In preparation for the Beauty & Money conference in New York, Benedict H. Auld, CEO and Founder of Lapidarius, caught up with founder Istvan Laszloffy of SA.AL&CO, 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?
Research told us that in the men’s segment compared with women’s there hasn’t been as great a need for product innovation, and that the price proposition and qualities are in general good. But what most men’s brands don’t have is a simple, next-generation point of view of what personal care should be for men. The products aren’t aspirational. The philosophy behind the ingredients—such as sustainability and natural—aren’t as good as they can get.
In SA.AL&CO we wanted to create a brand that embodied a new approach, without overengineering it. SA.AL&CO offers something aspirational in two ways. One, from a design perspective. I compare it with a Porsche: elegant, sophisticated, a little sporty. So that once you have the product, you feel good about it. I want to elevate what men can expect from a design perspective—and be age and style agnostic, good for a young guy or a 65-year-old. And aspirational from a product quality standpoint, where it’s clear this is a product for a serious guy for whom appearance and skin health are more importance. I think that Aesop has done this fantastically well, by the way.
How did you do it?
Very simply, I didn’t create the brand only because I’m passionate about skin—I am passionate about sales and strategy, and I built the company from my own experience. Initially we started working with distributors and agents across Europe, and we are now in 250 specialty doors. We will continue this growth. But we now wish to pivot to become primarily an online, DTC brand. We need to reach our guy, and he doesn’t in general shop terrestrial beauty departments or beauty chains. And he isn’t checking Instagram all day, either. The real risk we see is in not getting marketing right—we are sure the demand is there.
Why’s it called SA.AL&CO?
Because I launched the brand with a good friend of mine and we choose the first two initials of our last names: SArnitz and LAszloffy—inverting the L so as to make it like we stand across each other. The reason why it became SA.AL&CO is to honor all those who were part of the creation process and those still involved. So, the visual is very recognizable and in line with the aesthetic we wanted to create—in large part thanks to the typeface.
What is the most important thing an investor should know about your brand or company?
That we have over two years of success in bricks & mortar and we want to pivot to be mainly DTC. We are a small team. We want to do it now and do it properly: build the team, and do real marketing, scale this business globally.
What would your ideal investor look like?
Experience and added value in DTC for men. Beauty investors in general have too much experience in women, which they then try to apply them to men. SA.AL&CO is more like Harry’s, Bonobos, guy things like that.
Who is the muse for your brand? That is, who is the consumer target that you are creating your products for?
My customer is at least a 30-year-old, or older. He is not a younger guy. Why? Thirty years old or more is when guys actually start caring about the first signs of aging and where how he looks to his peers and to women (if that’s who he’s trying to attract, men, too) becomes very relevant.
It becomes even more significant in his 40s and 50s. And there are so many brands for the millennial segment, very few for the older guy. There is a huge opportunity in prestige men’s skincare, because men haven’t upgraded their personal care across the board. They tend to buy an aftershave or a face wash on a one-off basis, from the drugstore down the street. SA.AL&CO is going for the guys already buying more product and convincing them our products are better, to upgrade their whole regimen to SA.AL&CO.
What is your vision for the brand? Where do you see the brand in 5 years?
SA.AL&CO wants to be to Biotherm Homme what Harry’s is to Gillette.