Beauty founders and executives are coming together in ways they never have before, casting off competitive viewpoints to keep their businesses afloat through coronavirus turmoil.
The beauty industry has transformed over the last decade to incorporate more founders and small business owners than ever before, and current grassroots efforts via collaboration represent another significant departure from historical procedures. Across platforms like Slack, Facebook and Zoom, founders and executives are holding meetings and contributing to discussion boards focused on sharing information and best business practices. And industry organizations like CEW and Indie Beauty Media Group are providing them with new resource centers.
On March 24, Elana Drell Szyfer, RéVive CEO, hosted a Zoom conference call with approximately 30 people, including investors, CEW executives, and brand founders and executives like Frédéric Fekkai and Lime Crime CEO Stacey Panagakis. Szyfer said the idea came from her outreach to industry colleagues and friends, as she was looking to share and gather advice. She decided a larger forum would make sense and invited her network, who then invited more people. In the hour-long meeting, participants shared best practices for leading a telecommuting workforce, for conducting marketing and media relationships during this time, and for managing current cash flow.
“Since the call, several people have been in touch with each other to provide additional information or updates, or to make introductions to needed services,” said Szyfer. “I appreciate everyone’s willingness to pull together with those who are normally competitors to hold each other up during this time.”
Meanwhile, a Slack group called DTC E-com Brain Trust has become an ad hoc war room for brands. It started in June 2019 by Chris Tolles, co-founder and CEO of beauty ingestibles brand Sundaily, as a place for beauty industry founders to share recommendations on tech providers and freelance workers. Now the channel has become a place for people to air and seek guidance on their brand’s biggest challenges, such as managing cash flow, slowing the burn rate, raising money and applying for small business loans. Several members said that, beyond being a place to seek counsel on what steps to take to protect their business, the Slack group has also come to be a mental health outlet and emotional support group.
Tolles initially invited select founders to join, including Ju Rhyu, Hero Cosmetics’ founder and CEO, and Kailey Bradt, founder and CEO of hair-care brand Owa. Those founders invited other founders to join, and so on. The Slack group currently has about 30 founder members, from companies like Fur and Busy Beauty.
“This gave me the sense that I’m not alone. We’re all in this together, and there are opportunities where people are banding together to support one another,” said Rhyu.
One example of that was orchestrated by Bradt. She collaborated with three other brands by including them in Owa’s marketing email on March 24, which offered customers discount codes to shop the brands. (Bradt declined to share the size of the email database.) Two of the three brands — Type A deodorant and Fur — opted in following Bradt’s prompt on the DTC E-com Brain Trust Slack channel. Bradt is also part of a Facebook group for female beauty founders, which began in Dec. 2017 and has over 2,000 members. The group was typically a place to solicit large-scale, fast feedback on ideas such as packaging and marketing messaging. It is now dedicated in-part to the same coronavirus issues as the Slack channel, she said. However, she noted that the intimacy of Slack facilitates more one-to-one relationships.
“It doesn’t cost us anything to say to our customers at the bottom of our emails, ‘Hey, this is the brand that we love,'” said Bradt. “It’s about getting creative and finding ways where you can give back to other founders at a time like this and lift each other.”