SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) — It’s a Bay Area version of a Cinderella story, only this fairy tale started decades ago.
Long before anyone knew what a “industry disrupter” or “influencer” was and years before Mark Zuckerberg was even born, two sisters came to San Francisco.
A simple flip of a coin would lead them to build a billion dollar brand.
In 1978 Jane and Jean Ford — twin sisters from Indiana — landed in San Francisco with no money and no real plan.
“They just wanted to get weird in San Francisco in the seventies,” said Jean’s daughter, Annie Ford Danielson. “So they just came out here to be hippies and to party.”
They opened a makeup store called “The Face Place” in a seedier part of the Mission. It wouldn’t be long before they developed a cult following.
Over the next 15 years, the Ford sisters opened boutiques around the Bay Area and grew their catalog business that would eventually operate under the name Benefits Cosmetics.
“It was never their goal to become one of the biggest brands in the world. It was, “Let’s keep the lights on,” explained Maggie Ford Danielson, another of Jean’s daughters.
In 1999 they were bought by Moet-Hennessy-Louis Vuitton. Today, industry insiders say Benefit’s annual revenue is $1.5 billion. It now has close to 700 employees in San Francisco alone.
Maggie and Annie Ford Danielson are now following in their mom and aunt’s footsteps as Benefit’s Global Brand Ambassadors. They each sell products on the home shopping network and promote the products and philosophy on social media.
Despite a new wave of makeup brands being sold exclusively online, Benefit’s brick and mortar stores continue to be a huge part of their business. The sisters say “San Francisco” will always be on the brand’s label.
According to one longtime benefit employee, “[Benefit] is a feel good company. We may not be a beauty town, but everyone wants to feel good.”