Meet the inspiring woman who built a beauty empire and then some
If a better descriptor than “Renaissance woman,” “female powerhouse,” and “human embodiment of creative energy” exists, that would be the word for Courtney Casgraux. Not only is she the co-founder of Go Blush Yourself, a California-based beauty brand loved by an army of Instagram It-girls that counts Kylie Jenner, Selena Gomez and Shannon and the Clams’ Shannon Shaw among its clients — she’s doing so much more than that.
The Southern California-raised Casgraux has professional interests that run the gamut, from the popular GBY Beauty and Cycle, a period kit for girls, to the puberty educational program she created for teens with special needs. If you think that was already a fascinating resumé, Casgraux is also producing an art show that focuses on freedom of thought and religion — the latter which led to her spending time with refugees in Iraq.
She basically makes the rest of us look super lazy.
I talked to Casgraux about how it feels to be a reluctant “lash guru,” where she gets her inspiration from and how she keeps up with all of the impressive projects she’s working on.
HelloGiggles: Was it always a goal to have your own business?
Courtney Casgraux: That was the goal. I had started as a makeup artist and traveled all over with my clientele and saw so many amazing things. That’s when I first saw eyelash extensions — when I was in Hong Kong.
As my career went on, I was becoming more known for doing lashes which was kind of hard for me, because people would refer to me as an amazing lash guru and I’d be like, “No, I’m a makeup artist and an entrepreneur!”
You’re like the queen of lashes.
Well I’m grateful to be an expert but I would fight against it, then was finally like “Okay, I’m the lash guru.” Becoming known for something I didn’t see myself being involved in long term was an adjustment at first, but I saw I was good at it and realized a great business could come out of it. Then everything fell into place. Now I’m slowly taking over the United States one eye at a time. (Laughs)
How did GBY start?
About two years ago, my partner Kendra Studdert and I decided we wanted to create an environment for women to have fun, be expressive and try things they haven’t tried before through beauty. That was the original concept. We put on pop-up events on both coasts and started getting a lot of requests until it got to the point where we needed to find a location. In about a year, we’ve grown to five locations throughout L.A. and S.F.
We started out with lash extensions which we are known for and have expanded our service menu to doing tooth charms and product development. We have brand ambassadors that represent the brand and do product collaborations with them. Something that’s also really important to me is giving back to women through beauty, so we do a lot of on-site services for women in corporate environments who don’t have the time to come into a salon.
Did it all come together pretty easily?
Timing is everything. When I met Kendra, whose background is product development, it all just fell into place. I think it’s really important to have a good partner with the same vision. And even though we have different personal end goals — hers is more lifestyle-related, while mine is more tech and art — to both have that understanding and ask ourselves, “How do we help each other get to each end goal?” Just having someone you trust and can communicate with is great.
So, how does one exactly build a beauty empire?
Hard work, and also I have the best team ever! From the back end to the stylist to the interns, we work collectively towards the same goal. GBY Beauty is not just about lash extensions. We give back to women through beauty; we are experts in the skills and services we offer; and we care that the client has a personal, unforgettable experience. Our client and quality of work are most important to us. Living by that has helped our business grow. I also strongly believe in investing in people — seeing their strengths and letting them shine through them is something I’ve incorporated in every project I’ve been involved with. When you give others that opportunity to be responsible and be creative, it creates an energy and environment that others want to be a part of.
How were you able to get celebrity clients in the scope that you have?
It’s mainly been word of mouth, but it also doesn’t hurt that we are based out of Los Angeles. We have cultivated a roster of brand ambassadors that range from talent, musicians and “It girls,” — they have really helped GBY Beauty gain exposure. Social media has also played a huge role in helping us spread a buzz around town.
Can you talk about Cycle, the period kit you two came up with?
Kendra and I were walking around Target doing research and development on another project when we just started talking about feminine hygiene. We both shared the same period horror stories that we all can relate to and looked at each other and said, “WE NEED A PERIOD KIT FOR GIRLS.” We both feel that arming girls with the knowledge about puberty and periods is very important these days.
I feel like there is a generation that is disconnected from their parents and there is still shame around the issue, so we developed the kit and made it cute and cool. We reached out to top female physicians who could offer expert advice on the issue: an OB/GYN, a pediatrician, an anesthesiologist — but she doesn’t talk about medicating with heavy drugs, it’s all natural things you can do — and a psychologist. It kind of goes over everything; how you can feel emotionally, how your body is changing, how to remedy it. The guide also doubles as a journal so you can write down notes. It also has organic pads and pantyliners, a disposable panty and personal cleansing cloths. It has almost everything they need — if we could have added chocolate, I’m sure we would have!
After we launched, we got a phone call from one of the regional centers in L.A. that provides services for teens with special needs. They asked if we would develop a puberty educational program, so we sat down and pulled all these books and videos and made an education program for girls with special needs. We taught it for a year. This was also when we started GBY started, so it was all happening at the same time.
Having such a busy schedule, is there such a thing as a typical day for you?
I spend my time in between L.A., San Francisco and Portland. The days are always very stimulating. A typical day doesn’t feel like work. Well, the emails do feel like work, but everything else is fun.
I love being able to hear people’s stories and what everyone is going through, because it’s like we’re all going through the same thing, just in different ways. I really like that part of my day because I feel like I always learn something new, and that people aren’t really alone. And it’s cool to help clients feel beautiful!
Who inspires you?
I feel a strong connection with those who think limitlessly, those who believe that quitting is not an option and the thought of giving up doesn’t even cross their mind. I look up to people who think out of the box when they do things, like Richard Branson — I just think he’s fantastic and it’s amazing how he went from selling records to aviation. He has no boundaries: there’s no cap on anything he thinks he can do. On a personal level, I have respect and admiration for Ryan Hurley from Hurley International. He’s not only talented but he has been able to utilize his position to highlight, showcase, and lift up artists in other communities through brand collaborations that ultimately get seen by the masses.
There’s a lot to be said about those types of angels who do that kinda work. There’s Ben Horowitz from Andreessen Horowitz because I admire a badass, take-no-shit VC that appreciates rap music as much as I do. And Oprah. I always quote, “Look what Oprah’s been through!” since she went through so much and never let herself get that down. And last but not least, I look up to my sister. She’s doing amazing work fighting for global freedom, going into countries of crisis to raise awareness and create social change.
Speaking of your sister, I know you’re working on a pretty special project with her.
I’m working on an art show I’m pretty proud of called Refuge 1819, which is based on Article 18 and 19 of The Universal Human Rights Declaration: freedom of thought and religion, freedom of expression and information. I pitched the idea to my sister Lena Smith, a policy advisor on Capitol Hill, who is actively involved with organizations that go into countries of crisis and help lay the groundwork for social change. At the time, the original idea was to just have an art show and raise awareness, but now the vision has changed and we are currently creating something that hopefully is monumental in ways we view human rights. The goal here is to educate people on what is happening in these countries of crisis and inspire others to stand up and take action.
How do you come up with all of your new ideas?
I have a tendency to want to problem solve. I’m constantly challenging myself and the team in any project I’m involved in to be creative problem-solvers. I really approach every project with the mindset that it has be impactful, make a footprint and inspire others. Working like this makes ideas come easy and flow together.
Also, youth culture and music really inspire the artist in me and my creative side, while good leaders and innovators really help drive the side of me that wants to create social change.
What motivates you to wake up every morning and keep doing everything that you’re doing?
I feel like I have an obligation as a person to help other people. If I have the resources to make you feel beautiful, then why not? If I have the knowledge to create an educational program for teens, why not? If I have a crazy this idea to create an art show that will inspires social change, why not? You only have one life and you gotta just run with it and do everything. It’s not about the money (Laughs) really, you know? People motivate me; making a difference motivates me.
This article was originally published March 28th, 2016.