What’s The Right Number Of Products For Beauty Brands To Start With?

In this edition of Beauty Independent’s ongoing series posing questions to beauty entrepreneurs, we ask 20 brand and e-commerce shop founders and executives: How many products did you launch with, and why did you decide on that number?

Zaffrin O'Sullivan Co-Founder and CEO, Five Dot Botanics

We chose to launch with three products, even though we had eight developed. Launching with a smaller set of products allowed us to have a more focused approach to marketing and sales. It also didn’t overwhelm our audience with too much choice. 

As a startup, we are also massively focused on conserving cash, and manufacturing a smaller launch range allowed us to maintain a better cash flow. We are now using our audience to help us decide which products to launch next, and it’s been really helpful having a mixture of sales data and audience feedback to help drive our next product launch.

Brie Wilde Founder and CEO, Eighth Aura

When I was planning the launch, I had always wanted to launch with eight products, but ended up launching with five instead. All of the products were not able to be perfected by launch. So, instead of launching something I was not proud of, they were cut from the launch and will be launched at a later date. 

It actually worked out better to launch with five instead of eight because, as a new brand, it can be information overload to consumers trying to educate them on our values, mission, what we offer and, then, products. When there’s too many products, it can come off as trying to sell rather than genuinely trying to educate anyone that looks at our page. Five turned out to be our sweet spot!

Stephanie Montes Founder and CEO, Nue

Originally, I wanted to launch with five shades to be as inclusive as possible. However, I launched without loans, outside investment or crowdfunding. It was a personal investment, so I had to be really careful about how I spent my money. For one, I wanted to be cautious with the stock I ordered. I'm a realist, so I knew if [the brand] never took off, I couldn't be left with a guest room full of breast tapes. 

Secondly, manufacturers have minimums and, when you're creating custom products in custom colors, the minimum quantities can be very high. Ultimately, I decided to go with three shades that span the spectrum of skin tones. It's definitely in the plan to roll out additional shades as the demand increases, but, luckily, we've had an amazing response to our current offerings.

Yoel Vaisberg Founder and CEO, Haielle

We originally conceptualized a line of eight products. Our goal was to launch them simultaneously. However, as the development process evolved, we truly understood the complexities of achieving the right balance between effectiveness and safety. 

After testing several versions of each product, we decided to compromise on the ideal scenario from a marketing point of view and launch only the two products that complied with our standards. They were followed by the third product after three months, and we expect to have a fourth product on the market. It’s better to have fewer products that are great than many products that are just OK.

Shalini Vadhera Founder, Ready Set Jet Beauty

We launched with seven products, the Beauty Baton collection. Three full-size batons with different products on each side of the baton stick.  Given everything happening with COVID and a move towards simplifying your life, we decided that less is more. All of our products have two to four uses allowing you to do your face in 10 minutes or less. Skincare and makeup are included in the dual-use batons. 

Nisha Dearborn Founder and CEO, Fresh Chemistry

I launched with one, two or four products, depending on how you look at it. The purpose of my brand is to deliver higher potency skincare products, so I launched with just one type of product, a facial serum, because it is the workhorse in a woman's facial care routine. This product form was the best way to show off the brand's reason for being. 

I created two versions of the serum to address a wider audience: one for women experiencing early signs of aging like uneven tone and texture or brown spots, and one for women further along in their journey, trying to combat fine lines and wrinkles. Then, for each type of serum, I created an Original and a Supercharged version. 

The Supercharged version includes exclusive active ingredients and higher levels of potency for an extra cost, so it allows women to pick the right ingredient level and price point for their skin. With this launch structure, I was able to align my brand's benefit with product form, and allow a woman to pick the right product benefit, level and price that works best for her.

Ranay Orton Owner, Glow by Daye

We launched with one product, our satin bonnet, in one color. I wanted to make sure of two things before investing too much before moving forward. No 1., I wanted to make sure people loved it as much as I and the family and friends that I gave it to try before releasing it. No. 2, I wanted to make sure the quality would be able to be upheld with a larger quantity before proceeding to more variations and other products.

AYANNA HENDERSON Founder, Ayanna Beauty

I launched with four products. I now have six launched and two new products under development. The one I’m most excited about is the collagen powder. Both beauty and wellness are important to me from a brand perspective. Some may have started with a full line, but I didn’t want to start with too many products. Strategic launches as we grow our audience felt right. We will continue to roll out products as we grow to include cleansers and moisturizers.

PAAYAL MAHAJAN Founder, Essential Body

I started with seven products, which I formulated to work for most skin types and skin conditions. A few months in, I added on three more. My line is still very minimal, geared towards efficacy and doing away with needing a list of 10 products just for the face. In addition to my retail line, I make bespoke formulations for my clients who have specific requests. This aspect of my work is extremely exciting to the formulator in me!

KARA SOULE Co-Founder, Verdant

We launched with five variations of our full spectrum, THC-free hemp extract: four crafted for people, one crafted for pets. It was our intention to thoughtfully create a collection that ensured everyone could have access to the highest quality hemp products, whether they were just trying CBD for the first time and wanted to start slow and at a lower price point or already knew exactly what they wanted and preferred to invest a little more for a higher concentration.

BEATRICE DIXON Founder and CEO, The Honey Pot Company

I launched with one wash initially, but that quickly became four washes: Lavender, Moisture, Preggers and Little Girl. I figured there were different needs, so I wanted to accommodate those needs with washes that were formulated for a diverse range of customers.

Amber Fawson Co-Founder, Saalt

We have way fewer SKUs than a lot of brands, which has been a deliberate and rewarding approach in so many ways. We launched with one product, a menstrual cup in two sizes and two colors. Focusing on only our cup has been key to dedicating all of our team’s talent and energy to breaking stigmas around period cups. 

This focus has allowed us bandwidth to partner with activists and thought leaders who also care about breaking stigmas worldwide. The benefit for us is that we grow the market as we break stigmas. Our focus on one product has also allowed us to build a strong impact program and do a lot of good. We love that we are building real trust and cooperative relationships with people who can change the world with us.

Dillon Peña Creator, Leland Francis

I launched with one product, the Luxe Face Oil. At the time of launch, as a working makeup artist, I wanted one item that could be put in my makeup kit, used on set and [given as] a gift to those I was working with.

Ione Rucker Co-Owner, Rucker Roots

Our initial launch was with four products that could be used as a system. We really wanted products that would set us apart from other brands. At the time of launch, our competitors had very few systems that would take from curly to straight without damaging the hair. In the natural space, many felt—and some still feel—as if you cannot straighten your hair with heat to be considered natural. Well, we are ladies that like to wear our hair both ways and have versatility.

VALERIE OBAZE Founder and CEO, R&R Luxury

We launched with one product, Shea Oil, which was available in three variations to start with. It was after discovering that shea butter was available in a liquid/oil that I decided to start the brand. So, that naturally became our first product. After taking some courses in product formulation, I was able to learn about essential oils and experimented with different natural oils to add a nice fragrance, which is how I created the brand’s signature scent, Serenity. The third variation we introduced was Madagascan Vanilla, which was discontinued after some time when the direction of the branding changed. 

I chose to start with just one product as I was new to the world of manufacturing and wanted to ensure I could thoroughly understand and discover my niche and the USP (unique selling proposition) of the brand, whilst also learning about formulations at the same time. Launching with one product in three variations allowed me to test the market to find out which scents were most popular and to gain great customer testimonials on the product we had. 

It also helped us to build brand awareness and brand trust so that, when other products were introduced later down the line, people couldn’t wait to try them as they already loved our Shea Oil. Shea Oil is still our bestseller today nine years later, and the brand now has a range with over 15 skincare products including soaps, scrubs and other oils all made with natural ingredients sourced in Africa. We have recently moved into our brand new purpose-built factory in Ghana, and I look forward to working closely with our formulator on some new sophisticated formulations using African ingredients as a base in the coming months.

Molly Hayward Founder and Chief Brand Officer, Cora

We launch two to three new products and additional line extensions for existing products every year. We are always listening to our community and want to give menstruators, new moms and women the things they want from the brand. For example, we launched our women-designed proprietary bladder liners because we know bladder leakage is something that affects women of every age. Ultimately, our mission is to create modern, healthy women's wellness products and content while also dismantling stigmas through education and giving back to girls in need. It's a lofty goal, and there are always new products, ideas and visions coming to life behind the scenes.

Kethlyn White CFO, Coil Beauty

We launched with six brands and probably 30 total products. We had about five products from each brand. We launched with that number for a few reasons: 1). That’s what we could afford at the time. 2). We wanted to have a good mix of products to have all aspects of beauty represented on our site, and 3). Some brands had not OK’d our requests to sell at the time of our launch.

Murphy Bishop Co-Founder, The Better Skin Co.

We launched with one product, Better Skin Mirakle Cream. We launched with one product because we wanted to launch a product that was best in class, and we wanted to hyper focus our marketing message around the product. The marketing centered on three things: clean beauty, multipurpose and for all people. The launch was very successful scoring national TV, incredible digital press and great sales. Customers know what we stand for, and Mirakle Cream is still a hit, over a million jars sold.

Mandi Nyambi CEO, Baalm

We launched with six brands and several dozen products. It was important to us that we had a small batch of brands that we thoroughly vetted and truly believed in. That meant saying “no” or "maybe in six months" to some really interesting brands as well.

Our focus wasn't having tons of brands or tons of products, but rather unique offerings and effective solutions for a variety of skin issues. It was also important to us that we develop close relationships with the people behind each brand and, with a small cohort, that becomes more than possible. In fact, our favorite meetings are with our brands and that can be a game changer for a small business like ours.

Helen Reavey Founder, Act+Acre

We launched with three products, what we call "The Essentials." The three products included are the Cold Processed Scalp Detox, Hair Cleanse and Hair Conditioner. In any routine, what we actually need is often much less than what we think. For us, being a brand focused on scalp health, the main products you need are a treatment that removes dirt, oil, pollution and sweat to encourage a healthy scalp environment, a non-stripping shampoo, and a hydrating conditioner.

If you have a question you’d like Beauty Independent to ask beauty entrepreneurs, please send it to editor@beautyindependent.com.