Connected/smart wearables, back-to-basics food and beverage concepts, and natural and ingestible beauty were the top trends seen at FounderMade’s Wellness Summit in New York. The day-long event featured a range of entrepreneurs who are leveraging the latest technological and scientific breakthroughs, as well as traditional wellness knowledge, to craft products and experiences that allow consumers to enhance their self-care.
(Further reading: A Better You: Wellness 2017)
But what does wellness mean for the beauty industry? Perfection is out and balance is in, said Jasmina Aganovic, president of Mother Dirt, a probiotic skin care company. This mantra appeared to reflect a new consumer mindset—evident among the FounderMade panelists and exhibitors—that takes a holistic view of nutrition, fitness, beauty, and mental and spiritual wellbeing.
Can Wellness Be Technical?
But how can brands embrace wellness while offering a technical point of difference without losing the consumer in the process? Aganovic had an answer: tell technical stories through brands.
During a panel discussion, Aganovic noted that Mother Dirt’s products contain ammonia-oxidizing bacteria, or AOB, which “consume the irritating components in sweat and ... keep skin clean and clear,” according to the company.
She noted that the brand has been embraced by beauty’s early adopters, as well as men, who are looking to restore the skin’s microbiotic ecosystem using a simple spray format.
Consumers want a story, the science behind it, to understand the promised impact it will have on their lives and a commitment from the brand to make their lives better.
Some Mother Dirt consumers are using the brand’s products as a showering alternative after the gym, or even as a replacement for deodorant. In the future, Mother Dirt will introduce products that will inflammatory skin disorders.
While the technology behind Mother Dirt is complex, the MIT-trained Aganovic noted that the brand keeps things relatable, starting with the name, which is both irreverent and back-to-basics. The brand describes itself as “Good bacteria for great skin,” simplifying the technical proposition.
Aganovic explained that the Mother Dirt team chose to “lead with emotion” on the products’ front label, while presenting the science on the back label. This strategy allowed the brand to build trust with transparency while embracing the bacteria concept without alienating consumers. It also enabled Mother Dirt to reach beyond the early adopter audience.
Don’t obsess over valuations: focus on the fine print in term sheets.
While Mother Dirt isn’t yet positioned for mass appeal, Aganovic appeared to believe the brand could eventually transition into the mass space—particularly as the public’s awareness of the excesses of contemporary hygiene and related skin and allergy issues rises.
Tata Harper, founder of the eponymous natural beauty brand, noted that she was obsessed with technology from day one. The kernel for the brand originated when Harper learned how doctors assess personal care products for potential interactions with patients’ skin.
Seeing a lack of what she called “truly natural,” effective products led Harper to found her own brand. She noted that contract manufacturers were unable or unwilling to develop the Tata Harper products to her specifications, so she founded her own manufacturing site on her Connecticut farm.
Making Data Relevant
Meanwhile, as wearables and sensors aimed at skin care, physical fitness and other consumer needs come to the fore, some FounderMade panelists worried that more data could detract from consumer engagement.
As Billie Whitehouse of digital apparel brand Wearable Experiments noted, data needs to be translated into an experience. She added that consumers don’t care about data unless it is rendered emotionally relevant.
Cash Is Oxygen for Brands
Later in the day, a panel of investors—Constantin Bisanz (Aloha), Martin Dolfi (M3 Ventures), Sam Frankfort (Benvolio Group) and Jay Faires (Mammoth Ventures & The Wellness Agency)—provided insights for entrepreneurs in the wellness space. Their advice:
- Have a pipeline of investors in anticipation of getting many nos
- Push past no: if an investor says no, ask them why, then address their concern and approach them again
- Build a strong advisory group and only offer them equity if they assist in key strategy or fundraising
- Be excited and make others excited to work with you
- Don’t obsess over valuations: focus on the fine print in term sheets
In a separate panel, Doug Evans, founder and chairman of Juicero, noted that “cash is oxygen for brands.”
He added that brands typically fail because they run out of money, and they usually run out of money because they misjudge the costs of distribution, shipping, account support, sampling, etc.
How to Pitch a Wellness Brand to Consumers
Thrive Global launched last year with a mission “to end the stress and burnout epidemic by offering companies and individuals sustainable, science-based solutions to enhance both well-being and performance,” and a pop-up shop in New York. Abby Levy, president of Thrive Global, noted that there is a difference between discoverability and purchase.
The goal of a pop-up shop is to educate and engage the consumer, said Levy, who encouraged brands to tell a good story because “no one can tell your story better than you.”
As for what’s hot in the wellness marketplace, Levy said it was critical that brands solve consumers’ problems for stress, sleep, travel, productivity, etc. Consumers want a story, the science behind it, to understand the promised impact it will have on their lives and a commitment from the brand to make their lives better.
Kara Rubin, co-founder of Beyond Brands, encouraged brands to make their value proposition clear. At the same time, Levy said that PR helps brand discoverability and credibility.