Alumnus Sean Brosmith Helps Take Design Firm to the Next Level


Sean Brosmith, an alumnus of Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Design (CFA ’87), recently helped usher in a new era for his company Maesa. They received a significant investment from Bain Capital Private Equity, after they acquired a majority stake in the company. Maesa, where Brosmith serves as a partner and Chief Creative Officer, is a full-service design, engineering, and manufacturer of color cosmetics, personal fragrance, hair and skin care, and home fragrance products.

“With a strong financial partner like Bain capital, the sky is really the limit,” said Brosmith on the acquisition. “We all recognize our brands add tremendous value to our firm, and plan on introducing at least three new, wholly owned brands in 2019- 2020.”

The business model of Maesa, which has about $300 million in annual revenue, is segmented into three primary businesses. First, Measa is a brand incubator, creating cosmetic brands from inception through to product on counter. Maesa fully owns and manages the brands incubated internally.

“We generally build these brands with industry influencers, and partner with a big box retailer,” said Brosmith.  “Examples being: FLOWER cosmetics with WalMart and Drew Barrymore; Kristin Ess Hair with Target and Kristin Ess; and COLLAB with Sally Beauty and a few of the most prominent You Tube influencers.”

Second is Maesa’s private label business. They create products and manage business for large specialty retailers. Examples are the fragrance businesses for H&M, Banana Republic, and Tommy Bahama, as well as color cosmetics for Urban Outfitters with the recently launched Ohii brand, which was created together with the internal team at Urban Outfitters.

Finally, Maesa provides packaging components for existing brands in the industry. They design, engineer and manufacture exclusive packaging components. 

“By combining design, beauty merchant and production expertise under one roof, Maesa is an international leader in beauty brand incubation,” added Brosmith. 

Before his current success at Maesa, Brosmith has had a truly unique career. After his time at the School of Design and an internship with Human Factors Industrial Design, Brosmith was granted advanced placement at the Art Center College of Design in 1987 with the goal of working towards becoming an automotive designer. 

“Well, things never seem to work out exactly as planned,” joked Brosmith. “As I was winding down my Art Center career, my best friend and I decided that we’d take a crack at being entrepreneurs, putting our auto careers on hold to see what happened. During our last term at ACCD, we completed a project in our product design studio, that we felt had great market potential. Upon graduation we founded Roundhouse Products and began marketing a line of storage systems and carry cases for digital media, primarily CDs and DVDs. Our brand, CD Projects, took off and we expanded our range over the following 10 years to include laptop cases, camera cases, and a wide variety of new media storage and carry products.”

Brosmith’s success lead to Roundhouse Products being acquired by TARGUS in 2000, who, at the time, was the largest manufacturer of consumer laptop cases and OEM accessory products for computer manufacturers.

“As you can imagine, throughout the building of Roundhouse and our tenure at Targus, we had accumulated immense experience in manufacturing and how retail marketing and distribution worked,” said Brosmith. “We just needed a new industry to conquer.”

The answer came from a friend of Brosmith’s and manufacturer in China who had just landed a fragrance package project with Victoria’s Secret.

“He contacted me in a bit of a panic asking if I could help him with the design of this fragrance bottle,” added Brosmith. “That project opened our eyes to the huge opportunity in the cosmetic and fragrance industry, which lead directly to the founding of Zorbit Resources, a full-service design, engineering and manufacture firm dedicated to bringing new thinking and creativity to a VERY segmented cosmetic business. 

“In 2008, during the financial crisis, we ended up being purchased and merged with a French firm Called PDI. PDI was trying to enter the very competitive US market and saw Zorbit as a perfect way to force their way in. It was through this merger that Maesa was born, and, from 2009 to today, we’ve become the largest, most respected independent brand incubator and manger in our industry.” 

Throughout all of his career successes, Brosmith still relies on the education he received at Carnegie Mellon University. 

“I often rely on the design process we learned and refined at CMU,” said Brosmith. “Alex Bally and Tim Cunningham were really amazing teachers. Alex was a real inspiration, and his technique of arriving at design solutions through research and process was invaluable. Often in the studio here at Maesa, I work on refining exactly that process with our designers. According to Alex Bally design was not only a process, but most important, design requires collaboration between many disciplines.  Designers, marketers, engineers, and of course customers must work together to make a project successful. 

“CMU is a university with SO many strengths. Whether it’s fine art, drama, engineering, computer science, or business by being a student at CMU you have the opportunity to explore all these disciplines. I remember when I was looking at universities, CMU really promoted this interdisciplinary approach, which was a major factor in my choosing CMU Design.”

Learn more about Maesa >>

Read more about Maesa's partnership with Bain Capital >>

Date Published: 
Friday, May 31, 2019
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