How We Launched A $7.5K/Month High-Performance Plant-Based Skincare Brand
Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hello, we are Leon Eugene and Shawn Bo and we are the founders and formulators of L. Eugene Natural Skin Science. Natural Skin Science is a 100% unique, spa-quality skincare collection created out of necessity for Leon Eugene, who had embarrassing acne, skin issues, and very sensitive skin.
When we moved to Los Angeles, obviously we felt the pressure to look better and after years in the industry, Leon was unable to find anything that actually worked for his skin type. It started with raw ingredients, we brewed a toner- now called the Radiance Toner and it made a transformative difference in the condition of not only Leon’s skin but mine as well.
Prior to any sort of business plan or even ideas to take our homemade products to market, we began diving into the research and testing of various raw ingredients to take our skin to the next level. With our proprietary hand-mixed formulas, we started seeing fantastic results for ourselves so we HAD to share with friends. After collecting an overwhelming amount of positive feedback we knew that we had effectively created a brand that caters to people in all spectrums, from the skincare novice to the beauty guru. Today L. Eugene Natural Skin Science is a premier choice for effective natural skincare products, made with ingredients you can pronounce!
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
Over 17 years of my life (Leon), I’ve been waking up with 10 zits every day. Do you know what that feels like? Now imagine you go to school and you master esthetics and you’re able to help lots of other people, but you can’t help yourself. NOW imagine getting a facial, and your esthetician has bad skin. It just wasn’t adding up. My struggle with acne was honestly a War that I thought would never end. Being young I would say to myself, “it’s hormones, it’s puberty” but here I was- 27 years old and breaking out every, single, day.
Don’t compare yourself or your progress to other people.
Leon is Native American, part of the Yakama Nations tribe in Washington State. We met in Seattle- I was working 80hrs a week managing real estate projects and investments, he was working as an esthetician for a local place downtown.
Shawn always felt like we looked good, but then you know, you move to LA, you want to be a Youtuber and all of a sudden I’ve got dry skin and large pores!
It all started with the Radiance Toner, it made such drastic changes in Leon’s skin that people that only knew him for a few months in LA were asking what he changed about his skincare routine. All of a sudden- we became people that others looked towards for skincare advice.
After months of studying clinical research, testing raw ingredients and developing our own formulations we began really sampling out our products just to see if people really liked it. Because of the encouragement of close friends and people we had met- we decided to start a business.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
You know what someone that has a great idea but no plan does? They google. We googled until our fingers fell off. Researching the process of legally hand-making cosmetic products, the fundamentals of chemical-free soap making and we found that a lot of brands that we knew were simply private-labeled. We knew right away that we needed to be something completely different on the market in order to carve a slice of the pie alongside already multi-billion dollar established brands. So, we worked very hard to avoid trendy ingredients and instead of that, we produced something that someone will use and continue to use for a long time.
We used a website called Fiverr for our first phase of development. We worked with graphic designers to bring Shawn’s branding vision to life. But, we were still new to this so we kept everything very inexpensive at the beginning to avoid going into debt and to also split our time between that- and spreading the word about our products.
Leon literally gave someone a dollop of Tamanu Honey mask in a ziplock bag.
It was not about the “business” or making money yet, it was about validation. Validation in ourselves that we could create a product people enjoyed and validation that our skincare works for enough people to allow for a business to be a reality! What I think a lot of people don't realize is that when you start a small business- with your savings and no job, you HAVE to feel confident. So the first year before we actually launched we spent that time improving our minds, improving our skin and collecting feedback to feed the faith to take those next steps towards launching.
In baby steps, we began organizing the business end of our brand and before we knew it- it felt like time to launch.
Describe the process of launching the business.
In preparation for the launch, we started spending money! We ordered packaging supplies, tube sealing machines, ingredients in bulk and developed our website. By early September we were just about ready! All in all from the first stage of research to launch we spent roughly $60,000.
Even as a business owner, life happens. Shawn’s mother had lost her battle with cancer during our final phases before launch and what propelled us to click LIVE on our website was the simple fact that we needed to propel forward to something positive. It is very hard to lose a parent in your 20’s and we knew that Shawn’s mom would want him to push forward and continue to build something that would make her proud.
So we launched. We made announcements on Facebook and Instagram and we waited… and waited….
SEO... Marketing? There are hundreds of people that have made millions by simply using Instagram so where were our orders? We expected people to be so moved by our story, by our integrity that the masses would come running to Lenaturalkinsciene.com and we would sell out in 5 minutes like the self-made billionaire Kylie Jenner. Well, …that was not the case but it did not stop us. We pushed forward, telling everyone we encountered about our new natural skincare brand!
Our approach was definitely unconventional having launched without a marketing budget and our early stages reflect that. If we had to do it all over again, we would still want to be a business that has a proven product before a business plan, marketing is definitely something that should not be an afterthought if you plan to make money.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
We remained focused on social media year 1 and 2, we filmed testimonials with real customers and even did a “Road to Radiance” Skin Tour where we met with customers, participated in pop-up shops and literally hit the ground marketing our business. As social media savvy people, we enjoyed filming our own videos further creating that personal connection between the brand and our customers.
We also did Shark Tank auditions, which although we didn’t make it to the final rounds, we did make it pretty far which got us a lot of exposure as well.
As we enter our 3rd year in business, word of mouth and posting on social media continue our biggest customer funnel. We are fortunate to live in Los Angeles where so many people have large audiences and their using and sharing testimonials have been beyond helpful in us gaining a loyal customer base. For a company still operating on a less than ideal marketing budget, we are thankful for these people being moved to post about us simply because they truly enjoy our products!
January 2020 we did a packaging overhaul and switched to glass bottles, we now also offer the L. Eugene Natural Skin Science Signature Skin Travel Bundle which has been of great exposure as it helps new customers try 30 days worth of our top three products; Signature Face Wash, Radiance Toner, and Original Glow Serum.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
We are here, we are thriving and we are growing! The L. Eugene Natural Skin Science brand was built to last through gaining that personal trust from our customers. They are using our products on their children, and their children’s children will use L. Eugene Natural Skin Science.
As we are now making money with a steady income, we are producing higher quality photos, videos and adding content to reach new customers. We hope to expand the use of our original Castille soap recipe to enter the Pet Care and Household sectors as well!
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
Our biggest platform for increasing brand awareness and gaining new customers has been through Instagram. With a solid network of close friends and supportive followers, we have been able to grow into a real business simply through word of mouth and positive feedback. Shoutouts and testimonials are our marketing life source!
When we first launched, our website was on Wix. Something we thought would be more user friendly but after a couple of years and collecting feedback from SEO experts and other entrepreneur friends- we made the switch to Shopify. We honestly could not be happier, it took what felt like an amateur U.I. and turned our website into something that looked and operated in a much more professional way.
The entire experience with Shopify has been seamless. One of the things that kept us from choosing Shopify, in the beginning, was the cost- we wanted to gage our business and see if people even liked our products before we started creating consistent overhead costs. After some time, it felt like a no brainer- not to mention the SEO benefits!
We have not gone fully automated with much else with our business as we kind of enjoy the leg work. Currently, We do not care to outsource and take pride in studying our own analytics, creating and posting our own content. For editing product shots- we simply shoot on a decent camera and send it to Fiverr.com for product touch-ups and background changes.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
When it comes to understanding people and how to interact with people with a large scale audience we really like Vanessa Van Edwards’ book Captivate: The Science of Succeeding with People. Great tips on body language, physical space and its influence on how others perceive you. Behavioral science and a little psychology knowledge will enable you to be an overall better entrepreneur as you work with customers and/or business partners.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
Don’t compare yourself or your progress to other people.
The term “right place, right people, right time” doesn’t make sense until it does.
Take advice from others, but lead your business with a passionate gut.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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