For Glow Recipe’s co-founders, Christine Chang and Sarah Lee, 2021 is a fruit-filled year for their skincare startup.

In August, the Korean-inspired and fruity beauty brand launched in Dubai and quickly became the best-selling skincare line in Sephora Middle East. Then, in October, it received its first outside investment from a private equity firm.

After hitting $60 million in sales during the 2020 pandemic, Glow Recipe is expected to end 2021 with $100 million in annual retail sales.

“As a beauty brand, once you go viral on TikTok, it immediately translates into sales like never before.”

Sarah Lee, Co-Founder, Glow Recipe

But the frenzy really started back in February, when Stephanie Valentine, aka Glamzilla, took to TikTok with her skincare routine. In it, this beauty blogger introduced the skin lightening effect of Watermelon Pore Tightening Toner and Niacinamide Dew Drops Brightening Toner, later dubbed the “Dewy duo”. .

“We’re developing something that’s still clinically effective, and that can be shown through the TikTok world,” said Lee.

Gluzilla’s post inspired another creator, Mikayla Nogueira, to share her skincare secret with similar products just days later. “It’s the best background app I’ve ever had in my life,” Nogueira exclaims in her video.

As of December, Glamzilla’s original video has surpassed 1.9 million views while Nogueira’s has 16 million views. Both are organic and organic articles.

“As a beauty brand, once you go viral on TikTok, it immediately translates into sales like never before,” says Lee. Just four days after Nogueira’s post, Glow Recipe saw a 600% jump in direct-to-consumer sales on a daily basis. The spike was also seen in global retail partners, including Sephora, Mecca and Cult Beauty.

For the founders, it’s like Christmas in March. The site’s sales that week were higher than Black Friday and Cyber ​​Monday combined, with 84% of sales driven by new customers. “It leads to an overall halo effect across the brand,” says Lee.

Lee and Chang, former employees of L’Oréal, left the beauty company in 2014 to launch Glow Recipe by amassing a total of $50,000 in personal savings. They continued the startup until this year, when North Castle Partners invested an undisclosed amount in the New York City company.

“We saw an early boom in K-beauty in the United States as a product developer,” says Chang. “So many companies have come to Korea to look for modern innovations in skin care technology and ingredient methods.”

Initially, the company was a manager of other K-beauty products imported from Seoul. In 2017, they launched their first eponymous product, Glow Watermelon Sleeping Mask, in partnership with Sephora. According to the founders, it took 1,024 recipes to create the best-selling exfoliator and moisturizer. This hit instant favorite has sold out eight times in a row and already has 8,000 waiting lists. While hydrating watermelon is Glow Recipe’s star fruit, its expanding lineup includes a pineapple and plum serum, a banana-based body cream, and an avocado-based eye cream. Other elements such as niacinamide and hyaluronic acid also serve as the base ingredients.

“Our fruit-driven products come from our heritage of having lived, raised and worked in both countries, Korea and the United States,” says Chang. “That gives us a unique cultural perspective on the beauty traditions we grew up with, but we also know how differently beauty is received in the United States.”

“Our desire from the beginning was to really close that gap,” she continued. This involves simplifying K-beauty, known for its meticulous processes that can include more than 13 steps.

It also involves rebranding and translation. For example, soaps and whitening products are staples in traditional US beauty lines

“When we first curated the various K-beauty products for the United States, we very often came across certain products and soaps with language like whitening in them,” says Chang. “But the term whitening is not about race. And it’s not about trying to change your skin or ethnicity in any way. It actually comes from a mistranslation of a term that means more even and brighter tone. “

Chang continued: “[Tradition K-beauty] very promotional, and the packaging is usually a bit more on the kitschy side. And for us, it was important to help modernize things by creating content and storytelling.”

Most of their stories take place on social media. In addition to growing their Instagram following by 205% over the past two years, the co-founders say Glow Recipe inherently has all the right ingredients for success on TikTok.

“We always put pressure to test our products through clinical trials and community trials and know our product will achieve visible results, which is what we do,” says Lee. nature favors viral social responses,” says Lee.

Since February, the two products featured on TikTok have sold out fourfold, with a 40% increase in DTC sales. While the video of Valentine and Nogueira caused a wave, the founders of Glow Recipe had to continue the sales momentum and squeeze the juice out of the opportunity to go viral.

“We wanted to amplify the enormous organic response on TikTok,” says Lee. The team looked at the comments on the original viral posts to identify untapped influencers and shipped the product to their doorstep within a few days.

They then launched a limited edition “Watermelon Glow Tool Kit” featuring both products that went viral. Chang recalls that the stock of kits that was slated to last for three months were sold out within three days. On the website, they added the viral “Dewy Duo” to the navigation bar and continuously optimized the search terms based on TikTok trends, so customers could easily find anything. caused a stir on social media.

“We have reposted customer videos, created our own guides with Glamzilla tips, and shared how the products work individually and together,” says Chang. Their moves resulted in hundreds of organic stitches and duets of original content on TikTok as influencers and customers tried the duo on their own skin.

The company must also react from an operational perspective to quickly replenish and prevent a sell-off. “We quickly assess the inventory levels of all the products,” says Chang. “We’ve been working with our suppliers to ensure raw materials and secure supplies to meet demand.”

Although they respond strategically to the influx of new customers, going viral is never a goal. “Our goal is not to go viral, but to stay true to the philosophy,” says Lee. “We’re focused on skin acceptance and promoting real, healthy skin to empower our followers, also known as our ‘Glow Gang’.”

Glow Recipe went through another turning point in 2021. In the summer, the company decided to keep skin damage-free in all its advertising campaigns and permanently remove popular industry phrases like “poreless”, “perfect”, “ageless”, “anti-wrinkle”, “anti-aging” and “perfect skin.”

“We believe these phrases don’t help support realistic skin expectations,” says Chang. She said that this would go against the company’s true goal of empowering their “Glow Gang”.

“This transparency has created an environment that fosters real social conversations, which are fundamental to going viral as it happens.”

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