The billion-dollar beauty industry is as much a slave to change as any other fast-moving, booming industry. But the amount of players, influencers and moving parts means that brands are constantly being pushed to change, adapt and modify based on the notions of the whimsical consumer or controlling retailer.
To adapt to the ever-changing rules of beauty, small brands are reworking the classic business model - invigorating their branding and sales strategies, and challenging the very creativity that got them into the industry.
Below, meet four beauty founders that are rewriting the rules of classic beauty, from perfume, and skincare to nails and cosmetics.
Hope Freeman, Co-founder, Nateeva
Nateeva, the brainchild of partners Hope Freeman and Jay McSherry, was born when they were holidaying in the Caribbean. Freeman, a fragrance evaluator for IFF, had worked on a plethora of famous perfumes on behalf of some of the biggest names in the industry, such as Avon, Coty, Ralph Lauren, Donna Karan. “I fell into the fragrance industry in the 70's and I've been doing it ever since," she says.
Hope Freeman. Photo credit: Davi Lewis Taylor
It was during a holiday on St. Martin that her and McSherry decided on the business model - they would create a line of perfumes, to reflect the different scents of the Caribbean islands. Upon her return to the U.S, she decided to leave IFF, but they in turn asked her to stay on as a consultant and they would help to produce the fragrances.
“Each fragrance is so different from one another but they each have a common thread - you know it's about the beach, you know it's about flowers and exotic things growing on the island," says Freeman.
Bottling the scents of each island - St. Martin, Bahamas, and Jamaica thus far, has proved a cathartic and extremely worthwhile venture for the couple. The line has been picked up by the islands' top hotels - the perfect place for consumers to purchase a scent that has the ability to recall all fond holiday memories of their trip. Now the pair are looking toward retailing the within the U.S, with their online sales focused on the bigger market.
Amyling Lin, CEO and founder of Sundays
The nails sector of beauty is one that has come under a lot of heat and scrutiny in the past year, following the release of many articles by The New York Times, describing the horrors workers endured in the salons throughout large cities.
Amyling Lin was in fashion before deciding to take a turn and get into the beauty industry, opening a nail salon on the Upper West Side, before opening a handful more throughout New York City.
“Then I realized, between toxic chemicals, and not many choices in terms of nails salons, with people having very low expectations - rushing in, rushing out, I was inspired to do something totally different," says Lin.
Focused on providing an experience for the customer, rather than a simple service, Lin's new company would look to give their customers a relaxation technique during their manicure, to help them meditate while the technicians work Lin's very own, non-toxic Sundays polish over their nails. She worked for a year on the formula for her high-end, non-toxic polish line that is now sold in stores and online, "we worked with specialists to make everything perfect for both salon and at-home use.
As for the meditation technique the technicians use, Lin says, "we want clients to spend a little longer in the salon." To do this, Lin is basing all the Sundays salons in high end studios, including locations in Saks Fifth Avenue and Brookfield Place.
And if all of the above, wasn't enough of a reason to check out these salons, the nail techs are also trained in nail art, which you can ogle at over on their Instagram.
Maya Ivanjesku, VP of R&D, LaFlore Skincare
Skincare is a wonderful if difficult nut to crack within beauty. The competition is rife and once you've decided on your moisturizer or eye cream, you typically use the same one for the rest of your days.
“The scope of my experience in skincare is quite large," begins Maya Ivanjesku, formulator of new line LaFlore- “I've been been formulating for years for different brands from Lauder, Clinique, to Origins to Bobbi Brown."
Ivanjesku is attempting to charge the industry with a new line based solely on the nutritious values of probiotics. "Every formulator's dream is to have their own line!" she says, "but it's hard." With many of the industry leaders claiming to invest their skincare with powerful nutrients, Ivanjesku asks, how are the products (almost always) white?
The answer is simple, because while they may have added the nutrients in the first instance, they bleach and strip back the value of the nutrients in order to get that crisp white finish.
"We're all about safety. We test for toxicity, we're all natural, but like any natural products - if you use too much of it, it can be bad for you. So one has to know much is good for your skin," she says. Ivanjesku explains that throughout the line of cleanser, serum and moisturizer, no ingredient is used that is higher than number three on the toxicity scale.
“It's the probiotic that's the workhorse," she says, continuing, "the probiotics that we chose will help multiply your skin cells - the more cells you produce the healthier your skin will be." And work they do. The three-part regime is as accessible as it is effective, and really affordable. We really admire Ivanjesku's determination to provide better skincare with the very, very best ingredients and can't wait to see what's coming next for LaFlore.
Emanuela DeFalco, founder, Dirty Little Secret Cosmetics
For those who thought subscription boxes were dead, Emanuela DeFalco and her success story, DLS, prove very much to the contrary.
After completing four-year college degree at the insistence of her parents, DeFalco decided to go makeup artistry school, where she gained much of the experience she needed in order to start a beauty brand. Finishing school and creating her halloween look for that year, she wanted to wear a blue lipstick, but could find none in the drugstores or luxury makeup counters that fit the bill. Luckily, her sister - a professional chemist, was able to help her formulate the shade she wanted. It was wearing the lipstick and receiving a tonne of compliments that made her realize she could turn this quick whimsical decision into a business model. Asking her father for a $10,000 loan, she was ready to start her business.
DeFalco was smart enough to realize that a small, cruelty-free Indie brand would not stand up to the powerhouses of MAC or Lauder, so she decided to approach the industry from a completely different, but far-reaching angle, through subscription boxes. Focusing just on lipsticks and highlighters, hers was an easy and accessible sell for the acquisitions departments of some of the most renowned boxes out there.
"Ipsy was the gateway," she says about her first deal. Following her distribution in these boxes, she signed on with five more subscription companies, including Glossybox, and is in the process of securing further deals.
Emanuela De Falco
DLS comes in hot on the heels of the wave that's sweeping the beauty industry - cruelty-free products. When deciding on her manufacturer and testing facility, she was very careful to meet and uphold these standards. Manufacturing in China, there's always a risk of child or slave labor of course. "I flew to China and I made sure the manufacturer was clean, and I met the workers," she says, "I go every year, every November, and I make sure nothing has changed - they're not hiring children, that kind of thing." Testing her products in the US, she ensures that no animals are harmed in the process. We're really looking forward to seeing what the crafty DeFalco comes out with next.
Following are excerpts from "Unleash the Girls, The Untold Story of the Invention of the Sports Bra and How It Changed the World (And Me)" By Lisa Z. Lindahl
There is an idea that has popped up everywhere from Chaos Theory to Science Fiction and New Age memes known popularly as the "Butterfly Effect." Simply put, it is the notion that one very small thing—the movement of a butterfly's wing say, or the ripple in a lake caused by a pebble being thrown into it—can cause tremendous effect far away: the butterfly's wing a tornado, the ripple a large wave on a distant shore. Cause and effect, does it have limits? The field of physics is telling us that it takes only observation to bring a thing into being. We cannot consider these areas of investigation and not acknowledge that everything—everything—is in relationship in some way or another with everything else.
So, it is evident to me that commerce of any kind is, also, just about relationships. It all boils down, on every level to this simplicity. While we usually think of relationships as occurring between people—it is far more than that.
I used to teach a course in entrepreneurship specifically for women in The Women's Small Business Program at Trinity College in Burlington, Vermont. I made this concept of relationship and its importance central in how I taught the marketing thought process. I would stress that for a product or service to be successful, it had to meet a perceived need. There is a need, and it wants to be met; or it may be thought of as a problem to be solved. Or there may be an existing solution that is less than adequate.
For example: In my universe as a runner there already were a plethora of bras available, but they were inadequate for my purpose. The relationship between my breasts, my running body, and my bra was creating discomfort and distraction. A new solution had to be found, the relationship occurring when all these things came together had to be fixed. Utilizing this point of view, one sees a set of issues that need to be addressed—they are in relationship with each other and their environment in a way that needs to be changed, adjusted.
Nowhere is this viewpoint truer than in business, as we enter into more and more relationships with people to address all the needs of the organization. Whether designing a product or a service or communicating with others about it—we are in relationship. And meanwhile, how about maintaining a healthy relationship with ourselves? All the issues we know about stress in the workplace can boil down to an internal balancing act around our relationships: to the work itself, to those we work with, to home life, friends and lovers. So quickly those ripples can become waves.
Because Jogbra was growing so quickly, relationships were being discovered, created, ending, expanding and changing at a pace that makes my head spin to recall. And truly challenged my spirit. Not to mention how I handled dealing with my seizure disorder.
"My Lifelong Partner"
Let me tell you a bit about my old friend, Epilepsy. Having Epilepsy does not make any sort of money-making endeavor easy or reliable, yet it is my other "partner" in life. Husbands and business partners have come and gone, but Epilepsy has always been with me. It was my first experience of having a "shadow teacher."
While a child who isn't feeling she has power over her world may have a tantrum, as we grow older, most of us find other more subtle ways to express our powerfulness or powerlessness. We adapt, learn coping mechanisms, how to persuade, manipulate, or capitulate when necessary. These tools, these learned adaptations, give a sense of control. They make us feel more in charge of our destiny. As a result, our maturing self generally feels indestructible, immortal. Life is a long, golden road of futures for the young.
This was not the case for me. I learned very early on when I started having seizures that I was not fully in charge of the world, my world, specifically of my body. There are many different types of epileptic seizures. Often a person with the illness may have more than one type. That has been the case for me. I was diagnosed with Epilepsy—with a seizure type now referred to as "Absence seizures"—when I was four years old. I have seen neurologists and taken medications ever since. As often happens, the condition worsened when I entered puberty and I started having convulsions as well—what most people think of when they think of epileptic seizures. The clinical name is generalized "Tonic-clonic" seizures.
In such a seizure the entire brain is involved, rather like an electrical circuit that has gone out as a result of a power surge. I lose consciousness, my whole body becomes rigid, the muscles start jerking uncontrollably, and I fall. Tonic-clonic seizures, also known as "grand mal" seizures, may or may not be preceded by an aura, a type of perceptual disturbance, which for me can act as a warning of what is coming. The seizure usually only lasts for a few minutes, but I feel its draining effects for a day or two afterwards. Although I would prefer to sleep all day after such a physically and emotionally taxing event, I have often just gotten up off the floor and, within hours, gone back to work. It was necessary sometimes, though definitely not medically advised. I'm fond of saying that having a grand mal seizure is rather like being struck by a Mack truck and living to tell the tale.
Having Epilepsy has forced me to be dependent on others throughout my life. While we are all dependent upon others to some degree—independent, interdependent, dependent—in my case a deep level of dependency was decreed and ingrained very early on. This enforced dependency did not sit well with my native self. I bucked and rebelled. At the same time, a part of me also feared the next fall, the next post-convulsive fugue. And so I recognized, I acquiesced to the need to depend on others.
The silver lining of having Epilepsy is that it has introduced me to and taught me a bit about the nature of being powerless—and experiencing betrayal. I could not trust that my body would always operate as it should. Routinely, it suddenly quits. I experience this as betrayal by my brain and body. It results in my complete powerlessness throughout the convulsion. Not to mention an inconvenient interruption of any activities or plans I might have made.
Hence, I am the recipient of two important life lessons—and I was blessed to have this very specific and graphic experience at a young age. It made me observant and reflective, giving me the opportunity to consider what/where/who "I" was. I knew I was not "just" my body, or even my brain.
So, who or what did that leave? Who, what am I? Much has been written about trauma, and about near-death experiences, both of which seizures have been classified or described as. I won't delve into that here except to say that experiencing recurrent seizures and the attendant altered states of consciousness that sometimes accompany an episode (the euphemism for a seizure) changes one. It deeply affects you. It is both illuminating and frightening. It opens you up in some ways and can close you way down in others. For me it made it easy to consider the possibility of other ways to perceive, of other realms. And as an adult I became interested in quantum physics, where Science is pushing and challenging our long-held perceptual assumptions. Me, who was poor in math and disinterested in Science while in school! So if not merely body and brain, who am I? Spirit. And with Epilepsy's tutelage, I was encouraged to question, seek, try to understand what lies beyond.
Living with Epilepsy has also given me great strength. In realizing the futile nature of trying to have "power over" Epilepsy, I developed a deep well of "power within"—that inner strength that comes in the acceptance of that which one cannot change—and looking beyond it.
Through my experience building the business of Jogbra with the unique lens afforded me by my Epilepsy partner, I came to understand more fully the nature of power and what it means to be truly powerful.
Specifically, that having power and exercising it is not simply a manifestation of the ego. It need not be "power-tripping." It is how I wield my power that matters, making the all-important distinction between creating a situation of power over, power with, or empowering and having and creating strength in oneself and others.
Being powerful is a big responsibility.
To put all this another way: do I choose to create situations in which I am able to wield power over others? Or do I choose to empower others, sharing my strengths with them, while nurturing their strengths as well? The first is not true power. It is control. The second I believe to be the essence of true and positive power: strength. And integral to creating a more harmonious world, oh by the way.
While this may be apparent, even basic to others, it was an "aha!" moment for me. Too often in the years ahead I would give away my power and question my own strengths,. Time and again, however, my inner strength, my shadow teacher's gift, helped me survive and thrive until I could take responsibility for and embrace more fully my own power.
© Lisa Z. Lindahl 2019