Posted: Wed 6th Apr 2022
I have spent over 20 years working in the beauty, luxury goods and retail industry, and have been fortunate enough to have experienced this industry from several angles – by working for contract manufacturers, retailers, travel retailers, distributors and beauty brands.
My work has taken me from South Africa to working with multinational companies in the UK and in Dubai.
As a former retail buyer and product development director, I’ve sourced and developed brands across all categories from value to luxury for companies including Body Shop, Boots, M&S, Crabtree & Evelyn, and Harvey Nichols.
When I first started my career, I wanted to create products that solved serious health or beauty concerns.
This wasn’t to be the case, and while I loved the work I did and the people I worked with, I often found myself oscillating between wanting to have a great job and wanting to make a real difference or as Steve Jobs said, ‘Wanting to make a ding in the world’.
In 2017, I decided to apply my experience of working for big corporate companies to working with passionate entrepreneurs, helping them to build a meaningful business that has a positive impact on people’s beauty and wellbeing, launching Bespoke Advantage.
We work with our clients in one of three ways:
We provide consultancy services for projects across the beauty industry.
We act as a trusted partner to several entrepreneurs and companies, in an advisory capacity.
We offer brand management services – which include new product development, sales and marketing & PR.
Some of our clients are complete start-ups – people who have an established career in a certain sector - and they have come up with a great idea to develop a beauty brand or business, but they don’t know how to go about this.
We work with them from their initial idea to develop a strategy for their business, we create their branding and their brand identity, we oversee their product development, and we deliver their marketing, PR, and sales to launch their brands to market.
We also work with established businesses who may want to extend their business into the beauty industry – retailers or fashion brands who might want to launch a beauty brand.
These can be private label brands, or we can source established brands for companies. Last year we were approached by a travel retail company, to source beauty brands for an airport.
Beauty encompasses beauty, spa, and wellness along with technical products and services.
The global beauty industry is a $532 billion industry that is growing at a phenomenal rate. A recent survey discovered that consumers are 40% more willing to try beauty products than before the pandemic.
Growth is traditionally driven by large established multi-nationals like Estee Lauder, Loreal and Coty who own many brands as well as smaller indy beauty brands and entrepreneurs, some of whom are developing their products from their homes or literally their kitchens.
Technology and the internet have significantly contributed to this growth – changing the way in which people can sell as well as purchase products globally.
In 2017, the wellness industry was reported to be $4.2 trillion (according to the Global Wellness Institute) and between 2015 and 2017 it grew 6.4% annually, twice as fast as the global economic growth (3.6%).
This shows no signs of slowing down. Previously, wellness was considered a luxury – going to the spa or the gym – now it is how we lead our lives. We have become far more conscious of our mental health, nutrition, exercise, stress, sleep and what makes us happy.
Branding is critical to building a successful business, and it extends beyond your look and feel.
It is your colours, font type, your packaging, your online presence, and your content.
Following the past two years, many companies have invested significantly in their branding and content. It is the first impression a customer has of your business, so it is important to have a distinctive look and feel, that differentiates you from your competitors.
The purpose of marketing is to support you in driving sales. If you are focusing on a direct-to-consumer strategy, then investing in your online footprint is essential.
If you are selling online and via brick & mortar, an integrated strategy that focuses on online and offline touchpoints is important.
Marketing includes your campaigns, your website, social media, and PR. It never fails to surprise me how few people consider marketing until they have created a product.
I received a phone call from an investment company the other day to say they had created a CBD product and were almost ready to launch. After speaking to them for a few minutes, we identified that they hadn’t created their branding, their website, their content or conducted any consumer testing.
We have also worked with several brands that have spent close to £100,000 on developing a product but hadn’t set aside a budget for marketing. You can’t launch a business without marketing.
Consumers today are looking for authenticity, transparency and to build a relationship with a brand.
They want to know who you are, and why you are doing what you are doing. Personal branding plays a big role in developing an authentic brand - this is your unique point of difference and can make or break your brand.
Share your story and your reason why, with your customers through your videos, your social media, your content, and your images.
Nobody else can do you as well as you can.
A few examples of personal brands
Joe Wicks, who developed a brand that educates people on balanced eating and exercise.
Gabby Bernstein, who is best known for her book ‘The Universe has your Back’ and is a spiritual coach and meditation guru.
Goop and Gwyneth Paltrow – which started out by sharing the truth about the beauty industry through a newsletter in 2008 and which has since grown into a significant brand.
Technology has also changed the way in which we market our businesses.
What is central to all businesses now is building a real and direct relationship with your customers, through establishing trust.
When building a business in this industry, it is not just about the product or the service - consumers are engaging with brands on a 1-2-1 basis, through having conversations online and demanding transparency.
What are some of the newer trends?
Sleep - The more connected we become, the less sleep we appear to be getting. 31% of adults are reported to be suffering from insomnia which can lead to weight gain, anxiety, and hormone imbalance. Businesses in this sector include apps, mattress brands and skincare products.
FemTech includes fertility apps, apps for women who are pregnant, and brands that are addressing menstrual cycles and menopause.
CBD products provide a variety of health-related benefits, from treating anxiety and depression to stress, diabetes, pain relief, cancer, and acne reduction.
Packaging - According to Zero Waste, 120 billion units of packaging are produced every year by the global cosmetics industry; 50% is recycled in the bathroom versus 90% in the kitchen.
Transparency – The industry is rapidly moving to environmental and social considerations. We want to know what we are putting into our bodies, where it is sourced from and how it is made
Once you have launched your company you need to build your brand.
How do you extend your brand into new products or markets or through branching out into related areas that are complementary to your brand?
The business model you have selected will determine how you go about driving sales.
There are several routes to launching your brand: direct-to-consumer through your website, through using third-party websites, through Amazon and other online platforms, retailers, and your own retail shop.
You may decide to use agents or distributors. Whilst you can build a brand online direct-to-consumer, and many do, there is growing evidence that as consumers, we like to feel connected, and the more time we spend on technology, the more isolated we are beginning to feel.
Having a clear purpose is a phenomenally successful strategy for gaining market share, strengthening your reputation, and connecting with your customers authentically.
How to build success in a business
Innovation – Most people think that to start a business, your idea needs to be original. There are already countless businesses in existence, so it is very likely that you will not be the first to market. Instead of focusing on being original, look at what is already out there and how you can improve upon it.
Developing products people want and need – We are constantly distracted by our busy lives and technology. Take time out to clear your head - this can help to open your mind to a myriad of ideas.
You are far more likely to make your idea a success if you focus on the skills you already have, whether a hobby or your current work. Seek to solve a problem, there are plenty of problems that need to be solved.
Making them easy to purchase – Retail has changed significantly over the past few years, and the benefit is people can shop anywhere, anytime.
You can even buy beauty products, together with your pizza, when ordering from Deliveroo. So, think about your customer journey, and where they are hanging out, and make it easy for them to buy. Depending on the products you are selling, convenience and price are often very important.
What should you NOT do?
Passion is great but it can only get you so far – Building joint venture relationships, networking, and upskilling yourself in business is elementary to your success. Don’t get carried away by passion and forget to focus on the business, as well as your products.
Money is critical to growth, so do not ignore your numbers – Focus on your numbers and your finances; a lot of businesses fail not because they have the wrong idea, but because they run out of cash.
When building a product-based business, you do not need many products, you need the right products – Do not be afraid of starting small and building it from there, but ensure you get your foundation right, so that you can scale it when the time arises.
Building success in life
The importance of being open to the unexpected and change – Good things can come out of a time of crisis. In fact, a time of crisis can present lots of opportunities to deliver real value to the world.
You learn through doing, and you learn a lot through setting up a business. You are going to make mistakes, and wish you had done things differently, but keep in mind that you are going to do this, even when you have been in business for years.
The importance of relationships – Don’t try to do everything alone. To grow a business you need a team, so surrounding yourself with the right people is very important to growing.
You need people who are going to provide you with the skills that you don’t have. Remember you don’t need to know everything, that is the value of hiring the right team.
The importance of trusting yourself – It is great to take advice from other people but remember to trust your gut instinct. If something doesn’t feel right, there is probably a good reason for this. Whilst other people may provide you with good advice, ultimately you need to be the one that makes the final decision.