Connect with us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter Join our LinkedIn Group Subscribe to us on YouTube Share with us on Google+ Subscribe to our RSS feed

November 01, 2016

Exclusive Interviews

Origami Owl Brings Willa Skincare Company under Its Wing

by DSN Staff

Photo: Origami Owl’s Co-Founder, Bella Weems, welcomes Willa Doss and her eponymous skincare company, willa, to the fold.

Click here to order the November 2016 issue in which this article appeared or click here to download it to your mobile device.

Two companies that began before their founders could drive are about to become an even stronger direct selling player.

Arizona-based custom jewelry seller Origami Owl has purchased willa, a New York company that creates natural skincare products for teens and tweens. Bella Weems was 14 when she and her mother, Chrissy, founded Origami Owl in 2010. Willa Doss was 9 when she and her mom, Christy Prunier, got the idea to launch their business. Both companies have focused on creating opportunities for mother-daughter teams to share beauty-related products through social selling.

Now in its sixth year with more than 45,000 consultants, Origami Owl saw meteoric growth in 2013. Sales increased 870 percent to $233 million that year, earning the startup the DSN Bravo Growth Award based on percentage. In 2014, revenue climbed to $250 million, ranking Origami Owl at No. 60 on the 2015 DSN Global 100. Skincare company willa, which does not disclose revenue, began six years ago, as well—initially selling its products on retail shelves but shifting to direct sales in early 2014. It will bring 500 consultants to the partnership.

DSN had the opportunity to speak with both Bella Weems and Willa Doss about plans for their individual companies, as well as the excitement of sharing a mutual passion and mission to empower girls through entrepreneurship. Below is an excerpt from both conversations.

DSN: Origami Owl is an accessories brand and willa sells skincare and makeup. Why pair up?

BW: When my mom and I met willa founders, Christy Prunier and Willa Doss, we knew this was a huge opportunity for us to reach and impact even more people as a force for good, helping them achieve their dreams and make a difference in the lives of others. Willa’s mission and quality of products coupled with Origami Owl’s world-class operations, Designer Care support, IT infrastructure and our expertise in brand building and social selling is a perfect combination under the Origami Owl Family of Brands. willa is also passionate about empowering teens, something that I have been passionate about myself for years. Origami Owl’s Owlettes program has been a part of the company from
early on.

WD: There are a lot of reasons. Even before we had a social selling model, Origami Owl was on our radar because we admired them, and I always loved how close they are with their base, and their passion and energy. …When this opportunity came, we thought it was exciting for a bunch of reasons. They have an incredible, knowledgeable staff, and they really know how to maneuver in this industry, which is really cool. They also have a great manufacturing and production infrastructure.

DSN: Would you share a bit about how willa came to be?

WD: My mom had skin cancer when she was younger, and it was always very important to her that I should not repeat her story, and that I take care of my skin. After she had her surgery, she spoke to dermatologists who told her, “What’s happening with your skin now is a direct result of what you did or didn’t do when you were younger.” …There were products for adults and babies, but not for my age group, besides those chock-full of parabens, sulfates and other nasty chemicals. At the time, around age 8, I saw it as a kind of injustice. …That’s when I decided to do something about it. It wasn’t about starting a brand, but filling a need that we recognized.

We were in retailers for a while. Huge retailers—Target, J.Crew, Harrods—began approaching us, and at the time we were so psyched, and we thought getting in as many doors as possible was the best way to get the products into the hands of girls. Then we had a few realizations. One, our best salespeople were girls themselves. When a girl goes into a store to buy a product, it’s generally because a friend recommended it. Girls speak with a megaphone. Two, I gained so many incredible life skills through starting willa—confidence, public speaking skills, time management—and we wanted to offer other girls a way to develop those skills. Additionally, as a teen girl it’s hard to make money. …When we heard about social selling, we knew it was the best direction for the brand.

DSN: What has it been like, getting to know each other as well as your respective companies?

BW: Amazing! Willa is such a bright, happy and beautiful girl. She and I hit it off immediately. We have many common interests, and we both have great passion to help kids live a life where they are encouraged to reach their dreams and be a force for good in the world. I love willa products and have been using them on a regular basis. Their new skin Elixer is my favorite; I definitely encourage everyone to try it. My skin has never looked better.  I also love that the products are healthy and good for you. We are going to do great things together—I am excited about the future!

WD: Oh my gosh, it has been so fun. With a new partnership like this, it’s definitely scary in the beginning. I was a little nervous before I knew Chrissy and Bella, because I care about willa so much, and I want it to be in the best hands possible. The first time I got to spend time with Chrissy, those fears immediately vanished, because she was so passionate and intent on taking care of our consultants. I got to spend time in Arizona with them, and Bella and I have grown close over the past few months… I’ve also hung out at their headquarters, and I had so much fun.

DSN: While the Origami Owl and willa brands remain distinct, with occasional opportunity for crossover in terms of product offerings, how do you plan to integrate corporate offices, product manufacturing and the like?

BW: Willa’s company will remain in New York. …Christy and Willa will continue to guide willa’s product vision and champion better-for-you products, and the amazing Annette McEvoy will serve as willa CEO. Annette brings 30 years of experience in the beauty industry to lead willa’s growth. …Meeting Annette and learning more about her background really got my mom and I about excited about willa’s future and our partnership.

WD: We currently have 17 products, and with the support of Origami Owl we plan to extend the line. We’re working on some exciting products we’re formulating right now. Our incredible new CEO, Annette McEvoy, has been with us about six months. She has a long history in product development, from Anthropologie to Bath & Body Works, and so what we can do with her help is exciting. Each new willa product does take a relatively long time to develop, and we’re proud of that, because we want it to meet our standards in terms of ingredients and effectiveness.

DSN: What kind of initial feedback have you received from your respective consultants on the acquisition?

BW: Joy and excitement. Our Origami Owl Designers are always very supportive and great partners. They see this acquisition as a positive step forward and are excited to see what comes next. willa consultants are also very excited, enthused and energized.

WD: We were just in Chicago for a willa consultant event, and we got to spend a lot of quality time in an intimate setting with them. We actually brought Chrissy and Bella out, to see how they would react, and they just com-pletely embraced it, which was relieving. A lot of our consultants got to know them and grasped how much potential there is for the business to grow through this partnership.