After Rolling Out To 30,000 Stores With Lip Balms, Moroccan Magic Is Expanding Into Skincare And Haircare
On the strength of its organic argan oil-fueled lip balm, Moroccan Magic has rolled out to 30,000 doors nationwide, including at Walgreens, Bed Bath & Beyond, Stop & Shop, Whole Foods Market, Wegmans, Target, CVS, Publix and, most recently, Walmart.
Now, the brand is transitioning to Moroccan Magic Clean + Beauty and going much further than lip products. It’s launching skincare and haircare lines—and is planning men’s and baby lines in the future. The brand is expected to close in on $10 million in sales within the next three years.
How did it generate eye-opening growth in a short amount of time with a single product? For Moroccan Magic founder, 34-year-old Kristina Tsipouras, known on social media as @busygirlboston, the tale begins with failure.
After leaving her job as a wedding planner, Tsipouras spent a summer in Greece, where she looked for opportunities to match the global success of Greek yogurt. “I found this hidden gem of an herbal tea everyone was drinking, and I decided to bring it to America,” says Tsipouras. Although the ready-to-drink beverage called ZOOS caught the attention of Wegmans and Stop & Shop, she couldn’t keep the brand afloat.
“With that company, I made all the mistakes and learned the hard way,” she says. Reading John C. Maxwell’s book, “Failing Forward: Turning Mistakes into Stepping Stone for Success,” prompted Tsipouras to summon the courage to create again.
In 2015, she formed Boston Business Women, a women’s entrepreneurial group Tsipouras says has become the largest women’s networking group in New England with over 20,000 members. Conferences she produced helped return her to financial health and the prowl for product opportunities.
Following a trip to Morocco, a friend alerted her to powers of argan oil. “I used it everywhere, and people started asking me what I was using,” she says. The efficacy of the natural oil spurred Tsipouras to think about the ingredients she didn’t like in products, especially lip balm. She says, “I thought a high-end lip balm with high-quality, safe, organic ingredients was missing in the market.”
“It was a crowded market, but there hadn’t been a high-quality organic lip balm option for green-minded consumers in those [mass] stores.”
Her timing was fortunate. Scouring IRI data showed Tsipouras that lip balm sales were accelerating at a fast clip, and people were scrutinizing the ingredients in beauty products and had learned about oils such as argan. Tsipouras says, “It was a crowded market, but there hadn’t been a high-quality organic lip balm option for green-minded consumers in those [mass] stores.”
She dreamed big and requested quotes on the cost for 100 pieces up to 100,000 pieces. “I knew I would struggle with margins, and some flavors would be more expensive,” she says, mentioning Moroccan Magic’s bestseller Rose is the costliest. Still, the lip balms—available in Peppermint Eucalyptus, Lavender Vanilla, Coconut Almond, Lemon Thyme and Elderberry + Manuka Honey as well as Rose—are all priced at $3.99. They are fragrance-, cruelty-, paraben- and sulfate-free.
Tsipouras purchased LinkedIn Premium to identify and reach out to retail buyers. “I sent packages to every buyer I could find hoping to hit the right one,” she recounts. She quickly heard back from CVS, and the retailer wanted to do a 1,000-store test. Within three months of the initial order, CVS expanded Moroccan Magic across its store network. Walgreens and Target soon came into the picture, and Walmart is currently adding Moroccan Magic to its assortment. Amazon and moroccanmagic.com bring the e-commerce business into the mix.
Tsipouras gained confidence with each new retailer. “In the beginning, I didn’t ask for good shelf space, but I got savvier and requested eye level. Lip balm is a consumer discovery item. People aren’t going to bend over on the shelf to pick up a brand they have never heard of before. When we are at eye level, we sell like crazy,” she says. “It is important for smaller brands to have the conversation about eye-level positioning to have a real shot at success and compete with the Clorox-owned brands that we sit next to on shelves. To date, as far as we know, we are the only women-owned lip care brand on most of the retail shelves that we sit on.”
To spark buzz, Tsipouras sent products to 1,000-plus influencers aligned with Moroccan Magic’s positioning. Today, the company has an ambassador program with 800 members called the Magic Makers. “We approached it as, what can we do for you instead of what they could do for us,” she says. For example, Tsipouras hosts Facebook Live tutorials offering advice on how to work with brands.
Moroccan Magic’s forthcoming haircare and skincare products build upon its lip balm’s focus on argan oil by incorporating the hero ingredient. It will be paired with shea butter, avocado oil, lavender essential oil, rosehip seed oil, bamboo stem extract and glycerin. “Lip balm is first and foremost, and there is a lot of innovation yet to be tapped,” she says, noting Moroccan Magic extended to lip tints and scrubs, a body balm and a foot balm. “But we are testing skin and hair products launching online on 11/11 [thought to be a magical date].” The brand will be unveiling sheet masks, shampoo, conditioner, body wash, body lotion, face lotion, face wash and face exfoliant.
“It is important for smaller brands to have the conversation about eye-level positioning to have a real shot at success.”
Moroccan Magic’s haircare and skincare formulas are designed to be clean and affordable. Prices will run from $12 to $24. The brand adheres to European Union cosmetic ingredient standards. The haircare and skincare products will debut online, a less risky approach than the big-box store route. Tsipouras says, “We’re self-funded, and I want to start slowly and, then, trickle into indies and supermarkets to determine our bestsellers.” On top of the haircare and skincare merchandise, a Magic Subscription Box is on tap for December. It will contain an array of merchandise such as crystals, self-care books, meditation cards, candles, sock, clean beauty and lifestyle products.
Although her is business flourishing, Tsipouras stays cautious. “With all the stores we are in, does it mean we’ve made it? I know I should be able to breath,” she says, continuing, “We have been profitable since the beginning, and we are careful about our growth. We’ve declined investments. I don’t want to give away equity until the timing is right. We’ve done it the hard way for several years, and I want to see where we’ll go.”
Moroccan Magic has five employees and recent moved from Tsipouras’s house to an office that it’s already outgrowing. She still handles much of the customer correspondence personally. “I love communicating with our customers,” says Tsipouras. “I learn so much from them and that is what makes us different. We actually listen to our customers and implement their ideas.”
Her advice to other entrepreneurs is to be wary of agreeing to common retail chain requests like payment on scan or buying shelf space. “Run the numbers. Don’t set yourself up to fail,” says Tsipouras. “I teach an entrepreneur class and the first thing I tell people is, ‘If you can’t invest in a board, visit your local college business school.’ There are most likely professors who will look at your plan. Don’t do it alone.”