Have you ever tried to open up the tube of your favorite lip-gloss in order to get out of it these last drops of the product? I am sure that at some point of our lives all of us did, but let’s not talk about this not so pretty experience. Luckily for us, there is a much more elegant and pretty solution available. The newest beauty tool with a cute name Swoon is designed to help you saving lip gloss leftovers in style. In this interview, I am talking with Keisha Wright, Founder and CEO of the Swoon, a lip gloss applicator that helps lip gloss lovers to enjoy their favorite products a little longer.
The idea about creating a tool like Swoon perhaps came to many women (for instance, I was thinking about it!). However, you are the one that actually created this helpful tool. Tell us a bit about how and why did you decide to create Swoon. Also, why did you choose such name for the product?
The idea of Swoon was born during a girls trip to Aruba. I was down to the last drops of gloss in my favorite Bobbi Brown color. I could see there was clearly enough gloss for a few more applications, but just couldn’t get to it. I stuck a hair pin in the tube in the bottle and my girlfriend saw me doing so, and showed me how to remove the stopper to get more gloss. She warned me that this would be a messy solution, but would help me get the gloss. Her tip showed me that I wasn’t the only one bothered by this problem. I decided to do some research when I returned home to see if others were plagued by this beauty bother. I found tons of blogs posts and few YouTube videos offering not so elegant solutions to the problem.
At the same time, I was unhappy with my job as a Marketing Executive for a major retailer because it wasn’t providing me the work life balance I desired. I decided that creating a tool that solved the beauty bother of lost gloss could be my million dollar idea that helped other women like me solve a common beauty frustration, while also helping me create the kind of life I wanted for myself and my family. Also, I come from a long line of entrepreneurs and had previously started two companies, so the thought of working for myself came naturally.
When it comes to expensive (or just favorite) lip gloss, how much product does Swoon allows to save? Did you conduct some sort of experiment that helped to calculate the amount of lip gloss saved?
We conducted a lot of research before launching Swoon and creating our first, namesake, tool. Our target consumers are value-conscious luxury lovers who buy gloss frequently and spend, on average, $25 per tube. We found that about one third of lip gloss lovers are very bothered by their inability to reach and apply all of the gloss they paid for. More than that, about half of lip gloss lovers have tried to solve the problem on their own before eventually tossing what amounts to about 20% (based on average tube size) or $5.00 worth of gloss.
Talking about your personal makeup routine, which lip glosses are totally worth “saving” with Swoon? In other words, what are some of your favorite brands and shades of lipstick and lip gloss that you use on a daily basis and/or for specials occasions only?
I believe all my glosses are worth saving. If I pay for it, I want it all! That being said, my favorite brand of gloss by far is Bobbi Brown. It is moisturizing, but not too sticky and long lasting. I have so many favorite colors that it’s hard to identify just one, but my staples are Rose Gold, Pink Sugar, Bright Pink and Buff. I also really like Nars’ Orgasm—it’s a pinkish gold that flatters almost any skin tone.
As far as I know, you didn’t have any relation to the beauty and retail industry prior to launching Swoon. Please tell us more about the challenges that you faced launching a beauty product. Would you recommend to someone that has a great idea of creating a beauty tool to pursue it as a business endeavor?
You are right, I had never worked in beauty industry prior to launching Swoon. I had worked for one of the nation’s largest and oldest retailers, but in an event sponsorship role, so I was not intimately familiar with retail operations. However, my aunt owns a retail store in California, and I was able to turn to her for information on exhibiting at trade shows in order to connect with retailers. Then I found a mentor, the founder of Curls hair care (Mahisha Dellinger) who helped me with pricing, connecting to distributors and developing a better understanding of retail relations. I would say not having retail or beauty background did not cause any insurmountable challenges, but I think it is important to know what you don’t know so that you can surround yourself with mentors and team members who can support you in those areas.
For many people that are trying to promote their beauty products, being able to sell their product at Sephora is a dream come true. How did you manage to establish such collaboration? Any tips for those readers that are trying to promote their beauty product on how to approach major retailers with your product ideas or established products?
My professional background is in Sales & Marketing, and one thing I’m very good at is finding contact information for prospective business partners and collaborators. I found the contact information for the head of Sephora’s business development (using Linkedin) unit and sent her an email about our exhibition at Cosmoprof, North America’s largest beauty trade show.
I sent her our Indiegogo video, as well as recent press we had received, and asked if we could meet during Cosmoprof. She put me in touch with her product development and strategy team, and we arranged to meet for a breakfast meeting at The Four Seasons. We created a pitch presentation (a few slides demonstrating the consumer problem, including our research, as well as our solution and pricing information).
Sephora responded very positively immediately. However, they wanted us to be a part of the Sephora Collection with none of our branding. We explained to them why it was important for us, as a start up, to maintain our branding and pitched them a co-branded Swoon for Sephora Collection. They noted that they rarely developed co-brands, but really liked our product and would pitch it to leadership. We settled on an exclusive, hot pink co-branded SKU available exclusively at Sephora and it was a win for everyone.
What are some of the women that you consider to be your role models and why?
My mother is definitely a role model. She worked full-time while raising two children. She is one of the most giving people I know, and so I look to her as a model of how to live a balanced life. My aunt has run a successful store for the past 20 years, so I look to her as a model of a successful entrepreneur. Also, my mentor Mahisha Dellinger, who founded a 5 million dollar ethnic hair care company, is definitely a role model of mine. I want Swoon to become as successful as Curls is. Mahisha is a working mom like me, and to balance it all successfully is what I aspire to do.
Are you planning to create any additional beauty tools in future?
Yes! We have ten tools and products in our development pipeline. We conducted focus groups in New York and Miami last fall and winter to assess the top beauty bothers of our target customer. Some of the top beauty problems are: fragile compacts of powder which break into a million pieces when dropped, difficulties with applying false lashes and finding an easy way to clean makeup brushes. We out our customers first and use our social media platforms as indicators of top glam girl gripes and look for ways to solve these problems. You are welcome to share your beauty bothers by submitting your comments here.
What is the one piece of advice that you could give to StyleSprinter readers?
It may sound cliche, but pursue your passion and the rest will fall into place!
P.S.— Here is an alternative method of saving leftovers of your lip gloss by Michelle Phan: