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Cover Story: Innovation Through Collaboration

By: Leslie Benson
Posted: May 1, 2008, from the May 2008 issue of GCI Magazine.
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An English and poetry professor once told his class about a time in his youth when he picked up a telephone book and searched for the contact number of one of his idols—the radical Beat Generation writer Allen Ginsberg. All good sense notwithstanding, sure enough, there was a listing. So the professor, then a college student without fear, dialed the digits and conversed with the famed poet for more than an hour. Taking a risk, the professor experienced the opportunity of a lifetime, swapping ideas with his poetic inspiration, a gift he’ll carry with him forever.

Product developers in the beauty industry could learn from this fearless fan. Sometimes in life, a cold call can make magic happen.
That’s exactly the tactic Scott-Vincent Borba, founder and CEO of BORBA, used to launch several of his most successful business collaborations. Most recently, he cold-called his way into a co-branding venture with Tarte Cosmetics, a company he admired for producing high-quality lip gloss. “I called Maureen Kelly in New York and pitched her my two-second idea,” Borba says. “I told her we could really shake up the industry. She loved the approach.”

Pushing egos aside, Borba says his conversations with the founder and CEO of Tarte led to the research, development, manufacturing, distribution and marketing a year later of the vitamin-infused Tarte/BORBA Inside Out Liptick and Lipgloss lines.
Alexis Mezzina DiResta, vice president of Tarte, says it was “fortuitous timing” when Borba called. “We were working on ways to let our customer know about the ingredient story in our products—it had always been there, but had gotten overshadowed by our packaging,” she says. “Partnering with a skin care company seemed like a great first step toward rebranding.”

During the product launch, Tarte and BORBA co-branded their marketing efforts. The lipstick and lip gloss packages were sold with samples of BORBA’s Aqua-Less Crystalline packets, portable powdered drink mixes touting skin care benefits, and publicity came from desk-side editor meetings with both CEOs, Borba and Kelly, as well as co-branded e-mail blasts. “The press was out of control—almost as good as my waters,” says Borba. “The opportunities it brought us were phenomenal.”