As far as Gen Z–led success stories go, Experiment is a leading example. Founded in 2020 by cosmetic chemists Lisa Guerrera and Emmy Ketcham, Experiment made its market debut with only $8,500 in personal savings to its name and one hero product: the Avant Guard reusable silicone sheet mask. A brand-agnostic item that finally provided a sustainable solution to a one-time-use product which had been likened to the plastic straw of skincare, Avant Guard came, saw, and conquered the gap in the product market. An item which produces 90% less waste and 93% fewer carbon emissions than traditional sheet masks, Avant Guard can be used with any moisturizer or serum to increase absorption thanks to its nonporous and hygienic material.
Despite not spending a cent on marketing or advertising, the product gained consumer hype through Guerrera’s then 50K-follower-strong TikTok audience (now at 62.3K), a cross-promotional partnership with Topicals (another Gen Z–founded brand) and organic endorsement through skinfluencer James Walsh.
Proving that less is more, this standout item, clad in a vibrant lime-green colorway, was all that was needed to make Experiment an industry darling. Guerrera and Ketcham were able to raise $1 million in funding from Press Reset Ventures, Divergent Capital, Lakehouse Ventures, and founder of Everlane, Michael Preysman. Following the cash injection, the brand has relaunched, customizing Avant Guard with Hyper Stretch ear loops for more comfortable wear, and as with the soft launch, available in two sizes for smaller and larger heads.
BeautyMatter caught up with Guerrera to discuss the business’s evolution and sustainability strategy, and what defines the conscious consumer of the future.
What has the process of relaunching and securing funding been like?
When we sold out of our soft launch, we realized Experiment had a compelling story for investors. So we took our time to secure funding in the latter half of 2021. It was definitely tough at first to get traction because we were unsure in our pitch. But once we nailed our brand pitch—Experiment is a Gen Z, science-backed beauty brand that never takes itself too seriously—we were able to get quick traction with investors to ultimately close the round.
Relaunching is a tough thing. We had a strong community on Instagram, but it was nerve-wracking because folks already have certain expectations of the brand. The last thing you want is to disappoint them.
What have been the biggest challenges and accomplishments since beginning your professional journey?
I’m newly 27 years old, and when I reflect back on the five years since graduating with my chemistry degree, it’s been an unorthodox journey to say the least! The biggest accomplishments, by far, have been going through Sephora Accelerate in 2019 with my first company, See Thru, an ingredient transparency platform, and winning an Elle Future of Beauty award in the same year. I was the youngest entrepreneur in the Sephora cohort but made some amazing friends.
Another huge accomplishment has been serving as Head of Brand at Apostrophe and being the youngest woman in leadership there, and seeing that through till our Hims acquisition. More recently, the biggest successes have been building my TikTok following fighting beauty misinformation and, of course, ultimately launching Experiment and raising $1 million in venture capital by [the age of] 26.
But there have been so many learning lessons to get to this point. My first company ultimately didn’t work out, but it taught me to follow my passions in business. I was way more interested in building a brand than building B2B software. Because I launched my first business right after I graduated college, I’m always learning on the fly. It’s a blessing and a curse.
Aside from being online, and sustainably and efficacy minded, what defines the new conscious consumer?
Aside from those, the conscious consumer of the future cares deeply about authenticity and transparency. We live in a world filled with BS, and the younger generation is looking for brands they feel live up to their brand promises. From Patagonia to Parade, conscious consumers are looking for brands that show up authentically.
What were the challenges of designing and sourcing the silicone materials for the reusable mask?
This product is surprisingly hard to produce! It took us a while to find a manufacturer in the US who had the capabilities to create a 3D silicone product this thin. We went through many design iterations and tested on as many faces as we could to make sure the fit would work for everyone. Once we had the winning design (featuring our iconic Hyper Stretch ear loops), we filed a patent and produced the mold. It was a big investment as a young brand, so the biggest concern was ensuring the design we chose translated perfectly in the final run. That time investment in a custom design now means we have the coolest, most sustainable, and best-fitting reusable sheet mask. We truly believe this is a forever alternative to single-use sheet masks.
What were the biggest revelations from your work with [sustainability software platform] Bluebird? Should the industry as a whole be more proactive about ensuring sustainability claims?
Bluebird has been incredibly helpful in guiding us through sustainable product choices and ultimately making good on our promise of being a “thoughtfully sustainable” beauty brand. I 100% believe that the future of the beauty industry is “science-backed sustainability,” which means using platforms like Bluebird to objectively track how much carbon and waste you’re contributing. There is a ton of greenwashing, and we need more visible, data-driven accountability from companies.
How important is science versus image versus audience in terms of beauty industry success?
I’m of the philosophy that it’s all equally important for different reasons. To rephrase a bit, I look at the equation of beauty brand success as: efficacy vs. brand vs. community. You need all three to have a hit. Brand helps get folks to engage and purchase. Efficacy is how you create returning customers. Community is how you create a flywheel of highly engaged and loyal people. Experiment is fighting the idea that a brand has to choose whether to be “cool” or “efficacious.” You can be both, and I think you’ll do even better that way.
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