Written by Mark Fuller
Here you are. You have had a chance to research your materials, you have gotten your hands dirty and now you have a Product! You Family loves it. Your friends swear by it. People rave about it. What do I need to do to start selling my product?
My company works with small start-ups who are ready to take the first step from crafting their own products to selling them in a Cosmetic line. This can be done and it can be done right.
Your first step should be an honest assessment of your strengths. I constantly tell my clients you can either be a Chemist who needs a Salesperson or a Salesperson who needs a Chemist. These roles can be accomplished by one person at a smaller scale but as you grow you will quickly learn you have to choose. Many clients miss the importance of this statement. They will quickly realize as their line grows that they can’t do both. One of my clients tells a story that reinforces this concept. She spent the workday going from Salon to Salon selling her products. She was a salesperson at heart. She shook hands, clearly communicated her excitement about her products and wrote invoice after invoice. She was on Cloud 9 in her car on the way home when she realized “I still have 6 hours of manufacturing to do when I get home to fill these orders!” It drained her excitement quickly! Don’t make this mistake. I am in Product Development. As such my day is 10% Business and 90% Chemistry. If you are a salesperson you will need to concentrate 90% of Sales and perhaps 10% on the Chemistry. A realistic and honest personal inventory should be your first step.
Am I a Salesperson or a Chemist? Once you have determined this you are ready to create a strategy.
I am a Salesperson
Many of us are salespeople. We love meeting new and exciting people. We can quickly communicate the value of our products and pass our excitement on to our Customers.
If this is you the best bet is to develop a Business strategy early on. Things to consider are;
- Licensing Requirements. Check with your municipality to determine what your responsibilities are here. In South Carolina (USA) where I am located there is a low standard. I simply have a general Business License. Other areas are different. For example in Florida (US) one must be registered by the State regardless of what you make and how much.
- Incorporation. Ultimately you will be creating a Business. Meet with an Advisor if needed and set-up the Business structure and Accounting. Again be proactive and do it right!
- Liability. Your products will be used by real people. Some people are litigious. Protect yourself. Check with underwriters and get the appropriate coverage.
Now that you have established a Business, who will make your products? Under this model you will need to outsource this function. This entail developing a relationship with a Contract Manufacturer. These manufacturers can quickly be located through an intelligent online search. There are directories of these manufacturers readily available.
When going to a Contract Manufacturer you must be diligent in protecting your Intellectual Property (IP) which in this case is your Formula. Ensure that ALL contracts clearly state that the IP is your property. I relay this caution since it is common in the Industry for a manufacturer to fix errors in your Formulation. These “fixes” change the IP and unless you are clear at that point the Formula becomes the property of the manufacturer. If this is a concern, retain a Consultant such as myself to review your Formulas in advance. This can be achieved on an hourly fee. A Consultant can identify issues such as inadequate preservation, record keeping and other factors which must be corrected.
Once you have determined that you are a salesperson you will need to spin the Chemistry off to a manufacturer and start to learn the Cosmetic Market. I will not delve into this here. It is much too broad of a subject to cover and it is honestly not my strength. When referring a client to an expert in this area I always joke I know enough Marketing to be dangerous. I do ALWAYS refer my client to a starting course on the Business aspect. There are several great courses. One in particular in run by Melody Bockelman at Private Label Insider. Cosmetics are a unique business and these courses will bring you up to speed, reduce your risks and honestly accelerate your Business growth by at least 24 months.
So, you are a Salesperson! Create a Business! Protect your Business. 90% of your time will be Business and Sales. The 10% dedicated to Chemistry will be used in the initial Product Development of your new products. A Chemist will do this for you but you must contribute your input. Learn why each ingredient is used. In the end this will make you a better and more informed salesperson.
I am a Chemist (Formulator)
When assessing my strengths, this is where I wanted to be. I love trying new raw materials. At any time my desk is flooded with samples of materials which will soon be available or have just become available. I love my lab. When I am over a Water bath and a product comes together I am in my element.
Were I to start a Cosmetic line my first step would be to get a partner who is a Salesperson. I would ensure that all the Business tasks outlined earlier are accomplished, I would ensure someone is watching the day to day Business functions. Then I would focus on setting up a Manufacturing facility. This is an option because I have experience in manufacturing Cosmetics. If you don’t have this experience you should honestly consider sourcing this function out to a contract manufacturer and stick to Research and Product Development.
Now that said it is not impossible to accomplish setting up a manufacturing facility. It will be a steep learning curve and you will probably not become fully competent for a few years. The key is to do it right! Ensure your product is always the same from batch to batch. Minimize liability.
In several future posts I will cover manufacturing equipment but that is beyond the reach of this introductory post. Honestly I love equipment so I would need a full post for each type.
At this time however I want to focus on an invaluable skill that we MUST develop if we are going to do this correctly. This concept is cGMP.
cGMP stands for current Good Manufacturing Practices. In summary this is an Administrative program that addresses the issues involved in safely manufacturing. This program is based around written Standard Operating procedures (SOP’s). These SOP’s will reduce to writing everything you do. They will cover areas such as General Record-keeping, your equipment, your facility, your personnel, your raw material storage, manufacturing finished goods, storing finished good, Quality Control as well as other issues.
Why do I need to do all this??? The short answer is because you have to. The Industry will require it. Clients will demand it. Your Insurance underwriter will appreciate it. The better answer is that you want to do things safely. You want product made today to be the same as product produced in a few months. You want employees to follow proper procedures and not take shortcuts. In the end your best asset will always be your customers. Honoring them and keeping them safe will go a long way in creating a business that thrives.
Now cGMP is a huge subject. I honestly discourage my clients from making their own products. In the end I they do decide it is best for them I will have them start with Marie Gale’s book on cGMP. Marie Gale is an Author who covers cGMP and Regulatory issues for Soap makers and Craft Manufacturers. I own her book and I have purchased several copies for clients. I would suggest buying her book, Good Manufacturing Practices for Soap and Cosmetic Handcrafters.
In future posts I will expand upon some Business (Salesperson) aspects as well as my strength (R&D and Manufacturing). For now I challenge you… Are you a Salesperson or a Chemist? Only you know the answer. Embrace the answer. It will allow you to love what you do and be successful.
Mark Fuller is a professional cosmetic formulator and would be happy to help with any formulation needs that you have. Mention that Saffire Blue sent you to save $200 off your formulation advice fees. You can contact him through his website Microformulation.com