Welcome Namrata! How has the business evolved since launching Plenaire in 2019?
We started just right before the pandemic, so it was a little bit tricky in terms of supply chain. A lot of people in the beauty industry at large were just scrambling to understand how to navigate that. So we had up to that point focused on getting our website and other assets ready to go, and we had our stock ready to sell - so that was a real advantage.
From a D2C standpoint - business was slow - mostly because we’re a bootstrapped business - so we didn’t have a gazillion dollars to throw into Facebook Ads like other VC backed D2Cs. Now that we’ve established solid proof of principle, even product market fit I'd say, we’re starting to finally look into growing our D2C business.
But since the beginning, we’ve done really well from a wholesale standpoint. We work with small and large beauty retailers, who drive significant recurring revenue for us - while establishing credibility behind the brand.
How does one succeed from a wholesale standpoint? How do you secure these accounts?
Gosh, I wish I could give you a secret sauce.
I think retailers just want to see a brand with a strong point of difference and a real reason to exist. And I'll be honest with you, 90% of the brands launching today do not have that, or they haven't thought hard enough about that they are chasing a commercial objective rather than a consumer insight. There is so much noise and only very few brands that have a sound understanding of their target consumer, and where their opportunity lies.
If you’re a celebrity with a large following, you might get away with lacking direction at first - because you’re bringing your following with you to the party. But outside of that use case, it takes time and hard work to build real credibility and even get on someone's radar. Even a brand like Glossier, the poster child for DTC expertise at one stage, required a huge amount of venture capital and RISK to get to that level of awareness on day one. And the jury is still out on how that's going to go for their investors….
Also the cost of customer acquisition and the amount of players in that space because of the early success of DTC make it a cliche in 2022 rather than a long term advantage. In some ways, brands like that became a victim of their own success.
In short - there’s no magical recipe. You need to convince retailers that you have something really specific to say and you are adding something new. With retail, they can bet on a celebrity beauty line because there is media efficiency on day 1 and at least there will be some initial trial, even if the product is also-ran. But with brands like Plenaire, it's actually really hard because no one knows who you are and it could take ten years to establish what celebrity or say, the VC backed brand can do one day 1.
Despite that, I wouldn't have it any other way. The thrill you get when you find a cool brand that isn't “plastered everywhere” and is beautifully made, with a boutique idea and a great story. That is what appeals to me. Maybe not to everyone, but we are okay with that. In fact our first retailer, Liberty, this is what they are all about. Same with Space NK, when Nicky established it back in the beginning. Finding those almost, under the radar, lesser known, niche brands. It’s going to take longer for us that’s a given, but it's not impossible. And heritage over time drives credibility. It's lasting power.
Talk to me about the brand and the website. How has that evolved? And how did Storetasker get involved?
Our website’s been a constant challenge for us. When we first built the site, we went for a headless build - and that definitely wasn’t the right decision. It’s highly resource-intensive from a development standpoint - and a better fit for a brand handling 10’s of thousands orders a week. We’re not at that stage, and looking back we should have gone for a simpler Shopify build. We were kind of at a dead end in terms of being able to find an affordable solution on a more contract basis. And I think thats a lot of people right now. Hence the beauty of the storetasker solution.
Adan is really talented and experienced, and he was able to illuminate a lot of these issues - and help us with ongoing work.
So Storetasker’s been a really great solution for people like us who don't want to hire a full fledged team, just yet.
It's just fundamentally inefficient to have lots of people on your books at our stage of growth and Storetasker solves for that.
What's the biggest asset that you have? What sets you apart from the rest?
The biggest asset that we have is the execution of our brand idea, which is connecting beauty to emotional wellbeing. Pretty much everybody can say they're sustainable. Everybody can claim to have a great product idea. Everybody can say that they're vegan and cruelty free. But those are not sustainable competitive advantages. We'd like to own this idea of using beauty as a way for people to connect with themselves and support their emotional wellbeing. Everything we do is based on this foundational premise.
So that’s our asset: Executing consistently on one idea, rather than being a brand that is jumping on every new idea and trend chasing growth at all costs maybe because of investor pressure or the need to get an exit? who knows! I learned from my previous work experience that enduring brands don't chase growth, they chase singularity, and execute with purpose and consistency. They know all good things take time, to deepen, to blossom and to grow.
Thank you Namrata! Such a treat to hear your insights.