Ep.11-Guest Series: Emilie Hoyt, Founder, Lather on "What Beauty Founders Don't Know"

In this guest series episode of “What Beauty Founders Don’t Know” (formerly JumpStart Beauty Brand), I spoke to Emilie Hoyt, a super conscientious founder of a 24 year old natural skincare brand, Lather, a brand that is all about wellness solving everyday problems, Lather also has amazingly natural hair, face and body care products sold through their DTC site, own brick and mortar stores and through hotel properties and spas across the globe.

Timestamps & Key Moments

03.21.6-Emilie’s struggles growing up

10.39.3-Advantages of being a clean beauty pioneer: 24 years

15.53.4-Growth assumptions that proved wrong

23.30.7-LATHER Hotel’s success

32.05.1-Success of LATHER Stores

38.45.7-LATHER’S big goals

43.41.8-LATHER’S tough times

47.08.2=Speed Round

 

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Transcript

 

[00:00:00] Emilie: We’re really one of the earliest brands that was focused on better-for-you ingredients, natural ingredients, eliminating some of the very common ingredients that I felt weren’t healthy, and that people didn’t need to be putting in their body. I think by being in this business for 24 years, I can honestly tell you that we really understand ingredients, how to formulate, what our customers want. And the biggest point of difference that I can tell you is that we offer products that every customer, when they see a product under LATHER, they can immediately count on it being a very high quality, very clean and be able to be used daily.

[00:00:59] 

[00:01:39] Rohit: Hey Emilie, I welcome you to What Beauty Founders Don’t Know podcast, which was formerly known as Jumpstart Beauty Brand with yours truly, Rohit Banota, founder of Jump Accelerator. So, for all my viewers and listeners of this podcast, let me introduce Emilie to you. She is a super conscientious founder of LATHER skin care brand, a natural skin care brand.

[00:02:02] Rohit: Which also has hair products, body products, and face products now, and it’s all about wellness, and it solves everyday problems. Emilie had her own struggles in her early years with chemical laden beauty products, and to her horror, she found out that 95 percent of those products had chemicals in them. That’s what led her to launching LATHER and help everybody who must have been going through the same issues with such beauty products.

[00:02:30] Rohit: LATHER launched with their first own store in 1999, and now it has stores nationwide. It sells through the best of hotel properties, spas, and resorts across the globe. And now over to you, Emilie. Like I said, welcome to the podcast and do you have anything to say before we get started? 

[00:02:47] Emilie: Thank you so much.

[00:02:49] Emilie: I’m so excited to join. And yeah, looking forward to a great discussion. 

[00:02:55] Rohit: Perfect. Let’s start with Emilie’s story, because I was going through your story on your site, on the homepage and it’s pretty elaborate. It’s not a usual story where somebody had one off encounter, in your case, I saw that you did try a lot to find solutions. And, in the end when you did not see anybody catering to the need that you had, you decided to venture into this by yourself. Yeah, let’s start with Emilie’s story. 

[00:03:20] Yeah, I grew up with severe migraine headaches from the time I was a young child. They actually started at five years old. I missed a lot of school, I was in a lot of pain, at a lot of doctor’s offices. And it was just something that was part of my life. When I began going through puberty, like my early teen years, my headaches got a lot worse, a lot more severe.

[00:03:51] And, at that point, school was getting much harder, more important for my future. And I was missing more and more of it. And through going to different neurologists, I found one that I really connected with and he instructed me to keep a detailed journal, so that possibly we could identify triggers to these headaches.

[00:04:15] And, what we found was that one of my biggest triggers was perfume. And in eliminating, what I at first thought was just straight perfume. Okay. If we just get rid of my mother’s perfume, I will be fine. What I had discovered is that synthetic fragrances are in everything, it could be that I only was sensitive to maybe a few of the ingredients in perfume, but because perfume and synthetic fragrance is considered a United States federal trade secret, it has special status [00:05:00] as an ingredient, that almost no other ingredients have at all, through any industries. Companies are not required to list the ingredients, so, there was no way for me to eliminate maybe what was really triggering me. The amount of products from not just perfume, but hair products, face products, body products, laundry, cleaning, sunscreen, and all of these things eliminating from my house and I began to go on a search to find other products. And that is really what led my passion and curiosity into what does go into these products that we consume on a daily basis into our body and that we’re living with.

[00:05:50] Emilie: And that is what led me on the path to start LATHER. 

[00:05:56] Rohit: Perfect. That’s pretty elaborate and I didn’t know that. I read your story on the site, but now listening to you firsthand it seems that it was even worse than what comes across on your website. Perfect. You talk about solving everyday problems, 

[00:06:11] Emilie: Right.

[00:06:11] Rohit: Your skincare is natural skincare, even though you have products for hair, face and body. 

[00:06:16] Emilie: Right.

[00:06:16] Rohit: Now, a lot of other skincare brands make these claims and i’m pretty sure there are other very decent, healthy skincare brands too. How would you say you are different? I’m not talking about difference from mainstream because that’s a no brainer, right?

[00:06:32] Rohit: If I were to compare you with other mainstream beauty brands, I’d be an idiot, that is super obvious. But when it comes to other clean beauty brands, or natural, because you started way before it was cool to talk about clean beauty, right? So, how are the different from them?

[00:06:48] Rohit: One thing that I know for sure is because you have your own stores, you are able to have that much intimacy and engagement with the consumer. So, that’s a given, but beyond that. How would you say you are different from even other indie clean skincare or natural skincare brands?

[00:07:03] Emilie: I think you hit on it. 

[00:07:04] Emilie: We’re really one of the earliest brands that was focused on better-for-you ingredients, natural ingredients, eliminating some of the very common ingredients that I felt weren’t healthy, and that people didn’t need to be putting in their body. I think by being in this business for 24 years, I can honestly tell you that we really understand ingredients, how to formulate, what our customers want. And the biggest point of difference that I can tell you is that we offer products that every customer, when they see a product under LATHER, they can immediately count on it being a very high quality, very clean and be able to be used daily.

[00:08:04] Emilie: We want to be part of your daily routine. We want to earn a spot by your sink, on your bedside table, in your shower, and touch you, literally touch your skin every day and walk along your life next to you. And, I think the difference that we have over other brands, and there’s so many, you’re absolutely right,

[00:08:29] Emilie: there’s a lot of clean beauty companies now. There didn’t used to be when I started, but that was 1999. Now, there certainly are and so many of them are lovely. What I can tell you with LATHER is that we have more than 200 SKUs. We have something for everyone. We do pretty much everything except make up. We are very unisex. We focus on, again, being part of your everyday life and taking care of you and being by your side, especially when you’re traveling, when you may be more vulnerable. And we offer a product that is really at an approachable price point. Okay, it won’t be the least expensive, but we are not out to make products for a woman who has a 3rd home in the Hamptons.

[00:09:24] Emilie: There’s some organic and natural beauty products that serve that population very well. We are here to be really for anybody who has an interest in great products that make them feel good, that they can trust and use every day.

[00:09:41] Rohit: Good that’s such a wonderful insight. So, Emilie, tell me one thing, when you said we have been here for 24 years now, right?

[00:09:50] Rohit: And I get curious, every time any founder says this, so, what advantage would you have versus somebody who starts with a clean [00:10:00] skincare brand? Let’s say who started two years back. Is the quality of the products that you have now, is it like 10 X better than it used to be in 1999?

[00:10:09] Rohit: You know that, because that is how you can claim, that, hey, because otherwise there’s no point in saying, and I don’t mean to offend you. 

[00:10:15] Emilie: No, I understand exactly what you mean. Yes, absolutely. Really, It’s been the most exciting time in, what we now call, clean beauty.

[00:10:28] Emilie: We can argue all day long about what that means, and maybe we will later. But, in the general sense, if we agree, that’s a niche, we are at such an exciting time.

[00:10:39] Emilie: Certainly, there’s manufacturers now, you can get raw materials at very low minimums, in the past, we couldn’t dream of doing that. So, absolutely you can start a line of clean beauty products right now and have excellent quality. Definitely our quality now is much better than when I started, as the industry has evolved, as our knowledge and research has evolved, as we have better vendors, better resources, better partners.

[00:11:08] Emilie: But what I can say is that we have learned through many mistakes. I’ll give you one quick, kind of funny, maybe not so funny, example. And I see this all the time with different new brands with clean beauty and they have a lovely product, beautiful branding, good ingredients, they’re impressive. Clear packaging, they put their product in clear packaging.

[00:11:35] Emilie: You can’t do that. Your product will spoil and go bad. It will oxidize with the sunlight. They don’t realize that the product they’re pouring in, that beautiful formula that they have found or they have worked on is going, to just like an apple in the sunshine, it is going to get unstable. And I see brands starting with clear packaging all the time and then you start to see they figure it out and they start to put cartons. That is one of very many examples, how to work with preservatives, what levels to use these ingredients at, how to pair different ingredients to get almost like a boost or more impact from what you want, how to work with different textures.

[00:12:23] Emilie: These are skills, we’ve learned over the last 24 years. So, is it a higher quality? I don’t know. Our produce is maybe a higher quality than some of the very good brands out there in this space. What I can tell you is, we’re very 

[00:12:44] Emilie: sophisticated in our formulas.

[00:12:47] Emilie: We really know what we’re doing to make sure it’s consistent all the time. 

[00:12:52] Emilie: We’ve built those relationships to be able to source ingredients at the highest 

[00:12:57] Emilie: caliber that you might not be able to get right away. 

[00:13:02] Emilie: Those are the things I can tell you, and I can tell you also that because of the relationship we have with our customers and that we’ve built with our customers, we really have a great 

[00:13:13] Emilie: understanding of what they’re looking for, how they use our products,

[00:13:19] Emilie: how they have evolved over the years as well in what they’re seeking out.

[00:13:26] Emilie: And I think that gives us a bit of an edge in developing a bit more 

[00:13:33] Emilie: impactful products. 

[00:13:36] Emilie: I don’t want to say effective because I honestly, I don’t know, I think we understand how to really satisfy the customers. I’ll say that, and I have very much confidence in that, but you’re absolutely right.

[00:13:50] Emilie: There are some wonderful new brands out there that are doing, beautiful products. We are not alone anymore, in the early days I could tell you nobody’s like us not as much anymore.

[00:14:01] Rohit: I appreciate your honesty. And I have to say, the answer that you gave is exactly what my gut was, my hunch was. And you are right, you are very incisive in the answer that you gave, very elaborate plus that does reveal what does 24 years of being in the business, what advantage does it give you? So, you’re absolutely right. It cannot be that you are not ahead of most of the people today.

[00:14:24] Rohit: It just cannot be, because, I know that entrepreneurship does not come with a manual. Nobody can go and start a brand today and understand everything about stability, about, what the consumer wants, the supply chain, the relationships, this ingredient, that. So, obviously you will always have that edge that the others might not, and some might, and I’m not saying that the others might not be able to do their own thing. 

[00:14:48] Emilie: Of course.

[00:14:49] Rohit: Yeah, they might have their own stuff that they would have learned, but there is some advantage that being in the business for some time does lend you. I’m a firm believer in that, because obviously you [00:15:00] learn, right? Like you said, you learn, you develop skill sets, et cetera, and you hit the nail on the head when you said consistency and knowing what the actual customer wants.

[00:15:09] Rohit: So, delivering it every time is what matters. 

[00:15:12] Emilie: Absolutely. 

[00:15:13] Rohit: Perfect. That is a great answer Emilie. Now, let’s go to what are the top two, three assumptions and I’m talking about the early days. Because I always believe that between an entrepreneur, a founder and their desired success, there lies a sea of assumptions. If I do this, I’ll succeed. If I, and then slowly, that’s why this fail fast mantra, test all your assumptions as soon as possible.

[00:15:36] Rohit: So, your insight can help all those people who are still newbies, right? Because they might think, oh, if I do this I’ll grow. If I do this. So, what are those two, three assumptions that you had? And you also see that other aspiring or newbies making again and again that proved wrong.

[00:15:51] Yeah. Oh my gosh. Quite a few and quite a few mistakes as well, that came from these assumptions. But, I would say the number one for me was I assumed that it would be… I don’t know that I assumed it would be easy, but I did not understand how hard it would be to manage 

[00:16:16] people, to be a manager of people and to recruit people 

[00:16:22] who believed as passionately as I do, and to be able to teach them, and coach them, and hold them accountable. That took me a long time. And I think that can make every world of difference. I also didn’t understand the amount of time to build a 

[00:16:48] team culture, to tell our values, and our story, and our ethos 

[00:16:56] over and over again, to really cement it in the full team and every customer touch point.

[00:17:05] I think that in the beginning we have ideas, we get great design or we work with marketing. We plan it out in the beginning. But it’s very easy that it can get diluted over time, and you’re assuming that your team, the customers, the world is absorbing your message when they may not be.

[00:17:31] It is slowly getting diluted and so when you ask customers, I remember in the early days of, what does LATHER mean to you? And the answers were all over the place. The amount that you have to be repetitive to the outside world, you can start saying, oh, yeah, we said that last time so, we don’t want to repeat ourself. In building the brand, there is a lot of repetition and that is part of the consistency.

[00:17:59] I think I assumed how easy it would be for people to understand what I was doing, understand the brand of LATHER quickly and easily and remember it. And it’s a constant re- education and you need to be out there repeating yourself a lot.

[00:18:19] And then, yeah, just like you said, we have all sorts of ideas when we start anything. And financial

[00:18:26] success, I think is a lot harder 

[00:18:29] and it takes… it’s just a lot harder.

[00:18:33] Emilie: It’s fun to put things on a spreadsheet and see how well you’re going to do.

[00:18:38] Rohit: I have this line ‘everything works on PowerPoint’, right? 

[00:18:41] Emilie: Oh, yeah. 

[00:18:42] Emilie: It’s perfect, right? 

[00:18:43] And things 

[00:18:44] take longer. They cost more.

[00:18:47] It doesn’t always fit. It’s hard. Business is hard. I think I assumed it was hard, but I assumed it would be hard making the products. I didn’t understand. It’s very difficult to 

[00:18:59] forecast your revenue, and your expenses,

[00:19:03] and track them and know what to do when they start to veer off track so, that you’re still ending up in an okay place.

[00:19:11] That’s, it’s hard. 

[00:19:13] Rohit: Everything that you said in answer to this question was absolutely wonderful and insightful. You spoke about consistency and you spoke about how you should repeat the message. That’s a great branding lesson because so often we get caught up with what is trending, what is new.

[00:19:31] Emilie: Yes. Yes. 

[00:19:32] Rohit: If you’re solving a problem and you have some validation and people love it, just stick to, it’s better to err on the side of what works and repeat that than always trying fancy new things.

[00:19:43] Rohit: And the second, when you spoke about entrepreneurship is hard, people don’t realize it. I was speaking to another beauty founder and I said, you know what? When I work with founders, I don’t find them hungry enough. She said no, they want it, but they don’t know what it takes.

[00:19:57] Rohit: So, I realized that people want it, but they [00:20:00] don’t know what all it takes. It’s an all or nothing game and there are no guarantees. So, you can do everything right and still not make it. 

[00:20:08] Emilie: Absolutely. And there’s a lot of brilliant, wonderful brands that we have seen come and go. And it breaks my heart because they did, in my eyes, maybe they did not do everything right, but they were great.

[00:20:21] Emilie: And it’s still didn’t work out. People have no idea how hard it is. 

[00:20:25] Rohit: Yeah, they have no idea. No, I’m absolutely with you. Everybody sees Mark Zuckerberg with that hoodie or, some, they might see you, they might see Tiffany Masterson with Drunk Elephant and say, oh, you know what, I’ll launch a brand, sell it for half a billion dollars and, I’ll have fun.

[00:20:38] Rohit: It’s quite not that easy. And I also love when you spoke about, because I think LATHER, since you have your own stores, service is so important and in service that messaging and how you, because service is delivered by people, we don’t have robots to do it at, till now. So, that’s why I think when you were speaking about how difficult it is to manage people so that because they are your brand, inside the store.

[00:21:02] Emilie: Exactly. 

[00:21:03] Emilie: And I have to win them over first and I have to repeat myself to them first, every customer touch point needs to be consistent and deliver that same message. And yes, retail stores are tough, but they can offer amazing insights and advantages over being on a shelf somewhere where you’re really unsure of who your actual customer is. 

[00:21:32] Rohit: I agree, that’s an asset that you have, it’s a point of advantage for you. Tell me on a lighter note, have you ever felt when dealing with people, have you ever have these words ever come into your mind? ‘Why don’t you just do and not think?’ 

[00:21:46] Emilie: Yes.

[00:21:46] Rohit: Don’t think, just do what I’m telling you. Stop thinking, I’ve had that with people a lot. Sorry. Yeah. 

[00:21:53] Emilie: Totally. No, you said it. That’s exactly. Yes. 

[00:21:58] Rohit: Moving on. LATHER HOTEL. What an amazing genius idea. I have to say, and I forgot to say it in your introduction, to me, you are an offbeat founder, offbeat, not in terms of, the typical offbeat, but in terms of somebody who can go against the grain and decide their own journey rather than falling for what everybody else is doing.

[00:22:20] Rohit: This is such a brilliant idea. And I know I’ve seen your LinkedIn posts, and on messages we have exchanged, partnerships are such an underutilized…

[00:22:30] Rohit: Yes. 

[00:22:30] Rohit: strategy, especially for indie beauty brands. If you ask me, that’s one of the best ways to at least initially, get growth without sacrificing a lot of money.

[00:22:39] Rohit: So, let’s start with what has worked great with this initiative. Is a new hotel acquisition profitable in itself? Why haven’t you taken it hundred x? Like, why are you still taking it step by step? 

[00:22:50] Emilie: Let me tell you, we are in more than about, I think latest, like 60 to 70 might be closer to 70 now.

[00:23:02] Emilie: 70,000 rooms touching people every day. 

[00:23:07] Rohit: I love it. 

[00:23:08] Emilie: So, we have really grown our hospitality division. It was just a problem that I had when I traveled. If you think about why you travel, maybe it’s an important job interview, or meeting, a wedding or a vacation that you have saved up for.

[00:23:29] Emilie: Anytime you travel, it’s typically an important event, even if you don’t want to go, the reason you’re going to go is because it’s important for work or family or whatever. And when you land in a hotel, and you wake up in the morning, and you are naked in that shower, in a strange city, in a strange room for an important reason, you are your most vulnerable. And we have the opportunity to touch

[00:24:01] Emilie: bodies, to touch their skin and their hair 

[00:24:04] Emilie: and to take care of them, and give them the most amazing experience and make sure that they’re taken care of. What I found when I started LATHER is that the products in hotels were 

[00:24:16] Emilie: not great quality at all. 

[00:24:18] Emilie: And that, especially when they started to limit the amount you could travel with, it could really impact the way I felt or the how successful or happy my trip was. And I knew that it could for others. So, I really felt like it was important to offer a premium really wonderful product because I knew that I would gain customers. And initially, no, 

[00:24:44] Emilie: it was not profitable. We were trying for break-even, 

[00:24:49] Emilie: which, was hard to be honest to get our products out there at the quality we wanted. In order to capture that guest as a [00:25:00] customer, we have to blow them away. We can’t dilute our product, or have a less product, then it will defeat the purpose.

[00:25:08] Emilie: So, until we were really able to do it at scale, which took a lot of work, a lot of partnership with our vendors, a lot of formulating so that we could make sure we could make this product present well, explain its benefits. Once we got to a certain level we became profitable in that channel and we were able to gain customer acquisition that way.

[00:25:36] Emilie: And it is still our number one 

[00:25:37] Emilie: tool that we use for customer acquisitions. 

[00:25:41] Emilie: While the properties that we partner with are customers, we really want to convert their guests. And we really want to end up with their guests as our customers. I have really enjoyed it. I’ve enjoyed working within hospitality. I think that throughout our history out of necessity, we’ve had to look at growing our business in other ways, because when I started the company, nobody wanted natural products. Nobody trusted me. They didn’t want natural products and it was a very unfriendly to independent.

[00:26:16] Emilie: Independent beauty is a new thing, in the early days, they didn’t want independent beauty. It was very difficult to get any type of distribution. And I couldn’t get any type of distribution. So, having my own stores and seeing, okay, if my goal is to be in showers, how am I going to get there?

[00:26:38] Emilie: And one overlooked area was hotels. And you can touch so many people. People are rotating through in those 70 000 rooms that we currently have our products, every couple nights. And they have low expectations and we have a captive audience. It made sense for us, is what has helped us stay independent. We’ve never taken outside funding. We’ve honestly never even took a bank loan until the PPP, which I was happy to do. The flip side of being in the hotel business is was not great during COVID. But yes, it’s really been a different business path than traditional beauty. Because traditional beauty wasn’t working for me when I started and I had to survive finding other ways.

[00:27:32] Rohit: That’s brilliant. And I think that was a masterstroke. Two masterstrokes. I think one was hotel. Second, I’ll come to, which is your own stores. So, just sticking with hotels for now. So, obviously, the product that they consume inside the hotel, like you said, that it’s a captive audience. They get to know your brand, especially in those times, they wouldn’t have had this quality product, especially for people who are very careful with what they put on their bodies, right? For them, it must have been heaven sent. But it trickled down to your direct to consumer sales or to your retail storefront sales?

[00:28:05] Rohit: That’s how the profitability in the end, came a full circle? 

[00:28:09] Emilie: Yes. Yes. So, we see our best selling products are the ones that are in hotels. Let me put it this way. That’s not always true, but for new customers for our best selling products of first time customers are the products that they have experienced in the hotel.

[00:28:31] Emilie: Many times these are a class of customers. That are definitely our target in that they’re educated, they’re worldly, they want to have high quality stuff, not necessarily traditional beauty customers. And I think that’s also been a real key is they wouldn’t maybe be the type, like, we have a lot of businessmen 

[00:28:58] Rohit: Love it. 

[00:28:59] Rohit: They wouldn’t have been the traditional beauty customers who would have tried such a great quality beauty brand otherwise, is that where you’re going? 

[00:29:07] Emilie: Exactly. And realized that they wanted it in their life, that they understood it, they saw the need. So, it’s just trying to find these other pockets. 

[00:29:17] Rohit: That’s pure genius. Tell me one thing, you mentioned about the limit they imposed on the sizes of travel products, right? 

[00:29:23] Emilie: Yes. 

[00:29:24] Rohit: So, that just coincided or was it an opportunity you saw or it was just like it just came together like it was just a coincidence? 

[00:29:31] Emilie: It just sort of came together. And then now, of course, we are facing another, massive change in hotels with larger format with eliminating single use plastic and getting more environmentally responsible. It’s another change that we are seeing, but definitely the three ounce limit on airplanes that helped propel our growth a lot because people were not [00:30:00] bringing their own products as much. 

[00:30:02] Rohit: Very insightful. And you don’t have to answer my next question if you don’t want to, but do you all like somebody who’s in the hotel using your products, do you like the last mile of bringing them onto your site? Do you give them a coupon? Some literature? 

[00:30:16] Emilie: We try and we try our best. And this is my next hurdle. My next sort of goal is to really be able to analyze and track where those customers are coming from, what kind of property they stayed at so that we know what kind of properties, are reaching our target.

[00:30:38] Emilie: So, we do have partnerships right now with properties where we will have a code or we will have a little card. We’re trying to make it more seamless. Maybe it’s a QR code on the bottle. Also just trying to partner with properties so that perhaps, there can be like a revenue share or something that will benefit them so that they can really say, ‘Hey, this is the product we chose for you.

[00:31:05] Emilie: This is why it’s so great.’ We’re always trying to close that gap, right now most of the sales we are just seeing like by product. But we don’t always know exactly where they came from and we are working hard to close that last touch so that we can have the data.

[00:31:26] Rohit: Obviously, because the products that you would keep for trials, you would see a bump after some time. So, you know that there’s a correlation, right? 

[00:31:33] Emilie: Yes. 

[00:31:35] Rohit: Perfect. So, let’s get to your another master stroke, your own retail store. Retail is such a tough business. I always tell people it’s overheads, right? People, like you said, then location. Having said that, for an indie beauty brand, if you have the portfolio, if you have the range, it can be an asset because you get that much time to educate the consumer, right?

[00:31:58] Rohit: So, how easy was it for you? Because when you started out, you didn’t have a complete range of products, did you? 

[00:32:05] Emilie: So, no, I’m laughing because you’re just so on it. A hundred percent.

[00:32:10] Emilie: When I started out, I went to every beauty store there was. I was like, look it, I have the most amazing products, place your order now, here. It was very difficult and I didn’t want to give up on my dream. And I felt if I rent a storefront, I can have a higher margin. Of course you have plenty of expense with renting and building out and everything, but I figured, okay, this is going to be great.

[00:32:39] Emilie: And also I will have a captive audience, I can really explain my story, I won’t have to fight on a shelf for eyeballs.

[00:32:47] Emilie: And I was excited. I got a lease, I got an end, but guess what? 

[00:32:51] Emilie: I had about seven products. 

[00:32:53] Emilie: So, that was a problem to fill a whole store, which you think you look back and you’re like ‘How did I not, realize that?’ But eventually, there’s all sorts of things you can do, sell other products that you admire, that are inspiring, and then eventually we did fill our line. Retail’s hard. I believe it’s worth it. It’s definitely been an up and down journey, though, I think the past couple of years tracking what the customer wants to do in terms of shopping in store, shopping online, back and forth and really seeing what they want out of a physical location has changed. So, the challenge is to create that 

[00:33:46] Emilie: experience, that education, maybe customization.

[00:33:51] Emilie: We have some things in stores, a blending bar, different things that cannot do online and make it that wonderful experience and touch point, but understand that they’re likely to shop online or on Amazon, we sell on Amazon as well. And in the old days, we did see more, oh, they’re a store customer, that’s their habits. They like to shop in person, or they’re an online customer. Maybe they found us at a hotel and they’ve been with us for years and years, but not as much crossover. Now it’s very much mixed and really trying to make sure that we’re utilizing our retail stores for exactly what you said.

[00:34:36] Emilie: We have an amazing opportunity having our own retail stores for up to the minute research right? If we have a new product, we can go down the street and what would you want out of this? How much do you think you would pay for something like this? Do you like this one or this one? 

[00:34:54] Emilie: The customer tells you everything you need to know. Everybody does go to [00:35:00] seminars and conferences and speakers and all this stuff. But your answers are right there with your customer. And having a store allows us that opportunity. We can test things. We can put different configurations together. You can do that online as well, of course, but, you can see it in real time in the stores and you can talk. I really love our retail stores. We find that our customers at the retail stores have a much higher lifetime value.

[00:35:31] Emilie: They are much more loyal and passionate. They give many more referrals.

[00:35:38] Emilie: They have a deeper connection to the brand, and they feel that they’re part of our family much more than online. Of course, we want to cultivate that online as well, but it’s more transactional online and it’s more of a relationship building in retail. 

[00:35:57] Rohit: You are so bang on and obviously, you don’t have to make it up. You’re living this business situation. When I tell founders that 75 percent of word-of-mouth happens offline, not on social, they don’t believe me. We believe people, it’s because there are multiple senses involved, right?

[00:36:14] Rohit: Experience matters like people would any which was pay more for an experience and online can never replicate. It can get closer. It is picking up. It’s coming up, I’m not denying that at all. But offline is where word-of-mouth is. And your point about experience, now the stores are old, right?

[00:36:33] Rohit: The stores that you have, retail store fronts. So, obviously, new traffic is difficult to come by. So, ultimately it becomes purely experience, right? You have people, the kind of service you can deliver, and the all sensorial experience that you can deliver.

[00:36:48] Rohit: Which will make or break your store? Tell me your store’s location. Is it like the prime location? Every store is in the absolute best location? 

[00:36:56] Emilie: Most stores are in pretty prime location. We also have airport stores that with our emphasis on travel do very well. And then we have, I would say, one store that actually it does very well, but it’s in maybe not a super prime location, but more of a neighborhood, smaller center. 

[00:37:22] But you’re right in that. The customer acquisition of new customers into retail locations it’s not about just traffic walking by anymore. There may be some areas it is still, but for us it is, having the events, 

[00:37:40] having things for charity, having launches 

[00:37:44] or special products that are only available somewhere. Partnering with our hotels to have their guests come by for special evenings.

[00:37:54] Rohit: Really? I love 

[00:37:55] Rohit: that. That’s so amazing. I love it. That’s so brilliant. Yeah, sorry. Go ahead. 

[00:37:58] Emilie: No, that’s all. You’re so right, it is difficult. Think about it. I’m doing holiday shopping now, I’m doing it online. I understand it’s hard to get people out. It’s especially, was already happening, but especially in the pandemic. So many people now it’s more automatic that we’re just clicking. We’re just looking on Amazon. 

[00:38:19] Rohit: I agree.

[00:38:20] Rohit: The universe is in your palm, right? So, we all tend to get lazy. 

[00:38:24] Rohit: Moving on to one of the next questions. 

[00:38:27] Rohit: What’s your next goal with LATHER? And what’s your biggest hurdle, challenge you perceive in getting that goal? Or are you happy with the plateau that you’re at?

[00:38:38] Emilie: Yes and no, we’ve always been a slow growth brand, right? Because we didn’t have outside funding. So, it was take the profit from this year, put it in the next year, focus on profitability, sustainability, quality, just trying to reach whatever growth we can, I felt very happy and positive with. It started to get very different with D2C brands years ago, with just this explosive growth. But that’s not how we’ve ever had done our business. We’ve just always grown naturally, and a little bit over time, but we’ve done it sustainably. It feels very real. I know what I can count on, I understand my expenses.

[00:39:33] Emilie: There’s some comfort, but certainly we feel like we want to reach that next level. And really defining what that next level is, is difficult. I think more 

[00:39:49] Emilie: partnerships within hospitality

[00:39:52] Emilie: that can also incorporate some of our retail expertise and also integrate more of a [00:40:00] cohesive experience and broadly that is a real goal of mine for the next year.

[00:40:08] Emilie: We are working on it, reaching, tracking our customers. Really understanding where they’re coming from and maximizing our efforts on that. Really staying true 

[00:40:20] Emilie: to what makes us special and different 

[00:40:22] Emilie: in a very crowded market with a lot of quality brands, so, it’s not as if we can only rely on our quality because there is a lot of other great quality brands. So, really understanding that person that is our customer that we can target. Those are all my goals. I think we do not have great 

[00:40:46] Emilie: international exposure. 

[00:40:48] Emilie: We do have hotel partners around the world, but I don’t think we have much brand recognition. I think there’s a lot of untapped opportunity there.

[00:41:01] Emilie: I feel like every year, if I can grow and be profitable, I’m very happy. Other brands do amazing and good for them, but other brands also go away. And I just, I want to continue my journey and know that I earned it.

[00:41:17] Emilie: If we stop earning our customers, then I know it’s over.

[00:41:22] Rohit: I agree. I think the best measure of a venture success is longevity. So, otherwise you’ll end up buying growth. And I’ve spoken to a lot of VCs and I ask them, Hey, you know what, like you have 90% failure rate.

[00:41:35] Rohit: So, with all the money that you have, you still fail nine out of ten times. 

[00:41:41] Rohit: Blows my mind. 

[00:41:42] Emilie: Harvard, MBAs, crunching numbers. 

[00:41:46] Rohit: They buy consumers, right? So, that’s what I mean.

[00:41:50] Emilie: Exactly. 

[00:41:51] Emilie: They buy the revenue. And it’s not real. And they’re starting to realize this. I remember years ago, new brands talking about, oh, our lifetime value.

[00:42:01] Emilie: And I was like ‘Lifetime value? You’ve been here nine months. You don’t know, like lifetime. How do you know?’

[00:42:08] Emilie: Love it. Yeah. It’s such a fake concept, right? So, I’m absolutely with you. 

[00:42:13] Emilie: So, you are just expecting to realize that money you should have money. So, that’s why top of the funnel, in my opinion, top of the funnel is fake. I shouldn’t say fake. It’s not that big a test. It’s the loyalty, bottom of the funnel, loyalty and word-of-mouth, which matters. So, you should aim for that.

[00:42:30] Emilie: That can only happen if you are delivering an experience or result or value, unlike anybody else, just like you are doing. I’m absolutely with you. Doesn’t matter if somebody went to a hundred million or they sold out for half a billion dollars. I would, any given day, stand by a business, or brand like yours because you’ve done it your own way and the right way, right?

[00:42:49] Emilie: The customer has paid for your growth. The consumer has paid and there’s no bigger test, in my opinion. I think anybody who knows business, who understands, who has seen it all would say the same thing. Yeah. So, hats off to you. 

[00:43:02] Emilie: Thank you. 

[00:43:03] Rohit: Perfect. So, one question before we get into the speed round. Entrepreneurship, like you said earlier, is hard. It’s very tough, right?

[00:43:12] Rohit: And we all go through moments where you start wondering why the hell did I venture into this? I had such great opportunities, look at other people, everybody’s having fun. It seems like I’m the only one. Have you ever had such a time with LATHER? How did you pull through? Like, how were you able to pull through? 

[00:43:29] Emilie: For us, it was a pandemic. As I mentioned, a lot of our revenue is dependent on hospitality as well as retail stores. Of course we have online and that’s great.

[00:43:41] Emilie: But when the pandemic hit, it was very bad for us and very scary. And having my husband and I do this business together, we have all our eggs in one basket.

[00:43:56] Emilie: We don’t have outside partners and that was a very dark time. Having to let 

[00:44:06] Emilie: people on our team go,

[00:44:07] Emilie: it was a very hard time 

[00:44:10] Emilie: not knowing, when we would be out of it,

[00:44:15] Emilie: and when hotels would open again, and when our stores would be back to where they really were. We were at that point doing pre pandemic lots and lots of events. Again, very focused on gatherings and getting new people, and partnering with charity. And all of that stopped, it was very difficult. I think we got through it by 

[00:44:39] Emilie: cutting every single expense 

[00:44:42] Emilie: that we could, working with our amazing, wonderful vendors who were also in so much pain. Working with them on what can we do [00:45:00] so that, maybe we can have better terms. And I really think that was something of being in business this long and being partners 

[00:45:11] Emilie: with our vendors that really helped us. 

[00:45:15] Emilie: We were able to get things moving, we were able to get packaging and ingredients even during the supply chain issues. And a lot of that was the partnership we had with our wonderful vendors. And then the team, my team here, then we got down to a very small team. But we got very 

[00:45:36] Emilie: focused, very tight, and then also our customers.

[00:45:39] Emilie: Making sure that we were in contact.

[00:45:43] Emilie: We just got through it one day at a time. But it was very hard. It was very hard. I didn’t know if we were going to make it. And I did have the thought ‘Don’t tell me, I have done this 20 years and this is going to go away almost over a night.’ Because I didn’t have that cushion of financial, I didn’t know that we were going to be able to be okay.

[00:46:06] Emilie: That’s when I started questioning everything, but we got, we made, we got through it. We are okay. We’re better than ever, but that definitely was hard, very 

[00:46:19] Emilie: hard. 

[00:46:20] Rohit: Yeah, I can feel the pain, as you’re reminiscing about those times. Of course that was not perfect, but the fact that you salvaged it and came out of it, with flying colors, so to say, or having managed your reputation.

[00:46:34] Emilie: Came out of it with a color, maybe not flying. 

[00:46:36] Rohit: Yeah, with a color. Like you managed your reputation decently well. And of course your customers helped you again, coming to the fundamentals of business. 

[00:46:43] Rohit: Now we are moving to the last, a couple of minutes session, on the speed round. I’ll ask you. I’ll give you four or five options, sentences, or fill in the blanks and you will choose whatever one, two, three words come into your mind. And if you want, you can choose an expletive too. I don’t have any problem. When I post it I say it’s not for kids, on any platform, so you can choose that. You can choose your language. I’m totally open that way.

[00:47:08] Rohit: Yeah. So, what’s fake in the early stage beauty market?

[00:47:11] Emilie: Pretending you’re bigger than you are, pretending that you are more than. 

[00:47:18] Rohit: Like I, I’ve made it like, ‘Hey, we are doing this, we’re doing that.’ The previous guest said exactly the same thing. Yeah. That the money is not as good as people pretend it to be.

[00:47:27] Emilie: Yes.

[00:47:28] Rohit: Your favorite movie line, any quote, book quote of all time anything that you’d like to say again and again? 

[00:47:33] Rohit: ‘It’s never as good or bad as it seems.’ 

[00:47:39] Rohit: I love it. That’s a Tony Robbins quote, no?

[00:47:42] Emilie: I don’t know, but I tell, somebody said it to me and I’ll tell you when you’re having really good times.

[00:47:51] Emilie: It’s not always going to stay. And when you’re having really bad times, you will come out of it. 

[00:47:56] Rohit: Yeah, we tend to exaggerate if it’s good. Yeah. So, that’s a wonderful quote. That’s a wonderful line 

[00:48:02] Rohit: The next is 

[00:48:03] Rohit: bootstrap or funding? I know the answer: bootstrap.

[00:48:06] Emilie: Yeah. 

[00:48:07] Rohit: What about social media what are your thoughts on social media?

[00:48:10] Emilie: Oh my gosh! I don’t know. I think it’s great in a way. I think community building, sharing, it’s, I don’t know. I have teenagers, so, I worry about social media. I think it’s great for beauty brands. I think it’s overly focused on the look of the packaging and a lot of more superficial things and not as much on why you really want this product and how it’s going to feel. At least with makeup you demonstrate it, but with our type of products, non makeup products. Yeah, I don’t know. 

[00:48:55] Rohit: Yeah, so more superficial. No, that’s fine. Just one word, whatever you feel, right?

[00:48:59] Emilie: Okay. 

[00:49:00] Rohit: The speed round is for you. So, what does

[00:49:02] Rohit: LATHER mean? In just one or two words or three words, what would you say? 

[00:49:05] Emilie: Love and wellness. 

[00:49:07] Rohit: Love it. 

[00:49:08] Rohit: And the last one, which is, this is one of my favorites. I love to ask this.

[00:49:12] Rohit: Poor pioneer or the rich replica?

[00:49:15] Emilie: Poor pioneer. 

[00:49:17] Rohit: Poor pioneer?

[00:49:18] Rohit: Me too, any given day. Perfect.

[00:49:20] Rohit: With that, Emilie, I’ve come to the end of What Beauty Founders Don’t Know podcast. The responses that you gave, I have to be honest, these are the most insightful answers maybe on this podcast ever. And also for the reason, because your channel is different, the partnerships you’re doing, the way you have grown your business is very different from the typical model.

[00:49:42] Rohit: So, I think the insights here will definitely help a lot of beauty founders understand how to navigate the early stage market and be successful. Any message you have from LATHER or any news you want to share with the people. 

[00:49:54] Emilie: Oh my gosh. You can learn more about us at LATHER.com.[00:50:00] You can follow me on LinkedIn or social media.

[00:50:03] Emilie: No, I should have thought of something better, but we have a new collection launching next year, early next year. Stay tuned for that. 

[00:50:12] Rohit: Perfect. That’s great. So, everybody LATHER is going to launch a brand new collection early next year. Please do subscribe, go to their sites, you know enter your email ID so, you don’t miss out. Follow them on social media. If you want to reach out to Emilie, you can do so on LinkedIn.

[00:50:26] Emilie: Yes. 

[00:50:26] Rohit: Thank you very much Emilie, you were a wonderful guest. I truly appreciate everything you have said. 

[00:50:32] Emilie: It was so fun, 

[00:50:33] Thank you for listening. Don’t forget to subscribe to this jumpstart podcast for amazing guests and insights on growing your beauty brand. Visit jump accelerator. com and take the quiz today to find out how ready you are to make that jump to more than 20 million while you’re there. Don’t forget to apply for your free 40 day trial till the next episode.

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