Behind a Fast-Beauty Launch: The Inkey List’s 18-Week Timeline

The beauty industry is moving fast and faster, working to get consumers the trends they want — and see on Instagram — in a timely manner.
One company that focuses on bringing products to market quickly is Be for Beauty, a U.K.-based startup backed by Unilever Ventures that nimbly brings entire brands to market in about 18 weeks. Here, we take a look at the company’s launch timeline for the Inkey List, a brand that will be for sale online starting Aug. 29, and will later launch with retailers including Feelunique, Asos, Sephora EMEA and Shopper’s Drug Mart.
The brand is meant to simplify ingredients, and sells products like Collagen, Retinol, Squalane and Glycolic Acid for between $6.99 and $11.99. It took about 18 weeks to get it done. Here’s how they did it:
Week 1:
April 2018: Be for Beauty’s cofounder and co-ceo Mark Curry and general manager Dia Foley started the process via Skype call (she was in Canada, and he was in the U.K.) to map out key ingredients, consumer needs and product textures — the conversation led to a plan for 34 products.
The team told its manufacturing partners about the products, holding more Skype calls over the next three days to go through the details and decide which products should be made by which lab.
At the same time, Curry and Be for Beauty cofounder and co-ceo Colette Newberry started honing the brand essence, name, and the look and feel, working nearly around the clock with a virtual freelance designer.
Week 2:
Suppliers turned around response briefs in one week (because that’s what the Be for Beauty team specifically requested). Ultimately, that gave the business an idea of which products were realistic to produce in an 18-week timeline, and which would need to take longer. First formulations were received by the company, and initial feedback was given to manufacturers within 24 hours.
At the same time, Be started to work with packaging suppliers to decide how the products would be housed.
Weeks 3 to 5:
It was time for more formulating. Be received two iterations of the 34 products from five different suppliers, and “pulled an all-nighter” with four team members in the Toronto office to decide which ones were the winners, according to Curry. Decisions were made on things like the percentage and texture of vitamin C, for example — 23 percent, or 30 percent, or cream versus serum. The team left that evening with three packaging options that would work for the 15 products that made the cut for the brand’s launch.
Weeks 6 to 8:
Be saw more formulation iterations, and ultimately signed off on the makeup of all 15 products. Then, the company tested the products in the three packaging variations to check for stability and compatibility.
Weeks 9 to 18:
Product stability testing continued, and on Aug. 13, the sign-off date, products hit 12 weeks of stability testing. Stock was moved into warehouses in Canada and the U.K. Be had to ship the products on actual ships across the Atlantic because of a lack of funds — the team chose to put the money into ingredients instead of logistics, they said.
With the product side-handled, Be focused on its marketing plan, working with retailers on distribution, talking to press about the launch, and starting to build The Inkey List community, a group of people who will be able to buy products at wholesale prices, as well as receive early lab samples and provide feedback. At the same time, the product team has continued to look at new ingredients for products that may be added to the line.
To orchestrate the Aug. 29 launch, Be had to make sure packaging was delivered on time to ensure production ran on schedule. Products were delivered into three warehouses in the U.S. and U.K. within a 24-hour period on Aug. 28.
For more from, see:
Fast Beauty: New Business Models Cause Industry-Wide Shift
Behind the Scenes of an Amazon Beauty Launch
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