Shopify

A Life Altering Diagnosis That Inspired A Luxury Skincare Company

a-life-altering-diagnosis-that-inspired-a-luxury-skincare-company

After Dana Jackson was diagnosed with Lupus she dedicated her career to creating products that repaired her skin and hair. Having bootstrapped the beauty brand Beneath Your Mask, Dana reflects on her journey of building a skincare company from scratch. In this episode of Shopify Masters, Dana shares insights around product development and retail relationships.

For the full transcript of this episode, click here.

Don’t miss an episode! Subscribe to Shopify Masters.

en badge web music Get it on iTunes Badge US 1114 spotify listen badge

Show Notes

The health scare that sparked a passion for helping people 

Felix: You started the business after a personal experience. Tell us about how it all began. 

Dana: My background was not in beauty at all. I worked in the entertainment industry as a business manager. I was living in Atlanta at the time–I’m originally from Chicago–and I was experiencing cystic acne. I went to the dermatologist about it and they prescribed me a medication called Bactrim. Once I started taking that medication, I would wake up and my eyes would be swollen shut, my joints would be locked closed. The dermatologist said, “Well, stop taking the medication. Those symptoms should go away.” Three weeks and several steroid shots later, the symptoms did not go away. They said, “You should get an ANA test, It sounds like this could be lupus.” I got the ANA test. It came back positive and I had to go get tested for lupus. Initially I was doing all this research. How is this happening? I didn’t know anyone with lupus at the time.

There was this thing called drug induced lupus. I thought that must be what I had, so when I went to the doctor to get my results, they said, “You have lupus.” And I said, “No, no, no. I have drug induced lupus. This will go away.” She said it won’t. We went back and forth until somehow the doctor agreed with me, which is ridiculous. From there, I ended up going and getting other opinions. I went to doctors in Houston and Chicago. They did biopsies on my skin and kidneys. Not only did I have lupus, but I had lupus nephritis, which means it was also in my kidneys. I was retaining water weight. I had gained about 100 pounds in water weight over the course of 30 days. I had rashes head to toe. I had lost all of my hair.

I ended up going through a really depressive state. I shut down. A friend of mine convinced me to talk to a friend of hers that was a doctor. She lived in Abu Dhabi and she said, “We really want to help you. My husband and I. I’m going to send him to the US from Abu Dhabi. You have to go to Los Angeles because I feel like you aren’t happy in Atlanta. Trust, A, that you’re sick. Accept it. Accept that any doctor is going to put you on steroids and all of these medications.” At that point I was really reluctant to do it. I was in denial. After I got to Los Angeles, the rheumatologist immediately sent me to the emergency room. Everything they warned me was going to happen started–the doctors, the steroids, the chemo, everything going on with my kidneys started happening.

In addition to doing steroids and chemotherapy to stop the inflammation in my kidneys and the edema, I did a lot of Eastern medicine. I started a vegan diet. I did a lot of juicing. I did a lot of mental and spiritual work. My health began to really turn around. As I got better, I moved back to Chicago, which is where I’m originally from. I still didn’t know what was going to happen. When I moved back, I continued to improve my health, but now I wanted to improve all the damage that was done to my hair and my skin from the disease. I became hypersensitive to what I was putting in my body. Prior to getting sick, I never treated my skin like an organ. I started researching products out there and I couldn’t find anything that I wanted to use, whether from an ingredient perspective or from an aesthetic perspective. Back then “clean” was very granola. I always say I’m a girl that lives in both worlds. I’m not a granola girl by any means. I also was on 50 different supplements at the time and I didn’t want what I was using. I didn’t want my beauty to feel like medicine. I started researching and ordering ingredients. I made this first batch in my kitchen, which is what is now our Heal Whipped Skin Souffle.

I’d gift it to coworkers, friends and family and people would really harass me over it. It hydrated where everything else failed. I was like, “Look, I have a job. I don’t have time to make lotion.” I would try to mix other companies’ products to get that same moment because I really did not want to order ingredients and then be whipping this up because you have to order so much just to make one jar. I ended up finally being able to fly–when I moved back from LA to Chicago, I had to take a train because at the time I couldn’t fly because I had a risk of blood clotting. When I was finally able to fly, I went to Dubai with my fiance and we had a layover in Paris. I had compression tights on to limit the risk of blood clots. When I got to Paris, my legs were tight and dry so I bought this expensive cream and two seconds later my skin was tight and dry again. That was my “aha” moment. I really just had something that wasn’t out there. Not too long after that, the company that I was with got bought out by Live Nation. That was my opportunity to either go deeper into that space and start my own firm or do something else. I had wanted to share my journey with lupus and the products that helped me. Due to all of the emotions that I went through with the diagnosis, I knew somebody else had to have experienced that as well. I wanted to show them that there is beauty on the other side of your journey.

That’s why, even when building out the website, I was super transparent with my before pictures. Pictures of when I was sick, when I was in a hospital with the rashes all over. I thought that was important to share because now when people see me it’s hard to believe that I was in that space at one point. That was why I wanted the block side of the store and the about page to be really, really thoughtful and transparent as the product. To really speak to people. I also wanted them to feel special and beautiful and for it to not feel like medicine. That was super important to me. I wanted them to feel like something for normal people because everything else in my life felt like it revolved around lupus.

Founder of Beneath Your Mask, Dana Jackson.
Aftering being diagnosed with Lupus, Dana Jackson launched Beneath Your Mask to share products that repaired hair and skin. Beneath Your Mask 

Felix: I can imagine other people who have experienced something like this might fall into a period of despair. How were you able to pull everything together? 

Dana: It wasn’t natural at all. I experienced all the depression, all of the suicidal thoughts that come with a diagnosis. I had just turned 30 years old and thought my entire life was ahead of me. I get emotional when I think about it. It was the people in my life and strengthening my relationship with God that helped me get on the other side of that. Getting to a place of acceptance and then even having that hope that I could get on the other side of it, because I absolutely had that despair. I absolutely had those moments where I thought, what is the point of even living? I had to have faith and I had people in my life that supported me in getting back to a place of health. I also really had to shut down. It changed a lot about my life. My friends changed–you realize who your friends are in these moments. When you accept that your normal is going to be a little bit different than it was before, it becomes easier, but acceptance was the biggest part of getting to that other side.

Using transparency and vulnerability to reach your audience

Felix: How do you incorporate this need for acceptance into the way that you present your product to people? How do you make sure you’re maintaining that balance? 

Dana: Transparency is the most important thing. Transparency in my story, and in building this business. It probably took me longer to write my story than it did to create the products because it was very difficult for me to share the emotions that I was having. I’m creating this website, I’m telling my deepest, darkest thoughts on my about page. I’m showing pictures that in any other circumstance I wouldn’t want anybody to see. Somebody over in Australia is going to be reading this while I’m asleep, judging me for the path that I took.

But that transparency was so important because I’ve had so many people reach out to me and say that they’ve experienced the same thing. That’s why I wanted to be so transparent. I was like, I know I can’t be the only person that had these feelings when you’re getting diagnosed with a chronic disease, or somebody’s telling you that you may have to go on dialysis, or that you might lose a kidney, or that you’re going to live like this for the rest of your life, or that you’ll be on medication for the rest of your life. That was probably the worst part of the journey–that initial phase. I think the transparency in my story, for somebody that’s going through that same experience, gives them enough hope to get to a place of acceptance in their own journey and understand that there will be beauty on the other side of that.

From a product perspective, you share the journey, “here’s how I want you to feel when you open this, which is why I put so much thought in detail. I wanted it to feel special. I wanted it to feel like a treat for a person that was opening it. I wanted it to feel like a gift to themself.” Long before this cliche idea of self care came along, I just wanted somebody who may have been going through a really bad experience in their lives to feel like something was specially made for them. With every detail, care, ingredient sourcing and the efficacy. I thought about all of that because I was creating something for me who had gone through that same thing.

A model against a white background holding a tube of cream from Beaneath Your Mask.
The launch of Beneath Your Mask experienced slow momentum but press and retail partnerships helped its growth. Beneath Your Mask 

Felix: How quickly did things start moving back in 2016 when you started the blog? Were you surprised by people’s reaction? 

Dana: It started off pretty slow. I did have great support from friends and family. I also had a lot of people that didn’t support me at all at first. When I was building the brand I would talk about it or I would show packaging sneak peeks and things that I was working on on social media, and people would be really excited about it. I thought that was going to translate into sales and it honestly did not. I had to keep pushing and getting the brand out there, getting in front of the press, doing trade shows. I did everything that was going to get my product in front of people and get them talking about it. That’s what catapulted it. Some of the retail relationships and press I got early on was without having PR and picking up the story. That was huge for driving the traction for the brand and then also the proof of concept because there were very few luxury Black owned brands as well.

There was a little bit of apprehension because a lot of Black owned brands are marketed towards a more economical price point. I was in a different space. I needed that validation of press and retail to give the brand that stamp of approval. From there I got a lot of traction as well. Building the site helped as well. I had product photography. I obsessed over every little detail down to the product photography. I still have the same images from the product photographer that I used when I launched because they were just so well done. I probably could not afford the same person now, because she’s shooting for Burberry and KKW Beauty these days.

I worked with her before she got there. I was able to get just really beautiful content done well. That spoke to the experience from beginning to end for the brand. It’s taking a customer through a journey and showing them that every little detail was thought out. I had handwritten thank you cards going out with every package. Creating things that people wanted to share on social media was super important as well. Those little details made our customers continue to come back and refer us to their friends and family or make them want to gift our products.

Felix: One of the key aspects of your brand has been transparency, which can be difficult to maintain with growth. As you’ve scaled, how have you been able to maintain that core value? 

Dana: You’re 100% right. I had that experience. What I found myself doing was pulling back on my personal side. For instance, my personal social media. I completely stopped posting on it at all because I was really overwhelmed. I was doing the business side and handling my personal stuff. I stopped and pretty much focused on the business. I had to find balance because, because I was so transparent with my story I would find a lot of people would be transparent with me. People would send me DMs, emails, or messages on Facebook and share a lot with me too. It does get overwhelming. If I needed to step away from social media for a little bit, that’s what I’ll do.

What I’ve started to do as of late is learn how to say no to certain things. You get so many asks. You’ll get so many emails as a brand. The amount of emails you get every day of somebody saying they need this, they need that. Not even just press of course but you get so many solicitation emails. Learning to say no to things that don’t serve your initial vision for the brand, is what I’ve had to do. Bringing on help to help me manage some of the social side of things was also a good idea. I still want to engage with my customers. I notice when I’m the one speaking, when it’s my voice and it’s super authentic, the engagement is there. That’s still super important to me. We have the longest conversations on DM with some customers, but I obviously can’t do that with every single person. It’s learning how to balance and when to pull back and make the space and the time for yourself. I have to manage my own stress. Health is really important so I can’t go back to the place I was.

Why it’s crucial to maintain balance in the world of social media

Felix: Social media can be a powerful tool for entrepreneurs. How do you make sure you’re not sucked into social media to the point of detriment? How do you evaluate when it’s time to pull back? 

Dana: I have to gauge health wise and personally the space I’m in and what I’m feeling like. If I’ve gone through this phase where I feel like I’ve given too much of myself–I’m also a bit of an introvert, so that makes it hard in this space too. With indie brands, they want to see the founder. They want you to be in their face and I’m not that kind of person. I’ve always been behind the scenes. I struggle with making the content and getting in front of the videos and talking to people. I do it within reason and when it’s enough for me. If I feel like it’s too much, I step back. If I need to take some time off social media, I do. Now I have somebody who helps me with social media. I can step back for a couple days.

I went through a period this summer where I had been completely overwhelmed and I didn’t post before I had found the right person. At one point I had somebody but it was completely the wrong voice. They did not get the vision for the brand at all and it reflected in our engagement. I took a couple of months off social media this summer to focus on my health because I had gotten completely overwhelmed over the last two years of building the brand. When you’re a small indie brand, you feel like every opportunity is your make or break. I had to get out of that mindset that this one opportunity, this one podcast, this one interview, this one gifting suite, this one giveaway is going to be the thing that makes my brand. I’ve built a sustainable brand where the products speak for themselves. If I need to take care of my mental and physical health, then I need to take the time to do that.

A model with some skin cream on her arm.
Managing the demanding landscape of skincare and COVID restrictions made Dana realize that she needs to build the right team to grow her brand. Beneath Your Mask 

Last year has given me the opportunity to do that without apologizing for it. My health was declining due to trying to meet the demand of the brand. The most important takeaway is I waited a little bit longer than I should have to get the right people in place to help me. When you are doing every single thing by yourself–and I was doing every single thing by myself–it became too overwhelming.

Your customer will hold space for you if your product is truly a great product. If you’ve built something that resonates with them they’re going to hold space for you. That was something that I had to trust in. There was no brand without me, so if I let my health decline trying to meet the demands of the brand, it was all for nothing. I became more comfortable stepping away when I felt like I needed to step away and take the time off social media and not be on there all day. You could easily spend a day just posting stories and dialoguing back and forth liking stuff, responding to comments, and then answering DMs.

I have to ignore a lot of DMs too because you’ll get all these people like, “Oh, we can increase your ROI by this.” You’d have a million influencers in your DM’s that are like, “Hey, send us a product.” You have to vet who’s a real influencer and who’s someone that’s just in a pod that is making it look like they have authentic engagement. All these little things you have to pay attention to, but doing them on your time. The reality is that’s one of the reasons you’re in business, too. You don’t work for somebody else. I have to remind myself every single day. If I need to get to this tomorrow, I can get to it tomorrow. I look at my to-do list now and I say, “Okay, what absolutely has to get done today? What can wait till tomorrow?” Because again, I have to keep my health in mind.

Why comparison is the death of growth and creativity 

Felix: It sounds like you deal with a lot of the same struggles as other entrepreneurs, which is as you grow you can start to be pulled into other directions–either directly or indirectly. How do you make sure you’re staying in control and not just reacting?

Dana: All of our products I formulated myself. I have formulated them from a place of what can’t I find, what do I feel is missing? What haven’t I found that I’m obsessed with in this space? That’s one thing I do. I keep my head down when I’m formulating and trying to run my brand. It’s easy to look at other brands and see what they’re doing and feel like you have to play catch up and do exactly what they’re doing. A lot of this is smoke and mirrors. There’s a lot of brands that look at me, too. It’s like, oh my gosh, this brand is X, Y, Z. And then I’m looking at a lot of brands like, oh my gosh, this brand is X, Y, Z. In my view that entrepreneur might be struggling or somebody may be admiring me and I may be struggling in some areas. On social media, there’s this perfect picture and image.

Now, having been in business for a few years, I know that. I don’t look at other brands with that same sort of envy or try to do exactly what they’re doing. We’re different brands. We have different visions. I started my brand for a totally different reason than they may have started their’s. I don’t get distracted by what other brands are doing. I’ve had other brands knock things off about my brand. Whether it’s a copy on my website or specific products, I know how it makes my blood boil. I’m conscious of not doing that. Why do I need to create what somebody else’s already created? It’s important for me to create something unique and offer our customers something that I’ve put my heart and soul into.

If I do something that’s disingenuous to me or create a product that doesn’t mean anything to me, how do I then even sell that? The products that I can talk about and sell night and day and believe in so much, they have to come from a place of need. There’s an ingredient in there that I love for whatever reason. There’s so much passion and love that’s gone into that product. I reformulated it 26 different times to get to the exact product that I wanted to create. How do I do that If I’m paying attention to what every other brand is doing or trying to create what somebody else has already made?

Felix: You mentioned this idea of growth and delegating as you grow. How do you make sure that you’re delegating, but then also maintaining a coherent voice of the company? 

Dana: I had originally found someone closer to when I launched the brand who was recommended by a friend who had a brand as well. They did social media for her brand and I thought it looked great. I was like, okay, yeah, I’m going to give her a try too. It was totally the wrong voice for my brand. It goes back to doing what’s best for your brand and not what’s working for another brand, especially if you’re extremely different from each other. I went back to doing social media for quite some time. Recently I put out into the universe here’s exactly what I’m looking for. I was able to find somebody who fell into my lap through someone I knew. And I was like, “oh my gosh, this would be the perfect fit.” It was important that they were someone who takes direction, but then also has a fresh perspective.

Sometimes people come in and they’re like, “Well, this is what worked for this brand.” Then they try to do that for your brand, even though your brands are extremely different. This person had a fresh perspective in the beauty space. We work together on laying out the feed and then they’ll send me what they’re thinking of saying. Sometimes it’s perfect. Sometimes I’m tweaking it to make it sound more like my voice or because I obviously know the products in and out better.

A model applying a scrub onto her legs.
For Dana, it’s important to stay consistent with her goals instead of focusing or comparing her products to the competition. Beneath Your Mask 

They eventually don’t need that input from me as much. Certain things where I specifically want it to come from me, then I’ll write exactly what I want to write. Eventually I found the person through a mutual friend of mine. That’s how I’ve found some of the best people. As an independent brand, it’s really difficult to go to companies who run social media. The numbers that they charge are insane and it can be a full-time job. I just didn’t have the bandwidth or the financial space to put somebody on a retainer for $7,000 a month for social media. Especially with all the algorithm changes.

I found that right person through word of mouth. As far as other team members, I have found people through saying on social media, “Hey, we’re looking for this,” and somebody sending me emails. I’m a person that likes to work with people that I’m comfortable with and can easily talk to. I use quite a few contractors as well or part-time contractors. I’ve found them through other relationships I now have in the beauty industry. Now I’ve been in the beauty space for five years so I have a lot of relationships and can reach out to somebody and say, “Do you know somebody who works on this?” I can get a couple of people to choose from. That has been helpful for me. I have hired a few people who weren’t referrals and they didn’t end up being the right fit. The person who can, for instance, do SEO for a fitness company might not be the right person to do it for a beauty company. Those are all learning lessons that I’ve figured out as I’ve gone.

Hiring the right people for your brand

Felix: One quality you mentioned was finding someone who could take direction. How do you measure that when you’re looking for someone? 

Dana: Sometimes you don’t find that until you try the person out. I did have one person that was super, super combative. I know that I can be that person because this is literally my baby and I’ve done every single role in this business. There isn’t a thing that I haven’t done. I know exactly how I want it to be done, but I also know I have so many things to learn and room to grow as well. I want somebody with some experience that can help me take it to the next level. That being said, I’ve had someone that was so headstrong on their vision and ideas and took no direction whatsoever. Every conversation was a battle. I was like, “Well, can you look at it like this?” And it’s just like, “Well, I did it like this.” Everything was super defensive.

A tube of lip balm from Beneath Your Mask.
Finding the right individuals to make up the team was crucial for scaling Beneath Your Mask. Beneath Your Mask 

For me, that wasn’t a good fit because while they may have had great experience in other areas, in this space we weren’t getting anywhere. They almost ended up being like a stenographer where I’m still doing all the work. I’m telling you everything to write, everything to type. It gets to this point where I may as well do it myself. I need someone to free things up off of me and take control. I need an independent thinker. That’s so important for small brands because as founders we’re spread so incredibly thin. You need somebody that can pick something up, take it, and run with it. Then you tweak it if necessary or you give your feedback. If you’re finding yourself still doing everything that you brought them on to do, then it’s just not going to work.

Felix: It’s certainly costly and time consuming trying to deal with a working relationship that just isn’t the right fit. You also mentioned it’s important for people to be able to take direction, so that you can ultimately guide them toward being somewhat of a clone to you.

Dana: I can trust them. I can trust that I don’t have to oversee every little thing. I can trust that they’re handling things. I don’t need to be copied on every email. That’s the ideal scenario for me–I can just trust them to get the job done. They have to trust themselves as well. They have to trust that they can do it without needing to have me involved in every single step of the way.

How to create a successful Black-owned luxury brand 

Felix: You mentioned earlier that being a Black owned luxury brand, you’ve faced certain struggles. Can you speak a little bit more to that experience?

Dana: Not necessarily in retail. I had really no issues with retail. I got into Neiman Marcus nine months after launching. I met the buyers six months after launching at a trade show, got in nine months after. Got into Bergdorf’s after that and have done pop ups with Nordstrom. We’re in Bluemercury and Credo. Retail has been amazing for the brand to get the brand in front of their customers. As a small brand, I didn’t have this huge marketing team to get me out there. The brand was really well received by the press. We’ve had a ton of press “best of” beauty awards without ever having a PR firm. Those things helped validate us and helped our ecommerce. In terms of being a Black owned brand in ecommerce, the retail really helped validate us. If you’re in ecommerce, they might think, “Oh, you’re just an Instagram brand.” Or like, “why am I paying for this?”

A container of whipped body butter from Beneath Your Mask.
Having products in brand name retailers validated Dana’s work of building Beneath Your Mask. Beneath Your Mask 

When you’re in a retailer like Neiman Marcus or Bergdorf’s, it gives validation. This is proven. We actually have been very fortunate as far as press goes and have had a ton of press. That has been a complete lesson for us. As a luxury Black owned brand, you almost have something to prove. There could be no half-stepping. A lot of people would be like, what’s taking so long to launch? It probably took me 18 months to get the brand launched and get it perfect.

People were like, “Well, what’s taking so long? It should be done already.” No, everything has to be on point. That’s not necessarily the case if I was doing something at a more economical price point. Everybody’s not going to be paying attention to every little detail. Because I was doing it at a luxury price point as a prestige Black owned brand, it’s going to be weighted way more heavily in terms of ecommerce and when I launch. Even to my own friends and family. When I say on social media, “Oh, I’m creating a brand. Hope you guys shop with me.” Then I launch it and they’re like, “Oh, this costs $80? Who do you think you are?”

I experienced that 1000%, a lot. Retail really gave me the validation and the press also gave me the validation that I needed so that people didn’t question that as much. I also have proof of concept. I have the reviews and the user generated content to back up that these products do exactly what we said they would.

Felix: Nowadays the press, the retail, the reviews and the user generated content helps validate your product. Is there anything else that has helped you that might be more accessible to a new smaller brand? 

Dana: Social media views. The quality of the content. Quality of the packaging. The packaging is expensive, but there’s a lot of prestige brands that don’t have expensive packaging. That packaging can similarly be used for a more economical price point brand. It really is a look. There’s an aesthetic. You have to have an eye or have a designer. Somebody that has the right eye to give your brand that it looks like a real brand and not just like you slapped a label on and you’re just trying to get it out there. Not that that’s necessarily a wrong approach, but it reflects on how people receive your brand.

One of the things I always say is it’s okay to launch with one SKU. If I could do anything all over again, I would’ve been to launch with one SKU and make all my mistakes with that SKU in terms of packaging. I went through three different box suppliers in the end. To answer your question, I think social media user generated content has been the most valuable resource. Having other people talk about your brand in their stories or their feeds is something that’s amazing. We’ve gotten that as well. We didn’t pay influencers to do it. We haven’t really typically worked with influencers. We’ve sent product to some people, but a lot of times it’s a hit or miss if they’re going to post it or not. For a small brand just launching, that was a hard pill to swallow to learn those lessons for me, because it costs me a lot of money.

These big brands are paying 20 cents for a full product and they have hundreds of thousands to just ship out and I’m like, I have one and then I could have sold it if you’re not going to post it. That’s how I would think. But it really was customers. Customers being loyal to the brand. Customers talking about it, posting about it and just really supporting you and wanting to see you win. Every time there’s a post of, “what’s your favorite brand? What’s your favorite butter?” We have customers that are tagging us. They’re helping people discover us. I have customers that have ordered 15, 20 something times. Those are the people that are really going to help grow and support your brand. Those are the customers that are going to tell retailers they want to see you there. Those are the ones that are going to post you on social media and want to be talked about or want to talk about your brand.

Our customers have been so supportive and important in growing the brand and talking about it because once they make that content on social media, you can reuse it over and over again. You can put it on your website. You can repost it on your social media, in your stories. You can make posts with it. You have to be creative in ways to say what other people are saying, because potential customers don’t want to feel like you are the only one talking about your brand. They want to know that somebody else used it. Reviews on your website are super important. That’s the most important app or configuration you can have in your store is reviews. I don’t buy anything without a review. I don’t care what it is. It could be a dollar. I want to see what other people are saying about it even if I may not be writing reviews. A lot of people shop like that. Especially for brands that they can only find online, that there may not be press about , that they may not be able to find in a store. It’s important to have user generated content and reviews for your products. It’s the most important thing.

Felix: What worked and didn’t work when building a luxury brand? 

Dana: It was important for me to create a luxury Black owned brand because I felt like there weren’t any and I bought luxury. I shopped in these stores and I didn’t buy my beauty products in drug stores. If I shopped in these retailers, I should be able to sell in these retailers. That was very important to me because I hadn’t seen it done. A lot of beauty products that were marketed towards minorities and Black women were more economical brands and I didn’t love the packaging or the experience. Packaging is really important to me. I want it to look good on my counter. I want the whole experience. In addition to the efficacy, all of that’s important to me. 

When creating a luxury brand one of the things I did was focus on packaging. Obviously packaging is super, super important. The weight and feel of your jars, having glass and not using plastic is super important. A secondary box is important. The design of everything should be simple and clean. It should not be super busy. That’s also really important. Pay attention to what you’re seeing on the shelves in these retailers you want to be in. If you want to be in Target or CVS, there’s nothing wrong with that. Pay attention to what their products look like. Even those products have a more elevated look now. The things that are launching now, these brands that are even in Target have a very elevated feel and look to them.

I wanted to have this full sensorial experience. I wanted Beneath Your Mask to appeal to every single sin, not only scent. From an ingredient perspective, I wanted to source really beautiful, exotic ingredients that I wasn’t seeing in every single product. I source from a perspective of efficacy. For instance, babassu oil is not going to be equal to another. It depends on where it’s sourced from, and how it’s filtere–I compare. When I narrow down on my formula I would compare all these different ingredient sources to make sure that I was using the best of the best. That really contributes to the efficacy of the product. I also did a custom shipping box, custom tissue paper, and a custom thank you card. There are a lot of custom aspects in there to give you that total experience. When you receive the box, you feel like you treated yourself to something. You feel like you’re opening a gift to yourself or to someone else. That’s why the brand is also super giftable. To me that speaks to the luxury experience.

Price-point relativity–focus on brand quality first

Felix: How do you convince that first time customer to give your product a chance when they maybe haven’t had enough time to research the ingredients or get acquainted with the product? How do you convince them to move past the price point? 

Dana: Price point is super relative to so many people. I did an event at Neiman Marcus one time–our Heal Whipped Skin Souffle, the jar version of it is $80. The person was like, “Oh, that’s it honey? My cream costs $1,000.” To that person my product is inexpensive. To somebody else it’s expensive. First, luxury and expensive and price points are all relative. Secondly, the website and going back to the product photography–the layout of it–all of those things aesthetically speak to me. I’ve been on websites where I thought a brand was beautiful and I thought their website was awful. I would never order something because of the experience on their site.

A container of fask mask by Beneath Your Mask.
Making sure the website aesthetic and photography are visually appealing was a high priority for Dana. Beneath Your Mask 

With Beneath Your Mask it was important to me to have a beautiful, well done website. I did that in a cost effective way really. My product photography wasn’t even high back then. It would be really high right now. I picked a theme that looked great. I found a great developer that responded well to when I said I knew exactly how I wanted things to look. They were able to do within a standard price point versus charging me $5,000 per page. I was able to get my website done for way less than that because I knew what I wanted. I had a vision. When you go into something and you’re just telling somebody, “put something together for me,” that’s going to cost you way more than if you know exactly what you want.

That person who never experienced Beneath Your Mask somehow ends up on the website, the first thing they’re going to see is beautiful packaging. They’re going to see an amazing story. They’re going to see beautiful product photography, an elevated layout. When they go on the product page and if the price seems high to them they’re going to decide if it’s worth it to them. They’re going to see the product description but then also the reviews. The reviews are going to really help sell your product. If a person is on the fence or if they have a specific issue that they’re looking for something for. Price point is relative. To some people, it may not be expensive at all and to some people, it may be at a higher price point. If it works they’re willing to pay for it. When they see 100 plus reviews saying that something works then they’re willing to invest in themselves.

The integrations you need to help manage inventory fluctuations

Felix: Due to popularity and demand, some of your products are listed as sold out. What is the benefit of still listing sold out products?

Dana: We would love to have everything in stock but in trying to meet the demand we’ve been transitioning manufacturing and so it’s taking a little bit longer than we hoped. With that being said, it can create more demand. You don’t want them sold out for too long because then people move on because they’re over it, or they try to find a replacement or they get frustrated. Sometimes there is a hype around sold out products. It does create this frenzy when they’re back in stock. People order or they order multiple. There have been times where we’ve had to limit how many a person can order based on our inventory. Having retail partners, we have to supply them and supply our site. What we experienced in this last year was either our retail partners had the stock and we didn’t or we had the stock and they didn’t.

What we’re doing now that we finally have all the manufacturing in place and should be fully restocked in the next few weeks is we want to have everybody be able to have the supply. I’ve also had to hold off on going into any other partners because the most important thing is making sure our existing retail partners have inventory. Before we launch anywhere else they need to be taken care of. That’s just doing good business. There does come somewhat of a frenzy with you having sold out products and then people being more eager to find them. But it also drives traffic to our retail partners. Sometimes what I’ve done before is if we had a ton of in-stock notifications for a product and a retail partner had it, then I would just send the traffic there so that people aren’t waiting so long. A lot of times people will email us, “Hey, when will this be back and stock?” We’ll say, “We’ll have it in about three weeks but it’s available here.”

I’ve done that on Instagram recently. People have been asking for specific products and I send them a link and I say, “But you can get it at these three retailers.” I’ll send them the link to the exact product link because I don’t want people to have to wait if it’s something that they consistently use. I don’t want them to be out of stock too long. I don’t want them to have to find a replacement. Out of stock is a fine line because you don’t want to be out of stock for too long.

A jay of body scrub by Beneath Your Mask.
Due to items selling out, Beneath Your Mask team relies on apps and social media to keep their customer base updated on restocks. Beneath Your Mask 

Felix: I noticed the back in stock notification option. Is that something that has worked well for your business? 

Dana: It absolutely does. Those people get notified first because that is automatic. What happens is as soon as we restock, they’ll get the notification. Then we’ll send a newsletter to our entire database for the people who didn’t get notified but maybe want to shop. So we’ll notify people on social media so that they’ll know when things are back in stock. The Back in Stock app is super important, especially if you are consistently selling out of things

Felix: What other apps do you use to help run the business? 

Dana: Klaviyo for our newsletters has been amazing. Yotpo for our reviews. We are possibly switching to another review platform. But the review platform is the most important app that we have integrated. We use the Quick Announcement Bar (formerly Hextom). That’s the little bar we keep at the top of our site, which allows us to update–especially as we have inventory issues. You may have people that periodically come to the site and you want to say, “Okay, Heal is back in stock,” or we’re offering a different shipping promotion, free shipping, or if we have a special code for a gift with purchase. We don’t do discounts except for Black Friday, but if we have anything else going on, we’ll add that to the top. That has been super easy.

Felix: What’s next for Beneath Your Mask? Where are you going to focus over the coming year? 

Dana: The most important thing for us to focus on now that we finally have all the manufacturing in place and we’ll have inventory is reengaging because we’ve lessened the newsletters since we haven’t really had the inventory right now. Right now it’s reengaging back with our customers, sending consistent newsletters, beefing up SEO, and starting to do ads to drive traffic to the site. Those are things that we haven’t been able to do because even when we restocked the inventory would go so fast. We never had the opportunity to run ads or anything because we didn’t have the inventory to support it. Our goal now is to pull first onto driving traffic to the site and then creating a demand for the brand where people are either going to our site or our retailers to find the product wherever it is.

This originally appeared on Shopify and is made available here to cast a wider net of discovery.

Subscribe to Podcast

Top 1% most popular show out of 2,729,419 podcasts globally!

eCommerce Fastlane | Shopify Podcast For DTC Brands | Growth Marketing Strategy For Entrepreneurs | Listen Notes