In preparation for the Beauty & Money conference in New York, Benedict H. Auld, CEO and Founder of Lapidarius, caught up with Patchology founder Chris Hobson. Patchology was one of the independent beauty brands hand-picked to share their business and product in a quick-fire round of presentations at Beauty & Money New York.
What is the unique value proposition your brand or product brings to the category?
We started in the beauty business from a different perspective. In the market there are makeup artist-led brands, dermatologist-led brands, and brands led by inspired founders. We were founded in 2010 to develop transdermal drug deliveries. We were working with drug companies like Novartis and Johnson & Johnson, and we had developed great expertise in getting ingredients across the skin barrier. We eventually realized that only letting pharmaceutical companies have access to this approach was a big miss. There are tons of great ingredients for skincare— hyaluronic acid, peptides, vitamin A, vitamin C—but if they can’t get past the stratum corneum, or outer layer of the skin, they can’t be as effective. Our patches push ingredients through that outer layer to where they need to go for targeted delivery of ingredients. Early on, we discovered that we could demonstrate that when you use our patches, you could deliver more ingredients deeper into the skin, with better results.
There are other masks and patches on the market but there is nobody who has built a brand around it; we’re going to apply the technology and really focus on it.
How did you do it?
I came into the company in 2011 and I’ve invested my own money in the business. I was a brand manager at P&G for many years and then did an MBA at Harvard Business School with a focus on entrepreneurship. After HBS I was involved in various startups and sold a software company to Fidelity Capital. I had the experience that included a startup background plus a consumer goods background that was necessary to launch this brand.
After a ton of testing and iteration, we launched the brand in 2014. We launched at Bergdorf and in 15 Neiman Marcus test stores, and after our first six months, we expanded to all Neiman Marcus doors. From there came Saks, Bluemercury, Nordstrom, Sephora in Europa, Mecca in Australia, and many more. Retailers have jumped on it because we are part of the patch and mask trend, but we’re not just another Korean brand sitting on top of the skin.
I’m obsessed with consumer research and understanding what makes our consumer tick. Our research shows that she loves the results, the glow, the hydration, the moisturization, but she’s busy. To think she’s going to lie there for 20 minutes doing nothing is not realistic, so we created the first 5-minute sheet mask, called the FlashMasque®, and that launched the brand. We were backstage at New York Fashion Week working with models and makeup artists and they told us, “I don’t have 20 minutes, but the models are tired, and dehydrated, help me fix them in 5 minutes.”
We’re not inventing any new ingredients, we’re just taking the existing ones that we know work and delivering them better because we know we can create phenomenal results.
What is the most important thing an investor should know about your brand?
Ideas are a dime a dozen, but execution is everything. We think this can be the next billion-dollar brand, so we’re purposefully building out a very strong team. The back office doesn’t usually get the glory, but our VP of Finance and VP of Operations are phenomenal. Kathy St. Clair, our VP of Sales, comes from Guerlain and launched AMOREPACIFIC in the US. She is super knowledgeable, she knows how to sell the product in and how to sell the product through.
Jill Sherman was the first VP of Marketing at Tria Beauty, and then she spent seven years at Digitas running social media strategy. She has the experience of a senior marketer and the knowledge gained working in the trenches.
We’ve also worked to build out a board that can help guide us. We’ve been joined by Betsy Olum, the first CMO at Sephora, when it launched in the US—she helps guide us with respect to retail and retail execution. Dr. Robb Akridge, one of the founders of Clarisonic, joined us recently, and he has the experience of taking a company from concept to launch to exit.
What would your ideal investor look like?
I’m a big believer in finding the right people to work with and building a partnership. An ideal investor would be someone who is experienced and has been here and done this before. We also want someone who is patient and understands the vicissitudes of the entrepreneurial process, because progress rarely travels in a straight line. We’ve had good success thus far working with a family office, and have found really good partnership value there.
Who is the muse for your brand? That is, who is the consumer target that you are creating your products for?
Our core target audience is the urban professional millennial, she has a higher household income, is in her first or second job, and starting to think about a family. Above all, she’s busy and has a lot going on in her life. Our tagline is beauty at the speed of you. We create beauty products that fit into your lifestyle whether you’re racing off to the gym, or taking a few minutes for yourself on a Saturday morning, it’s all at your speed.
We have a wonderful group of ladies within our company that are in that target. Especially our Creative Director, Kate Zane, she is the muse for the brand and has created the brand visuals, the packaging, the copy, she makes it come alive because she is that woman.
What is your vision for the brand? Where do you see the brand in 5 years?
I think that if our brand were limited to just patches and masks we could get to $100MM and be very profitable, and take an exit—it’s a great option. However, I think the concept of beauty at the speed of you is even bigger than patches and masks. Patches and masks will always be the core of what we do, but we’ve already developed new things. We introduced a moisturizer, a lip balm that goes on like a gloss and dries down into a patch. As we extend into more categories we will stay focused on beauty at the speed of you, because that need is not going away.