RVA 25: Meet Brandefy, the local cosmetics company that topped this year’s list

Brandefy team photo

The Brandefy team at its Henrico warehouse. (Courtesy Brandefy)

Meg Pryde didn’t necessarily intend to get into the beauty products business.

She initially set out, while a student at UVA’s Darden School of Business, to create a product-price comparison app to help consumers know when it was worth it to pay top-dollar for an item or find a more affordable alternative.

The idea was born out of Pryde’s experience in the packaged goods industry prior to getting her MBA.

When she began testing the app, known as Brandefy, and waited to hear from users on the sorts of products it was best suited for, cosmetics weren’t on her mind. But that’s where the feedback led her.

“We tested it out and consumers kept coming back with requests for affordable beauty products,” she said.

meg pryde brandefyFrom that, Pryde formally launched Brandefy as a business in 2018 with a focus on comparing and recommending certain cosmetics.

The app has since been downloaded more than 500,000 times, but it was a pivot in 2021 that has helped Brandefy truly take off.

The launch of its own line of cosmetics – to essentially become one of the affordable alternatives that its app users sought – catapulted the 5-year-old startup to the top spot on this year’s RVA 25 list of the Richmond region’s fastest-growing companies.

Brandefy is now selling tens of thousands of units of its own products annually – things like creams, serums, cleansers and other products.

“Our mobile app provides value to our customers in helping them find affordable alternatives, and in many cases we make the best affordable alternative,” Pryde said.

Brandefy’s average annual revenue growth over the last three years was 1,238 percent and Pryde said there’s more to come.

“We cleared $500,000 (in revenue) in 2022 and will have very exciting growth from that,” she said.

Its products are made by contract manufacturers in the U.S. and South Korea and shipped to Brandefy’s headquarters and warehouse in Henrico at 4128 Jacque St. near Willow Lawn. It sells its products through the app, its website and on Amazon.

Pryde said the company’s success is fueled by consumers becoming more aware of the extreme markups by name-brand cosmetics companies and her ability to tap into contract manufacturing to keep the costs of Brandefy’s own products low.

“I am always just amazed at how, because I came from the pharma/foods industry, how small the cost of goods are in the beauty business and how high the markups are. And that’s something we want to change,” she said.

brandefy screenshot

A screenshot of Brandefy’s website.

Brandefy also is gaining its edge by keeping the costs of its packaging low, which Pryde said goes against the grain of the industry overall.

“I am always just shocked that many companies spend more on packaging than on formulation,” she said. “Fancy packaging sells products.”

Despite the shift to focus on making and selling its own products, Pryde said the Brandefy app is still an important part of the business. The company recently incorporated artificial intelligence capabilities into the app to help with improved product recommendations.

“It really is what makes us unique,” Pryde said of the app, adding that it’s a valuable tool for customer acquisition.

Pryde, 33, grew up on a farm in Berryville, Virginia, where she rode horses and was raised in an entrepreneurial family. She went on to study business at UVA as both an undergrad and graduate student, working in between those two degrees at private-label product maker Perrigo Co.

She made her way to Richmond through Brandefy’s participation in the Lighthouse Labs incubator program and Startup Virginia in Shockoe Bottom.

RVABizSense25Awards 2 CROPPED

(From left) Meg Pryde with the heads of the other top two companies on this year’s RVA 25: Jeff Beck of AnswersNow and Paige Wilson of Naborforce.

Brandefy has since raised more than $5 million in capital from local and out-of-town investors. With those funds and Brandefy’s team of six full-time employees, Pryde said she has the infrastructure in place to take the company to new levels.

“We are still very small and it’s exciting to hit that scaling stage,” she said. “In beauty (the industry), it’s very common to have smaller teams supporting $10 million in revenue. Our manufacturers will scale with us to $50 million to $100 million in revenue. What I love about this company is there really is no significant ceiling.”

Pryde said Brandefy has yet to reach profitability, but that is a goal she expects to hit in the near-term.

Five years in, she said the thrill of being part of a startup is still strong.

“I love being a startup founder. I’m amazed at how far we have come as a company and how far we need to go,” she said. “I’m always excited about that next stage of growth and that’s what keeps you hooked.”

Thinking back to Brandefy’s original purpose, which was to compare all sorts of consumer categories, Pryde said it’s not out of the question to eventually test her business model on other sorts of products.

“I want to win in beauty first and then we’ll think through other categories,” she said.

Brandefy team photo

The Brandefy team at its Henrico warehouse. (Courtesy Brandefy)

Meg Pryde didn’t necessarily intend to get into the beauty products business.

She initially set out, while a student at UVA’s Darden School of Business, to create a product-price comparison app to help consumers know when it was worth it to pay top-dollar for an item or find a more affordable alternative.

The idea was born out of Pryde’s experience in the packaged goods industry prior to getting her MBA.

When she began testing the app, known as Brandefy, and waited to hear from users on the sorts of products it was best suited for, cosmetics weren’t on her mind. But that’s where the feedback led her.

“We tested it out and consumers kept coming back with requests for affordable beauty products,” she said.

meg pryde brandefyFrom that, Pryde formally launched Brandefy as a business in 2018 with a focus on comparing and recommending certain cosmetics.

The app has since been downloaded more than 500,000 times, but it was a pivot in 2021 that has helped Brandefy truly take off.

The launch of its own line of cosmetics – to essentially become one of the affordable alternatives that its app users sought – catapulted the 5-year-old startup to the top spot on this year’s RVA 25 list of the Richmond region’s fastest-growing companies.

Brandefy is now selling tens of thousands of units of its own products annually – things like creams, serums, cleansers and other products.

“Our mobile app provides value to our customers in helping them find affordable alternatives, and in many cases we make the best affordable alternative,” Pryde said.

Brandefy’s average annual revenue growth over the last three years was 1,238 percent and Pryde said there’s more to come.

“We cleared $500,000 (in revenue) in 2022 and will have very exciting growth from that,” she said.

Its products are made by contract manufacturers in the U.S. and South Korea and shipped to Brandefy’s headquarters and warehouse in Henrico at 4128 Jacque St. near Willow Lawn. It sells its products through the app, its website and on Amazon.

Pryde said the company’s success is fueled by consumers becoming more aware of the extreme markups by name-brand cosmetics companies and her ability to tap into contract manufacturing to keep the costs of Brandefy’s own products low.

“I am always just amazed at how, because I came from the pharma/foods industry, how small the cost of goods are in the beauty business and how high the markups are. And that’s something we want to change,” she said.

brandefy screenshot

A screenshot of Brandefy’s website.

Brandefy also is gaining its edge by keeping the costs of its packaging low, which Pryde said goes against the grain of the industry overall.

“I am always just shocked that many companies spend more on packaging than on formulation,” she said. “Fancy packaging sells products.”

Despite the shift to focus on making and selling its own products, Pryde said the Brandefy app is still an important part of the business. The company recently incorporated artificial intelligence capabilities into the app to help with improved product recommendations.

“It really is what makes us unique,” Pryde said of the app, adding that it’s a valuable tool for customer acquisition.

Pryde, 33, grew up on a farm in Berryville, Virginia, where she rode horses and was raised in an entrepreneurial family. She went on to study business at UVA as both an undergrad and graduate student, working in between those two degrees at private-label product maker Perrigo Co.

She made her way to Richmond through Brandefy’s participation in the Lighthouse Labs incubator program and Startup Virginia in Shockoe Bottom.

RVABizSense25Awards 2 CROPPED

(From left) Meg Pryde with the heads of the other top two companies on this year’s RVA 25: Jeff Beck of AnswersNow and Paige Wilson of Naborforce.

Brandefy has since raised more than $5 million in capital from local and out-of-town investors. With those funds and Brandefy’s team of six full-time employees, Pryde said she has the infrastructure in place to take the company to new levels.

“We are still very small and it’s exciting to hit that scaling stage,” she said. “In beauty (the industry), it’s very common to have smaller teams supporting $10 million in revenue. Our manufacturers will scale with us to $50 million to $100 million in revenue. What I love about this company is there really is no significant ceiling.”

Pryde said Brandefy has yet to reach profitability, but that is a goal she expects to hit in the near-term.

Five years in, she said the thrill of being part of a startup is still strong.

“I love being a startup founder. I’m amazed at how far we have come as a company and how far we need to go,” she said. “I’m always excited about that next stage of growth and that’s what keeps you hooked.”

Thinking back to Brandefy’s original purpose, which was to compare all sorts of consumer categories, Pryde said it’s not out of the question to eventually test her business model on other sorts of products.

“I want to win in beauty first and then we’ll think through other categories,” she said.

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Rich Diemer
Rich Diemer
7 months ago

We are proud to call Brandefy a CAV Angels portfolio company! Congrats to Meg and her team!! Now is the time to sell, sell, sell!

Bruce Milam
Bruce Milam
7 months ago

I hope the CEO can afford some jeans without holes in the knees at some point in her career. (Says smug boomer, commenting on one of the strangest fashion statements in history).

David Adler
David Adler
7 months ago
Reply to  Bruce Milam

Where is the laugh emoji? 😀

Jay Emory
Jay Emory
7 months ago
Reply to  Bruce Milam

I hope men eventually get to a place where their first instinct isn’t to comment on a woman’s appearance (says the exhausted Millennial who’s watched women endure this for far too long).

Mike Rinko
Mike Rinko
7 months ago
Reply to  Jay Emory

All “men’s” first instinct is to comment on a women’s appearance? I hear just as many women comment on appearance for both men and women as I do men.

Bob Foster
Bob Foster
7 months ago
Reply to  Bruce Milam

Really odd comment, Bruce.

Chris Young
Chris Young
7 months ago
Reply to  Bruce Milam

The entrepreneurial spirit is what impresses me the most. I can get past the holey jeans when I see someone grinding and putting his or her neck on the line to run a successful business. The first couple years are always the most difficult and it looks like she has put in the time and effort to make it work. Based on the article, it looks like she will be turning a profit in the near future. More power to her and I hope she succeeds.

Gail Pryde
Gail Pryde
7 months ago
Reply to  Bruce Milam

The CEO is not the person in the picture with the holes in their jeans. That is another employee.

Bruce Milam
Bruce Milam
7 months ago
Reply to  Bruce Milam

The down votes are warranted! I expected no less for being snarky.📠😉

Jay Emory
Jay Emory
7 months ago
Reply to  Bruce Milam

At least you’re a good sport about it 😎

Wade Barrow
Wade Barrow
7 months ago

Jesus told us that the poor would always be with us. Apparently the ninnies will be as well. I do not know Mr. Milam but have read his many comments over the years and, though I sometimes disagree, have always found them to be insightful, appropriate, upbeat and often self-deprecating. Yesterday’s comment is no different. Intentionally ripped and damaged clothing is odd by design, being a deviation from the customary garment. Is one to suppose that those who wear such garments do not intend to reveal the skin beneath? Of course not, and that’s fine. But it’s not the traditional… Read more »