The Many, Many, Many Strategic Shifts That Got Beauty Brands Through The Pandemic So Far
With the United States crossing a year since the first lockdowns were imposed to stem the spread of the coronavirus, which has claimed more than 530,000 lives in the country and 2.62 million globally, we decided to check in with beauty brand and retail founders and executives about the strategic shifts that helped their businesses endure this turbulent time. We asked 56 of them the following question: What’s one pivot you made in the past year that will have a long-term benefit to your company?
- Chelsea Lewis Founder, My Mommy Wisdom
With so many unknowns in 2020 this year, I wanted to be very intentional about everything regarding my business. I made a commitment to invest in my company by hiring a PR firm. I don’t think people realize the value of traditional media because everyone is so used to social media. Having done so, I have already generated more orders in two months than I have done last quarter.
- Kat Burki Founder, Kat Burki
We had been planning for a while to launch an online magazine capturing the health and wellness topics that we and many of those in our community were interested in. During the pandemic, we were able to finally focus on this side of the business and give it the voice it needed and launch Nourish. We are now weaving this into all of the brand and brand touch points. This allows us to fully capture our brand depth and all the intricacies and points of difference that are who we truly are.
Health and wellness has always been a major part of the brand message as it is my background, and the science that drives the products. Health and wellness, post-pandemic, is an area now near and dear to the entire world. Once Nourish was built, we further expanded our entire digital team, now allowing us to touch more people and include them in the discussion.
- Leila Kashani Founder, Alleyoop
One of the biggest pivots we made last year was throw our marketing plan for September out the window in order to shift our focus completely to the elections. We have always stood for moving the world forward. Sometimes that means saving customers time so that you can help move the world forward in your own way, creating multifunctional products that make better use of your energy, or encouraging people to get out and make their voices heard.
When we found out that 53% of non-voters in the last election were women, we knew we had to change that. So, we quickly created an initiative that gave free products to anyone who pledged to vote. It was a great exercise in realizing that our mission to move the world forward doesn’t stop at our products. It’s not just about what you make, it’s also about what you do for others and for the world at large.
- Merian Odesho Founder and Formulator, Bounce Curl
Transportation of product from our manufacturer to our warehouse was a real challenge during the time of COVID. We were not able to replenish our product supply in our usual timeframe, and customers were not always able to understand that we were doing the best we could under the circumstances. This pushed us to look for new manufacturers to help us keep products in stock.
Going forward, this really can only be a good thing! Should there be a problem nationally again as in COVID or, if one of the manufacturers themselves has a problem, we already have alternate supply chains that we have developed and are confident will work.
- Barb Stegemann Founder, The 7 Virtues
When we could not travel to train our beauty advisors in our Sephora stores, we built a state of the art studio with sound foam, a teleprompter, hi-tech sound and cameras, all the bells and whistles so we could train our stores. It paid off and gave us the confidence to expand in Sephora in 13 countries in the EU—from France to Italy and more—because we can train virtually. This studio has allowed me to host Sephora virtual events, do speaking engagements, and even our meetings on Zoom are just more professional. It helps we have in-house tech, literally our son Victor who works with us!
- Allison Moss Founder and CEO, Type:A
One pivot we made in 2020 was to accelerate moving toward an omnichannel distribution strategy and diversify our retail partnerships. Going into the year, we had been primarily a DTC brand, and we were planning to slowly expand our retail and Amazon businesses over the coming few years. However, as consumer behaviors have changed in many ways, we've pivoted our strategy to accelerate growth in all channels. We've also worked to accelerate our brand expansion by more quickly adding new retail partnerships than initially planned. We've already added a few key partners with more to come, including beloved regional chains like Meijer and HEB, and powerful national partners including costco.com and walma
- Dominique Boseman Founder, Spraise
We really leaned into self-care, with "Odes to Self" and instructions for how to use affirmations written directly on each of our products. Due to COVID-19, our customers became even more aware of the importance of well-being. We firmly associated our brand with self-care, and it's paying off because we've seen an increase in returning customers and an increase in customers gifting to friends and family during this time. This association will serve us long-term because it allows our customers to understand that we care about their whole person, and it allows them to have a meaningful relationship with our products and brand. It also keeps us top of mind when looking for and gifting products for self-care purposes.
- Nancy Crossley Founder, BeautySoClean
Realizing that we are in a business category of essential products, we invested our time and resources in extensive laboratory testing to prove efficacy against viruses and bacteria. We believe this will have long-term benefits as we are now able to market these results as unique in our field. Therefore, setting us apart from our competitors.
- Athena Hewett Founder, Monastery Made
We had to close our spa two weeks after its grand opening because of COVID. It felt devastating at the time, but the closure allowed us the time that we needed to ramp up manufacturing and shipping for our e-commerce store. For the first time ever, we shifted all of our focus towards e-commerce, whereas before so much of our attention had been in the physical space, with me actually giving facials. I think I would have had a hard time making that pivot all on my own, but the pandemic sort of gave me an opportunity to let go and go all in. Any client guilt that may have held me back had slipped away.
- Tara Chandra Co-Founder, Here We Flo
I'd say it's two things: 1). We went from being a brick-and-mortar-focused company to more equally balanced with e-commerce, whether our DTC website sales or Amazon. That's become a strong, loyal part of our business, and we're excited to grow it long term. People used to buy personal care products like our organic tampons and bladder leak pads in supermarkets or drugstores, so we weren't as focused on digital sales, but we now give it due attention.
2). Our tiny team—three full-time, three part-time—has become quite close and bonded over the year. Because of lockdowns and social distancing, we're the only people we've seen so consistently, with morning catchups and afternoon socials. But it's also been a year full of challenges, where we've had to work incredibly hard and support one another, and that builds long-lasting bonds.
- Casey Georgeson Founder, Saint Jane
Our biggest challenge (DTC) turned into our most exciting win during COVID. Saint Jane's direct business grew 300% in 2020 because we pivoted from brick-and-mortar growth to our own website. When we launched in 2019, we faced giant obstacles with CBD that precluded us from leaning into our own site's growth levers. 2020 gave us the space to build the foundation for our business in a way we could not before and get creative about ways to reach our clients in meaningful ways.
- Heidi Ackerman CMO, Epicuren
We at Epicuren were forced to relook at how we support our wholesale accounts, aestheticians and certified spas. With spas having to close, we just couldn’t sit back and watch our customers suffer. Our sales team started planning Zoom meetings concentrating on educating our accounts and assisting them in being successful in this unprecedented time. These Zoom meetings were called “Ask Our Experts” and, at this point, we are proud to say we have completed over 100! We also launched a drop-ship program to allow our accounts to continue to sell our products and make a profit.
- Jessica Blacker Founder, Jecca Blac
In December, we celebrated our third birthday as a brand and, particularly in the past 12 months, have seen many opportunities open up for us, as well as having to take the occasional reroute to accommodate our rapidly changing world with regard to COVID-19. An example of our opportunities which shows a real benchmark in our success as a brand would be that we were meant to begin our launch into travel retail and expanding brick-and-mortar accounts in 2020. However, due to COVID-19 restrictions and the drastic decrease in travel, which for now has put a pause on our travel retail plans, we needed to pivot our strategy. Since COVID-19, we are focusing more on growing our B2B online retailers and DTC channels. Our strategy has an emphasis on connecting with more customers through the fast-growing online world.
- Jamyla Bennu Founder, Oyin Handmade
The main pivot actually begun in 2019, focusing more on direct-to-consumer/e-commerce and pivoting away from mass distribution. Our emphasis on those direct channels were invaluable during 2020 when there were so many disruptions in the supply chain and more people turning online.
- Rachel James Founder, Pear Nova
We have two that go hand in hand. The pivot from being a nail lacquer brand to a nail lacquer and nail care brand, and the pivot from bringing customers in for nail services at Pear Nova Studio to bringing Pear Nova Studio to our customers. We quickly put together an at-home gel lacquer removal kit in the middle of the lockdown and found that we should be offering a complete system outside of lacquer, one that has a focus on care and inspiration.
- Rose Fernandez CEO, Algenist
Last year was wild, and we felt what was coming in January as we have a China business. With this insight, we were able to reimagine our business model to digital first. We implemented this shift by April of 2020, allowing us to connect with our consumer in a myriad of ways: livestream, live chat, one-on-one video service and, importantly, we were able to allow for trial of our products with the introduction of deluxe sampling programs that removed barriers.
Education and sampling are important in any environment. We put our products in the consumers’ hands with the confidence that they would see results in 10 days, and we were able to transition this consumer to a customer on our site. Our new-to-brand through paid sampling programs was 59% in 2020, and we continue to see strong results.
Because of the pandemic, we decided to switch to being fully remote as a company and perpetually give up our office space. This allows us to hire top talent from across the country instead of being confined to one geographical area. This also puts more focus on KPIs and goals instead of the actual amount of time someone spends working. Long term, I believe this will help us maintain our results-oriented culture while providing a better work life balance for our team.
- Lorraine Curry Founder, Gelid Beauty
One of the biggest pivots I’ve made in my business this year is to add more information on my website regarding current events. By adding insight on any event that may impact orders in relation to shipping time puts customers at ease. For example, I add info regarding slight delays in shipping due to COVID or extreme weather, like we saw in Texas a few weeks ago. I am able to quickly alert our customers and by being upfront with them, am able to make their customer service experience that much better.
- Taylor Lamb Co-Founder and CMO, Juna
When COVID hit, I had just had my baby and Juna's business started booming! With the increase in stress and anxiety that the world was facing, more and more women were turning to Juna for relief, and my co-founder and I totally got it! Both our husbands were let go from their jobs, we were running a startup, she was homeschooling her two daughters, and I had a newborn...and, therefore, zero sleep. Life was hectic, life was stressful, and life was...life.
We spoke daily about how we were feeling and dealing with these highs and lows. At that point, we started to shift our brand's voice. It wasn't a thing we necessarily set out to do, but it happened organically and maybe because we were both sleep deprived. We got real and started communicating how we would with our girlfriends.
We quickly realized women didn't want to follow a brand or open emails that were just showing pretty product pictures and pushing you to buy something. They wanted to find relief and not just the kind we could provide with CBD. It's a simple shift that we will hold onto forever. We aim to make our customers smile as often as we can. We include surprise and delight gifts in orders. We post funny memes. We sell mood-boosting CBD. We send their friends free gifts. We share our dirty laundry, and we launch things that make us laugh like stress balls that look like boobies.
- Jewel Zimmer Co-Founder, Juna
Life got real and really quickly. We were running on adrenaline and organically relating to our customers about the highs and lows we were collectively feeling and facing, and it really hit home and became really effective for our growth, not only sales, but brand voice. The long-term benefit/lesson of COVID is to always be real, relatable and add laughter and fun things at all touch points.
- Gianna de la Torre Co-Founder, Wildling
The biggest shift has been initiative-driven. We are very much in conversations about cultural appropriation because we have been accused of it. This has inspired us to lay groundwork of anti-racism, diversity and social equity initiatives as Wildling. As our platform has grown, so has our responsibility to support and amplify the voices of the AAPI community. This involves bringing an Asian America TCM practitioner onto our team—this has already happened. It also involves shifting our plant a tree initiative into a quarterly contribution to the AAPI community. There are a lot of long-term benefits to this. For one, diversity and inclusion will be laid in the foundation of our brand before we even make our first hire.
- Robyn Caywood Co-Founder, Kamu
As a new company launched during the global pandemic, we had many pivots which differed from our original plan. I’ve maintained an image of surfing this past year as we navigated all of the new information and adjustments. Some we were able to adjust to in stride like more online meetings and less in-person travel, and others have been more challenging like raw material sourcing.
But there have been a few things which stand out as key elements that will forever shape our company due to the forming our foundations through this unusual period in history. We had the opportunity to define our company’s values through the lens of COVID. Sustainability is huge. It has allowed us to really consider the impact environmentally and economically of all of our choices from ingredients to packaging to delivering our products to our customers.
Our goal as we grow is to source as much raw materials from the U.S. as possible and to prioritize green and organic materials. Another value that has become the core of our philosophy that may not have been as glaringly obvious is relevance. We have developed products and introduced them based on their relevance to our community. The initial product offerings we intended in our launch pivoted as we listened to friends, family, our customers and read statistics of what issues a large percentage of people were facing. We have responded and the feedback has been tremendous.
Despite the fact that 2020 brought a many hardships and heartache for many, it has also offered the gift for us as individuals and a business to prioritize what matters most and to implement ways to truly serve our customer base while stewarding the environment and looking to the future.
- Dara Kennedy Founder, Ayla Beauty
We’ve been doing video consultations with our Guides for a while, but, like a lot of other brands and retailers, we’ve significantly expanded our virtual offerings to include facial massage instruction, workshops, and both group and individual facials. What I love about this is that we can reach many more people, well beyond our San Francisco studio, in a way that now feels more natural to them. And I think that will continue. It’ll be nice to have virtual options even after we’re all able to do more in person, and our team is excited to keep them going.
- April Gargiulo Founder, Vintner's Daughter
Ours was less a pivot and more of a formalization of many of our core practices and programs that were unofficially in place from day one, but needed to be formalized. From sustainability to diversity and inclusion protocols, we created a handbook that guides us in our daily activities and allows us to measure and set goals to do even better.
- Tracey Pickett CEO and Inventor, Hairbrella
One pivot that we think will have a long-term benefit was quickly adapting our product beyond its original purpose to suit the needs of the women we serve. We've always seen Hairbrella as a beauty/hair accessory. We never anticipated a day when every salon in America would shut down and find out that our customers wanted to use the Hairbrella to shield their faces. Expanding the scope of our core mission—keeping women polished, protected, and prepared no matter the forecast—took on new meaning last year, and we look forward to finding new ways to serve the Hairbrella community for years to come.
- Sophie Trelles-Tvede Founder and CEO, Invisibobble
One quick pivot we made which will be here to stay is the creation of limited-edition items that are exclusively available in our online shop. Within that, we have created collectors' items and specialty items where 100% of the proceeds go to support working women in different parts of the world to get their business off the ground. During these times, we wanted to give back by offering the opportunity to bring joy to people's everyday life at an affordable price. Whether that is by treating yourself to a little gift or supporting a better cause, it is something for our consumers to look forward to!
- Martina Halloran Joseph CEO, Dr. Hauschka Skin Care
Pivot is not necessarily how I would describe what will have lasting impact and long-term benefit to our business. Leaning deeper into our core value of care and continuing to lead with that across every discipline both internally and externally has resonated in the marketplace more than ever. I believe this will remain relevant for years to come while at the same time continue to create unique growth opportunities as a result.
Cultivating a culture of care for the earth, humanity and the Individual has informed everything we do globally and locally. As we ventured into uncharted territory created by the pandemic, I empowered my U.S. team to connect with each and every one of our retailers live via phone, email or virtual interface, actively listen with empathy and without bias, and pivot direct-to-consumer language and programs to communicate the fact that we see her, we are with her and we care.
- Veronica Pedersen CEO and Co-Founder, Timeless Skin Care
With so many beauty consumers working from home and spending more time on their skin care as part of self-care, we grew our education team to be able to spend one-on-one time with our customers to empower their skincare choices. By educating them about their individual skin needs and product ingredients, and answering questions to help them create a personal skincare routine, we have been able to really connect with customers, increasing their loyalty to our brand.
- Jacqueline Taylor Co-Founder, Le Prunier
Due to a dramatic increase of consumer demand this year thanks to marketing, media and influencer initiatives, we have focused on scaling our production and manufacturing facilities, while maintaining the integrity of our small-batch approach. Long term, this will allow us to expand as a business. It has been an exciting period of growth and learning for us.
- Trinny Woodall Founder, Trinny London
Virtual appointments are our biggest pivot. They allow people to still be in touch with somebody and feel as if they are at a makeup counter. There are a lot of women who don't feel comfortable telling someone at a makeup counter everything, but there is an intimacy in virtual appointments that makes women feel very comfortable to discuss what they would like to learn about makeup. For us, as a brand, it's great that we do them, and I don't know if we would have done them so quickly if we didn't have COVID.
- Kayla Juan Creative Director, J Beverly Hills
The past year challenged us to change up our approach to selling hair products, and we made the decision to sell our products direct to consumers. We implemented a marketing strategy to improve overall brand awareness introducing our salon professional brand to the online market, and we continue to see the benefits of being able to connect with our consumers directly and reengage them.
- Charlotte Knight Founder and CEO, Ciaté London
Although this year we have all been apart physically, it has been an incredible opportunity to connect with people across the globe. With everything taking place over video calls, we have been able to speak to press, influencers, retailer partners and customers more quickly and easily. For example, we have run launch events linking up with people across three to five time zones! In the past, we would have travelled around the world for meetings with our retailers, distributors, press, suppliers, all of which can now be done from your desk with zero downtime so the productivity is incredible. With all that being said, we are craving human interaction and miss the electric energy that is created in IRL allowing all senses to ignite when playing with formulations and concepts. So, a perfect balance of the two approaches will 100% change the way we do business for the better.
- Natanel Bigger Founder, Monpure London
With the closure of retail stores, we realized that customers were looking for a level of personalized help and advice that they would normally get over the counter. So, we invested heavily in our customer service, involving our team of beauty experts, dermatologists and doctors to provide in-depth, tailored responses depending on each customer’s particular query or scalp condition.
With stress levels having risen dramatically during the pandemic, many customers appreciated this kind of personal touch and attention to detail, which they may not have received when they shopped online in the past, not to mention the increase in hair loss due to said stress levels and rising infection rates. In many cases, we were able to reassure the customer that a certain level of hair loss is normal.
Being more reluctant to see medical professionals, customers have also turned to brands to provide some sort of expertise in their various fields, ours being scalp health. So, it made us think how we can go further beyond the traditional customer experience and learn more about them. No reply is the same.
We are also closely listening to customer feedback when it comes to which new products to bring to market and adapting our packaging to reflect our customers’ needs. Our best customers are being actively involved in new product development decisions, and we want to continue to put an emphasis on the people that we can help with their scalp and hair concerns. This type of conversational commerce will be mainstream in the next few years, with customers playing a key role in how brands grow and develop.
- Nicol Varona Cancelmo Co-Founder, DN Organics
Our brand has focused on community and relationships since inception. A lot of our plans changed after we entered a virtual environment. We went from planning a launch party to looking for alternatives to successfully launch our brand entirely online. Our original plan was to launch our brand in 2020, but COVID-19 added additional challenges like production delays and minimal vendor supplies. This not only delayed production, but ended up pushing our launch about a year to March 2021.
All the changes caused us to pivot and look for new ways to innovate and create incentives for our customers. We decided to launch with a try-it-first strategy, where customers get access to trying all our products for free even while they're home. This strategy allows us to create interest with new customers who are willing to try a new brand.
I believe all the challenges from 2020 inspired us to get more creative and create a long-term benefit for our brand and our customers. Our plan is to continue the try-it-before-you-buy-it strategy with all our launches going forward. In addition, we made sure to share our journey on social media and give our community front row seats from the comfort of their home. The community we created is still small, but it is people who truly care about our brand and feel connected to our story and journey. Staying connected to our community in this way is something that we will continue to do and will make our brand stronger as we continue to grow.
- Dimitra Davidson Principal, Indeed Laboratories
As a business owner planning for and trying to predict the future is always a focus, last year was marked with many unknowns and learnings, which helped strengthen the brand vision, but also pushed me in new directions as a leader. That foundation has really helped me to plan for the future in our new reality. Today, we are fully moving forward with our “back to life in our new world” plan. The vision is crystal clear. The only unknown at the moment is timelines, whether that be summer, later in the year or early 2022, we will be ready!
- Margo Marrone Founder, The Organic Pharmacy
For The Organic Pharmacy, it really was a reset to the retail rental market. The rents had gone so high that it was a struggle to make a profit and to find good locations at an affordable price, but COVID really rest the retail rental market and made better stores available for us. That’s why we opened our Marylebone flagship.
- Arjun Sampath Founder, Soma Ayurvedic
Soma Ayurvedic has been self-funded since our launch. Pre-pandemic, we had begun discussions about moving forward with our first fundraising round. When it became clear that the pandemic was here to stay, we decided to hold off. Given the uncertain financial landscape and changing consumer behaviors, it didn’t make sense to take on a large financial obligation.
We instead tightened our belt and used the time to focus on growing our DTC business. We were able to grow during the past year without the pressure to spend capital and bring on overhead. In the end, it was the right decision as we grew our customer base, are poised to grow our team, launch new products and entertain discussions with potential investment partners.
- Christina Zilber Founder, Jouer Cosmetics
Jouer Cosmetics' focus has always been developing and promoting product newness in real time to pioneer trends in beauty. Being a digitally and socially native brand, we saw huge global retailer growth and the demand of keeping our pipeline loaded and, like many, that all came to a halt with labs closing and the shutdown affecting our speed to market.
We were forced to direct our energy toward promoting our hero products. Not only did our business grow, but that growth strengthened Jouer's messaging and core branding of good-for-your-skin ingredients with skincare benefits. Anchoring ourselves with our new hero product-focused strategy, we can now continue to produce newness while complimenting core and diversifying our future assortment.
- Amy Anzel Founder and CEO, Hollywood Browzer Beauty
The pandemic has affected businesses worldwide sadly, with many businesses being adversely affected, if not being forced to close their doors. Most of our business is focused on direct-to-consumer, so we were fortunate to increase our sales tremendously during the pandemic as many consumers were looking for at-home DIY alternatives to treatments they used to get done in salons and clinics. We were able to provide that solution for them with our hair removal, dermaplaning and brow-shaping products.
We therefore learned to focus even more so on messaging and advertising online across many platforms including social media. Long term, we will continue to focus much of our efforts on direct-to-consumer advertising as we now know that many consumers enjoy and will continue to enjoy at-home solutions even after the pandemic due to the convenience and money-saving factors.
- Patricia Lund Founder, VOLOOM
We decided to postpone our entry into brick-and-mortar retail and to focus more budget on our influencer program as a major new driver of online sales. We have been thrilled with the response from influencers. and we plan to continue to change our marketing mix to focus more on influencer marketing.
We are less inclined to enter physical retail stores until we really feel the need. Online-only channels seem to have almost unlimited potential as people get more and more comfortable shopping online, which has only accelerated with the pandemic.
I remember March of last year very clearly. As our first priority to ensure everyone’s health and safety, we made the decision quickly to transition our team to work from home. Helping our team members pack up their work equipment and personal belongings gave me a strange feeling. It was hard to believe this was happening, and it felt completely unreal. That same week, our sales team and reps called us to inform that most of our major distributors were officially on lockdown mode. On the phone, we remained silent for a while. It was extremely scary to think about an uncertain future. With my partner Joseph Choi, we began calculating how many months VOESH could survive without any sales. From there, we made plans A, B and C and, then, communicated with our key management team as to how we would operate in the months ahead.
Today, when I think back to last March, nothing was clear except for one thing. If there were no immediate changes, we would have had to close the company by November 2020, and we couldn’t imagine that. Joseph and I decided not to lay anybody off or cut salaries due to the possible financial issue. We realized cutting salaries or laying people off would not be dramatically helpful for our survival, and we really value each and every team member and their contributions not only to VOESH, but its sister brands as well.
After we made our decision on the team, our focus shifted to the ways in which we could improve our digital presence, which was long overdue for us anyway. With our small, but mighty marketing team, we joined a plethora of virtual education sessions and watched videos to understand the best practices of digital marketing to showcase our brands’ missions to existing and prospective customers.
With our product marketing team, we revisited our no-no list—a list of harmful, toxic ingredients that are always left out of our spa and skincare products—and reevaluated all of our formulas to raise the standard even higher. This helped to illustrate to our professionals and consumers alike that we are committed to clean, vegan ingredients that are good for your skin.
Now, for the past 12 months, we have been extremely busy with various new growth initiatives. We have been able to reopen our e-commerce site for consumers, not just for professionals, launch our new vegan probiotic skincare brand Glowoasis, form partnerships with big-box retailers, and open two overseas offices to get better support and build higher product standards.
This pandemic has been painfully unfortunate in numerous ways, but it has allowed us to explore new opportunities. Our e-commerce and retail sales have grown 350%-plus. Our team has doubled in size, and we are always looking to expand, learn and challenge ourselves on a daily basis. We believe this pandemic made us slow down and pivot our business strategy to set us up for success in the long run.
- Courtney Dailey Founder, Wondergloss Beauty
One of the changes that we encountered during COVID was the dreaded shipping situation. After months of unreliable shipping solutions, so many missing packages and extreme delays, we decided to have our products on Amazon and also use a third-party logistics company. While this was not our original plan—we love the personal touch we add to our boxes and wanted to keep our products DTC—we wanted to remove the shipping dilemma from the equation. Our end goal has always been that our customers have a great end experience. Allowing someone else to juggle shipping took a huge chuck of stress off our plate. Our customers seem happier, and we can spend more time creating magic.
- Susan Dudas Founder, My Day Screen
We had to push out the launch of our plant-based mineral sun care products brand by several months due to COVID-related supplier and product testing delays. I had not planned to launch a sunscreen brand in the cold weather. However, we offer an indoor sun care line that shields against the blue light discharged from our tech gadgets. Turns out launching during this time allowed us to gain some traction with our blue light tested products when most people are indoors in front of their screens. The delay [also] allowed me to select suppliers with whom I could design and manufacture the components that were better for my brand in the long run.
- Sina Zere Co-Founder, Buff Experts
Partnering with Adit, [which is owned this year by Beauty Independent parent company Indie Beauty Media Group], has us really excited for the potential to partner with dream retailers. We're a small Canadian brand, and we understand the opportunity and complexity of the U.S. market. We've always been big fans of Beauty Independent and the Indie Beauty Expo trade shows because of their passion and support for emerging brands. Adit provides us with a very economical way to be introduced to the American market. Even just getting feedback from retailers on how we can improve is a tremendous boon.
- Aminah Sagoe Founder, Emmaus
I would have to say an increased focus on selling my products online. Prior to COVID, customers preferred going into a physical store to purchase items, especially when the items were skincare products. COVID, however, made it impossible (for a while) to leave the house. So, online shopping became the only option and, now, it’s the preferred option for many people. In the past, my main goal was for my products to be carried in brick-and-mortar stores, but, with everything that has happened in the last year, especially with many brick-and-mortar stores shutting down due to financial constraints, online is definitely the way to go.
- Amy Zunzunegui Founder, WLDKAT
WLDKAT’s pivot was actually a more of a non-pivot as we decided to move ahead with launching the brand on April 20, 2020. Our original launch plan included an immersive in-person launch event by taking over a NYC bodega where everything was to be branded WLDKAT, inclusive of the toilet paper—the irony. We canceled the event and pivoted to an all-digital strategy for both the launch as well as our main distribution channel. Most of us at WLDKAT are not digitally savvy. Our backgrounds are in traditional brick-and-mortar retail, so we had to educate ourselves quickly and also bring on a digital expert. Because we made the decision to launch during this time and executed initiatives like our Natural Habitat video, I believe we received more press than we might have with a traditional launch. The decision to move ahead established WLDKAT as a brand that thinks and acts differently, and one that can pivot in any situation.
- Ashley-Nicole Hall-Kennedy Owner, The Yoni Day Spa
This year, we decided to prioritize education and experiences. Since many of our clients could not come into The Yoni Day Spa, we brought the spa to them through our DIY products and virtual workshops. Our DIY Yoni Steam Kits and How to Make Your Own Yoni Steam Blends workshop have been very successful since the DIY economy is booming. We also started offering a private shopping experience inside our Oakland location of The Yoni Day Spa.
Obstacles are just undiscovered opportunities, and COVID allowed us to service our clients in creative ways which proved to be opportunities to heal more pussies.
- Amber Makupson Founder, Meraki Organics
One pivot that I have made this year that will have a long-term effect on my business is choosing to focus on growing and cultivating my direct-to-consumer and e-commerce channel before diving into major retail. I think it is extremely important to have a strong, organic, flourishing relationship with my core customers. Taking the time to genuinely connect with people and teach them about my brand, my products, and the importance of self-care and self-love is really important to me!
I also think the timing is perfect. I don’t feel the same pressure that brands may have felt 10 to 20 years ago. A brand’s success is no longer being determined by where they sit on the shelf. The times are so different with social media. I believe that online e-commerce is the future, not just an aftereffect of the pandemic.
- Shani Van Breukelen Co-Founder, Ayond
Before the pandemic, we split time between Santa Fe and New York, which helped us maintain balance, but made it difficult to manage a traditional operation, for instance, having and maintaining a physical office and meeting space. Over the course of the last year, we moved most of our processes online, and had to meet and conduct work remotely. Now, our workflow is mostly in the cloud, and we can easily connect with brand partners and collaborators through Zoom meetings.
We are fully committed to working remotely as our brand grows. Some work still has to be conducted in person, and we enjoy the energy that a group setting brings. However, we are working towards less frequent in-person meeting days. This allows us to keep a personal connection with people while having the flexibility of a more open working environment. In a way, it has given us a great opportunity to have more balance and flexibility, and we feel it has opened up our creative circle. It is a really nice feeling to know you can collaborate with future partners regardless of their physical location and be just as productive.
- Megan Wan Founder, Port + Polish
In the past, we had experimented with paid advertising, but never really found a sweet spot that convinced us it was the right place to spend our energy and money. When COVID hit, however, we took a hard look at what our customers wanted and the best place to reach them. We invested new creative, crafted new messaging around supporting daily wellness, and we rethought where and how we utilized our ad spend. The result was really successful, and I think advertising on social media in particular will continue to be a big part of our promotional efforts moving forward.
- Heather Nicole Founder, Heather Nicole Advanced Integrative Skincare
Small businesses such as mine have really had to adapt and change during COVID-19 and will continue to have a long-lasting effect long after the pandemic is over. So, I started doing at-home peel kits for my clients and, through social media, I offered virtual peels and consultations to help people achieve in office results at home, which got national attention. Connecting with people this way has opened up a lot more channels for connecting with people and helping them to achieve their best skin virtually, which I never thought about before. Continuing to provide people with these virtual treatments has changed the game and will continue to change the way we can do more professional at home skincare. Currently, I'm working on my next virtual project, very excited!
- Ixone Elosegui Co-Founder, GLO International
At GLO, we like to approach problems as if they were opportunities. It has allowed us to show how important it is for women to take care of ourselves at home, which seems to be a clear trend on this industry. For those who were used to treatments in spas, we offer the comfort of performing treatments at home, without the need to magically fit a session into your busy agenda or spending a large amount of money. This is as simple as incorporating the GLO treatments into your daily routine. And, for the woman who was not dedicating time to herself, we have worked hard sending this message, "Love yourself." We are the ones who have to take care of ourselves first in order to take care of others afterwards. Putting ourselves in a leading position and assigning ourselves the value we have.
- Heather Fritzsche Founder and CEO, Youbody
I’ve made a pivot to be more personal with the brand. As a woman-owned business, I can see very clearly that consumers are increasingly interested in seeing the person behind the brands they are considering purchasing. They believe in a story and a dream. In the past, I think my social may have been a little dry and product-focused, but, this year, you can see more engaging content from me personally, focusing on inspiring other women.
- Ashley Piszek Founder and CEO, Miss Swiss
Due to the pandemic, we decided to expand our product line since our original product was designed and marketed for on-the-go use. Since people are not on the go as much as they were pre-COVID, we are now focusing on products that can be utilized at home or on the go as consumer needs change. For the long run, our product expansion will continue in this direction as we see trends and create innovation to support the ever evolving needs of makeup wearers.
- Vanessa Coppola Founder, Bare Aesthetic MedSpa
COVID-19 changed the entire landscape of the medical aesthetics industry. Gone are the days of business as usual. A medical spa has a very unique position within this environment. Unlike cosmetic companies that can turn to digital sales to sustain their brand during this crisis, medical spa aesthetic services, for the most part, must be rendered in person.
The question becomes, how can I offer a safe and rewarding experience to my patient population that is enjoyable and memorable despite all of the restrictions and new protocols? Probably the single most important pivot that we made during this time was to rethink the authenticity of the patient experience given all of the barriers that currently exist, i.e., masks, social distancing, air quality, symptom screening, and so forth. Instead of fashioning temporary safeguards to support us through the pandemic, we implemented permanent system-wide changes to our infrastructure that are sustainable during the pandemic and beyond.
These paradigm shifts are based on what the aesthetic experience looks like from the patient perspective and what that means to them. This awareness caused us to look at our physical space differently, our system process differently, our social media presence differently and, also, was reflected in the services that we offered.
While many other businesses are closing their doors and moving their brand online, we expanded our physical footprint to create more space and ventilation for a more comfortable experience. We have invested in high-quality air purification and really looked at our menu of services, focusing on the least invasive procedures that can deliver the greatest benefit and result to our patients. We are constantly tailoring and curating, with an emphasis that less is more, and quality is paramount, but that price is always a consideration. We have learned to be agile, and this is reflective in our business processes as well as our patient interactions.
Our communication with our patients has evolved into a continual conversation, whether through social media or in-person, and has created a mutually beneficial and authentic experience. All of these changes will continue beyond the pandemic and have changed our brand for the better.
- Aneil Manhas CEO, Brüush
Over the past year, we focused on success levers that could take Brüush to the next level and weather this unprecedented time. Notably, we raised our first (oversubscribed) series A capital and welcomed Kevin Hart as an investor and collaborator. This one-two punch has given us the wingspan to really amp up our brand on all levels and to do so with lightning speed. We grew our team of in-house and consultants to handle the ramp up and, then, honed in on our consumer through our creative, redesigning our website, optimizing across our digital touch points, strategically increasing our media spend and growing our evergreen influencer/media outreach.
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