Indie Beauty Profile
Kenna Whitnell, Altilis Beauty
Many beauty startups upgrade packaging, redesign branding, change retail strategy after a short stint in the business. But, Kenna Whitnell didn’t simply tweak her existing skin care venture to launch what is Altilis Beauty; she shuttered a brand and started from scratch—new ingredients, new formulas, new manufacturing, new everything—after researching bioactive compounds found in breadfruit and their skin care benefits.
Here, the beauty entrepreneur shares a profile of herself and the brand.
Name: Kenna Whitnell, Founder and CEO
Indie Beauty Company: Altilis Beauty
Launched: November 2017
Headquarters: Guelph, Ontario, Canada
Cash flow: I am happy to have made my break-even point! Our sales are covering our overhead and COGS and that is a great feeling.
I own 100% of the business. Altilis Beauty has been funded through several [non-repayable] grant programs including the Hub Incubator program offered by the College of Business and Student Enterprise at the University of Guelph, The Fuel Injection program with Innovation Guelph (FedDev funding). It has also been funded through personal and family investment.
Indie how? I’ve never considered the exact definition of an indie beauty brand. I would define mine as one, seeing as it is independently owned and operated. We manufacture our own products and make our own novel ingredients.
If I think about indie music it just means you’re under a label that isn’t a corporate giant, or you don’t even have a label signed at all. The same applies to beauty, so I would consider a brand indie if they are not under the control of a large corporation with several other beauty brands.
Team work: We currently have 2 full-time employees and 2-part time employees. We hire full-time co-op students in the summer and collaborate with the masters of biotechnologoy program students at the University of Guelph for their research projects.
Distribution: Our products are available globally through our own ecommerce site altilisbeauty.com and at select retailers in southern Ontario including, The Truth Beauty Company, Gilded Cage Boutique, and the Guelph Art Gallery Gift Shop.
Years in beauty: I have worked in the beauty industry for four years since I started my company, Soleluna Cosmetics Inc.
Years at Altilis Beauty: 1 year
Entrepreneurial experience: I have been making skincare products for myself and family since I was a teenager. I started my company, Soleluna Cosmetics Inc. four years ago with personalized skincare systems for friends and family based on aromatherapy. I have since discontinued my previous product line due to a scientific discovery during my degree.
In 2017 [while pursuing my biochemistry degree at the University of Guelph] I was introduced to breadfruit and had the opportunity to study it for potential skin care benefits. With my new breadfruit ingredient full of antioxidants, flavonoids, fatty acids and other phytochemicals, I formulated a skincare line for sensitive skin with a focus on aging prevention. I launched my brand Altilis Beauty in November of 2017 after opening up a manufacturing facility in Cambridge, Ontario, earlier that fall.
The business: Altilis Beauty features tropical breadfruit flowers in a sustainable line of facial products including cleanser, serum, moisturizer, lip balm and a face mask, body care products including body butter and hand cream, and coloured cosmetics including a liquid foundation.
The wow-factor: Altilis Beauty is disrupting the cosmetics industry through the sourcing of effective, innovative, and environmentally responsible ingredients. Our thoughtfully crafted skincare line, consisting of three skincare essentials is formulated with breadfruit and other tropical botanicals for a complete system of antioxidant, protective and aging-preventative compounds to achieve healthy, youthful skin.
Our commitment [is to] …the traceability of our ingredients, the ethical conditions in which the business operates, as well as our continuous efforts to preserve our global environment.
The customer: Our target customer is looking for natural solutions to signs of aging, dry skin, and other skin ailments such as texture, redness, and acne. Our consumers are very eco-conscience, support local businesses, and care about the environment. They want to use products that are sustainable but work and live up to the claims they make.
Milestone moment: We have had great local media coverage; and I am very proud of my six-page magazine article in the Grand Magazine.
Advice for fellow beauty entrepreneurs: Celebrate each win, each victory, and each step in your journey. Recognize what you have accomplished everyday. You will always set new goals when you reach your goals of the past. If you don’t take time to appreciate what you have accomplished it can feel like a rat race. But it’s not about the finish line – it is about the journey! Enjoy it.
Just one: My go to beauty product is my InflorEssence Moisturizer, says Whitnell. It is a phenomenal anti-aging cream but also provides the skin with sun protection, can double as a cleanser/ makeup remover; and I use it all the time as a spot treatment for blemishes! It really is a versatile product!
Deanna Utroske, CosmeticsDesign.com Editor, covers beauty business news in the Americas region and publishes the weekly Indie Beauty Profile column, showcasing the inspiring work of entrepreneurs and innovative brands.