How to create luxury skincare products without the price tag, with Dimitra Davidson from Indeed Labs
Today I’m chatting with the founder of Canadian skincare brand Indeed Labs.
Founded in 2010 Indeed labs has grown into an 8 figure business under the helm of Dimitra Davidson. We chat through the importance of finding your unique value proposition and why it’s critical to find a point of difference in today’s saturated market, current trends and opportunities in the beauty industry and how to create luxury products without the price tag.
Indeed Labs is the champion of great skin for real people, most known for their hero cult product Nanoblur.
She’s also going to be joining us in Hype Club as a Mentor in the coming months so if you want to learn more directly from her and get her brain power, come join us.
Please note, this transcript has been copy pasted without the lovely touch of a human editor. Please expect some typos!
Dimitra. Hi, welcome to the Female Startup Club podcast. Hi, thank you so much for having me. I'm so excited to be here. You look so bright and happy today. What would you like to before getting on this call this morning waking up? I'm in Toronto. So we, uh yeah, it's 10 o'clock here at 10 o'clock in the morning. I had a few calls this morning, but you know, just the usual, starting off my day, it's friday half day here for our team. So lots to cram in in the morning before we head out to enjoy and relax for the weekend. Amazingly happy friday.
00:04:33 If you guys are gonna go for some spicy mugs or something later, We are actually going into Phase three now, which means that we can actually go into restaurants and start going into health clubs and all that stuff. So that's starting tomorrow. So this is a huge and most pivotal weekend for people in Ontario. We've had one of the longest lockdowns in the world. So my team is super, super excited for the weekend. Let's jump right in. Can you give us the elevator pitch of what indeed labs actually is and what sets you apart from the others on the market? Great. Well, there's so much to know about. Indeed labs, but we are a global skin care brand. We are very well known in the UK market. We launched with a product called nano blur. We actually created a whole category with it. We were the very first brand that actually came out with a blurring cream. It was an instant product. It was supposed to give you that instant airbrushed, filtered look. Oh my God, amazing. Yeah, it still is to this day very iconic. We still are very proud that we, uh that formula has not been duplicated.
00:05:38 We have a line extension now. So we have other nano blur products, color corrector, zonana bronzer bronzer. But basically in a nutshell, when we launched in the industry, we saw a need to bring really high quality skincare and make it accessible to consumers everywhere. So what we weren't seeing was these formulas available where consumers bought everything else in the mass market and also at a price point. So there were a couple of things that we looked at when we look at the industry, we looked at the quality of the active ingredients and putting them at the highest level so that you can actually get results. We also looked at accessibility in terms of the price points. And even to this day, we still focus very much on accessibility, meaning a number of different things. Accessibility in terms of the results that you're going to get accessibility in terms of where you buy your products and now we know that there's you know quality skin care is available everywhere these days. But think back 10 years ago accessibility in terms of the information that consumers are getting.
00:06:40 So we actually were one of the first brand that really call, you know that called out ingredients on the packaging and spoke to consumers in the way that they want to be spoken to. They wanted to understand what they were getting and we're very much a problem solution brand. But again, I believe you are a hybrid. So there are brands out there that are accessible in terms of their pricing and their price point. But you know they focus on the one or two ingredients where we still focus on the very high level science of the actives in the formulas and our formulas give you multiple benefits for the most part. So we are very much I believe a hybrid because we have been compared to luxury brands that are higher price point and more in the Durham area as well as we sometimes get compared to the brands that are more mass market geared where the price point is more accessible. Mm, wow! We it all sounds fab. Love that for all of us who get the nano blur. And the these new product will not new because you launch them circa 11 years ago, which is wild.
00:07:43 2010 I think I already started. But it all sounds amazing. Let's go back to the very beginning. Obportunly 2010 is a long time ago. Where does your entrepreneurial story start? What got you into? Indeed. Labs. So my background is in finance and I always knew as somebody that really understood numbers and understood financial accountability and business that I would be a business owner. When I came out of school, I was in the luxury goods business. I worked in the jewelry industry and that's sort of where I got my foundation and my learning about branding and how important a brand is to consumers. And I had a really good foundation there. But I always I've always loved fashion, love Julia. I never thought I would be in the world of skincare. Fast forward. I did some consulting work and I was presented with an opportunity to partner in the beauty industry. And at the time, the only thing I knew about beauty and skincare was as a consumer. And so the value I brought to the table in the beginnings when there was this collaboration with my partners was, you know, as a female, as a young mother, bringing those frustrations that I was also facing to the table and that collaboration.
00:08:59 So that really spearheaded this idea of bringing a point of difference to a consumer and being honest with consumers, not using airbrush models, not using celebrity endorsements, but really speaking to consumers and giving them real results. And so that was sort of the beginning, I never thought I'd be in skin care, but you know what, I knew what I needed and I knew what consumers wanted and I think that was a really good foundation to start. That's amazing when these two, you say you had two partners, they came to you kind of to to bring you in as you know, the person, the woman who was going to lead this business and create it's um you know, success over this long journey that you've had so far. What was the early vision for the business? Did you see it becoming what it is today? And Was the plan to boot strap? It was the plan to get funding from the very beginning. What did it look like back in 2010? You know, it was such a different world back then. And to be quite honest with you, I was absolutely extremely skeptical. I kept saying to these, you know, my partners who were male and also having come from the luxury goods world, I would say to them, I worked for a brand that is steeped in history.
00:10:10 So you don't even have to speak to the consumer about what they're getting. They just know when they buy this brand, this is what they're getting, but how do we break into an industry that's almost impossible to break into. And so I was actually extremely skeptical at the beginning. It wasn't a yes, let's run out and do this. And actually as a female and as a young business owner, I was very uncomfortable being in front of the brand. I was very insecure about it as typically a lot of people are and so I didn't want to be in front of the brand. I knew what my strengths were, operations, I knew how to build strong teams, I knew how to mentor people and so, and I, you know, again, I knew how to build a foundation of a business from a financial perspective. So I was the person in the background going, okay, let's build the infrastructure, let me help you build the operations. Here's the angle you guys go out and tell the story, right? And so with that, did you go down the path of bootstrapping the brand until a certain point or did you require capital to get started?
00:11:12 Because from, you know, when I look at the brand and what I see now is like obviously it's amazing, it's huge and it looks so like it obviously doesn't look like an indie kind of CPG brand, it looks very established, which is 11 years on, but what kind of business model for finance we're taking in the very beginning? Yeah, we definitely didn't raise funding at the beginning? We definitely started very small. The scale up was, you know, we thought it was going to be slow, to be honest. We focused local, we focused on launching a couple of skews. We did no marketing at the time. We basically took, you know, people that we knew we actually photographed, we still do to this day, but it's, you know, this is very much a movement in the skin care world these days. But back then it wasn't so we didn't take models, we photographed real people and we used our cameras and we did editing ourselves in terms of not editing the photos, but editing any of our marketing. So we didn't really go to any experts. It was very much very organic at the beginning, we started off very small, we had a kiosk in a mall in here, in Canada.
00:12:17 You know, and not even in Toronto, it was north of Toronto. We started small, but when we started hearing the feedback and the results, there were 34 or five skews, it was very, very small. What happened was, is the, you know, the consumer responded to our marketing, they responded to our messaging very quickly. And as soon as we took off then we had to raise funding, obviously to support the growth of the business. Got it, got it, got it. And when you say, you know when it took off, what were those moments that led to it taking off, was there a specific like turning point where you really remember this happened? And we kind of made a leap forward and it was all off to the races from there Or was it that slow, incremental? Like, step by step step chipping away? It was very quick. We were very, very lucky. We made a splash. We chose to launch in the industry with nana blur and and because our messaging was we're going to bring you a point of difference, this is not gimmick our products work. We chose to start off with a product that actually gave you instant results, which is still to this day, the only product in the entire range that is not a treatment product is an instant product.
00:13:26 And so nothing like that was in the market and we made very bold claims we spoke to the consumer like they've never been spoken before, uh spoken to before and our packaging was bright and colorful. So that was actually a really good call. It was sort of a happy accident. We decided, let's launch with this product because our messaging is going to be strong and we're gonna show people results and we were picked up immediately and especially in the UK and your market. And so that's when we decided to put some funding behind a big splash when we launched in the UK market? We did a huge marketing campaign, We were on every billboard, every bus shelter and that was when we really caught the attention of consumers. And so we were lucky, we got listed in retail partners in the U. K. And that really helped to launch the brand, but also that helped really to transition this industry and to bring, you know, a small brand like ours to life and have a consumer go, okay, I guess that a small brand can do this and that was a real pivotal moment for I believe the industry as a whole.
00:14:30 And I also think that this really speaks to the importance of actually creating and innovating on products to bring something to market that truly isn't available yet and doing something that's truly different. Yeah. And we took a chance. Yeah, yeah, absolutely. How did you come up with the idea for nana blow? Like, you know, obviously it was really part of your story of getting started and, you know, creating this immense buzz around the brand, but like how do you actually come up with ideas like that? Do you sit down in a room and be like, what are we going to do here? Or did you have, like this clear idea of this is what it's going to be, this is what we need. So definitely to, even to this day, creating new products, there's a lot of different variables involved. It's not always one way, sometimes an active ingredient will come across our desk and we look at it and go, wow, that's really amazing science, this is cutting edge, we need to bring us to consumers other times, we see an opportunity in the market and so this was a collaboration of our creators are scientists as well as us as well as there was a movement in the market at the time, High definition was just becoming to be very relevant, you could see everything on these screens now.
00:15:44 And so we had this opportunity because we knew that this formula was going to be able to do something revolutionary. Remember back 10, 11 years ago we didn't have filters, like so this was giving you instant, filtered look, you know, an instant filtered look in real life. And so that was, you know, it was a collaboration of a bunch of different variables that created this product and then we actually went out to try it on consumers, which we still do to this day, I still do consumer trials with all of our products to go, what's your feedback? How is this resonating with you? Does this work? Do you like this? You see results and it was really a grassroots, it was like something that to this day, this is exactly how I run the brand? Mm Gosh, amazing. I love that. That must be such an exciting aspect of the business when you're coming across these things and being like, wow, this is new technology in skin care that we can bring to market? And, you know, the ideas that are centered around that, that seems really fun. It is, it's so fun and a lot of it is born from feedback from consumers.
00:16:47 A lot of times consumers will say to us, when are you launching this or I have this problem and then we go out there and we look for things to address these problems and you know, it sometimes it takes long. There are products that I have in production for years before they actually make it to market, because we really have to do our due diligence with them, but we're always, I mean we always have a bunch of products that we're looking at in terms of product development and it's about the timing of the market, sometimes the market is ready for it. Other times it's not sometimes we want to lead the market, so there's a whole bunch of different variables. But I love that question, that's the number one question that I get asked all the time. How do you decide what makes it to market? And so, you know, you have to have a crystal ball sometimes it's actually quite interesting. Yeah, I bet I'd love to talk about what kind of trends you're seeing in the industry at the moment and kind of what you're seeing, the opportunities are, especially for, you know, founders who are just starting to create the next wave of um Indie DdC CPG brands in the industry, what are you seeing?
00:17:49 That's really exciting. And the opportunities that you think are coming ahead? Well, one of the things that I am really excited about even for our brand is I want to take a more minimalist approach to skin care. And so one of the things I'm seeing now are products with multiple benefits and I'm excited about that because indeed, labs has always been that brand that speaks about multiple benefits are formulas do give you multiple benefits and I think that that's really, really important. One of the things that I find is not sustainable is how many products are on the market and how many brands have to always come out with new innovation to feed this thirst in the market, it is not sustainable on so many different levels. It's very confusing to consumers. It's horrible for the environment. And so I'm really excited now that we're really bringing that to the forefront because that's one of things that have been very, very frustrated with for a very long time and a lot of brands are controlled by this need, what's new, what's innovative, what's coming and we need to take a step back because we have a lot of really great quality products, you don't have to try to reinvent the wheel all the time, consumers need to catch up.
00:18:59 And so I think that that's going to be something that we're going to really see a lot of going forward. Mm Cool. Yeah, I'm excited for that. I think as well, like if you're having products that have multi purpose and you're just having less steps that you need to do, I'm all about that, I'm all about the, you know, minimal step routine, minimal. Yeah. They find that, you know, people are buying a whole bunch of different products because they're calling out an ingredient and you know, being a chemist in their own home and that's just really hard for consumers. You're spending a lot of money. It's a lot of time, a lot of steps. And so I feel that brands have to be a lot more responsible about what they're putting into the market as to not really over saturate the market with extra product that we don't need. Yeah. Hey, it's doing here. I'm just popping in to bring you a quick message in every episode of the FSC show. You'll hear women who were just like you trying to figure it all out and hustled to grow their business. And I would know a lot of you might be sitting there asking yourself, but how do I actually scale my revenue and get to that next level from where I am now.
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00:21:20 That's female startup club dot com forward slash A. D. S. And booking a call today in the beginning a moment ago, we were talking about how, you know, your brand has been likened to luxury skincare and you're someone that doesn't have that luxury price point. I'm wondering tactically speaking what your advice is to entrepreneurs who are creating indie CPG brands that want to do, you know, luxury position products, but at a more affordable price point, what's your advice to those people for me and for indie labs, it's always been about mass market. So if you're going to look at something with that high level quality, it's going to cost. Obviously there are costs associated. And so the model has to be that you're going to sell a lot of product and that's why it's so important for indeed labs to continue growing our community to continue expanding or reach. Because the idea was to actually connect with consumers everywhere.
00:22:22 That's the only way that we can actually be competitive in this market. We have to be mass market. And so my advice is, uh, no, you know, absolutely know what your model is going to look like. You have to understand that financial accountability and really position yourself so that you can sell multiple units. I mean luxury goods, you'll, you'll see that there's one product sold, you know, whereas for us we have to sell hundreds. Mm Yeah, Absolutely. That's great advice. Thank you so much. When you're talking about, you know, for you guys, you're, you're needing to grow. Your needing to stay really competitive in the market. What are the kinds of things that you are doing in 2021 to grow and you know, further that reach? We're expanding in different markets. We just launched a whole bunch of new markets today. We are in a really unique position. Unfortunately, there was a lot of sadness that came with Covid, but also from a retailer perspective, we've connected with consumers in this, you know, virtual or digital world and so there's a lot of the retailers that allow us to expand our reach all over the world.
00:23:30 And so we continue to open up new markets, Open up the retailers expand our reach that way, which is great. And then like I said earlier, I'm really looking at our brand and condensing, really focusing on those products that have resonated with consumers, upgrading the technology and some of our existing products so that we are not always launching new products but upgrading the formulas and just connecting and growing. Um you know, we have always been committed right from the first uh you know, minute that we launched this brand that we are about consumers, all consumers everywhere and so you know, growing that global fan base of consumers, all of our marketing is a lot of it is user generated, it's all consumers out there. And really our brand has grown by word of mouth. It really has because we don't, again, we don't do massive campaigns, that is not our model. Gosh, yeah, a lot of people talk about this on the show, it's like you just need to actually keep reinvesting into your product, making your product as good as it possibly can be so that people talk about it and then of course your acquisition costs can be lower because you don't need to spend so much to acquire a new person every single time which obviously isn't sustainable in the future.
00:24:45 So I love that for you and I think obviously word of mouth is something that sometimes brands overlook this. I feel sometimes I have a product or I try something new and I'm like how did this get on the market? This stinks and its evolution, its evolution, its learning consumers will tell you they'll tell you what's important to them and you know, we, we try really, really, really hard to, you know, we're not always going to get things right and we do make mistakes and that's just part of life. However, I've always been super committed to the learning and the process of learning and getting things right and I just love connecting with consumers, I love when people come to me and they say have you considered this? And I, you know, I think it's really, really important that his brands, we just continue to actually learn learn about what's important on every aspect of our business. Mhm Yeah, absolutely. Are you able to share any fun things that are in the pipeline? What's coming up for you? Any cool products that you want to shout about What's going on in the next 6-12 months that you can share?
00:25:48 We have a lot of really exciting things happening. Unfortunately I just can't share a lot with you right now but we are, we do have a few products that are currently launching in the next coming weeks. We're launching a toner and acid toner. We're also launching an essence which is microbiome certified. So I can talk about those really great things. These are all things are really, really important to consumers right now, especially in the world of skin care because now consumers know that the optimal health of your skin is really, really important. So we're really looking at not just correcting that one issue that consumers might have, but also making sure that your skin is always at its optimal health. And so those are a couple of the really thoughtful of formulas and ingredients that are coming to market very, very soon. But then we're also doing a bunch of other really exciting stuff. One that I can't talk about right now because it's very premature, has nothing to do with skin care but has a lot to do with uh connecting with consumers everywhere. The other one is a new brand that we're looking at launching.
00:26:49 Again, that's something I can't talk about just yet, but it is really in the, you know, it's gotten really progressed in its stages of being ready. So there's a lot of really exciting things that are happening for Indeed Labs and I just can't wait to bring into our consumers and our fans Oh my gosh, that all sounds so exciting. Cool. A new brand, Yes. What's going on here, I love that. So when you say a new brand, is it like completely separate to Indeed Labs or it's like a sister brand under Indeed Labs, definitely a sister brand under Indeed labs, it's powered by Indeed Labs. There's a lot of the philosophy of indeed labs, it's definitely targeting a different consumer and so it's going to have its own life and it will look different than indeed, but absolutely came from me, came from my team, it's definitely powered by Indeed labs and happening all under the same umbrella. Gosh, I'm so excited, That sounds amazing. Yeah, yeah, me too. What is your key piece of advice for entrepreneurs who are earlier on in the journey?
00:27:56 I think that you have to know what the why is, you know, you really need to know what it is that you're bringing to the market and the why and and there's so many that could be one thing or it could be multiple things, but you need to understand the why. So what is your point of difference? What's going to give you that competitive advantage? Why are you bringing this to market? And you know, I hear from a lot of people saying I've got a passion and I have a love or I've got this great idea and that's okay. I mean that's absolutely where it all starts, but we can all have a good product or a good idea unless you actually consider that consumer who that consumer is and why it's relevant to them. It will be an uphill battle. So you have to consider all of that when you're starting out and you know, again, I said for me, and for indeed labs, it was about starting small, you don't have to have this grand idea. Ah, you know, a lot of brands try that. Some of them are very successful with it.
00:28:58 But I will say that even the ones that, you know, touch consumers in a mass way right out of the gate, they have a lot of, you know, if you really peel it back and look at those brands, they probably have some kind of investors funders company that are backing them are really understands being big and scaling up. So you really need to give yourself time for that scaling up as you understand what the opportunities are and what the threats are and how your business is doing. I would say, you know, unless you actually have that foundation of somebody that can really power you and go, okay, I've done this before, let's do this. Um, then you really need to kind of understand your model first. Mm hmm And listen to what the people are saying your consumers are saying about you and what they want to see more of and and keeping tuned in. Absolutely, Absolutely. Yeah, I love that advice. Thank you so much. It's actually a really nice segway into the next part of the podcast, which is where we asked a series of six quick questions. And the first question is what's your, why, why are you doing what you're doing?
00:30:04 That is such a good question. And I, you know, I asked myself and I get asked that question all the time. I, you know, like I said at the beginning, I never expected to start a skincare brand. I didn't expect to be in this business and you know, soon after we launched, it was not very long after, I would say a year, a year and a half after I was left in a situation where I had to take over and for a long time I felt like I didn't know the why, why have I been put in this position? And then I realized that this is my calling. I absolutely love it. I'm doing something right. You know, the products that I'm bringing to market are resonating with consumers. I am a consumer, I'm a mother, I'm a friend, I'm a consumer, I'm a woman who is, you know, aging and and hopefully aging gracefully. Like we all want to. And so I think I bring a lot of value to consumers and now it's just become my passion. This is what I do. It's just become my baby. Amazing. I love that. I love that you've got to love the day to day.
00:31:05 You've got to love the journey. It's gotta bring you joy. Yeah, I'm so I'm so with you on all of that and it's not easy. It is not easy, I don't want to ever make it look like it's easy and you know, so that like, again, so that's why we asked that question a lot as entrepreneurs, why am I doing this? Um and then I asked for the signs from the universe and so they always come back very strong and they give me that encouragement to keep going and that is whether we win an award or we land a new account or we hear it unbelievable feedback or were picked up organically by an amazing influence or you know, somebody in Hollywood makeup artist, whatever those signals are there my sign to keep going and I just love it. I really love it. Mm I really love that too. I actually posted on my instagram, you know,