Entrepreneurs Share How to Succeed in the Beauty Industry

WWD hosted its second annual Los Angeles Beauty Forum, titled L.A.B., on Tuesday at the 1 Hotel West Hollywood.

The event was centered around “Building, Selling, Thriving” — analyzing the stages of a business. It featured talks with music star Halsey, founder of About-face, alongside Jeanne Marie Chavez; celebrity hairstylist and entrepreneur Jen Atkin of Ouai and Mane with Michaeline DeJoria, chief executive officer of John Paul Mitchell Systems; Sasha Plavsic of Ilia, and many more players and executives in beauty, wellness, retail, tech and finance.

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Here are the emerging themes from the day:

Problem-solving and innovation: Successful company leaders often share a commonality: their brands are rooted in identifying challenges and creating solutions. Katerina Schneider, for instance, the founder of Ritual, recognized gaps in the prenatal vitamin market and created a new standard in the supplement industry. “I started the company when I was four months pregnant, and I couldn’t find a prenatal vitamin that I trusted,” she said. Products at the time were “lacking the key essential nutrients that women needed during one of the most vulnerable stages of our lives.”

Brand DNA and differentiation: Singer and songwriter Halsey — who launched About-face with chief innovation officer Jeanne Marie Chavez (of Hard Candy) — stressed the value of offering unique selling propositions and the significance of product development and packaging in connection to brand identity. “One of the things that really has set us apart with this brand is the fact that we color match all of the outer packaging to the inner formula,” said Chavez, explaining that the packaging detail is a time saver for both consumers and Halsey herself — who’s a busy touring artist. The singer aims to make the artistry of makeup fun and accessible for fans and consumers, Halsey added: “Experimenting with makeup can be really intimidating. And we wanted to show people that anyone can be a makeup expert. And, you know, come along and grow with us.”

A consumer-centric approach: Focusing on consumers and growing an emotional connection is key to anticipating consumer needs and building brand loyalty, many founders said, including Jen Atkin and Sarah Gibson Tuttle, creator of nail company Olive & June. “We really focus on just speaking directly to the consumer. And we speak the way that we would speak to our best friend about our nails,” said Tuttle. By listening to feedback and understanding preferences, brands are able to tailor their products and messaging to meet emerging needs.

Marketing strategies and storytelling: It’s the era of entertaining storytelling. Christie Fleischer, chief executive officer of Benefit, discussed the importance of entertainment in marketing, rather than simply providing information. She said using creative content and campaigns, alongside data insights, help engage consumers and cut through industry noise: “Over 90 percent of ads put out by companies are skipped. And only about 5 to 10 percent of content that’s put out from companies are engaged with. I mean, that’s literally incredibly stark numbers that don’t feel great. And I think it’s in large part because consumers now are entertained constantly and frequently. And so, in order to cut through that, it needs to be about entertaining.”

Winning at retail: For brands launching into retail spaces to stand out among competitors, founders must have a great product, a solid marketing plan and a memorable in-store experience, said Noah Rosenblatt, president of North America at Space NK, and Sonia Summers, chief executive officer and founder of Beauty Barrage. For customer retention, among other factors, brand messaging must be consistent and inventory management is key. “Everybody thinks it’s really hard to get into store. Well, it’s even harder to stay in store,” said Summers.

Strategic partnerships: The right partners can significantly impact business growth, echoed many of the beauty founders, from collaborations with the right influencers in social media marketing to securing funding and navigating the acquisition process — as Sasha Plavsic did with Ilia, which was acquired by Famille C (the owner of French cosmetics group Clarins). The company ethos must align, Plavsic said.

Complete coverage of the event will run April 30.

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