Experiment Beauty's Lisa Guerrera on raising $1m in capital & dealing with a nightmare manufacturer
Today we are learning from Lisa Guerrera, the founder of Experiment Beauty.
Chances are you’ve seen this brand on Instagram or Tiktok, but if you haven’t Experiment is a chemist-led brand building science-backed beauty 2.0. They're rebranding what a science-backed beauty brand feels like for the next generation of consumers and also what it looks like. All of their products are clinically backed, thoughtfully sustainable, and ridiculously fun. You’ll probably recognise their first product which is the acid neon green reusable sheet mask we’ve all seen cruising around the internet.
I loved this chat with Lisa, she shares her journey so deeply and there are so many takeaways you’ll learn from her.
Please note, this transcript has been copy pasted without the lovely touch of a human editor. Please expect some typos!
Lisa, hi, welcome to the Female Startup Club podcast. Hello, I am so happy to be here. Finally, I am so happy to be here. Finally, after a few few scheduling mishaps, I don't know if we'd even call the mishaps just missing each other chaos. It's, it's, it's all, it's all good. But we're, we are here now. So I'm really excited. We're here now. Are you in new york at the moment? Yes.
00:02:31Edit So I'm in our office. Did it snow today? Who said that, that might be a piece of misinformation. Um, it is sunny and nice outside. Well yesterday did it snow yesterday? It was cold. But no, I don't think it snowed. It was, there was a bad rainstorm though and maybe that like maybe it's not upstate, I don't know, but at least by my apartment, it was a horrible rainstorm fake news. I, I got told that it was snowing, that misinformation will get, you will get this information will get you and here I am passing it on. Damn it. So no, it's not. But I love that for you because it should be nice weather. Holy moly, It's really sunny here in London and I am just like a whole other human when the sun is out and it's like, you know, we're starting to re emerge and I'm like, oh goodness, this is so good. I literally saw this tweet recently that was like the vibe or known as a Tiktok. It was someone saying like, the vibe in new york is absolutely unmatched when the sun starts coming out. Like it is unmatched people.
00:03:34Edit And I'm sure in London it is incredibly similar because I feel like London and new york have similar, like there's a dreary time and then there's a very happy semi time. Yeah, there's depression followed by depression followed by like more depression and then there's like the pub and everyone is out in the whole of the UK at the pub. That's exactly, that's amazing. Well, my sister is heading to London I think in the next week or two. So I'm sure she will feel that as well. Oh my God, please tell her to hit me up so we can do something, I can show her around. Oh yeah, she is, she is super sweet. So I'm sure she's gonna have a good time to. Amazing. Well, let's jump into it. I would love to start by getting you to give us a bit of the elevator pitch. What is your brand? What's the ethos behind it? Who are you? Yeah, so I'm lisa, I'm the Ceo and co founder of Experiment, a chemist led brand building the next generation of science back beauty for the future. Consumer high level experiment makes unexpected essentials that are science driven, thoughtfully sustainable and ridiculously fun.
00:04:43Edit The first product that we actually launched is called avant garde, which is a fun and functional, reasonable sheet mask that completely replaces the need for single use sheet masks entirely. Um it's this bright lime green color that you may or may not have seen on social media and it is super shareable and it replaces something that is really wasteful, which is single use sheet masks. I think we've all, I mean a lot of people listening to this podcast probably abused a sheet mask creates a small mountain of un recyclable trash next to you every time you use it. And over time I just felt like I don't really want to use these anymore. Um, and I really want an alternative and avant garde really was that, um, it's a silicone mask that you put on top of any of your favorite skincare. And it creates a custom masking experience and it honestly works even better in a single U shaped mask. But so that's experiment. That's our first product. I'm obsessed. It's so cool for anyone who hasn't seen it. I am sure that's how I discovered you was on social media because how else? Um, and I love you say where you say that, you know, you specifically kind of did that cool bright, like share arable moment and you thought about that in your product design.
00:05:54Edit Like, yeah, how do I get people to share about this? How do I make it social and put that kind of like in that R and D. Process. But before we go down that pathway because it's a whole other pathway. I love to always just like kind of go back to the beginning, what was getting you interested in this? I know that you were like a chemical engineer, know something like that. Yeah. You you were in that vibe in that vibe. Yes, I wanted to be a chemical engineer but so a little even going further back and I am definitely gonna send you this video because I think you're gonna get a kick out of it when I was 12. Like I've always loved Beauty ever since I was a kid when I was 12, I got a pink camcorder for Hanukkah and I started filming Youtube Beauty Youtube videos on it. Xo lisa Rose xo give me those views, they're still public but it is 12 year old me giving anti aging tips. I was telling people to wear sunscreen. I've been on this flow my whole damn life manifested this, I'm manifested it. But so I love beauty my whole life.
00:06:54Edit I love science my whole life, my dad really like you know cultivated that love of science and me and chemistry. But just science that I instantly when I started learning it, like loved I got it a lot of people. Chemistry is the hard thing for me, bio is the hard thing. So loved Chemistry decided to major in college because I basically was like Chemistry is the coolest Science and beauty is powered by science. Like I had really bad cystic acne. So I was constantly deep in the Reddit threads when I was in high school and college of like how to help my cystic acne. So I was a very like early educated beauty consumer from the gecko. And so I did my bachelor's in chemistry and during that time I was working in labs and honestly face like I really want to do cosmetics, but I didn't tell anybody because one time I told a guy in physics that I wanted to work in cosmetics and he was literally like, so you want to make lipstick for the rest of your life. And I was literally like, okay, I'm not telling anyone ever again, I roll Literal eye roll and, but you know, I was still very interested and so I decided to actually do my senior thesis.
00:08:05Edit I had to like do a 40 page thesis. Um, and I decided to write it on something that really bothered me in beauty. I know it's too much writing too much, right. It was a traumatizing time slides decks. I'm not there, I'm not that person, it's a lot. And so I decided to write about something I really cared about beauty that I saw was becoming more of an issue, which is misinformation and beauty and how the natural beauty movement in the clean beauty movement affected consumer purchasing behavior. So I did my thesis on something called chema phobia in the beauty industry, which is the um so kema phobia is fear of chemicals and there's a really interesting history behind it, basically like the idea that you know chemicals or chemically sounding things are like scary or bad um and people essentially it's the fear of the unknown, right? But from from a chemical perspective um and as a chemistry student that meant a lot to me because I knew that like, okay, just because something sounds scary, especially in chemist rate, doesn't mean literally anything.
00:09:06Edit Even some of the most dangerous chemicals in the world can have a dose that is perfectly safe. So the dose makes the poison is what we say in chemistry a lot. So you know this this movement in in beauty that was around like natural and clean and like totally cool if you use those products, but the marketing behind them was actually quite misleading on the science front and so I wrote about that and how it changed consumer behavior and with that sparked my first business idea, which was a ingredient translator app and I ended up starting a whole business right out of college, that is so cool, does it still exist? I don't even know, but um I did this for like two years. Um so I was, I was trying to go to grad school, I had my famous year stint in grad school doing chemical engineering um and I wanted to work for Loreal but like I went through two hackathon with this startup idea ended up winning and kind of the rest is history type of thing. It was called see through, I did it for like two ish years Um we went through support accelerate in 2019 with see through and then I also went in our future beauty award for that work and ingredient transparency and at the time I was like 24-23-24 and even though we had some good success that we launched with a few brands, it was basically like an app that you install into your Shopify, that major ingredients list transparent or clickable.
00:10:28Edit So as consumers are shopping they can go with all those scary chemical founding ingredients were in your products and it was to essentially help educate consumers because that's really the antidote to misinformation education and yeah so I did that for about two years just kind of realized to be life was not for me sales um I was good at sales but like it's just not what I wanted to do and every single brand interacted with, I was like here's how you can do it better, here's how you can do your marketing better, you guys should really consider like dropping clean and nobody wanted to hear that from me at all. So I realized okay I really need to work on the brand side and ended up joining apostrophe which was the tele dermatology company. Um as the head of brand at 24 youngest person in leadership only woman. And my whole job was to switch their marketing towards this consumer that I've basically been studying my whole life which is the intellectual, the consumer that wants to know the science behind their products that was like me that wanted to know how their beauty products worked and how to pick the best products for their skin from a scientific lens.
00:11:34Edit And so successfully did that for about a year and a half. And we got acquired by hymns which was really cool and I left shortly after but kind of in tandem and parallel with that starts the story of experiment where at support accelerator actually I met my current co founder um she was a cosmetic chemists that benefit cosmetics. She had been in the industry for years. On both like the manufacturing side and the formulation side and we just really saw eye to eye on um what was coming in beauty, like what we really saw was like on one side you have this clean, you know misinformation driven like movement and beauty is really fueled by like people's desires to find products that they trusted. And then on the flip side you had all these like really cool brands and fun brands that didn't have much substance and then on like the like there's like three sides to this. And then on, on the left side we both saw like the science back beauty movement start to take hold, so we call this science back beauty one point out, these are brands like the ordinary thank you List servi polish choice, Branson honestly paved the way for consumer education for more consumers to be interested in products and ingredients.
00:12:47Edit But they also really one note the aesthetics were very, very similar, they were very serious. They didn't like make science like exciting, particularly like they did a lot of education work for sure, but like we felt like the future of Science backed beauty was fun, accessible, something that anybody could get into, not just like a niche group on the internet, right? Something that, you know, was colorful and essentially branded science the way that we as chemists saw it, something that was a weird world of like nearly magic, right? Like chemistry can literally change into like change one thing into another, like seemingly magically right? Like that's really cool. Like why are we talking about that? That is really cool. It's so cool. Um that's why I love chemistry. Um and so you know, we really saw eye to eye and we got talking and early on in my days that apostrophe um I was marketing towards more of the millennial consumer, the millennials intellectual, but I, what I was more interested in was people like me and younger who grew up learning about beauty on the internet.
00:13:49Edit So these are like gen Z's intellectual. So they're not just concerned about efficacy. They want a brand to have it all. They want a brand, I have a sustainability story. They want them to be, have aesthetics that they feel like our shareable and that they can vibe with and that they want to be a part of, they want to be part of more than just like a brand that works at the end of the day. They want to be part of something that they feel connected to emotionally and we felt like just the science back brands, we're not giving that. And so we felt strongly that we want to create something of our own and that's how experiment started. Well, I mean, well there's a lot here. I also like also in between that this is, it's like, it's hard because like I was doing a lot of ones and I'm like, I need to like stop doing so many things at once. But I also like during the pandemic, I started a Tiktok around beauty science and that also just helped fuel this notion that like gen Z was different. Like we, we knew that like we could present science in a way that was like fun and Tiktok able shareable. So now I have like a following, Oh my God, I haven't seen your personal Tiktok, I've only seen your brand, Tiktok shut the front door.
00:14:56Edit I'm going to have to obviously search you afterwards. This is so bizarre that I haven't seen it. I have a little over 60,000 followers. People who are just like really interested in beauty lines and that's really cool because like this community used to be so much smaller, but now because of Tiktok, I feel like the interest and like does this thing really work, is this actually bs like is the marketing trying to pull the wool over my eyes? Like these are things that like Gen Z is asking like 100% like they want the receipts, we want to know, we want the reviews, we want the reviews on brands. We want to call out the brands that are not doing the right thing or not even not doing the right thing, but like educate people on what this means and what that means. But that is so cool in these digital times, Almost all consumers tend to search online for a product or brand before making a purchase. So it's never been as important as now to have a home for your brand or your online business. If you've been thinking about taking your business to the next level and going online with it now is the perfect time to start building your website with zero.
00:16:01Edit zero is the most affordable website builder on the market with beautiful designer made templates, simple drag and drop editing and business tools like a logo maker and ai rider, which will save you hundreds of dollars per year that you can reinvest into your business and create your own website without any coding knowledge. Go to zero dot com forward slash F. S. C. That's Z Y R O dot com slash fsc Or use our code fsc to get up to 71% discount plus three months free and a domain with any yearly plan. Okay, I want to start just more online with like where did you get the idea for event guard? Because it's so cool and you're like, this is so much fun and also how come this didn't already exist? And like just what's the like brainstorm dreaming process of you guys like sitting down being like, what's our first product going to be like, what's it going to look like? You know? Yeah. So like we, it's funny like me and I sat down with me and my co founder sat down and we were like, okay, we know this brand has to exist like what would be the first product?
00:17:14Edit And we really felt strongly that we wanted to bootstrap this launch. We were both at separate jobs at the time and we only had essentially like, you know what was in our bank account and we didn't have much, we're not wealthy founders were not people that come from money. Like we just had like whatever we had in our savings. So all in all, what are we talking? What are we talking? I'll give you the number. So all in all I spent 80, I'll give you the number right now. All I always spent of our own money, $8500 on the launch, which is very low um and and I'll get into like how we did that were very strapping. My claim to fame is that I am scrappy and that's what I did with my first startup. I could barely raise any capital at all. So like, so you gotta get very creative very quickly and I didn't have any like connections to VC or anything like that in my first startup. So like, you know, very much like learning by doing um and so we were like, okay, skincare is an expensive endeavor like formulating a skincare product is hard, but I remember in like in my apartment, I have this, what what was called like in Japan, it's a sheet mask holder.
00:18:20Edit So it's meant to go on top of a single use sheet mask to just like hold it in place because you know like when your sheet masking, like everything is just sliding around and you're not actually relaxing, your more just like very stiff or tense. Everything else is droopy. Yeah, my neck, my neck is like tense, like when I'm doing a single sheet mask, it's like horrible honestly. But I, I had the sheet masks because this will solve all my problems. One day I was like looked at him like, wait a minute do I actually need the sheet mask because I know that like the way sheet masks work. Single use sheet masks. Like the cotton ones, is that at any of them they're soaked in serum, their material soaked in serum. And the reason people love them so much is because they work via what's called Occlusion. It basically means that it's keeping the serum really close to the skin and they do that through this this cotton material, whatever material, it's keeping that serum on your skin and essentially force feeding it to your skin and that's what a collusion is. And I looked at that and I know silicone is a perfectly close of material, meaning that there's very like nothing escapes out of it, like if it's covering something nothing will evaporate off.
00:19:26Edit So I looked at him like, wait, I think we can use this with justice. And I'm like you don't need a sheet mask underneath it. And so I tried it one day and I was like Emmy, this really works. Um and so she tried it, she got one and we were just like, wait, this really works. But there was a ton of issues. Um the material was really stiff, it was ugly, it was like this like pink kind of fleshy kind of color that just, it did not look right and the sizing was just like, it's funny, like I have what we call a small head and he has a big head and on any, like it was very tight on her ears, it was uncomfortable to wear, so she wouldn't want to wear it for long term. And the material was really stiff, not stretchy. So we started doing some digging literally. We went to Alibaba, started doing digging. So a lot of these masks hit up a bunch of different manufacturers to see if we can get something better. And it started from there. So we found a manufacturer, we made some changes to the product, we added sizing. We changed the color, we uh, changed the material to be more stretchy.
00:20:28Edit There's a little serendipitous on how that happened. They actually sent us like, not the wrong match, but it was different than the sample they sent us. And we actually ended up liking it so much more. They're just like, yes, this um and but what was really intentional was around the color specifically. It we made it this bright lime green color because we wanted to lean into the humor of wearing this mask. There was no way we could make it pretty and like clean and gorgeous and serene, like every other beauty brand. And we're like, experiment is all about like literally experimenting, Having fun, not taking yourself too seriously. And so we leaned into literally the memorability and the humor of the mask and we knew that that acid green color had mean potential, it was going to be shareable. People would think it's hilarious, as long as you own it gotta own it. And so that's what we did. And so we really felt strongly that this product was something we could make a hero because, you know, we knew that sheet masks were essentially on the cancelation train, um, makeup wipes, you know, have been on the outs, they're bound for the planet.
00:21:32Edit Anything single use is not, you know, great. So we knew that single use sheet masks were next on the chopping block and they're actually worse than than makeup wipes because they each come individually wrapped with stuff that is completely un recyclable and plastic. And so just go straight into the garbage and yeah, so we just, we just knew that that was a solution that if we leaned into it and if we owned it and we really like put our effort into it and made it cool and make it shareable and made it funny, we could actually build like a pretty cool organic like marketing moment as like making avant garde the billboard of the product. And in terms of the name, it's funny like looking back like we had no idea what to name this thing the whole time, we were just calling it the mask and then any like put down a bunch of names and like we, we glazed over avant garde at first, I'm like, it's not clear enough. And then eventually we came back around and we're like wait a minute, it's like the perfect name, our name is literally experiment avant garde is literally like the way it's properly spelled is like an experimental art movement.
00:22:36Edit Like this is literally perfect. So um yeah that's how we got to the product and we started like as a single product, but we knew the brand was gonna be like so much more like the philosophy that we started with was so strong that we knew like this is a great place for us to bootstrap and start because this product is not super expensive to produce but from there with the profits we can like work to chemists. Like Emmy would formulate a serum to go with it or another product. So so that was kind of the path that we had laid out in our heads at the time. Before we go on. I just want to like ask about protecting your brand because I'm wondering is that something that you have been able to kind of you know protect the I. P. And patent and things like that or you facing or have already faced, you know copycat kind of movement in what you're doing and wondering around that like protection kind of side of things. Yeah. So for our first launch we knew they were going to be copycats. Like that was just kind of like we just felt there was something about the vibe of the brand new before we launched her like this is going to be great and you know, there have been other sheet masks that come out of the market um but what's interesting is that I know where all of those were created, they're all kind of like off the shelf, they didn't make any changes, it's more of a mirchi item for a lot of brands, no one's owning it or trying to own it.
00:23:55Edit Um whereas like we were the first to truly like own that as like a hero product, so that alone creates a little bit of a moat and we also had such a strong community already built up around the product. So the community owning things like that does create a brand vote and definitely in the learning lessons category of this week and get into that story. But we were sold, we've been sold out for a long time and we're heading into relaunch and after our first soft launch run um to essentially test whether or not this was a product that people wanted, we went back to the drawing board and redesign the product and now it is actually patent pending in terms of design. So we are also legally protected now, but before we just, we're going off of brand mod vibes, that's that's what we were going for. Got it, Yeah, you've got to start somewhere, got to like get the vibe out there and then protect yourself. I want to stick around though, I feel like we've still moved a little bit further forward and I want to stick around the launch so you had $8500 to invest in like getting this product correct?
00:25:00Edit Like right, how many like what was the M. O. Q. That you were able to order is my first question and then we'll go on from there um For the soft launch or for this launch. The soft launch. Yeah for the soft launch. We had 2000 masks. We ordered 2000 masks. Boy. Oh boy was that chaos? So we didn't do a good job at vetting our manufacturer. Like they gave us a great product which was like we are really lucky in terms of that but like the quality control, we had no idea about like QA like we we didn't know anything. And so we ended up having to hand inspect hand clean and hand pack all of our masks in our apartment for every order and it was we look back on this and we laughed and we're like this is but it was a monumental effort and it was really really hard to do but we ended up having a toss almost like or reject rather like we didn't toss it but reject rather. I think it was like 30% of our inventory which really really sucked out of that order.
00:26:07Edit So I think in total we had about 1300 masks or 1500 masks that were viable. So yeah, it was, that was really hard. Um but again, like learning lessons, like we didn't know what we were doing at all, but our goal is just like, okay, cool, this is a good product, like we'll do whatever it takes to make sure it gets into the hands of consumers. What happens in that scenario? Like does the like manufacturer kind of take responsibility and send you new ones or do they refund you or do you have insurance or is it just like a loss and you have to cut your losses? So we had to take that loss because again, like we didn't set clear manufacturing guidelines were just like, yeah, like this, this looks good, like we didn't truly like we were just kind of going for it. So we did have to take that loss and you know, the manufacturer, again that we were working with, there's a reason we ended up cutting ties with them. They weren't really the best or most communicative, I think on alibaba, a lot of brands should be aware of like, trade companies, these are people that are not actually manufacturers, but they're like almost like the middleman between the actual manufacturers of products and they try to source stuff for you, but like they pretend like they're the manufacturer, so it can be really confusing to know who you're actually talking to and we were in that kind of situation.
00:27:23Edit I didn't know that. Yeah, I, I definitely encourage any brand. That is crazy. Yeah, a person that does Alibaba really well, how do you figure that out? Oh my God, we just kind of like, over the course of the interactions like as stuff like when we were like, hey this order is not right or like whatever, we just realized like, oh we're not talking to a manufacturer, we got a friend of, a friend who knows alibaba like sourcing who is now an investor got alibaba source saying like he was like, yeah, this is a trade companies like for sure. So it's definitely like something I think a lot of brands should watch out for, it doesn't mean every trade company is bad. It's just like, it gets more and more opaque, right as the layers like of people between you and the actual manufacturer, someone who's really good at manufacturing like with Alibaba and like finding the right people as chairman lindsey, the founder of Human, she is so good at that but we were not at the time, but we got very lucky is what I'm saying, You still have that 1500-2 launch with still good, we still had it Yeah, and we were just kind of like, we were really like doing it as we went right.
00:28:32Edit So um it was definitely just that kind of vibe. Okay, so now I actually want to talk about the launch and how did you sell those 1500 units? Like if you had to just break it down into, like, this is what we did. Did we spend any money to acquire? Or was it all organic? But like, this is what we did to sell those units and like, the impact around that. Yeah, so we didn't spend a dime on marketing and the reason we didn't was because they were both drafted very, very limited funds and we both again had separate jobs and we were really just trying to see, like, how far could we take this? Like, the photo shoot that we did was like, my friends got together, like, we pulled in, it was in my apartment, like, it was very, it was fun. Like, looking back on it was definitely really disorganized and like, very ragtag. But yeah, we didn't spend any money on marketing. The way we kicked it off was a few ways. So we, I was a tick talker. I'm a Tiktok er so like, obviously did a launch post, that launch posted really well. And then uh, got my friends involved as well on Tiktok.
00:29:37Edit So I sense, I believe seven or eight of my Tiktok friends, um, who are in skincare, like, hey, you know, we're launching this product would love for you to try it, like, and if you can support us on launch day, that would be amazing. And they all did, they all were like, so generous and like, posted about it on launch day. And that really helped a lot. And a lot of them just loved the product to a lot of them still use the original mass like a year later to this day because it gives them like just there, like, no, this is a really good product. And then the, so, so Tiktok is definitely one bucket of how we were able to organically, you know, acquire customers. The next bucket would be brand collaboration. So, on our launch day, we also collaborated with a different skin care brand because our products paired well with other products. Um, so other serums, moisturizers. So for launch day, we partnered with Top Pickles and in that partnership, we did give away as well as a set that we sold on our site with their like butter mask. So it's called the butter and bake set. We saw that on launch day as well.
00:30:40Edit And that sold out in 10 hours, which was really exciting for a new brand. Like we didn't have a lot of followers like it, we had less than 1000 followers. Like it wasn't like we didn't spend any money on the launch either. Like for something to sell out in 10 hours was really cool. And that giveaway also, that went live on both of our pages on launch day, put our visibility up a lot because part of that giveaway to have an extra entry, you have to post your stories, you post the the giveaway post your stories and our product packaging for avant garde, actually, it's someone wearing avant garde on the packaging, kind of like magazine like, and because of that visual, very visual packaging, people immediately knew what it was. So they got really, really excited by it. Um, and we got a ton of visibility that day just from that giveaway and stories. So that was super helpful and just getting us in front of as many people as possible and a really big influencer actually, like organically ordered the product, we saw like his name in our shop finally like freaked out.
00:31:41Edit Uh, so that was really cool as well because he said he saw us on stories or something, someone posted about us. So that was really cool. Oh my God, that's so cool. Yeah, so the brand collaborations the Tiktok, that's, that was really, really helpful. And then obviously the last book, it is just the nature of the product. The nature of the product is very shareable, is memorable when we were raising our round, um, are pre seed round. Even investors were like, I feel like I've seen this somewhere like on instagram maybe like I remember seeing this green mask and it's us. Um, and that's, that's what's really cool is that it's very memorable. It's, it's, it's, it's kind of a weird product and sticks in your brain. So, you know, just the nature of the product also sells itself and a lot of consumers, once they got the product wanted to take a selfie in it, wanted to show it off? So naturally that also just leads to more sales. 100%. I totally get it. You're making something memorable. You've got a moment like a real moment happening online. I love that for you. Holy moly.
00:32:44Edit So you sell out. When do you sell out? What's our timeline at the moment? Yeah. So our timeline for that and you know, we were doing this part time, didn't put any marketing money into it. We sold out I believe in a few months ago we had two sizes of the mass. So for small heads and big heads are small size was more popular and it's sold out even March. So a few months after launch and then our larger size sold out in May, once the small size, the the sales started slowing down. And we're also trying to figure out like how do we get more of this product? So there was a lot of like behind the scenes stuff we were trying to figure out because we didn't expect it like necessarily to pop off that way. Um, and so we were trying to figure out like, oh this is a real business, okay, like let's get our stuff together. So, so that's when those things slowed down, test is done like a proof of concept approved. Concept approved, like let's get it going? Like concept proven rather. Yeah. Yeah. So what are the steps that take you from there to now? The reason we are also scrambling is that two months after we launched I believe in january urban outfitters DM dust and they wanted to carry us in store.
00:33:52Edit So we're trying to figure out how to get more and that's again a separate learning lesson. But it was definitely like we were gaining traction pretty quickly and we're like oh my God, we could launch nationwide and urban outfitters like in the next few months like we have to be ready for something like that. So we were figuring a lot of stuff out at the time, oh my gosh! And so like what do you do, what do you do from then until now? Obviously you're gearing up for the two point oh launch, there's about a year in, in the middle, here, a bit less. 10 months in the middle. What is this, 10 months been to you? What have you been doing? So um when we sold out, we were basically, I think it was in april when we were almost sold out that we had ordered more masks from our manufacturer to launch into urban outfitters. So urban outfitters gave us a really big P. O. It was one of the bigger pos that they would give small brands, they want to do a nationwide rollout they like, which was like really no test stores just like every store like in in north America and online, so it was a lot.
00:34:57Edit Um and so we had to do a thing like that. Are you allowed to share? I don't think I'm allowed to share actually. But yeah, it was, it was, it was, it was like it was not like crazy like target numbers or anything, but it was definitely like a lot for us. Um And so we had to do a new order. And so when we ordered those masks, I remember getting a call like four missed calls from my co founder who was in north Carolina at our co packer that we're using for this order. And frantic calls at like five o'clock in the morning when I wake up and I called her back, I'm like what's happening? She's like I opened the box and the masks are completely wrong and it was like truly disastrous scenario is like a day before we were supposed to ship out to urban outfitters and we were all we had to do is pack up the masks and ship them and they were they were completely wrong material which was like critical to like how successful this mask was because it was so much more comfortable than you know, kind of the other ones on the market. That was it the same manufacturer or a totally new second manufacturer.
00:35:59Edit So that's where we started understanding is this a trade company because it was the same people we were talking to, but it's clear they were sourcing it from somewhere else at that point and when we asked them about it, they were like oh you know it's the same thing, we just used a different mold, like they gave us very weird answers um and you know it wasn't it wasn't kosher. So we tried to order, we asked them can you please send us in the right material? So we showed them our material which is more opaque and like much softer and stretchy er and then they sent another order and this time it was the right material but the wrong shape of the mask, it was a very weird shape, it didn't fit at all, it was like we cannot sell this. And so after so much back and forth, they just don't they stonewalled us? How deflated? Yeah, it was so deflating, how do you deal with urban outfit is, do you have to be like uh please don't hate us for the future, but like where a new brand? Yeah, I know, but essentially, so you know, urban outfitters credit, they were incredibly understanding and you know, we kind of just were honest, we were honest with them about what happened um and that we were working to fix it and when the fix didn't work, they sent us the wrong thing again and they stonewalled us and said that they threw out our molds which was very weird.
00:37:15Edit They yeah, it was it was a very weird, it was clear that this was like we didn't vet them correctly. Um and so we had to cut ties with them completely, which was scary, but we had already been in the process of like working with consumers to take feedback on the mask and like redesign it to like fit better. And so we were already in that process, we were like okay we just have to stick to that process. And so we had to tell urban outfitters like you know the story and we're like we would when we're ready like we would absolutely love to like do this again and they were super understanding. So you know in the 10 months that we've been sold out, we've been redesigning the mask with an industrial design partner and then you know, we they found us a manufacturer in the US which is very hard to do for this product because it's kind of hard to manufacture but we were able to do it, we found a manufacturer and we were also raising capital. That's amazing. Yeah, no it was, it was a lot of work but it ended up working out um and we also followed a pattern for that for that design.
00:38:18Edit And like it came out really, really awesome. And so we also, you know, raised capital during that time which helped a lot in terms of like keeping us afloat originally, I was More on the fence about raising capital because of my previous experience at my previous startup? It was really hard for me is like a 22 year old female with no connections, like to run around and try to find capital. So that was a little traumatized from that experience and so I didn't want to do it again, but I just felt so strongly that like okay, if we can just get through this, like there is something to experiment, there's an essence to experiment that I feel really strongly about and that we think this can be big and so I started pitching investors um and so fast forward to like the end of last year we were, you know, gearing up for a pilot run for our masks like you know, things were looking at, we were building a wait list And we finished raising $1 million z like science backed beauty company that like, was actually like looking at beauty very differently and like representing like a beauty brand in a very like unique and disruptive way that like they were, they were super excited so having that capital raise also felt really empowering because then we actually have the money to like now invest in this launch and hire people and get the help that you know, we needed Holy moly, congratulations, that is amazing what a journey the launch is tomorrow, but by the time this airs it'll be a few weeks ago, how have you been preparing for this launch second time around?
00:40:03Edit What are the key kind of things you're doubling down on? Yeah, so I learned a lot from our first launch in terms of like how powerful your community is just in general. Um, so like for this launch, we built up a waitlist, which we didn't really have before. So we built up a waitlist, we expanded our influencer community. I mean these are personal relationships, these are friends, these are, you know, we're, we're lucky to to kind of have this, not every brand, you know out the gate has these kinds of influencer relationships. One of our investors is an O. G skincare influencer leah you, so you know, having these kinds of connections is really, really helpful. So we, we have a lot more influence or muscle, we still aren't spending, you know, any marketing money yet. Like we, we, the lesson we learned is that organic is really resilient. We have been sold out for a year and we still have a really great community and that I think speaks to a lot about the value of what true organic engagement, not to say that paid is not in our future, it absolutely will be and you know, must be, but you know, we wanna build organically as much as we can.
00:41:17Edit So doubling down on our influencer community and our community in general, building a wait list. You know, that email list is like super critical in terms of like just getting sales, you know, out the gate and you know, we are doing some pr this time around as well, you know, we have better design, that's more scalable this time around. We did a lot of branding projects, still the green, same color, still the green, still green, that's absolutely iconic and you know, still keeping that same essence of experiment, I think like that is something that was tough in this past few months, like when you finally raise capital, like you kind of want to expend it on something like that you couldn't do before, like you almost get a little spendy, but you know, it's like in a sense, because you feel like, oh my God, finally, like I have money especially if you were bootstrapped before, you know, it's a very different feeling and you know, we spend money on like branding projects and all of these things and you know, eventually we just realized like the essence of experiment, we were really pretty damn close at first, we were just doing it ourselves.
00:42:21Edit Like we didn't have any designers or anything like, you know, branding agency behind our first launch. So, but this time we did get some help. More professional help, especially on the photo shoot front. So it got really creative there. I mean, your website is also like website. Thank you, thank you our website. Yes. So, like, we invested specifically in like slick, Thank you. It we invested specifically and like website photography, these things that really didn't like tell our brand story better, but in terms of like instagram, it's still pretty low fi and like, I think that's to our advantage as well. Again, back to the organic piece I learned through the previous launch. Like, one message that really stuck with me was someone in our DMX was like, what I love about your instagram and this is not like an influence or anything. It's just someone who followed us. Like what I love about your instagram is that I feel like I could see myself on it and to me that made me feel so deeply good inside because I think, you know, having cystic acne, like knowing like without makeup, my skin is not like crystal clear, perfect.
00:43:29Edit Like, so many, even beauty founders, like sometimes I get self conscious or I'm like, oh my God, I'm a beauty founder of my skin isn't clear, what am I doing or I'm a beauty influencer and my skin isn't clear, but you know, just having someone say that like that they feel like they can see themselves on our instagram means a lot because like, I think most beauty instagrams tend to not really feel like you belong on there. It's, it's much more polished and you know, if, if it fits your brand vibe. Absolutely, but like, I think there's a lot of power in people feeling like they can truly identify with your brand and like feel comfortable. So, you know, again, this time around, like we're keeping that same vibe, like that doesn't change, like our voice doesn't change, right? It's really that we're just taking what we started with and like, amplifying it 10 times, totally, totally, just elevating it a smidge to a different direction of the same, but slick. Exactly, Exactly. Oh my gosh, that is so cool. I'm so excited to follow along tomorrow.
00:44:30Edit I think it's gonna be such a big hit. Well, I mean we obviously know it's going to be a big hit of course, but I'm gonna be cheering for you and shouting about you on social media myself of course, Before we jump into the six quick questions, I always love to ask what is your key piece of advice for beauty entrepreneurs, who are, you know, building a brand early stages in 2022 have a really unique perspective and and own it own it own it own it. Beauty is one of the most crowded categories of consumer products and, you know, I don't think that's necessarily a detriment, like I think there's room for so many brands, like we all like who has one brand in their medicine cabinet, nobody, we all have different brands that play well together, so there's a lot of, there's both, like a lot of white space and and it's incredibly crowded, but the way you actually gain market share is having a unique perspective and really sticking with it. So for experiment, that's kind of our view of science back beauty, right, is that we, like the absurdity, the fun leaning into it and you know, sticking with our guns and our principles, so like, our next products that come out, you know, will be very focused on the science behind them and you know, I can't give too much away if there's anything you want to drop this, there will be a serum as our next launch in the summer, we're already dropping lab samples to some influencers and we will be doing like a public lab drop um for, you know, our entire community as well, so really excited about that, but the sierra mist acts that I can say details about it, I can't share, but you know, it is going to be really focused on the science, so, like, that's my biggest piece of advice is just like really have a unique perspective, like, you know, try to carve out a unique perspective for yourself that like, other beauty branches aren't hitting on, even if it's small, like it can really resonate if you just like wedge in there.
00:46:28Edit Oh, I love that to everyone listening wedge find the wedge, find your wedgie have a wedgie uh so yeah, like that's what I love it, I love it, thank you so much. Thanks for listening to this amazing episode. We are testing out something new here for the next while and we're splitting up each episode into two parts, the main interview part and then the six quick questions part to make them easier to listen to. So that's part one done, tune into part 2 to hear the six quick questions
So, question number one is, what's your, why? Why are you doing what you're doing Because I really believe that beauty needs to rebrand science um and make it cool and fun and accessible. Like it is pretty stale out there right now. And I think experiment will make it so much more vibrant and make science more accessible to a wider audience of people rather than just like kind of the more niche but still large. Uh you know, skin intellectual community. I'm like, just gonna stray like from the sixth question, like thing for a second. But like are you doing live shopping on Tiktok and like live kind of selling. I feel like you need like a talk show of like beauty and science and like super fun, like educating platform. So that's part of our Tiktok strategy. So, um we, we really want to have a strong Tiktok strategy around like the combination of beauty science and like weird, wonderful world.
00:01:13Edit Like kind of like the Bill Nye of Beauty vibe. Exactly. That's what I was thinking. We're on the same planet and I were on the same planet wavelength. It's I love it. And just and on that, why like just a little bit like all of doing all of that creates a situation where like, I feel strongly that consumers will tune into like the science and tune out misinformation and like greenwashing right? Like if you make science accessible and cool and fun, like everybody's gonna listen because who doesn't like stuff that's cool accessible and fun. So, um you know, it's just really like accessibility creates like a lot of opportunity. Absolutely. Gosh, question number two, what has been your favorite marketing moment so far? I know James Walsh, he is the influencer. I talked about that organically purchased our product in our launch week. He, on new year's day of 2020 one dropped a video where it's like the four brands you need to watch out for this year and it was us topic Als du Skin.
00:02:17Edit And I believe Techo skin. And it was a huge moment because we got a huge sale boost and it was just so genuine. And he to this day absolutely loves the product. He's supporting our launch. Like he is a super fan of avant garde and it was just a huge, huge moment. And like I remember sitting on New Year's Day like eating breakfast and like we had a little champagne and we just go think like this was it was truly amazing. Like so to see that video, great start to the year. Amazing question Number three, go to business resource when it comes to a book, a podcast or a newsletter. Mm hmm. So I am like a newsletter girl. So I do actually love the female startup club newsletter. Um at plug. Um But also I, I love reading a bunch of different marketing newsletters because there's so much to learn about marketing. Um And I am a self taught marketing person. I definitely think like I've always liked it and had a knack for it, but I have a chemistry degree, I don't have like a marketing or M.
00:03:20Edit B. A. Degree. So um you know, I read like Nik Sharma's newsletter a lot. Um he always has a ton of like cool insights in there and I read up a lot on business and fashion around what's going on in the industry, glossy, glossy pop shout out to Sarah who is my good friend, but she's also the writer of glossy pop newsletter. Amazing for trend, watching, totally obsessed with it. one of my favorites. I love going to link them in the show notes. I am a big fan of both of those newsletters. Very cool Question # four, How do you win the day? What are your am mpm rituals and habits that keep you feeling happy and successful and motivated? Um totally candid. That is my biggest place of growth that I need help with. Um and I wish I had a better answer for this, but I will say like just some of the things I can turn to, the more unhealthy side is just scrolling through Tiktok if I need to calm down a little bit like and Tiktok is also like a place of inspiration for me as well, like so I enjoy doing that, but I also just spending time with my partner um and us making a meal so like if I need a break and like it's dinner time and I'm like I just need to keep going.
00:04:33Edit I need to keep working Well actually stopping. Like if we can cook something together like just for 30 minutes it really just recess a little bit. And that that has been like really really nice, just like sit down, watch a meal and maybe watch a video, just talk and then you know, we'll start the night shift right? Um So that's been you know, really helpful in terms of just grounding myself and centering myself especially because like you have a tendency to get anxious and having that, you know uh forcing function of like making dinner together has been really great. It's good for the soul, good for the soul. And in terms of the morning, like I love the morning shower, I think it just kind of like helps wake me up and I always have my coffee. Like that's my signal to the start of the day as I make an espresso in my beloved pandemic purchase purchase espresso machine. And it definitely like signals to me that it's the start and I go through all my newsletters, go through my inbox and then I can start tackling like, you know, larger things.
00:05:39Edit I love that. I love it. I also need to signal the start of my day with coffee or else you know, I'm just not there. Question # five, What has been your worst money mistake besides like, you know the manufacturing stuff that's not, it's a mistake anyone could make. I was actually the biggest money mistake I made is spending too much on branding agencies I think, you know, similar to, we talked about this before, but you know, again, I always felt like I'm not a designer, you know, I don't know what I'm doing, but you know, I am a very creative person and that's how we got experiment to be so creative without any design help in the first place or any like branding agency health, but when we raise funding, I'm like, okay, we can finally hire the branding agency of my dreams and we can go for it and do it um and it's gonna be amazing fast forward. We went through multiple different branding people, branding agencies and we wasted a lot of money um I would say we wasted upwards of probably like almost like 60 to $80,000 on agencies and has As a startup, we only raised $1 million dollars and a whole lot of money um like I cannot discount how much money that really is and it hurts and like of course we'll all make a money mistake and I am very budget conscious um and I, you know, I'm very money conscious rather and like it pains me that we did that, but it was a huge learning lesson for me because I realized that like a I needed to really truly understand like experiment and how to explain experiment and the only person that can do that is me and I was just giving people vibes some gestures and like, but it was never matching what was in my head, right, like it was never matching what was in my head and that was the biggest disappointment.
00:07:26Edit Everyone went too cool or too like just classic gen, z bright, you know, colors everywhere and I wanted something that felt truly unique and I'm so happy to say that I really finally feel like we're there, but you know, it essentially meant like branding agencies just weren't, you know, we never really, truly finished strongly with anyone. Um it was, it became like an in house project, taking what some of the branding agencies did and we were able to kind of take some of that and then bringing it in the house to finally finish it and we're still, you know, kind of redoing this process because they're in that time we've ordered packaging, we've ordered lots of different things, so I would say like, you know, the learning lesson for me there is, you know, trust your gut and your brand intuition, like if you have strong brand intuition, like lean into that, you know, that's not for everyone of course, like branding agencies can be amazing for some people, but I found that for me, I had too strong of a of a point of view for for a branding agency to truly work and when we finally, our first hire was a designer.
00:08:32Edit Um and she's so much more than a designer, she's truly like Jack of all trades, like the scrappiest perfect startup person ever does all things creative and we worked, we sat down together and were like, none of this is, you know, correct. So we, we brought it in house, so I would say just be cautious if you're going to hire a branding agency, know why you're hiring that branding agency. Um It is hard to pick people, it's hard to truly know who gets your vision. So like try to bet as much as you can. Gosh, how many iterations did you go through? Oh my God, 123. we we did have to let go of someone more due to, you know, a bad situation, Unprofessional situation, but the work was also like not there either, so you know, it would have probably happened anyway, but so we went through, I'd say like 3.5 uh you know, situations and it's, it's one of those mistakes where I kept saying to myself, but I'm not a designer, this person will get it, this person will get it. And you know, I finally learned the lesson of the story of my life.
00:09:37Edit Yeah, like no, some lessons have to be talked to you over and over and over again painfully, but like it has to happen and you know, if I could do it all again, I'd probably do it differently, but it did lead me to this now confidence, true. Like ironclad confidence I have in myself and I'm like, no, no, no, no, no. Like I really am the person that has to carry this forward. You know, it's not just that I'm the ceo, I'm also like the essentially acting creative director at this point as well and like I need to carry that torch forward. So, so that's, that's the lesson I learned there. I feel like all entrepreneurs go through that lesson. Last question. I'm conscious of time question number six, what is just a crazy story you can share from the business, Good, bad, anything in between a crazy story. It's definitely like the fact that, you know, when we ordered our first mask that we had to pack everything by hand, um, and clean every, it took a long time to inspect every mask and the inventory and just like the whole manufacturing debacle in general was, was definitely tough.
00:10:42Edit Like, you know, just the kind of, we tried to come up with so many different ways on how to get back in stock and we decided to finally commit to like being out of stock, but that your manufacturers, people that you're manufacturers, so you don't end up like us, but of course it's working out for the better, but like, you know, it's definitely really stressful and crazy. I don't know if it was you that said this on one of my like instagram or twitter or something, but like go and walk around your factory, like you need to go there and you need to see the facility if you're going to like work with people in a big scale, I can't remember who who said it, but someone was like, we were talking about manufacturing definitely wasn't me. Yeah and and that's one of the reasons why we switched to the U. S. Is that it was much easier for us to also do that and have full like eagle eye on the process. Um And so we actually did do that. We were able to go to our manufacturer. We set quality limits with them. So that was really awesome. But yes that your manufacturers people do it. Oh my gosh, lisa, this was so much fun. I'm so excited for tomorrow.
00:11:43Edit I'm gonna be your hype girl on the side cheering for you and I can't wait for you to come back and tell us how it all went in a couple of months. Thank you so much. I am very excited and I'm excited to when this all comes out. So thank you so much done.