Will The Indie Beauty Brand Boom Continue Next Year?

In this edition of Beauty Independent’s ongoing series posing questions relevant to beauty entrepreneurs, we ask 31 founders, executives and consultants: Do you think there will be a contraction of indie beauty brands next year?

Shruti Rathee Founder and Owner, Tasu

Shruti Rathee

Indie beauty is growing and has just started blooming in last two to three years. We would think that people would know and be proficient in natural beauty by now with all the blogs and brands around. But, in my opinion, we have just scratched the surface, and people are more inclined to give indie brands a try then they were maybe four years ago. It used to be a niche market at that time, but, now, indie beauty and natural skincare is becoming more and more of a mainstream in skincare. We have so much more to do and go from where we are today in our space.

Ty McLaren Co-Founder, Koa

We actually think there will be an increase in indie beauty brands. Realistically, it's never been easier to start a beauty company, and there is a lot of opportunity to innovate on the sustainability aspects of the business, so we expect new brands to try to fill that space.

Julia Teren Founder, Thesis Beauty

I firmly believe that barriers to entry are so low, there will be a constant influx of new indie brands year after year. It's hard to believe, but there is still room for more brands. I can't wait to see what 2020 brings us.

Murphy Bishop II Co-Founder, The Better Skin Co. 

I look at all these brands, and I feel overwhelmed as there are so, so many. Since I came from the beauty industry, I have a firm idea of success as I worked with many masters such as Jeanine Lobell, Bobbi Brown and Leslie Blodgett. If you are hand-making small batches in your kitchen, if you can pay your light bills, perhaps that is success to you. For the indie brands selling handmade on Etsy, $10,000 to $100,000 in sales may mean success, and that should be celebrated. If we did $100,000, we’d struggle to stay in business as overhead would be prohibitive. When we get calls from potential acquisition partners, I consider that success. The ultimate success will be when we are acquired (hint hint Estée Lauder)

Indie beauty brands really need to be tiered based on success factors. There’s the at-home hand-made indie beauty brands, the well-funded (VC, angel investor, etc.) indie brands, and there’s us who are self-funding, but doing millions. We all get lumped together and experience and resources drastically change the game for each player.

If you break down indie beauty brands by volume and resource tiers, there has to be a course correction as the field is more crowded than ever. I don’t know that everybody can continue to make it. We get up every day, and we fight the good fight. We fight for another dollar and another customer. We celebrate our wins and, then, we immediately go back to building the brand. It takes a tremendous amount of fortitude and resources, and it can be very defeating more often than rewarding. We are one of the fortunate ones, and we haven’t always been, but I’m determined that we will make it.

Sue Campbell Founder, Kind2

For any indie beauty brand to create a business that can grow and has longevity, it needs to have some distinctive points of difference whether the be products, ingredients, including their provenance, or formulas.

Because we have seen such rapid growth of brands over the last few years, it’s hard to imagine it can keep going at the same pace, and those without significant distinctiveness may vanish. If we go into a recession here in the United Kingdom, which is likely, I’m sure that will slow down growth and put pressure on many existing brands.

MARIOS STAMATELOPOULOS Co-Founder, Vivaiodays

The indie beauty business will keep growing in 2020. Certainly, I think there is oversupply of indie brands and indie retailers, and some of us will not be around in a year from now. Having said that, things will be worse if a recession knocks on our U.S. economy door. Unfortunately, there's the economy cycle! A recession will severely hit the indie business. To be proactive and prepared for such an event, I highly suggest that indie brands go international. Don’t keep all your eggs in one market.

Melissa Boerema Director of Marketing, InstaNatural

No way, and I hope not. People are still hungry for authentic brands with different stories and backgrounds that they resonate with. Having a face to the brand goes a long way to creating a connection you just can't get as a consumer with the beauty juggernauts that have dominated for decades. There will always be white space in the industry, and indie brands will continue to blossom and flourish in that space.

Gabriela Salord Co-Founder and CEO, Rowse

I expect indie brands to continue growing faster than the total U.S. beauty industry. 2019 has been a record year for beauty deals, and investors' enthusiasm is unlikely going to fade. In fact, I believe 2020 will likely consolidate the role of beauty corporates as incubators and accelerators of new brands. 

Where I expect a major shift is in the nature of brands that will be able to thrive in 2020. The beauty industry is on the verge of a radical change, and only brands able to address deep consumer needs and focusing on making a positive impact will be able to create a growth path and sustainable communities. I would watch out in particular for brands centered on sustainability and inclusivity.

Peter Boyles Co-Founder and Co-CEO, Eden

I think we will continue to see a growth in indie beauty brands, but with an increasing focus on untapped niches. For example, 2019 saw a blowout year for probiotic skincare, with brands building upon the discovery that on top of skin's physical barrier lives a layer of natural bacteria that helps promote healthy skin function. 

I think we'll see continued growth across many additional niches, with more crossover between the worlds of beauty and wellness. Whether its a brand launching an Ayurvedic beauty line or intimate care products such as the fabulous indie brand Lady Suite. There will always be space for brands who find a clear niche and really hone in on it. However, the competition is fierce and generic indie beauty brands will find it increasingly tough.

Tonia Walker Founder, Ime Natural Perfume

I don't think there will be a contraction. I think it’s become a lot easier for people to start their own business to suit themselves and where they are at in their lives and, mainly due to technology, everything is at our fingertips and anything is possible. The hardest thing isn't starting an indie beauty brand, it’s growing it, and I feel there are more businesses starting each year than there are closing down. 

Marie Vanderstichel Founder, The Sign Tribe

I don’t think we will have a major contraction next year. Nevertheless, I imagine that this move will happen progressively in the next few years. Compared to other business sectors such as transportation, travel, tourism, the cosmetics industry entered the digitalization process really late. This digitalization gave, for the five last years, the opportunity for a huge number of people to turn their cosmetics projects into reality. Add to this the fact that, fueled by social media, consumers are permanently looking for new products and alternatives.

It brings us to the fact that new indie beauty brands pop up every day all around the world, and that we have currently a clear saturation of the market right now. Therefore, for me, it’s inevitable that the numbers of brands will eventually decrease. I am already mentally prepared for this eventuality, but stay positive. The most important thing is to make sure your brand has a strong basis to survive.

Namrata Kamdar Founder, Plenaire

Definitely not. I think we are at a real turning point. We have gone from the popularity of big household names people trusted for years backed by mass awareness media models to brands that are created by people and their platforms, crowdsourced open innovation backed by word of mouth, social, viral and multi-platform content. In a lot of ways, these new brands are engaging people across a multitude of niche need gaps in a way the older corporate models just couldn’t match by listening at scale to emerging consumer demands, creating ideas and beta testing pretty instantly. 

I would think we won’t see a contraction for a while. We are just scratching the surface of what is possible. If anything, I think we’ll see a contraction of slower-moving mass or heritage drugstore brands. I thought it was sad yet interesting to see that Bourjois was exiting the United Kingdom after 20 odd years here. Is Coty perhaps exiting Bourjois to make room for Kylie on Boots shelves?

SELMIN KARATAS Co-Founder and CEO, Kazani

I expect there will be a continuous boom of beauty brands next year. According to the Wall Street Journal and Orbis Research, the beauty industry will go up to $805.61 billion by 2023, and it was $532.43 billion in 2017. Another factor is the millennial and generation z consumers are straying away from synthetic products, and they are questioning each ingredient as they read the back of the labels. 

Another factor is that it's easier to market your brand and product through digital technology and social media than ever before. When I do store demonstrations, some customers take samples and say they will look at my brand online. This means that first-time product users turn to social media for product reviews. It's also easier to outsource beauty products with fewer quantities as some contract manufacturers are now understanding and working with small startup indie beauty brands and helping these beauty brands in their initial stages.

Annie Tevelin Founder, SkinOwl

The beauty landscape is ever-changing, especially in the clean beauty and wellness space. This change covers all aspects of the industry from social media to marketing to legal. There are changes in motion that will create a strict enforcement of ingredient transparency, which may deter some brands for entering the beauty arena. In a space where competition is already at an all-time high, this could create some fears about launching into the market at all.

Sirkku Hahn Founder and CEO, Inari Arctic Beauty

We believe that many new indie beauty brands will be on the horizon next year because success stories of a few fortunate brands will still attract new market entries. Opportunities for startups seem to be comfortable. It’s quite easy to buy ready-made simple formulations from third-party manufacturers and put your own brand label on it. All sorts of suppliers, business consultants, brand and PR agencies offer their services that will help new indie brands enter the beauty market. Though, we took the other way and have developed our formulations from scratch. 

Also, the interest for a good and authentic story, and knowing the founders with their passion behind a brand we feel is still growing. Consumers see overwhelmingly many new brands out there. Showing expertise and a unique product concept will be a successful differentiator for indie brands compared to huge global players.

Jasmin El Kordi CEO, Bluelene

I expect the indie beauty segment to grow in market share as consumers look for fresh ideas and gravitate towards new ingredients, interesting brand stories and a more personalized beauty approach. Indie brands target their customers on a more psychographic level, and this will enable them to continue to resonate with consumers.

Retailers who understand this trend are beginning to create special indie sections and pop-ups in their beauty departments. We do see a fair amount of acquisition in the industry, which may lead to fewer indie brands over time, but, for now, the momentum for new brands is strong.

Camille Obadia President, Camille Obadia

I actually expect more indie beauty brands next year. People are tired of the big beauty companies, and they know that, when they buy from indie beauty brands, they will be getting quality products. At the same time, more and more people today want to support indie beauty brands.

Christy Hall Skin Therapist, Mikel Kristi

As the beauty industry is ever-evolving, there are more and more indie beauty brands offering unique products. It is now easier than ever for business owners to retail their products online. 2020 will be the year where we see new trends arise from smaller companies. These new trends will become the "what's hot" of 2020.

Elana Drell Szyfer CEO, RéVive Skincare

I don’t think that the number of new indie brands, nor their overall growth, will contract. There is a great appetite for newness, and personalized concepts that cater to micro specificities and preferences will continue to appeal to consumers.

Leila Aalam Founder, Beuti Skincare

I don't see the indie space slowing down anytime soon. Although this is a competitive space, there are many brands that have found massive success like Drunk Elephant, Tata Harper and Milk Makeup.

Tom Reynolds Head of Brand, Coco & Eve

I think this is just the start of an indie brand takeover. What indie brands offer is that sense of discovery and community to customers that you just can't get with the big boys. Only with brands like us can you get close to new developments, help shape product launches and have access to incredible stories unfolding in front of your eyes. The fact that the biggest groups in beauty are now building their own incubators to try and create this shows how big a movement this is.

Sarah Chung Founder, Landing International

I do not think indie beauty will contract next year. First, because of the sheer volume of cannabis Beauty brands hitting the market and under development. Second, innovation is still being driven by indie brands, and the consumer appetite for newness is not slowing down. Coupled that with the low barrier to entry for new brands to start and market via social media, I think we will continue to see a steady stream of indie brands next year and beyond.

Laura Chisholm Founder, LTC Beauty Consulting

I feel that an industry contraction is inevitable. While the barriers to launch a brand are relatively low, the costs to grain traction, awareness and partner effectively with retailers continue to grow. Independent brands with limited access to funding may find it increasingly tough to deliver the new retail basics: continuous content, digital development support, awareness via influencers and/or public relations, sampling, in-store merchandising, event presence, and ongoing differentiated product introductions  Retailers are also feeling pressure, and I sense we will see an ongoing trend toward larger support needs and, since there are so many brand options, less tolerance toward continuing to carry underperforming brands

Tracy Adkins Founder, Love Jivana

I actually do think so or at least a shift in where we will see them launching. It is a highly saturated market and getting harder to find any open space. Businesses are needing to become much more crafty and thoughtful how they execute products/ideas. However, that keeps the industry fresh and never stagnant. Research is always underway to find something better, more effective, safer, etc., and that is good!

Melody Bockelman Founder and CEO, Private Label Insider

2020 is going to be a growth year for established indie brands and a tremendous opportunity for entrepreneurs who are ready to enter the beauty space with products that serve a targeted niche market. The beauty market is expansive and ever evolving with consumers who love to try new products. I think the only contraction will occur with brands who are not implementing consistent marketing.

Anthony Polcino Co-Founder, Thin Wild Mercury

If we had to guess, we would say the opposite is true, that indie beauty brands are expanding more than ever. Our own brand is a direct example of that. For one, it would seem obvious that, when one market is shrinking, it makes it all the more enticing for people with ideas to act on them and start the growing of a new one to fill the void. On the other hand, with tools like Shopify and website builders like Wix, the technical obstacles of starting a business are easier to overcome than ever. The way we started was, it dawned on perfumer, co-founder and CEO Cathleen Cardinali that she enjoyed wearing perfume, but none of the current houses, both larger-scale and boutique, were really achieving exactly what she wanted. So, she decided to learn how to do it and create one herself that did. Now, here we are. With that, the answer to the question “why” would be self-evident.

Melanie Cruickshank Founder, Da Lish

They’re the way of the future! Indie brands are more creative and paving the way for the new. It’s an exciting time to be an indie brand where more consumers and retailers are interested in carrying you. Both are looking for a story and connection, and a brand that is in line with their belief system. The power of social media has allowed any brand to build a following and customer base that you can sell and communicate to directly.

KéNisha Ruff Founder, Marie Hunter Beauty

I do not think there will be a contraction of indie beauty brands next year. Consumers and future founders are becoming more educated on ingredients, which opens the door for new nontoxic beauty products to be developed.

Julissa Prado Founder and CEO, Rizos Curls

I don’t think so. I think, with the surge of indie beauty brands, there has definitely been a surge of competition. It is tougher and tougher for brands to compete both big and small, and you have to be a lot more creative to be relevant. However, I see a constant influx of new brands, and so many of them social media-driven because they resonate with communities whose needs are not being addressed. I think that voice many communities now have will continue to propel brands forward, but it will definitely change the landscape for how we understand retail.

I think the reason why indie brands are thriving right now is because they address a diverse set of needs, not just consumer needs, but addressing diverse communities that were never really addressed before. I think inclusivity is a big factor, and you see a lot of brands trying to latch on to inclusivity to resonate with customers, but true inclusivity is about a lot more than just hiring diverse models. It’s about really understanding people from the inside out, prioritizing corporate responsibility and authentically giving back to the communities that support you. It begins with the hiring and the overall mission of a company. One-size-fits-all is definitely the old way of doing business, and I see that dying out.

Jodi Katz Founder, Base Beauty Creative Agency

Our new business pipelines tells me with confidence that entrepreneurs are still excited and passionate about entering the beauty and wellness industries. As an agency, we look for clients who are truly differentiated, and we put that pressure on these entrepreneurs to prove their differentiation from the outset. I'm proud to say that we do have clients with brand development in progress of the, "Why didn’t I think of that?!?!?,” level of uniqueness and ingenuity. Plus, the way strategics and private equity has been eating up brands at very early stages of growth is bound to inspire entrepreneurs to continue investing their time and sweat in this industry.

Jenny Duranski Founder, Lena Rose

I’ve already seen a huge dip in our brand partnership applications. We used to get pitched three to four brands a week and, now, we get pitched three to four brands a month. We’ve been around now for three years, so maybe brands that want to work with us have already reached out to us, and we are pretty much set in our curation. We’ve landed on what we can move, and we’ve let go of brands based on sell-through.

In every single industry, you’ll have a huge upswing, and the top of the hill lasts a couple of years, and then it will go down. Green beauty has been around for 10 to 15 years, and there’s been a huge upswing for a lot of that time. I don’t think green beauty has reached critical mass yet, but, when we reach it, it will go down.

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