The skin and beauty sector is a cutthroat and competitive industry these days, especially in the direct-to-consumer (DTC) market, which is saturated with female-founded startup brands on Instagram that are often carbon copies of each other. Increasingly, influencers are now launching their own businesses, usually with the help of a global beauty brand – a tactic used by companies such as Morphe, with their slew of influencer line-ups including their latest collaboration with TikTok stars, the
he D’amelio Family. But for Hong Kong based-influencer Jenn Lam (@PumpkinJenn) and fellow influencer Tawnia Lai (@thebabygirlo), it wasn’t a route they were interested in, despite being inundated with collaboration proposals. Instead, they decided to launch a vegan beauty brand on their own last year – Woke Up Like This (WULT) – and within two months, it had already broken even. All WULT products are developed in-house and made in California. Image: Supplied. A little help from friends and family Prior to the launch of WULT, Lai and Lam majored in illustration and marketing, but had no business experience between them, so they tapped into expertise in their families’ businesses, which had been involved in manufacturing for some of the world’s leading skincare brands. They now have a trusted Californian manufacturer on board and are developing products entirely in-house in partnership with Skin Need, a brand owned by Lai’s biochemist sister Christal Leung who is also in charge of formulations at WULT. Within two months of launch, WULT had already broken even and opened a physical store in Hong Kong. WULT’s lip products and sunscreen in particular were met with sold-out success. Each WULT product is named with messages of positivity, such as ‘Got Your Back’ and ‘Prove ‘Em Wrong’. The ‘Face Dab’ collection is named after inspirational women from Virginia Woolf to Melinda Gates. “We wanted to convey women empowerment messages through products as a channel so this is really how we differentiate our brand to others,” Lai said. “We didn’t intentionally try to differentiate ourselves from other brands at first, but then it just slowly put itself together because we want a community to reach out to girls who are environmentally conscious just like us,” explained Lam. Inside WULT’s store in Hong Kong. Image: Supplied. Clicks to bricks When Lam and Lai first planned WULT, omnichannel was part of the strategy, including the creation of an Instagrammable bricks-and-mortar store which also offers click-and-collect. Doubling as a beauty salon space and shop, the millennial pink store was inspired by Lai’s favourite cafes and beauty stores around the world from Melbourne to Los Angeles. “We want people to come here and to try the products on their face, and have a human connection with someone who can assist and consult,” said Lam. WULT also onboarded livestream shopping as a way to connect with their consumers, but instead of using the platform as a QVC channel, the influencers insisted on using the livestream to chat with their fans and followers – the ‘Gal Pals’ community – to educate their audience on their products. “People have the chance to understand the ingredients, the effects [of our products] and to ask which products to combine,” explained Leung, adding that it’s a much more effective way than simply copywriting Instagram posts. WULT has already been invited to open pop-ups and permanent stores at some of Hong Kong’s top shopping malls, such as Landmark, though all plans are currently on hold due to the pandemic. Future plans As a fast growing indie brand, WULT and Skin Need have attracted many investors, but the pair are not keen to bring one on board right now. “We’re not short on capital. And we’re not sure if we want to raise capital to give up some rights in terms of how we want to direct the business, whether it would be a worthy trade-off unless we find a partner who’s willing to give us the full creative rights to take it to wherever we want to go,” said Leung.