Take Note Clarisonic: Dermaflash Wants To Land The Next Big Beauty Device Deal
Despite a blazing market for beauty devices expected to notch an average annual compound growth rate topping 18% over the next few years, acquisitions of beauty device companies have been rare. L’Oreal picked up cleansing leader Clarisonic in 2011, and nothing has come close to the magnitude of that sale in the device segment since then. Dermaflash could change that. Founder Dara Levy isn’t shy about wanting her facial exfoliation tool to win on a global stage — and she’s angling to get it there with an infomercial, distribution expansion and strategic investment. Beauty Independent talked to Levy about the challenges and triumphs of achieving scale by eliminating peach fuzz.
Did you have an aha moment?
I owned a high-end med spa in Chicago where I specialized in dermaplaning. Early on, I decided we were going to do one thing and do it really well. I trademarked my dermaplaning treatment called Dermaflash, and we became known for it. I was going to start a skincare line. I think very macro. I wasn’t going to own the spa, and that’s it, but I couldn’t decide what magic ingredient was going to be in it. I struggled. Hand to God, I was in the shower one day, and I screamed at the top of my lungs, “Oh my God, it’s Dermaflash!” From that moment on, I was laser focused.
Before you launched, did you have a retailer in mind?
Sephora and QVC were my two dream retailers, and that’s who I launched with. Sephora is the gold standard in beauty. People look to it for what’s cutting edge and next gen. QVC is a giant platform to get into millions of millions of homes at any given moment. It allows you to spread the gospel of your brand.
Dermaflash is reentering Sephora doors after exiting the retailer. What happened the first time?
We initially launched with Sephora in all doors, but it was actually a mistake on my part. We didn’t have the bandwidth to educate. We were on the back wall with no signage. It was a recipe for disaster.
What have you learned about what it takes to be successful at retail?
It’s really having the buy-in from your retail partners where they work to support you in store, and having a field team, which we are rolling out, where you literally have the boots on the ground to go in to touch and feel the customer.
“We initially launched with Sephora in all doors, but it was actually a mistake on my part. We didn’t have the bandwidth to educate. We were on the back wall with no signage. It was a recipe for disaster.”
Has it been difficult to bring a device to market?
It’s a double-edged sword. I have literally created a new category in beauty. It’s not another red lipstick. As exciting as that is, it’s also an incredible challenge. We are telling women that it is OK to put a blade to your face, but it’s not shaving. So, there’s a big educational component. QVC has been an incredible megaphone for me.
Replenishment and compliance have been issues with beauty device businesses. How do you address those?
With many devices, you have to use the device for six weeks [for results]. You have this hurry up and wait attitude. Dermaflash is truly empowering because the minute you use it, you see radiant fuzz-free skin. There is a nice replenishment component because our edges are single use for sanitary reasons and safety. You really get that engaged customer that continues the journey with you.
What big goals do you want Dermaflash to accomplish in the near future?
My goal would be, within the next two to three years, to have been bought by a global brand. Global distribution is coming. We get calls everyday from all corners of the earth, but we haven’t gotten there yet.
How do you position yourself to reach your goals?
We are launching an infomercial in 2018. We have a lot of innovation and a very robust pipeline. We are not stopping where we are.
When do you plan to reach profitability?
How fast is your company growing?
[As of June,] sales are up about 162 percent year to date.
Guthy-Renker Ventures invested in Dermaflash. How did that come about?
They saw me on QVC and reached out to me. We talked for a really long time. It was just phone calls really with both of us maybe not taking the other one that seriously. Around January or February, I met with Bill [Guthy] and Greg [Renker] face to face, and then it clicked.
Why did you want to bring Guthy-Renker Ventures on as a minority partner?
I created a new paradigm in beauty. How do you bring that to everybody and raise awareness? If, every time you turn on your TV, you see Dermaflash, I can’t imagine a better way to do it. It’s like QVC on steroids.
Did you worry about giving up equity?
I would rather have part of something than all of nothing. It would be impossible to do everything I’m doing without having brought on a strategic investor.
What is the price and how did you land on it?
Dermaflash is $189. A single dermaplaning treatment at a spa in California or New York can go up to $300 or $450. Once you buy the device, it is for life. For less than a latte a week, you maintain soft, radiant skin.
We have actually just launched on Amazon. I think that you have to do it. They are the biggest [online] retailer in the world. To get going, we are starting with Amazon, and we plan to move over to luxury [beauty on Amazon].
What’s in your workspace that’s meaningful to you and your business?
I’m very spiritual, and I talk about putting it out into the universe and manifesting your own destiny. I have a vision board. Adele is on there. She developed a postpartum beard she has lovingly called Larry, and she really needs Dermaflash. I have Oprah loves Dermaflash on my vision board. Something with her hasn’t happened yet, but I actually had a Guthy-Renker press release about an infomercial that went up long before I ever met with them.
“I would rather have part of something than all of nothing. It would be impossible to do everything I’m doing without having brought on a strategic investor.”
What functions have been best for you to outsource?
PR is very important to outsource to keep a pulse on the market and to know what’s out there at any given time. I outsource part of my marketing. I have an internal team, but I also have a brilliant woman, Julia Balfour, that is just amazing, and helps me with the creative.
What do you think is the outlook for beauty devices?
It’s an expanding market and will continue to grow because people want immediate gratification today. They don’t want to get in the car and drive to the spa, and have to go time and time again. Women want to take care of themselves in the comfort of their own homes, and it’s much more affordable to buy an at-home tool than get a spa treatment.