The business of beauty

Two WashU alums and one current student helped take a cosmetics startup from a dream to a reality.

Julie Gupta, Class of 2022; Tracy Haffner, AB '92, MBA '92; and Elizabeth Romaner, BFA '09, took part in launching Woosh Beauty, a startup cosmetics company. Photo by Alissa Laurie, collage by Monica Duwel

In May 2014, Tracy Haffner, AB ’92, MBA ’92, was at a job interview to be the COO of the startup Woosh Beauty when she looked up and saw a T-shirt with a WashU logo.

Psychology major; Spanish and children’s studies minor
She owes her start to the ­advice she got from a fellow alum.
One of her favorite WashU classes was 3D design with Arny Nadler.
New York City and St. Louis

“Did you go to WashU?” Haffner asked Elizabeth Romaner, BFA ’09, creative director for Woosh and wearer of the shirt. Romaner had actually just been to her five-year Reunion, where she bought the shirt. Haffner still volunteers with WashU; it’s where she met her husband and, recently, where her elder twin boys decided to go. A connection quickly formed.

“WashU flies under the radar a bit in the entertainment, fashion and beauty spheres in New York,” Romaner says. “So when I meet an alum in the industry, it’s extra exciting.”

Haffner landed the job with Woosh — due to her business acumen honed at Kraft, Saks Fifth Avenue and Avon — and she and Romaner helped build the company from the ground up.

Romaner had been working as a fashion and beauty editor for a television show in New York City before meeting the founder of Woosh. She loved the concept. “I loved the idea of ‘makeup for women who don’t know anything about makeup,’” she says. “My mom wasn’t into makeup, and WashU certainly never had a class … How’s a girl to learn?”

Woosh’s niche is catering to women who want cosmetics to be straightforward. The company offers an all-in-one kit called the Fold Out Face and a numbered brush set with easy instructions to help customers get a perfect look every time.

In June 2019, Haffner was invited to an Olin Business School summer internship networking event in New York. She mentioned that Woosh was looking for an intern. Julie Gupta, an Arts & Sciences Class of 2022 psychology major, heard about it through her sister, who was at the event, and thought the internship might help her figure out what she’d like to pursue as a career.

Gupta, who was with the team for most of last summer, had many great experiences, but she most appreciated working on the Woosh brand anthem video with models, directors and other industry insiders. “It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” she says.

At the shoot, Romaner, Haffner and Gupta got in front of the camera, excited to record the time three WashU Bears helped shape a beauty company.