Alexys' Learnings // You Beaut
Updated: Sep 4, 2019
You Beaut was imagined after being pretty consistently asked by friends and family (and friends of friends) for beauty guidance, advice, a step by step routine and where to buy their haircare, makeup and fragrance. I found myself researching their problems, finding the relevant products and sending them the links of where to buy them. Some of these friends actually worked in beauty, and I figured if they are confused, imagine what a regular person must feel! I thought there might just be something a little more to it so I explored it further and came up with an idea that could possibly help a wider audience of baffled beauty consumers. This is where the idea of You Beaut came from.
So with the blessing of my incredibly supportive Captain, Angila at NARS and after I refined my plan, I applied for Ibtikar. I was fortunate enough to be selected and then I started the real journey. It took two weeks to work with a software development company to develop our website as a minimum viable product. I honestly wasn’t sure if there was a need in the market for a service that offered the ability to not only provide objective and unbiased advice but also the capability of sourcing it. We just wanted to listen to what the customer had to say.
After the customer submits their profile and completes the survey, we then take a deposit of AED 100. This makes sure that they are serious about getting started. I then match the data of the customer to the database of products that I have built. This breaks products down by functionality, allowing us to be truly objective. Once the products and routine have been selected they are boxed up and sent to the customer. I wanted to 'de-risk' the whole process for customers (because let’s be real, paying AED 300 for a moisturiser only to find out that your skin hates it is actually the worst thing in the world) so I looked at introducing a sample for every single product inside the box. That way the customer could try the product in the comfort of their own home and gave them the ability to trust us and try something new. That was the most important guarantee and the thing that has moved the dial and has become our secret sauce. Customers have been surprised and delighted at the transparency of the process and the results are starting to speak for themselves.
I have been supported and flanked the entire way by weekly check ins and mentorship with the Greenhouse team which was a great way to share learnings, successes and challenges and basically use them as a sounding board for any ideas. I was also super surprised to be supported by fellow Chalhoubies who wanted to get involved in the start-up world - they were willing to offer their time and expertise for free (which at this stage was incredibly important!) and allowed me to have some really important allies during the infancy of You Beaut – big thanks to Joanne!
We’ve tested some international brands not available in the region as well as brands that are available to get a healthy mix and understand what the customer really wants. The data that we are gathering on each client is incredibly rich giving us a very concise view of our landscape and will help influence which brands we should look to introduce to the Group but also aid in terms of forecasting and buying existing SKUs to meet customers’ needs and expectations for existing brands.
It’s not to say that this has been a walk in the park. There have been many, many late nights, even earlier mornings, as many acceptances as rejections (from mainly people about the idea and business itself, but even certain brands too). Did I mention that your skin becomes incredibly thick? You appreciate quality feedback more than anything, you believe and doubt yourself in equal measures but actually it’s been the most rewarding experience in the world. I have experienced the full curve and wrath of the entrepreneurship mindset, but I’ve read many, many business books which at least has given me reassurance that not only is this normal, it’s an indication of doing certain things right (and sometimes pushing the boundaries a little) – also support from your loved ones help.
To be honest, I’m mostly inspired by the people around me – entrepreneurship breeds entrepreneurship. It’s one thing to talk about empowerment, but another to actually live it. I have found I have become my own best friend and enemy and every day grapple with the true duality of this. You hold yourself accountable to a higher standard because if you don’t do it, there’s no one else to fall back on. You become the true master and visionary of your destiny, and this has motivated me beyond measure.
I have learnt that some customers are the dream and others you have to work hard for, and I respect both – both teach you something – things that you double down on and accelerate and others you immediately change to better suit their expectations (with a pinch of salt of course, because you can’t stray from your true vision). I have come to realise the sheer number of women supporting women in business, and it’s been an incredibly refreshing and eye-opening exercise because you all too often hear of it being an overly competitive space – this has not been my experience at all. I share my learnings, failures and successes with all of those around me and they do the same, because even if we can have the tiniest sliver of a takeaway – that’s one less battle or struggle they (or we) might face.
I’m pitching very soon for the next round of funding to move into the validation of concept stage. This round of funding will help me to troubleshoot and improve certain areas of my website and customer experience, it will help start brand recruitment conversations, expand my team to include an entry-level ops position and take on even more customers and help replenish the previous customers. I’ve had 50 clients to date so far, which has been a wild, wild ride. Customers are keeping on average just under 70% of the products sent to them and are spending 50% more than the big beauty players.
Beauty should not exclude, over complicate, dictate how women feel about themselves or how much money they spend. I started this business to be the total opposite of that and from all markers so far it’s turning out a success because people trust us, we care and they know that. You Beaut wants to open that dialogue with them, truly get to know them, listen to them and most importantly inject that fun and simplicity back into their beauty regimes (and decode it in the process). We want to build a community of beauty.