How I Started My Own $100K/Month Skincare Products Brand

Published: October 17th, 2019
Kayla Houlihan
Founder, Tribe Skincare
Tribe Skincare
from Torquay VIC, Australia
started September 2017
Discover what tools Kayla recommends to grow your business!
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Discover what books Kayla recommends to grow your business!

Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

My name is Kayla and I am the founder of Tribe Skincare. After working in the beauty industry for 5+ years, I found a gigantic hole in the market for skincare for sensitive skin.

Some skincare brands had a few products or a range for sensitive skin, but no brand was solely focusing on it. Due to industry trends and customer demand, I knew that I wanted all of the range to be 100% natural, made locally in Australia, vegan-friendly and cruelty-free.

As a skincare range for sensitive skin, it is formulated around key anti-inflammatory ingredients like Aloe Vera, Zinc and Kaolin Clay, and works to rebuild the skin’s natural barrier to reduce redness, breakouts, and eczema. While we had a very niche target market, sensitive skin turned out to be a very common pain-point for consumers. The demand has grown so quickly and with a return customer rate of 75% (more than double the industry average) we have scaled into a multi-million dollar company in just 2 years! 95% of our sales in within Australia and we recently opened shipping to NZ and the USA which currently makes up the extra 5% of our sales.


What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

My sister and I ran a skin clinic for 3 years specializing in microdermabrasion and were very ‘result-focused’ with the skin treatments we offered. We used a lot of ‘active’ and ‘doctor-formulated’ skincare in the clinic, which was getting half of our customer's amazing results! But the other half found ‘active’ skincare did not work well with their sensitive skin. They would experience redness, itching and adverse reactions.

We were looking for something for sensitive skin to use in the clinic and this is when I had a light-bulb moment and realized there was a really big gap in the market for this niche skincare. I wanted to create a super gentle skincare range free of common allergens and harsh chemicals, but also ensure customers got incredible results from it. We use a variety of powerful, natural, plant-based key ingredients that help hydrate skin to restore its natural glow and strengthen skin to reduce the symptoms of sensitive skin.

Any brand with a consumable product or repeat purchases really need to ensure they are utilizing email marketing.

Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.

When I initially launched the range, we had just 4 key products available (cleanser, exfoliant, day moisturizer, night moisturizer). It was a difficult process as we needed the skincare to be free of artificial preservatives and any other skincare ingredients that are commonly used but not suitable for sensitive skin.

I worked alongside a pharmacist to create many different variations of the formulas until I was 110% satisfied with the texture, scent (100% natural for essential oils), and results in each product offered.

We needed all 4 products to launch at the same time and the exfoliant formula was causing the entire launch to be delayed. Then the pharmacist came up with the idea to leave the exfoliant in a powder form that the customers mixing themselves at home. This allowed us to keep it free of artificial preservatives and the customer can achieve their own ideal exfoliating texture depending on how ‘gritty’ they like it.

We now work with 5 different local manufacturers and have expanded into mineral makeup, trial-size versions of skincare, body products, all-natural sunscreen, and even candles to match the delicious skincare scents!

Identify the parts of your journey that you dislike or get stressed over and then see if you can outsource them.

Describe the process of launching the business.

Launch day seems like so long ago now even though it’s only been 2 years. I had managed to get a small following on Instagram (around 1,000 people) before launching and got 4 sales on the first night! I thought this was incredible at the time and wrapped them in tissue paper with thank you stickers and even wrote personalized thank you notes to all the customers. It was a really exciting time in the business.

The business really started taking off a few months in, when we started using ‘Instagram Influencers’ to promote the range. It really felt like the business changed overnight and we hit the ground running. 3 months in, we sold the salon so I could 100% focus on Tribe Skincare and had to hire a full-time staff member around 1 month later.

After 2 years only, we are managing a community of over 53,000 people on Instagram and have expanded the range while sticking to our key brand values of offering amazing skincare that will always be all-natural, vegan-friendly and made locally in Australia. We have built huge brand trust and 3 out of 4 customers who try Tribe Skincare come back for more in the future.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

The majority of our customers find us through Instagram or word of mouth. Everyone knows someone with sensitive skin that needs ‘Tribe Skincare’ in their life and people love telling their friends and family if something is working for them.

We have used ‘Influencer Marketing’ in a huge way to get the brand out there and the great thing about skincare is that people use it and come back for more so the business is always organically growing.


Facebook ads have also been really successful for Tribe Skincare. We have different funnels and ad sets targeting new customers and reminding existing customers that we existing or informing them of new products launching.

Email marketing is a key way of retaining customers. We treat our email subscribers like royalty always offering them special incentives and gifts. Each time we have a sale, email subscribers get 48 hours early access to ensure they don’t miss out. This helps to space out the busy days packing orders as they get in before the sale is public and it gives them an incentive to stay subscribed to our mailing list. Any brand with a consumable product or repeat purchases really needs to ensure they are utilizing email marketing.

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

As this was my second business, profitability and margins were carefully considered from the beginning. I had worked so hard in the skin clinic and 3 years in, we were still struggling with cash flow and consistently profitable weeks. An eCommerce business structure allowed me to keep costs much lower than a ‘bricks and mortar’ business and I can sell to the entire country (and the world) rather than being limited by location proximity.

We have a record day this week where we sold over $43K of our ‘Chill Out! Hydrating Mask’ on launch day. It’s an incredible contrast to launching 2 years ago and getting 4 sales on the first night. The customers now trust us and we have an active audience waiting for new products we release.


Something I have really focused on over the 2 years is increasing our website conversion rate. It now sits at around 7.5% which is 3 times the industry average. This allows us to make the most of the website traffic we are gaining as fewer customers are leaving the site without purchasing. If you want to increase your conversion rate, you can google “How to increase conversion rate on the website” and work your way through all the options outlined. It’s one of the most worthwhile things you will ever google in business if you have an eCommerce site.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

I have always had a very confident mindset and thought there is no reason why I can’t be one of the biggest players in the skincare industry. You talk to yourself all day every day so you need to be super mindful of the way you speak to yourself. I encourage myself and trust my own judgement. Back yourself 110% even if other people question you.

A huge part of starting motivated in enjoying your business journey. Identify the parts of your journey that you dislike or get stressed over and then see if you can outsource them or remove them. I really love customer interactions and day to day operations, but I find dealing with other business owners can be a stressful part of the business.

Recently, I made the decision not to do any more collaboration products with other brands to help minimize my stress in business. Your business is your own journey. It should serve you, your team and your customers and you get to curate the way you run it yourself.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

‘Instagram stories’ is by far the most successful and interactive platform for Tribe Skincare. We show up for our audience every single day showing behind the scenes of what we get up to. We have built an audience of over 5,000 highly engaged story viewers each day and they are our biggest supporters.

Podcasts are really trending in Australia at the moment. They attract a highly engaged audience and people love that they can multitask while listening. I am a huge lover of podcasts as a communication medium and we are launching a Tribe Skincare podcast on September 23. It’s called ‘The Bite-Size BizRoom’ and it’s straight-to-the-point business advice based on what has worked for me growing a multi-million dollar skincare brand in just 2 years. You can search for it in Apple Podcasts or on Spotify.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

I am not a ‘reader’ but I am definitely a ‘listener’. I have learned so much about business from podcasts. My favorites are Stevie Says Social (all about digital marketing and social media success) and Lady Startup (the stories and journey behind the business). I would be silly not to plug my own business advice podcast here too ‘The Bite-Size BizRoom’ for advice on how to grow and manage your business.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

So much advice, but I think business success really comes down to ‘trial and error’. There is no specific formula for guaranteed business success and what works for your brand may not work for another. You need to put things out into the universe and try a whole variety of things. If something is working, do more of that or scale what you are doing. If something isn’t working, let it go and don’t keep trying to get it to work. Your time, energy and money are limited resources so put your resources into what is giving you the desired results.

Apart from that, I notice that all successful businesses seem to know exactly what makes their product/service different and sets them apart, exactly who their customers are and exactly where they are coming from. These 3 factors shape absolutely everything I do in business and the way we market the brand.

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

I love outsourcing as I am very aware of my business is now at a point where I can’t do it all. We are currently weighing up whether we should keep the packing and distribution in-house or outsource this to a 3PL warehouse. I have written about 10 pro’s and con’s lists but just can’t come up with a definitive decision.

Where can we go to learn more?