Lessons In Brand Building From The Founders Of Moon Juice, Summer Fridays And Sacheu Beauty

If you’re a founder starting a brand with a fandom that hangs on your every word, you’re in luck. It’s invaluable for business. However, that sort of preoccupation is unusual. For most brands, gaining loyalty doesn’t happen overnight and, even for celebrity- and influencer-affiliated brands, which seem to be popping up every day, tapping a fervent audience for consistent sales over the long term isn’t easy.

“There’s so many aspects to wellness and beauty and social media that have just really changed so quickly,” said Amanda Rogove, née Chantal Bacon, who launched Moon Juice a decade ago without relying on social media. Today, the brand has 334,000 Instagram followers, and Rogove has pulled in about 22,000. “We’re living in a very, very different world.” 

Last Wednesday, Rogove joined influencers-turned-beauty entrepreneurs Sarah Cheung, founder of Sacheu Beauty, and Marianna Hewitt and Lauren Ireland, co-founders of Summer Fridays, for an episode of Beauty Independent’s webinar series In Conversation to discuss harnessing consumer insights to fuel innovation, dealing with negativity in the comment section and translating storytelling into sales.

Moon Juice’s Sex Dust is an adaptogenic blend of shatavari, shilajit, ppimedium, schisandra, cacao and maca that is designed to address stress, promotes a healthy hormonal balance, and foster creative energy in and out of the bedroom.

Amanda Rogove, Founder of Moon Juice

Inspiration: Moon Juice is the outgrowth of Rogove searching for natural ways to handle the autoimmune disorder Hashimoto’s. The former chef educated herself on diet, lifestyle and spirituality practices, and radically improved her health. Based on the information she gathered, Rogove began blending her own supplement elixirs, and brought them to market when clean beauty and wellness options were more limited than they have become since. She used $150,000 raised from friends and family to open a small location in the Los Angeles neighborhood Venice in 2011. “Traditionally, wellness has been very anti-beauty,” said Rogove, continuing, “I was, until very recently, buying things in a co-op or it was crunchy unattractive brands that were the only place I could find something clean.” 

Pivots: After establishing itself with its own locations—it currently has three in the LA area—Moon Juice broke into Sephora in the United States three years ago. This month, the brand hit Sephora Canada online and will roll out to the retailer’s locations in July. Later this year, it will enter the Middle East, and expand its door count in Australia and New Zealand via its partnership with Mecca. Moon Juice sells 50-plus stockkeeping units, from its famous Sex Dust and Beauty Dust to activated almonds and tote bags. “I’ll never create something if I feel like it’s being done perfectly already,” said Rogove. She noted she has no interest in hopping aboard the CBD craze or joining the probiotics parade as she feels brands have already nailed formulations with those ingredients. 

Key Takeaways: Moon Juice built its foundation in brick-and-mortar outposts, a move that motivated an emotional attachment to its products and founder on the part of its customers. Although Rogove is certainly known as the force behind Moon Juice, largely as a result of press coverage, she doesn’t strive to be the face of the brand on social media. “I really shrunk away from being the brand messenger,” said Rogove. “I wish I could do it, but I’m not the type of person who is going to jump on and do a Live.” 

Moon Juice relies on email marketing and blogging to foster connections with customers outside of physical locations. At a moment in which brand founders are called out frequently, Rogove advised entrepreneurs to get comfortable not being able to make everyone happy and stay focused on their mission. “I’m vocal about what I believe in and, sometimes, get called a snake oil salesman,” she said. Rogove stressed the criticism isn’t from Moon Juice’s customers. She said, “It would probably bother me if I wasn’t selling millions of bottles of supplements to people that were on subscription, if we didn’t have a stickiness rate. If we didn’t have people writing in and leaving reviews, it I would really tune in and take it seriously, if it was my customers coming to me.”

“When we were working on this in 2016, sustainability wasn’t as big as it is now, and we really fought for and tried to make these aluminum tubes work,” says Marianna Hewitt, co-founder of Summer Fridays. “Now, we have a recycling program and all of our face masks are in aluminum tubes.”

Marianna Hewitt and Lauren Ireland, Co-Founders of Summer Fridays

Inspiration: Hewitt and Ireland, who have more than 1.2 million combined followers, leveraged their broadcast journalism backgrounds to branch into the social media sphere when blogging and vlogging were initially on the rise. Ireland garnered a health- and wellness-focused audience. and Hewitt did the same in beauty. In 2016, when Ireland was seven weeks pregnant, she began searching for cleaner skincare products than she was accustomed to using. She and Hewitt concluded there was space in the beauty market to introduce clean beauty merchandise to their communities—and beyond. After two years in development, Summer Fridays debuted in 2018 with one product, Jet Leg Mask. 

Pivots: Skills Hewitt and Ireland had sharpened through their journalism training—enacting search engine optimization (SEO) tactics, selecting engaging headlines and writing quality copy—were keys to them standing out from the online crowds to attract devoted crowds to their platforms. Once they decided to launch their brand, Ireland said sticking with Jet Leg Mask alone at the outset prompted quick brand recognition. Additionally, from a financial perspective, it was a much lighter lift to produce and send out samples of a single product.

Summer Fridays has expanded from the single product to seven products sold at roughly 1,000 stores globally, including Sephora, Mecca, Net-a-Porter, Selfridges, Apotheca and Space NK. “The second we confirmed with Sephora, we were like, wait, we have to act like a real company,” said Hewitt. To support the retail push, Summer Fridays shored up its internal infrastructure by hiring an employee to manage purchase orders and shipments, freeing up Hewitt and Ireland to concentrate on product development and marketing. “We have no ego about it,” said Hewitt. “There are certain people we need to hire who know better than us, who can do these things. If you are going into retail, you need to make sure you are ready. It could fail, and you may not get that chance again.”

Key Takeaways: Millennial pink was big as Summer Fridays was arriving on the beauty scene, but the brand opted to steer clear of it by housing Jet Leg Mask in a blue aluminum tube. “Even if you didn’t know what it was, you kept seeing this blue product everywhere. It really stood out,” said Ireland. Hewitt chimed in that she and Ireland always take into account how Summer Fridays’ packaging will appear on digital channels. 

“We think social and digital first,” said Hewitt, elaborating, “We knew our consumer was going to take pictures on an iPhone and share. So, when we were getting product samples and packaging samples, we were taking pictures with iPhone, cropping them into a square to see what would look like in a flat lay. What will this look like if somebody posts this on Instagram? Make the logo larger because, if this photo is from far away, you can barely see it.”

Sarah Cheung’s brand Sacheu Beauty gave face rollers and gua sha tools an upgrade by making them out of stainless steel, which doesn’t harbor bacteria.

Sarah Cheung, Founder of Sacheu Beauty

Inspiration: While studying philosophy at The University of Texas at Austin, Cheung posted on YouTube as a hobby. The highlight of her week was buying makeup and unboxing it on camera. She also made body butter and highlighters herself, selling them through a Shopify website. “It was such a bad idea,” said Cheung, shaking her head, “but I learned so many lessons.” The undergrad also amassed a following on Tumblr, where people asked her to share her beauty routine. After graduating from college, she worked full-time on her social media presence. Sacheu Beauty launched in September last year after brand incubator Gloss Ventures contacted Cheung about a brand partnership.

Pivots: Sacheu Beauty premiered with a gua sha tool and face roller because they were integral to Cheung’s beauty journey. “It’s something that’s existed in Chinese beauty for a long time, and something that I watched my mother and my grandmother use since I was young,” she explained. Gloss Ventures and the influencer, who has a social media audience of 1.2 million across platforms, identified stainless steel as a material that could upgrade the gua sha tool and face roller experience. Stainless steel doesn’t harbor bacteria and is simple to clean. On top of the tools’ material, she sought to upgrade the messaging around them. Cheung says, “I really wanted to bring those tools to the West in a way that doesn’t rely on the…orientalist type of stereotypes, those type of tropes that you see a lot in jade roller marketing.”

Key Takeaways: For influencers trepidatious about leaping from content to products, Cheung said having her own line hasn’t hindered her ability to work with other brands on partnerships. She’s been transparent with brands about her products, and she reported most have been supportive of them. To guide her brand, Cheung’s followers readily let her know what they believe is missing in the beauty market. Paying attention to them has helped her hone a discerning eye for spotting white spaces. Cheung advised her fellow brand founders to put themselves in consumers’ shoes and think backwards about what products could fit into their daily routines.

“That’s the method I use when I create my content, too. I look at what I engage with and, then, I think backwards,” she said. “What are the elements that made me keep watching these videos? And I create based on that. People really want transparency and really want to learn more about skincare. Especially during COVID, my audience and the skincare consumer is becoming so much more educated, so there is a demand for that type of content from brands.”