Subtl Beauty’s Stackable Products Are Made For Walk Of Shame, Workplace And Post-Workout Makeup Touch-ups
The aha moment that sparked Rachel Reid’s forthcoming brand, Subtl Beauty, happened while was trying to make herself appear a bit better for a walk of shame.
“I was in a new relationship and staying over with at my now fiancé’s house a lot, and I didn’t want to be presumptuous and go there with a big bag, so I went with a small cross-body bag, and needed something I could fit in there to use to put my makeup on in the morning,” she recounts. “I looked online and couldn’t really find anything, and I ended up filling contact cases with product.”
Contact cases didn’t cut it, and Reid went down the rabbit hole of creating a compact collection of products to satisfy her regular makeup routine without requiring her to lug around a cumbersome load of cosmetics. The result is a brand built around stackable beauty products that can be conveniently accessed after a night out, at the office, on trips, post-yoga sessions or anywhere and at any time by on-the-go women.
“The problem I faced exists outside of adult sleepovers, and I broadened the solution,” says Reid. “My friend who goes hiking wants something super small for her backpack, and my friend who works long hours wants something she can slip into her desk to use when she gets a chance to touch up.”
“When brands do the convenience play, they’re usually missing the element of good formulation. It’s hard to get a convenient product that you also want to use. For me, that was really important. I had a focus on getting the formulations right. Women will look at the stacking solution and think, ‘Oh, that’s great,’ but the formulas are going to make them buy it again.”
To inform the selection of products offered by Subtl Beauty, Reid surveyed around 200 women to understand the makeup they apply repeatedly. From surveying the women, she discovered many turn to products to address oily skin throughout the day, not something she had considered as a person with dry skin. After studying the habits of potential customers, Reid opted to complete five debut products for Subtl Beauty: a highlighter, shine control powder, concealer, bronzer and lip-cheek combo item. Skincare is a possibility next.
Customers are able to customize stacks of Subtl Beauty products. The stacks can be held in the palms of women’s hands. The products are designed to last two months and are priced at $20 each, so a set of five comes in at $100. Reid assumes customers on average will buy a stack with three products, but says she’s been surprised women often mention to her they’d like two stacks to stash away in various places such as the gym, workplace and bathroom at home.
Most people won’t simply buy products based on innovative packaging alone. Reid stresses Subtl Beauty’s formulations are spot on. “When brands do the convenience play, they’re usually missing the element of good formulation. It’s hard to get a convenient product that you also want to use. For me, that was really important,” she says. “I had a focus on getting the formulations right. Women will look at the stacking solution and think, ‘Oh, that’s great,’ but the formulas are going to make them buy it again.”
“I was so naïve. I thought I could order 50 units of packaging and find a formulation company that would fill a couple for me. Minimum order quantities are how the costs got so high. It’s so important, even as a small company, to learn how to negotiate. Everything is negotiable, and that’s one key lesson I’ve learned.”
In a tale familiar to indie beauty founders, the costs to finalize Subtl Beauty spiraled throughout the development process. Reid initially believed she could invest $2,000 and finish the brand in three months. Instead, it’s cost $50,000 and taken over a year. “I was so naïve. I thought I could order 50 units of packaging and find a formulation company that would fill a couple for me. Minimum order quantities are how the costs got so high,” says Reid. “It’s so important, even as a small company, to learn how to negotiate. Everything is negotiable, and that’s one key lesson I’ve learned.”
To defray a portion of the costs, receive consumer feedback and raise awareness, Reid launched a Kickstarter campaign for Subtl Beauty last week. The campaign’s fundraising goal is $10,000 and, as of Wednesday, the brand had already beat its goal by drawing $11,112 from 113 backers. Subtl Beauty expects to send products to backers in December. After the Kickstarter campaign ends on Oct. 18, the brand intends to open up pre-orders to the general public. At the outset, it will sell merchandise via a direct-to-consumer model.
Reid, a marketing and branding specialist by trade, figures the target customer for Subtl Beauty is a woman in her 20s or 30s not obsessed with YouTube makeup tutorials. “She applies makeup every day, but it’s very much secondary to her life,” she says. “It’s such an underserved market, women who apply makeup just to feel confident and aren’t necessarily keeping up with the trends, but need good quality makeup.”
For Subtl Beauty’s first year available to customers, Reid says proof of concept is the primary objective. “I’m terrified, if I’m being honest,” she acknowledges. “I took the leap of faith about a month ago to work on this full-time, which I think is contributing to the terrified feeling. I have given myself a cutoff when it’s like, OK, Rachel, go get a new job. I’m going to reassess where I am in January or February.” Judging by Subtle Beauty’s early backers, that reassessment will have to be pushed, and Reid won’t have to rely on Subtl Beauty products for an entrepreneur’s version of the walk of shame.