How I Created My $2.4M/Year Natural Organic Skincare Brand
Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
My name is Jean Seo and I am the creator of Evolue x Lue Skincare. I grew up in Korea and was always intrigued by formulating my multipurpose beauty products.
Putting on my crazy scientist goggles and heading to my lab (aka my kitchen), I spent days perfecting on the cleanest formulas. After 5 years of dabbling at the task: I decided to launch Evolue exclusively to my Beverly Hills store.
After 300k units of my spot treatment and 3 Instyle Beauty awards under my belt: I got contacted by Tmall in China to stock my skincare.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
When I opened my beauty store in 2007, I carried the most up-and-coming brands from around the world. From Tata Harper to Ilia (if you a skincare junkie: you know who they are), my store was home of cutting-edge skincare.
However, it’s only after one of my oldest Russian clients (let’s call her Olga lol) who expressed her interest in natural anti-aging alternatives for her pricey trips to her plastic surgeon - that Evolue came into fruition.
10 years ago the Clean beauty world wasn't as big as it is now as it was a very niche market that only accounted for 30% of the beauty market. I was therefore a pioneer in the Clean, Multifunctional, and non-binary market.
THIS is when I had that infamous “lightbulb moment”. I was then determined to solve Olga’s (and all her girlfriends) problem.
Armed by my Library Science degree - I turned into the ultimate “bookworm machine” and researched what makes human skin age.
I discovered that our skin ages due to a depletion of “Natural Moisturizing Factors”, we droop because we lose collagen and elastin, we wrinkle because we lose sodium hyaluronate or Sodium-PCA. I also learned that skin will thin and become irritated because most products and procedures designed to get rid of dead and damaged skin cells are too harsh for our skin.
With knowledge under my belt, I went on a mission to source the cleanest ingredients around the world that replace fatty acids, moisture, oils, collagen, and elastin that we lose with age.
Few years after that breakthrough I launched my hero product which sold at over 300k units: the Super Oil Face Serum.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
The creative process and formula creation have always been my favorite part of the business. I am at my best when I in the lab, discovering new combinations to deliver multi-functional products.
Researching not only the cleanest ingredients but how to obtain them ethically has been the cornerstone of my brand ethos. Hundreds of trials need to be done to get it exactly right. Never compromise on how you want the product to work, look, and feel.
One of the most exciting parts of learning how to make natural skin care products is getting to work with the vast array of botanical ingredients available to skincare formulators. As a formulator, I get truly excited by the opportunity to work with herbs, leaves, stalks, roots, petals, buds, barks, seeds, and flowers.
There is a global movement towards combining beauty with wellness, where people want plant-based ingredients in their beauty products because they feel that we have rejected the knowledge about plants passed down by our ancestors. Many traditional remedies are now being rediscovered and used, which is why we want to incorporate those amazing plants into our natural skincare products.
However, not every botanical ingredient should be used on the skin and some should be used in low percentages, so you need to start researching to find out which botanical ingredients work best when I’m choosing the right ones for my formulation.
Fortunately, during that strenuous process, I can always count on my business partner for advice, Godzilla: my cat.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Evolue has retained a loyal client base for several reasons. Primarily it is one of the cleanest beauty brands out there. I do not compromise on anything - hence the price. You always get a multi-purpose and effective product. I want to remain VERY transparent in our ethics and our ingredients. But, the one thing I absolutely (not to blow my own horn) EXCEL at is CUSTOMER SERVICE.
If you have a skincare question, product question, or any related skincare concern, I will personally answer you and work with you until you are confident in your decision and satisfied with your products. Everyone deserves to have their best skin no matter how one’s defining himself/herself/themselves. That’s why I wanted the feel of my brand to be non-binary and create award-winning products that resonate with all modern unicorns.
With the rise of online purchases, we have to adapt our sales funnel. That’s why Amazon is now accounting for 30% of our revenues as we started selling our skincare online. I will highly advise giving a small stock away to e-tailer specialized in your industry. This usually permits to build backlinks and to get exposure at minimum cost.
Over the years I have also acquired very strong interpersonal skills with Beauty editors and buyers which guaranteed me instant visibility in publications like Elle, Instyle, and more. I would highly recommend you to hire a Sales & PR consultant like Breathingbeauty.com to do so.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
After securing the 2nd round of investment this year, my business has never been better. This permitted me to grow and to land an endorsement from A-list celebrities such as actress Emma Watson & TV star Kourtney Kardashian (showing off a bit here 🤣🤣).
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
I focus on making multi-purpose skincare with the cleanest ingredients. This shows in my decisions to constantly reinvest in my lab for the latest research and development. Invest in yourself and trust your intuition.
Recently I also solidified my team and focused on a side of the business that I’m enjoying the least: sales.
Word of advice: I have learned the hard way that you need to assess your skill-set. You should know what you are good at and not good at and permanently hire someone who knows his/her/their stuff better than you. This person needs to treat your business like their own. Hiring freelancers is just a waste of valuable cash in my opinion.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
We are running our shop on Shopify ...even if Amazon + wholesale accounts for 60% of our turnover. I will advise any new business entrepreneur to focus on wholesale and e-retailer post-COVID19. I will advise you on software called: Rocketreach when it comes to lead generation.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
I usually let my team deal with the backend side of the business as I like to focus on creation. This gives me time to do my research and get inspiration from fellow curators. Recently I came across a podcast by Guy Raz who interviewed a fellow skincare curator: Victoria Tsai. Curled up in my bed clutching on my iPhone: this podcast was the highlight of my 2020.
Bankrupt to the bone, alone and beaten up: I could relate to her entrepreneurial journey to a T and should be on every wannabe entrepreneur’s mentoring list.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?
Research. Research. Research. Even If I firmly believe that launching business forces you to be on constant “flight- or- fight” mode, I’m convinced that a good strategy can make or break your business within the first (almighty dreaded) year. You need to be ahead of the competition and know your stuff.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
We have an amazing team now. But I might grow up in Evolue’s family soon. So, keep your eyes peeled my fellow readers.
Where can we go to learn more?
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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