Alchimie Forever is as much a doctor’s brand (with origins in a dermatologist’s office) as it is an indie brand. But neither of those classifications made it a success both in Europe and here in the US. Safe and effective product formulations, like the one that elevated Alchimie Forever’s first product to its hero product, are the heart of the business. Here, skin care entrepreneur Ada Polla shares a profile of herself and the brand.
Name: Ada Polla, CEO
Indie Beauty Company: Alchimie Forever
Launched: Summer 2004
Headquarters: Washington DC
Cash flow: My family (my father and three sisters) and I own a controlling stake in Alchimie Forever, though no one person does. We are self-funded, meaning via family and friends. We have never received crowd-funding or business accelerator money.
Breaking the $1M mark in revenues was a great achievment, but I think the one that made me most proud was reaching profitability.
Indie how? To me, being an indie brand means being independently and privately owned. Publicly owned companies are not indies, and brands owned by larger conglomerates or private equity or VC groups are not indies either.
Teamwork: 1 full-time, 3 part-time, and a number of freelancers
Distribution: Our products are available in Switzerland, France, and the US. Our distribution strategy has always been multi-channel; we are available online (including via Amazon and Dermstore), in the professional skin care channel (including medical spas and dermatologists), in independent beauty boutiques, in pharmacies (including Pharmaca), and in Walgreens (120 higher-end locations).
Years in beauty: Since I launched Alchimie Forever in 2004 – 16 years!
Entrepreneurial experience: This is my first company.
The business: Alchimie Forever grew out of my father’s dermatology practice in Geneva and his pioneering role in laser treatments. Our first product (the Kantic Brightening moisture mask, which is the reason we got into skin care and remains our number one seller to-date) was created as a post-procedure product to help heal the skin of children following a Pulsed Dye Laser treatment of Port Wine Stains and hemangiomas. The patients’ mothers applied the mask to their own skin when applying the mask to their children’s skin, loved the glow, and asked for more. And the rest, as they say, is history!
The wow-factor: We position ourselves as clean and clinical – or ‘cleanical’. True to our medical heritage and dermatological roots, we look at ingredients from a safety and efficacy perspective rather than a source perspective. We believe in safe synthetics, safe botanicals – and in ingredients that will make a positive difference in your skin. We’re proud to be vegan and cruelty-free (certified by PETA and Leaping Bunny) to boot.
The consumer: Our customer is in her early- to mid-thirties to late sixties, well educated, optimistic, curious, and responsible. She (or he) likes to ‘buy outside the box’ and wants products she can feel good about using but also products that will help both prevent and correct signs of aging.
Milestone moment: Having former Vogue Beauty Director Sarah Brown confess in the February 2016 issue of Vogue that she “Netflix-binges” with our Kantic Brightening moisture mask was definitely a proud moment!
When someone who has access to and a working knowledge of every beauty product under the sun vouches for one of yours – you can’t help but remember that milestone.
Advice for fellow beauty entrepreneurs: Building a beauty brand takes time. Be patient, focus on the quality of revenue growth (comp growth and repurchase) and on profitability.
Just one: Asked about her go-to beauty product, Polla says, I would pick an antioxidant moisturizer with SPF (my go-to is our Protective day cream SPF23).
My father always told me that if I do nothing else but apply that every single morning to face and neck, I would age gracefully. I’ve heeded his advice and feel great about the skin I’m in, at 42 years old.
I also can’t live without a red lip. It’s my signature. (My current personal favorite is NARS Velvet Matte Lip Pencil in Cruella.)