“Just because I like the latest nail polish or celebrity hairstyle, doesn’t mean I’m not smart,” says Alexis Wolfer (pictured), founder and editor-in-chief of the Beauty Bean, a hip, lively online magazine that covers beauty, fitness, and nutrition. “So many media outlets put women in boxes and say [that] as a girl you either like makeup or you want to save the world. I’m an example that you can love and want to do both.”
Wolfer, who earned a master’s degree in human rights and women’s studies from Columbia University, flirted with a career in either economics or law. Then she went to Tanzania with a women’s empowerment group and returned with a passion for women’s rights. “I was writing my thesis on the role that women’s magazines have in promoting negative body image, and I had a part-time job at Lucky [magazine] working in the accessories department. I loved both worlds,” she says.
“I feel very grateful to be able to marry my interests and [to] have parents who are so supportive,” she adds. “When I was growing up, my dad would say, ‘Figure out what you want to do and you will find a way to make money at it.’ So when I was spending all my savings to start my business, I called him and he said, ‘What’s the worst that can happen? You’ll be 28 and have no savings!’”
ISBB: You’ve entered a competitive field. How is the Beauty Bean different?
Wolfer: The Beauty Bean focuses on being healthy, not being skinny. I was concerned with how many beauty magazines and websites focused on unrealistic body ideals and weight. There isn’t a single woman who doesn’t have some sort of unhealthy relationship with her body, food, or fitness. People come to the site to feel better about themselves. We want to provide original content that, in a subtle way, builds self confidence and decreases eating disorders. For example, we’ll write about fitness, but we don’t make you feel [like] you’re a failure if you can’t run a marathon.
When you got started, what was the most effective way of building an audience?
When the Beauty Bean website was in the works, I started posting beauty tips on Twitter. We were so excited about the content we were creating and wanted to share it. We got lucky with some celebrity attention from Serena Williams, who retweeted, and [model] Brooklyn Decker, who is a friend. Then Forbes magazine named us on its list of Top 10 Lifestyle Websites for Women, which was really big for us. Many of our  contributors have their own blogs and followers, which has also helped.
How do you spend an average day?
I’m up before 6 a.m., replying to emails and phone messages. I walk my dog, Zoe, and go to the gym. I’m the girl on the bike in the spin class multitasking on her iPhone, writing emails and editing articles. No day is the same. During New York Fashion Week in September, I was videotaping models, manicurists, and makeup and hair stylists for a YouTube partner channel. I’ll do beauty tips for radio or TV segments. I get to talk to inspiring women. I write and hope I make an impact. I do yoga three times a week, which is a great way to heal my body without working it, and at night I hang out with my friends.
You say the life of an entrepreneur is not for everyone. Why?
Because you have to be comfortable with uncertainty. Income may come from different sources every month. We sell ads on the site. We earn money from sponsored posts, social media campaigns with brands, and partnerships with brands in which they use our content. If I do a TV segment, I’m paid for that. I’m working on a book deal. Expenses can be all over the map.
How does QuickBooks Online help you?
I’m so clean and organized — my bed is always made — but organizing my finances was a nightmare before QuickBooks. My accountant would get a shoebox with a boatload of [receipts and invoices], accompanied by a beautiful handwritten note apologizing for the disorder. I’m sure the only reason he didn’t kick me out was because he knows my family. QuickBooks Online makes it easy to keep track of everything for a business with income that varies so much from month to month. It has really improved my relationship with my accountant.
What section of your website do you read first?
I love our DYI recipes, and I like the Beyond Beauty blog. It’s sort of a feminist take on beauty. Those are the articles I relate to. I like Makeup Free Mondays [a viral movement she started in 2010]. The Talk on CBS started its third season with a Makeup Free Monday. No one wore makeup, and celebrities sent in pictures. It’s a good example of bringing together my passion for beauty and the feminist conversation in a more profound way.
What DIY recipe do you want to share with us?
Here are two easy ones!
Bye-Bye Cellulite Body Scrub
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
4 tablespoons caffeinated coffee grounds (used ones, straight out of your coffeemaker’s filter)
1 tablespoon coconut oil
Mix pumpkin, coffee grounds, and coconut oil until blended. Standing in a bathtub to reduce mess, apply the mixture to your legs, from hip to ankle, in circular motions. Leave on for 5 to 15 minutes. Rinse with warm water.
The Vitamin A in the pumpkin helps promote cell turnover, and both the caffeine and the granular grounds in the coffee help increase blood flow to reduce the appearance of cellulite. The coconut oil helps to moisturize.
Look Awake Eye Mask (pictured below)
1 tablespoon plain full-fat Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
Place yogurt and parsley in a food processor and pulse to form a smooth paste. Apply a thick layer under your eyes, being careful not to get any in them. Let sit for 20 minutes before rinsing with cool water.
Parsley, rich in Vitamin K, helps reduce blood flow to the undereye area when applied topically, diminishing the appearance of undereye circles. The yogurt moisturizes, gently exfoliates, and cools to depuff and hydrate. Have leftovers? Store them in the fridge for up to two days, or mix in fresh lemon juice and use it as a dip for cucumber slices!