January 28, 2023

What do you think of a pubic hair care brand?

 

Courtesy of fur

That was the question Fur co-founders Laura Schubert and Lillian Tung asked themselves in 2015 as part of the duo’s qualitative study of family, friends and even strangers at cocktail parties.

Schubert and Tung were set to launch an innovative body care brand at the time, but it involved taking a big risk.

Both Harvard graduates, friends since seventh grade, the future co-founders had already established themselves in the corporate world. Schubert was a management consultant at Bain and Company, while Tung oversaw marketing at Maybelline – and was “super jaded” by the increasingly crowded beauty space.

Still, Schubert was ready to take on the then-untouched pubic hair care market, and after some perseverance, she convinced Tung to join her. Now their natural body care collection is a major hit, including the fur oil that started it all: “gentle enough for pubic hair and skin, but effective from head to toe,” which sells for $52. the bottle.

Entrepreneur sat down with Schubert and Tung to learn more about the mission behind their “taboo” beauty line and how they turned it from an idea into a cult favorite that counts actress Emma Watson among its many fans.

Related: 100 Things You Need To Know To Succeed In The Modern Beauty Industry

“[Pubic hair] was a taboo subject that people didn’t feel comfortable talking about.”

It all started in 2014 when Schubert asked his sister and her friends what they were up to when it came to hair care.

“I was getting waxed religiously back then,” Schubert recalls, “and I was just thinking about, What do I want to wax? How do I want to wax? What should I do between sessions? I get terrible incarnations – what do people do about it?

The information available on the subject was scarce, and when Schubert searched for products that might help solve her problems, she came up empty-handed. Ultimately, she concluded that some serious stigma was at the root of the problem.

“[Pubic hair] was a taboo subject that people didn’t feel comfortable talking about,” Schubert says — and she wanted to change that.

“We all have body hair,” she says. “We all choose whether or not to groom our hair. And I really had a feeling people would want products like this.”

There was only one choice when it came to maintaining body hair, Tung adds: waxing.

Schubert wanted to partner with Tung in the business, so she got creative at her 2014 holiday party. company, poured her a “really stiff drink” and asked that she give it a try.

Tung, a lover of formulas and product development, was immediately impressed with the oil, which has grapeseed, jojoba, clary sage and tea tree oils among its key ingredients.

“I tried the formula and thought it was amazing,” Tung recalls. “He did what he [was supposed to do] on the pubic hair area: softens your hair, makes your skin more beautiful, but it is also an incredible experience. And that was when I was like, Well it might have legs.”

Image Credit: Courtesy of Fur

Related: The future of innovation in the beauty industry

“People either got it right away…or people were like, ‘That’s disgusting. I didn’t think women had body hair anymore.'”

When Tung joined Schubert in the qualitative research process, asking a range of potential consumers what they thought of a pubic hair care brand, she saw two camps emerge.

“Either people got it right away, loved it and said, ‘Wow, I can’t believe we never thought of that. I can’t believe a product like this doesn’t exist, it’s great,'” says Tung. “Or people would say, ‘That’s disgusting. I didn’t think women had body hair anymore. Why would you do that? That’s disgusting.'”

But from a marketing perspective, the polarized response intrigued Tung, who said “strong reactions, positive or negative, mean there’s something memorable – something you can hang your hat on by messaging terms”.

This gives someone with an initially negative reaction to the idea the chance to engage in the conversation and potentially open up to it.

“It at least gets them thinking about it, and if they are thinking about it, you can encourage them to talk about it,” says Tung. “If you can encourage people to talk about it and make it a comfortable and safe space, people can express various opinions and have the opportunity to change their minds, myself included.”

When Schubert was the brand’s “first seller” and introduced the product to stores, she often faced similar resistance. She remembers being kicked out for solicitation and being told to carry on shark tank (and they did in 2020, even striking an on-air deal with Lori Greiner).

And even those who does expressed interest in the product had reservations about Fur’s decidedly authentic branding: a major retailer loved everything about the oil, but just didn’t think the word “pubic” on the box would resonate with its customers.

“We went quite far down that evaluation path,” Tung recalls, “Is pubis really a dirty word? Should we remove it from our branding? But of course we knew we had to stay true to what we wanted to do and where we came from.”

As co-founders who had built their business from scratch and are still self-funded, turning down the request was difficult, but essential.

“It was a really big relationship,” Schubert says. “But we knew, being a mission-based brand, that was something we could never do. And so to this day, ‘public’ is on the front of the Fur Oil box. It will always be on front of Fur Oil because that’s what we’re here to do: encourage conversations around pubic hair and body hair.”

Image Credit: Courtesy of Fur

Related: Why You Should Do Everything You Can to Self-Fund Your Business

“As a mission-based brand seeking to de-stigmatize the taboo around body hair, it’s so important to be in places where everyone thinks and shops.”

Fur’s dedication to its original mission continues to pay off, attracting an enthusiastic fanbase that includes Hollywood stars like Emma Watson.

It was 2017 when Fur’s website started “going crazy”; the co-founders discovered Watson’s Into the Gloss interview, where the actress and activist shared that Fur Oil is an essential part of her beauty routine.

“She really understood our product,” says Schubert, “and we sold two years’ worth of product in three weeks. It was definitely a moment that put our brand on the map.”

In the years since, Fur has remained on the map (and expanded its territory) by rising to meet unforeseen challenges as they arise, particularly with respect to growth and development. ‘scale.

Although it was “thrown on a loop” during Covid, as have many brands, navigating changes in the market, digital platforms and, of course, the supply chain, Fur has withstood the storm – and even thrived.

The brand has quintupled its staff during the pandemic and is on track to make more than $20 million in revenue this year.

Part of the secret to Fur’s success is its prioritization of omnichannel growth.

“It’s so important to be in places where everyone thinks and shops and has the ability to access them,” says Tung. “And if you were to look at the breakdown of our revenue, we’re spread very evenly across all of our partnerships and channels – that’s very important because these days people shop everywhere and all the time.”

Naturally, a lot has changed in the nearly decade since Schubert started solving the pubic problem that no one was talking about, but as far as founders who might have an idea today (taboo or not), some lessons learned remain just as relevant.

First, don’t wait to find out all the way, suggests Tung — just start.

And Schubert’s best advice? (It’s also the very reason Fur exists.) “Every ‘no’ is a ‘not yet’.”

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