Entrereneur Of The Year 2009
Road to Palm Springs
Ulta Salon, Cosmetics & Fragrance, Inc.
Ulta Salon was founded as a discount beauty retailer in 1990, at a time when prestige, mass market and salon products were sold through three distinct channels. Nine years later, in an effort to revitalize the company, it turned to Lynelle Kirby, an executive at Sears who had learned every facet of the beauty industry during an impressive 18-year career at Avon.
Kirby’s vision — jotted down on airline napkins on her way to an interview with the company chairman — was to create the premiere beauty superstore, offering customers affordable indulgences that combined product breadth with value and convenience in a specialty store environment. Specifically, her business model sought to satisfy a customer’s need for “escape, education, entertainment and esthetics.” Kirby was brought on board as president and CEO and began steadfastly making the changes that would bring her vision to life.
Over the last decade, Kirby has expanded the company’s product line, remodeled and updated stores, and created a loyalty program. From 2002 through 2007, Ulta more than doubled its store base and total revenue, with sales increasing at a 20% compound annual growth rate. In 2007, Kirby led the company through a successful IPO, and its shares now trade on the Nasdaq. With sales approaching $1 billion in 2008, the company currently operates 304 retail stores across 35 states and also distributes products through its website.