By the age of 17, Sheena Franklin already had her first job in politics, working at the mayor’s office in Denver. Fast-forward two decades and Franklin’s passion for politics remains steadfast—she found herself working as a lobbyist, fighting for cosmetic legislative reform.
As a lobbyist, Franklin was frustrated by the lack of protective policies in the cosmetic industry. But it wasn’t until 2016, when she accidentally used an expired skincare product, that Franklin truly realized the consequences of a poorly regulated industry. Since fighting her way back to healthy skin, Franklin has dedicated herself to changing the cosmetic industry. With Well-Kept Beauty, an app that allows users to better understand their skincare products, Franklin hopes to empower beauty enthusiasts to practice healthy skincare.
What inspired you to start Well-Kept Beauty?
A few years ago, I used some expired products that caused painful side effects. I attempted to fix the problem with another well-known natural product line that contained the wrong ingredients for my skin type. The combination left me with severe hyperpigmentation and cystic acne, which required medical treatment and cortisone shots. I knew I was not the only one to experience these problems and knew that regulators, manufacturers, and brands cared about the health of their consumers. Yet policies (or the lack thereof), leave consumers uninformed and having to “figure it out” for themselves.
At the time, I was working on cosmetic legislative reform. I was a prime example of “figuring it all out,” and knew there had to be another way! Over the next several months, I spoke to hundreds of women and conducted informal research about their experiences with the cosmetic industry and a variety of products. Fast-forward to today—we are currently preparing for a fall launch of a digital platform that empowers consumers to make informed decisions about cosmetics. My hope is that no one will have to experience what I did.
What do beauty brand owners need to know about cosmetic legislation?
The legislative process is long and complicated, and brands cannot wait on or rely on Congress to set industry-wide standards. Without standardization, we’re seeing a shift with consumers demanding and driving the change across the cosmetic industry.
To prepare for the legislative changes ahead, brands should start readying themselves now. A few preliminary preparations include organizing financials (if registration is required), disclosing ingredients and formulating practices, partnering with other brands to create a standard for “organic” and “natural,” and discussing your safety standards when bringing a product to market. Taking a proactive approach as an industry will allow regulators to focus on the bad actors in our space.
What are some of the issues with today’s cosmetic regulation system?
The current laws provided under the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act of 1938, which regulate cosmetics and personal care products, are simply outdated and do not reflect today’s consumer behavior or needs. Despite the introduction of several high-profile bills, including the Personal Care Products Safety Act, no meaningful legislation has passed.
With the rise of consumer demand for change, we would love to see the creation of a coalition—a combination of consumers, advocacy groups, brands, cosmetic chemists, retailers, and other stakeholders—that would provide a pathway forward with guidance on cosmetic regulation.
What reforms interested you as a lobbyist? What reforms are you hoping to see in the future?
I’ve always been interested in issues that impact the retail industry such as e-fairness legislation, data privacy, and credit card swipe fees.
In the future, I’d like to see reform that allows for the exchange of information between consumers, retailers, and brands for innovation and product development. At Well-Kept Beauty we’re making the first move in creating a user experience that allows consumers to provide honest, valuable, anonymous feedback to brands on products.
How does your background as a lobbyist inform your business model?
My extensive experience as a lobbyist shaped our current business model. Over the years, I cultivated numerous strategic relationships with complementary brands, retailers, and partners. With a network of Well-Kept Beauty partnerships in place, we will not need to rely on traditional advertising as seen within most apps and technology platforms.
Tell us about your app, Well-Kept Beauty. How does it work for users? What is the goal?
The goal of Well-Kept Beauty is to help beauty lovers manage their skincare routine. By using a combination of human expertise and machine learning, the Well-Kept Beauty app tracks what cosmetic ingredients work best for a user’s skin and how the ingredients perform. The app tracks both expiration dates and personal preferences so each user’s profile is truly personalized and not based on public reviews. We also send alerts to toss an old product or when to avoid certain products with ingredients known to cause irritations or allergic reactions.
Counterfeit cosmetics are a rising problem in the industry. Does Well-Kept Beauty do anything to fight this issue?
The Well-Kept Beauty team is closely monitoring the counterfeit cosmetics crisis as we understand it may affect our user community. In prioritizing our users’ needs, our market research indicated that users sought to understand how ingredients affected their skin, which products performed the best, and product expiration dates were the most important features for managing their skincare routines. As we continue to build out app features, we look forward to exploring and implementing a counterfeit feature that will assist in checking the authenticity of ingredients and products.
The app uses artificial intelligence to create an individualized profile for each user. Can you tell us about the process of formulating this technology?
We use machine learning to optimize the user experience and the profiles of each user. By using a detailed algorithm the app can learn a user’s preferences, habits, and patterns directly from their profile and not aggregated data from several users. Therefore, each alert or notification of possible adverse reactions and expiration dates are truly personalized.
How have you funded the business to go from concept to launch?
A combination of self-funding the business and a small amount of funding from a local area accelerator.
What is your launch strategy for the app and what is the revenue model?
Well-Kept Beauty will launch September 2018 in the App Store. The Well-Kept Beauty app will be free to download. We look forward to driving revenue through a “freemium” model in which users can create a profile at no cost, but can pay $2.99 a month for additional functionality including unlimited product uploads, access to vetted beauty professionals, brands, and more.
This summer, we’re also looking forward to our demo day which coincides with National Lipstick Day on July 29. We’re working with a bona fide group of influencers and partners to provide potential users a first look at the app before it launches.
How do retailers and brands factor it into their business strategy?
Retailers and brands can view Well-Kept Beauty as both a vehicle for consumer awareness and a built-in focus group. Brands and retailers can gather information from customers who share their experiences with products, which in turn assists with future product development.
How do you hope Well-Kept Beauty will change the landscape of the cosmetics industry?
I want Well-Kept Beauty to be the skincare industry’s leading beauty-tech company. More importantly, I look forward to closing the current informational gaps for consumers. We want Well-Kept Beauty to be the driver of change by connecting brands and retailers with customers in meaningful ways.