How Wildcrafted Skincare Brand Alpyn Beauty Traveled From The Mountains Of Wyoming To Sephora
About half way up the switchback-filled 7.4-mile Wildflower Trail that climbs 2,700 feet from Teton Village to the Gondola Summit, there’s a rope swing hikers pause at to take in sweeping views of Jackson Hole below.
“It’s my thinking spot,” Kendra Kolb Butler told Vogue. In 2016, the former SVP of marketing and communications for Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare who’d recently departed New York and opened two Alpyn Beauty Bar locations in Jackson, Wyo., found herself at the picturesque spot swinging and pondering existential business questions. Many of the clean skincare brands in her stores seemed the same. Their ingredients didn’t thrill her customers, and they weren’t effective for their skin in the harsh high-elevation environment either.
“I thought, ‘What am I going to do?’ My stores are going to go out of business because nothing is working,” recalls Kolb Butler. “As I’m trying to solve this problem, I’m swinging over skincare ingredients: borage, chamomile and calendula. People ask me, ‘How did you come up with the idea for your brand?’ It was just so obvious.”
Two years later, she introduced Alpyn Beauty with three products—PlantGenius Melt Moisturizer, PlantGenius Creamy Bubbling Cleanser and PlantGenius Line-Filling Eye Balm—containing botanicals foraged from the Rocky Mountains rising above Jackson Hole using a wildcrafting method keeping them intact to flourish following the removal of leaves, blooms or twigs for skincare purposes. In addition to borage, chamomile and calendula, Kolb Butler included wildcrafted sage and arnica in her brand’s formulas, and combined them with leading skincare ingredients such as bakuchiol, squalene, ceramides, and glycolic, hyaluronic and lactic acids.
Today, Alpyn Beauty has five products priced from $36 to $68, and it’s broken into the selection on Sephora’s website. The retail accomplishment is the latest feat in a carefully orchestrated distribution strategy that placed the brand in Credo, Bluemercury, Aillea and Shen Beauty, on QVC, and online at Saks Fifth Avenue and Goop. Alpyn Beauty is available in a total of 50 doors and, with the exception of expanding in its existing stockists, it’s not looking to increase its wholesale network.
“I love a slow, organic build based on strength and a customer that’s responding.”
“I’m so big on education and personally touching each and every door. I love a slow, organic build based on strength and a customer that’s responding. Quite frankly, it would terrify me if a retailer said, ‘We’re going to put you in all doors.’ There’s so much clutter out there that you can get lost, especially a brand like us that’s only a little over a year old and has a story to tell,” says Kolb Butler. “We want narrow and deep distribution. We have said no a lot more than we have said yes. If a partner came to us that’s a perfect fit, of course, we would talk to them, but we don’t want to be everywhere. We want to be in the right places.”
Around six months before Alpyn Beauty hit the market, Kolb Butler sent lab samples to Goop beauty editor Jean Godfrey-June and Annie Jackson, co-founder and COO of Credo. She had a presentation along with the lab samples, but hadn’t green-lit a production run. Goop and Credo could establish Alpyn Beauty as a clean beauty contender. However, if they weren’t captivated by the brand, Kolb Butler was conscious not to be left holding unproductive inventory. Beyond the lab samples and presentation, she had a compelling pitch: People were already buying into her concept.
“I was giving out the lab samples with the wildcrafted actives to my customers. The feedback was so amazing in my local community. If I have a solution that can help people in the mountains, imagine what it’s going to do on a national level,” says Kolb Butler, recounting her early conversations with Goop and Credo. Jackson and Godfrey-June were won over by her pitch and the promising samples, and Kolb Butler gave the go-ahead to production. Alpyn Beauty entered Credo and Goop in the fall of 2018.
Kolb Butler met with QVC close to when the brand was debuting at the retailers. She was drawn to the television shopping channel by the chance to communicate Alpyn Beauty’s distinct approach to skincare on air—and she was correct about it being a motivator of purchases. The brand sold out of PlantGenius Melt Moisturizer in 10 minutes during its QVC premiere on Feb. 19 last year. It’s since returned to QVC for nearly 10 appearances.
“This company has a very disruptive story, and we are doing something different than the way other people are doing it.”
Saks, Bluemercury, Shen Beauty and Aillea have further solidified Alpyn Beauty’s standing as an upscale clean skincare brand. “In the first year, we doubled our retail goals,” says Kolb Butler, declining to share sales figures. “My biggest challenge is to continue to push and grow this brand. We spend a lot of time hunting for ingredients. We are in the field all the time.” The brand’s product development pipeline is loaded with products spotlighting ingredients from the Rocky Mountains, some of which thrive at 10,000 above sea level. In 2019, it released Calming Midnight Mask with Melatonin & Wild Dandelion. Dandelions bloom in abundance in Wyoming. Kolb Butler says, “It’s a very nutrient-dense plant and super high in vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K and magnesium.”
As Alpyn Beauty stretched its retail reach, Kolb Butler shut down one of her two Alpyn Beauty Bar locations to focus on the brand and enlarged its team, currently at fewer than 10 people. Kate Murphy, who’s held public relations and communications roles at Julep Beauty and Benefit Cosmetics, has joined Alpyn Beauty as director of marketing and communications. Todd Smith, previously design director at Nars, has been named creative director at the brand. He says, “I am most excited about going from a startup challenger brand to an iconic beauty brand, [and creating] breakthrough work in the beauty market…to help redefine the possibilities in the clean and beauty industry.”
To support its launch, Alpyn Beauty raised an undisclosed amount in a round of private funding. Kolb Butler’s husband, Ryan Butler, a private equity expert and former managing director at Portfolio Advisors LLC, serves as COO of the brand, and oversees its operational and financial infrastructure. The pair is open to considering investor options for Alpyn Beauty. Kolb Butler says, “A strategic investor would be most attractive to us. Right now, we are self-funded, but you never know what the future holds.”
In the wake of Tatcha and Drunk Elephant, both brands carried by Sephora, being acquired by Unilever and Shiseido, respectively, there will undoubtedly be investor interest in Alpyn Beauty. Obviously, the brand hasn’t proved itself to be a formidable performer at Sephora yet, but Kolb Butler is confident it will be. “I feel optimistic about the potential. I feel like this company has a very disruptive story, and we are doing something different than the way other people are doing it. I think that the beauty consumer wants to discover with us and wants to learn about the ingredients,” she says. “We are off to a very strong start out of the gate, but I also feel that now is the time we have to work harder than ever. Year two and year three are crucial growth points for any brand, and the hard work has just begun.”