How Drew Barrymore Embraces the Intersection of Accessibility, Affordability and Innovation

During the NRF Big Show, Drew Barrymore shared the lessons she has learned growing the Beautiful by Drew Brand, which is sold exclusively at Walmart.

Actress, producer and TV personality Drew Barrymore can certainly afford premium kitchen and home items — and she often looks to them for her personal inspiration — but she shies away from paying premium prices. She’s also well aware that many others don’t have the option of paying top dollar for a knife or a coffeemaker. That’s a major reason that she and her business partner strive to offer “accessible premium” products for the Beautiful by Drew brand through a retail partner that has significant presence via 10,500 stores in 19 markets and online.

“The way I live is all about accessibility, affordability and availability,” Barrymore said during her keynote at the NRF Big Show. “I’m so cognizant of the way people live with their paychecks and their prioritization of how it takes to live in this world that I cannot ever make something that’s high priced. But I’m so obsessed with what’s beautiful out there that I want to make that. It’s about figuring out that balance, and ultimately the person who benefits the most at the end of the day is the consumer.”

To help bring her Beautiful vision to life, Barrymore tapped Made By Gather CEO Shae Hong, who has a portfolio of kitchenware brands that span 40+ product categories. Conceptually, his goal is to create products that have that perfect mix of design, accessibility and innovation.

“We love to call our products accessible premium because it needs to be affordable, but it needs to be expensive enough so you can put a lot of innovation, design and quality behind it,” Hong said.  

Hong, who started Made by Gather in 2023, used his team-building and execution skills to complement the capabilities that Barrymore — who largely thrived in a creative context — lacked, in order to turn her big idea into a scalable business.

3 Lessons from Beautiful’s Brand Growth

Together, Barrymore and Hong shared the lessons they learned building the Beautiful brand:

Define a Category to Differentiate

The ‘Soft Future’ vibe allows Barrymore to push creative color limits while still creating neutral products that fit in all homes. Photo credit: Beautiful by Drew.

The growing pool of DTC brands in the home and kitchenware category makes this market highly competitive, so to differentiate, Barrymore decided to go outside of what was trending in the kitchen — mainly retro styles and color palettes.

“Shae and I coined a phrase, which we really built the line and brand behind, which is ‘Soft Future,’” Barrymore said. “How do we have a gentleness, elegance and beauty behind it but have it technologically be advanced, because that’s where we’re at today. I didn’t think retro was where we were supposed to go; forward was where we were supposed to go.

For example, Beautiful just launched a rosé color for its products, having previously capitalized on the popularity of millennial pink, lavender and sage. Although these colors are nontraditional in kitchen settings, they are chic, elevated and, perhaps most importantly, neutral.

Hong, who called Barrymore a “magic creator of color,” said that Beautiful’s expansive color palette is a big reason why the brand is so popular with consumers. “We try to use a mix of product innovation, design and color to keep customers excited and keep them coming back,” he said. “It’s going to be a big year for us in color.”

Harness the Power of Partnership

The foundation of a successful business is a founder (or founders) who believe in the mission of the brand — and believe in each other. Both Barrymore and Hong emphasized that they have a partnership in which they complement each other’s passions, skills and areas of expertise. While Barrymore has a very strong creative mind, Hong has expertise using audience feedback to build brands and assortments, as well as finding the best ways to scale. However, what has made the collaboration truly work is their underlying trust in each other’s instincts and their commitment to being good partners and collaborators.

“Our ideal is to be a partner where you have your dreams, you make them and you continue to move forward — and you don’t let each other down,” Barrymore said. “Also, an ideal partnership is one that’s honest. You go through tough stuff, but you know what’s important, what’s real and what’s not.  It was our intention and our mission on the ground that felt so aligned that, for me, it is the first brand that I’ve been a part of in these last 13 years that is really working.”

Partnership also is what has driven Beautiful’s audience expansion. Through an exclusive strategic deal with Walmart, Beautiful has successfully bolstered its assortment to include appliances, cookware, tabletop items and kitchen tools. Most recently, the brand launched the Beautiful Perfect Grind Single-Serve Coffeemaker.

Hong noted that Walmart and, specifically, the retailer’s VP and Divisional Merchandise Manager for Kitchen, Russell Winters, was aligned with Beautiful’s vision from the get-go. “When you have a strategic partner like Walmart, who was bought in from day one and all-in, there is so much more potential that can be created,” he said. “[Russell] is still a huge supporter and is helping us navigate and create new ideas and opportunities.”

Find Creative Ways to Drive Brand Demand

Beautiful Drew Chair by Drew Barrymore, Cream
The Drew Chair was a viral sensation, catapulting Beautiful by Drew into the furniture category. Photo credit: Beautiful by Drew

Barrymore is hyper-aware of the creative process — especially the mental, emotional and physical toll it can take on a person. “I cry all the time,” she admitted. “It’s like you’re trying to hold water in your hands. I don’t love it when people act like it’s easy. I feel emotionally drained, physically drained. I feel like I’m making a big mess of everything all the time.”

That’s why she’s also hyper-aware of how overwhelming the product development process can be. “I just want to relate to anyone who has had heartbreak in retail; when you put out an abundance of stuff and you’re just trying to figure out how to establish it all.”

That’s why when Barrymore and Hong wanted to gauge market interest in home décor and furniture, they decided to do a limited-edition drop. The first product in the spotlight? The Drew Chair, a bouclé swivel accent chair designed to be “the perfect blend of style and comfort,” according to the launch press release. “Some drops don’t work, but this one did,” Barrymore said. “And I think it was very helpful for us in our partnership [with Walmart] to gain that trust; that we could do these kinds of sellouts. Because we’ve all been there where we’ve got all this merchandise and it’s not moving.”

Barrymore believes that the intention behind the chair played a big role in its success — and is also why they couldn’t keep it in stock for long. “We don’t need more stuff, so what is [our] point of difference? I feel like the whole world needs a hug right now; I feel like we need to be enveloped and we need a safe space. The chair was that to me. This one just had this invitational wish to take care of people and be a different size, function and price point.”