Clean beauty pioneer and skin/body care brand OSEA has been an independent family business from day one. These days, that family circle is expanding with great results. The brand’s roots trace back to Elsa Reuschle’s discovery of the healing properties of Bladderwrack algae in the 1920s while recovering from torn leg tendons by taking daily swims in Long Island Sound. The holistic powers of nature-derived ingredients continued with her granddaughter, spa director Jenefer Palmer, who founded the brand in 1996. Its legacy continues in the hands of her daughter, Melissa Palmer, who took the helm of the brand as CEO six years ago.
Products contain seaweed extracts blended with steam-distilled and cold-pressed essential oils, with OSEA becoming the first company to sign the Environmental Working Group’s Compact for the Global Production of Safe Health and Beauty Products. Originally an exclusive spa brand, its retail and DTC business has grown exponentially: 100% per annum for the past 5 years, including 115% in 2020. Current stockists include the likes of Ulta, Nordstrom, Blue Mercury, and Credo.
OSEA recently took its first outside investment in 25 years with CAVU Venture Partners. Two industry veterans were also onboarded: former GM of Beauty and Wellness at Goop Erin Cotter as CMO, former Vice President of Sales at Coola Melissa Mao as CSO.
BeautyMatter sat down with Melissa Palmer to discuss OSEA’s widening C-Suite, its transition from spa brand to thriving DTC business, and the prevailing power of clean and sustainable beauty.
What do you think about the current dynamic of the clean beauty category and the partial backlash in the media against the business of it?
We’ve believed in clean beauty since we launched in 1996, it just wasn’t called that then. Right now it’s a popular marketing term; however, I hope it’s something we continue to see in the future and all brands formulate to clean standards. The phrase is not regulated, and part of the problem is that some companies use scare tactics in order to sell their products. For OSEA, clean beauty means using natural ingredients that deliver results.
How was the transition from spa brand to DTC business?
In many ways it was a very organic progression. Our distribution for almost two decades was focused exclusively on the luxury spa world, using both our retail and professional products. We built long and deep relationships with many spa partners that we still work with today. The growth of social and influencer marketing in the past 5 years really started to fuel awareness of the brand, and we grew these channels as a way to reach our customers and expand. We have done a lot of experimenting with new and emerging channels—right now we are loving TikTok; DTC was a natural progression from there. As our DTC business has expanded, it has helped to fuel both our spa and retail business as a result of our growing brand recognition. So it was actually a very circular transition.
What made you decide to seek a capital partner at this point in time?
We were not in a position where we needed capital and we had never raised any before. The only way we were willing to even consider it was with a partner that aligned with our mission and brought strategic strengths to complement our fast-growing business. CAVU was a perfect fit with their deep alignment with our fundamental principles of better-for-you and plant-based products, also the focus of their fund.
How did the partnership with CAVU come about and why are they the right match for you?
For the last 25 years, our mission has been to promote wellness through clean, sustainable beauty. We knew that because our values were closely aligned with CAVU in the wellness space that they would support our mission. OSEA’s customers are fiercely loyal. Our values, our ethos, and results-driven products keep customers coming back again and again.
What do your expansion plans in terms of product development/innovation, marketing efforts, and brand campaign look like?
With additional capital, we plan to accelerate our product innovation and expand our marketing outreach on a broader scale by testing new channels like podcast, OTT, OOH, and growing our influencer program.
What are your hopes for the brand in this new leadership stage with the additional capital and talent?
My primary goal is to stay unwaveringly true to the principles that have guided our brand for the past 25 years: to make products that are kind to your skin, kind to yourself, and kind to our planet.
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