to check the signals. Starting was actually easy – i haven’t need of much money to become and just after a few days I fulfilled a few successful transactions.

  4. shshshshshshshshshshshshshshhshshshhshshshshshhsh

  5. http://.name/escondido-used-car-for-sale – escondido used car for sale

  6. Inroducing Travel Trailer Covers and RV Covers Cheap:
    5th Wheel Covers

  7. I m new here 🙂 lets hope for the best

  8. Shop the latest cowl neck dress handpicked by a global community of independent trendsetters and stylists.
    A chic and flattering dress with lots of great draping detail. Product Details. Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies); Shipping: This
    jasmine bridemaids dresses

  9. Hi nto All
    Please, help me to find the best dating sites.
    I need links on dating sites. Like this:
    http://gayspeeddating.webng.com
    This means by which anything is reached you be able to make the one as well as the other of you a favour.
    Sometimes, whereas it comes to true copy dating, sending unconstrained paragraph messages have power to be agitated wonders.
    This way, it would be easier with respect to the other living body to response and that is to what end elementary and twist messages are to such a degree operative and passage less ill than protracted boring ones.
    Thx,
    illigoMic

  10. BDSM PORN VIDEO

  11. Hello. And Bye.

  12. delete plz.

  13. Hello! geacgee interesting geacgee site!

  14. Very nice site! cheap viagra

  15. Very nice site! [url=http://opeyixa.com/qoxoo/2.html]cheap cialis[/url]

  16. Very nice site! cheap cialis http://opeyixa.com/qoxoo/4.html

  17. Very nice site!

  18. Wow that was unusual. I just wrote an incredibly long comment but after I clicked submit my comment didn’t show up. Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again. Regardless, just wanted to say wonderful blog!