Fashion and BeautyTech, which began as a Meetup group in San Francisco, California, has grown to become a community of 12 chapters worldwide, comprising 1,500 founders and funders and an additional 500 speakers.
Broadly, the group is interested in how business and entrepreneurship function and evolve in the digital age. As the FaB team sees it, “a revolution is under way, led by mission-driven and data-driven entrepreneurs,” according to the group’s site. Event talks cover topics ranging from direct to consumer ecommerce, AI, social media, customized beauty, sustainable luxury, and more.
The evening at Nixon Peabody in New York City last week began with a networking reception. And the programing that followed was organized into 3 distinct discussions: a panel entitled Redefining Luxury, a fireside chat between Sarra Zayani and Matt Scanlan, and another panel called Building a Consumer Brand. Danielle Cohen-Shohet, of GlossGenius, leads the NY chapter of FaB and served as host of the evening, announcing each session; and Odile Roujol was on hand as well and shared a few enthusiastic remarks about the group’s growth with the room.
Digital, accessible, luxury
During the first panel discussion on Redefining Luxury, Rachel ten Brink of the fragrance sampling company Scentbird talked about how her brand is “using tech to sell beauty better.”
Thinking about the new meaning of luxury, ten Brink says that, “where the consumer has moved, they want variety; they want to try things. Big bottle [fragrance] was led by manufacturers and margins, not what customers want.”
“Scentbird is still luxury,” she says, “but it’s affordable.” Later in the discussion ten Brink explained her company’s marketing saying, “Scentbird was built on the back on YouTube influencers.” From there the company “layered on strategy, using influencer content on Facebook [which] remains a very important channel” for Scentbird. And she explained that as the company’s CPA (cost per action) increased, Scentbird was more selective about its online marketing and began advertising on podcasts and the NYC subway, campaigns which ten Brink believes have added an air of authenticity to the Scentbird business.
Vertical, sustainable, beauty
The panel discussion about building consumer brands in the digital age included Kate McLeod, founder of Kate McLeod Inc, the indie beauty startup that makes the Body Stone (a solid lotion bar that’s quickly capturing the attention of clean beauty fans and prominent consumer publications).
For McLeod, being a hands-on formulating founder is key to building a brand that consumers can discover, identify with, and remain loyal to. “People want to find something different, something they can relate to, and something they can understand” she says.
Her Body Stone business is vertically integrated; “we hand pour each stone,” she says, and “we know what goes into our product.” And she describes Kate McLeod Inc as “accidentally sustainable,” noting that “no one in the beauty industry would speak to me in terms of packaging,” so each Body Stone is wrapped in unbleached linen and packed in a bamboo box. It’s a piece of the brand story that establishes her as both an industry outsider and an innovative problem solver.
Asked how she’s navigating the financial challenges of the new skin care ecosystem, McLeod says that to secure funding she’s learned how to express herself and her ideas, adding that being “frank, clear, and succinct” is paramount. And Melanie Ullmo, an investor on the same panel concurred, saying, “If you can’t convince yourself that there’s purpose in your product, no one else is going to be convinced.”
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.