Moj Mahdara has seen the future of branding and entertainment, and it’s on YouTube.
The chief executive of the burgeoning media business BeautyCon has raised under $2 million in seed financing from entertainment and publishing heavyweights like the publisher Hearst Corp., talent lawyers Ken Hertz and Eric Greenspan, along with Rachel Zoe Ventures, and Nasir Jones and Anthony Saleh’s Queensbridge Venture Partners, to help convince brands to say goodbye to Hollywood and its celebrity endorsement machine and embrace the online tastemakers who millennials turn to in droves.
Mahdara’s Los Angeles-based BeautyCon began as a business that booked and coordinated conferences linking YouTube stars, their audience, and the brands that want to shill to them IRL. Targeting young women between the ages of 18 and 25, BeautyCon estimates that the demographic represents $4 billion a year in spending on cosmetics, another $5.7 billion on apparel and accessories, and $8.2 billion on computers and electronics.
Mahdara envisions a property that links fans with products sponsored by YouTube talent, products sold under BeautyCon’s own brand or under its contributors’ brands, events, and content all under the BeautyCon umbrella. The company’s backbone conference business has already attracted a following, in no small part due to a network of talent Mahdara has assembled, including Bethany Mota, Amanda Steele (MakeupbyMandy24), and Kandee Johnson. Combined these three command an audience of 22.5 million across social media platforms.
While Mahdara’s company is new, the trajectory isn’t. Visions of media empires have danced in the heads of many a YouTube celebrity — including original trailblazer Michelle Phan, who boasts a worldwide audience for her lifestyle and beauty tips and her own YouTube channel — the For All Women Network.
Like Phan, Mahdara is the child of immigrant parents, in Mahdara’s case the first of three girls in a Persian household in Erie, Pa. An early addiction to “the moonman” and MTV led to an obsession with branding and marketing, which led to starting her own agency, and eventually her recruitment to take the reins at BeautyCon.
“What Vice Magazine is to Gen-X, we are to millennial girls who love fashion,” says Mahdara. “The company was launched in 2012 and I have been involved for about 15 months now. I made a significant investment to the company and became the company’s chief executive.”
The cultural wheel does seem to have turned. A Variety survey from earlier this summer indicated that the five most influential figures among Americans ages 13-18 were all YouTube favorites. Among the most recognizable were Smosh, The Fine Bros., PewDiePie, KSI and Ryan Higa. (I have no idea who the hell any of these people are. Do you?)
“This is generation connected and curated,” Mahdara says. “YouTube coins it as all things content, curation, and community. This is all about an 18- to 24-year-old millennial who consumes all their content via YouTube and Instagram… This is the massive millennial movement and this is where all brands are coming to.”
BeautyCon has already entered into content partnership agreements with Hearst magazines, including the “Seventeen” and “Elle” publications, along with Internet and YouTube properties like WhoWhatWear, Maker Studios, TheZoeReport and Polished.
“We are doing media builds with brands and we have fans that are paying to come to the summit portion where they meet 100 different brands,” Mahdara says. “We’re essentially building a big content business around experiences.”