Behind Her Empire: Stila Founder Jeanine Lobell on Disrupting the Beauty Industry

Yasmin Nouri

Yasmin is the host of the "Behind Her Empire" podcast, focused on highlighting self-made women leaders and entrepreneurs and how they tackle their career, money, family and life.

Each episode covers their unique hero's journey and what it really takes to build an empire with key lessons learned along the way. The goal of the series is to empower you to see what's possible & inspire you to create financial freedom in your own life.

Jeanine Lobell​ in black and white
Jeanine Lobell

At 16, Jeanine Lobell dropped out of high school, moved to London and dabbled in miming. She went on to found the makeup company Stila, sell it to Estee Lauder and found the clean makeup brand Neen.

On this episode of the Behind Her Empire podcast, Lobell discusses how her search for independence led her to disrupt the beauty industry.


Lobell grew up in Sweden before eventually moving to the U.S. Looking for a little independence from her family, she started working at 14. She then returned to Europe at 16, moving between England and France.

“I think that being exposed to different languages and cultures, it sort of informs your person,” Lobell said. “You're more open to difference.”

Lobell said she didn’t know an interest in makeup could lead to a job until a friend in London completed a course at cosmetics school. Moving back to the U.S., she explored working at makeup counters and beauty salons before booking makeup artist gigs on music videos.

“It was a smaller industry,” she said. “Just like me, people didn't realize that this was a career you could have.”

Eventually, a woman she knew approached her about starting a makeup line together, and the two went on to launch Stila. But instead of slapping her brand onto pre-made items, Lobell wanted to research and create her own products. She connected with a small lab that let her test batches and create her own colors. Lobell also looked to other industries, including food stores and paint stores, to find inspiration for small-scale packaging options, such as aluminum tubes.

Lobell said people believed she was competing with other small beauty brands, like NARS and Lorac. But, in reality, she wanted to take on the larger companies.

“Why am I going to fight with my brothers and sisters?” Lobell said. “I'm going for the big guns.”

Lobell sold Stila to Estee Lauder in 1999. In the years since, she saw how platforms like YouTube were transforming how people interacted with the makeup industry. The change inspired her to launch Neen, a clean beauty company that sells cards with QR codes for makeup tutorials. In the videos, people demonstrate how to use the products, but they also share some of their own experiences, such as mental health struggles, which Lobell said makes the tutorials more personal.

Before launching Stila, Lodell said she didn’t consider herself an entrepreneur. But having learned how to navigate and disrupt the beauty industry, she knows that the process of making her businesses thrive taught her both the positive and negative impacts of entrepreneurship.

“I think that's what's so great about taking risks and stepping out of the ‘should of’ and ‘supposed to’ and getting out of your comfort zone and challenging yourself in any area of your life,” she said. “Because you do find that you are different than your idea of yourself.”

dot.la reporter Kristin Snyder contributed to this post.

This podcast is produced by Behind Her Empire. The views and opinions expressed in the show are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect those of dot.LA or its newsroom.

Hear more of the Behind Her Empire podcast. Subscribe on Stitcher, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, iHeart Radioor wherever you get your podcasts.

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