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Home Cosmetic Science Talk Cosmetic Industry Starting a cosmetic line Is it better to own your custom formula? (Also how realistic is it to try at home?)

  • Is it better to own your custom formula? (Also how realistic is it to try at home?)

    Posted by Anonymous on November 27, 2017 at 6:34 pm

    Hi! I’m an entrepreneur looking to start my own skincare line. I don’t have any connections or a lot of experience but I do think I have a great idea for a custom product into which I’m willing to invest what little money I have. I’ve called around to various labs and companies that either seem to 

    a) charge a larger sum of money to formulate your product and give that formula to you to manufacture with someone else, or 

    b) charge a less large amount to formulate and manufacture your product, but the company would own the formula and require you to purchase it for $$$$ if you want it, if they offer that option at all

    Is it better that I find separate companies to formulate and manufacture my product so that I own the formula (in which case I would have to give the formula to the manufacturer anyway?), or that I get someone to both formulate and manufacture it, but without owning the actual formula? What are the advantages and disadvantages of owning/not owning the formula? 

    I’m also feeling ambitious and interested in creating the formulation at home by myself, armed with a list of my competitor’s ingredients and some basic idea of what each one does. This would help save a lot of money on creating a formulation with someone else but I do still think to get certified and manufacture I would have to hire some third party for testing and such. I am pretty confident I can do it, but as a third party how realistic do you think this plan is?

    Any input is greatly appreciated, thanks!

    OldPerry replied 5 years, 4 months ago 3 Members · 4 Replies
  • 4 Replies
  • Microformulation

    Professional Chemist / Formulator
    November 27, 2017 at 6:53 pm

    I work with start-ups and I will hit some high points;

    • While you may have an idea for a new product, keep in mind that unless you are developing a new material or technology, it is likely that a similar product is out there if you know where to look. Alternatively, it could be a product that is not supported by the limits of Chemistry. For example, I was approached recent;y with the request; “I want to make a product that changes color over time in the hair, but it must use only natural oils and butters.”
    • Next, how you proceed relies a great deal upon your budget and Business plan. One of the universal truths in Cosmetics is that honestly designing the product and formulation is about 20% of the task. The bulk for a start-up client will rest in Sales, Marketing and other Business tasks. If you are a Business person by nature, hire and delegate out the tasks to a Formulator. If you are a Formulator such as myself, you would want to delegate some of the Sales, Marketing and Business to someone better able to be effective. Honestly, in a successful line, attempting to fill both roles will quickly become over whelming.
    • Many start-ups will need to own the Formula to be competitive. This really assumes that you have a product or two that will be your primary or “hero” products. If so, you would want to likely use a Consultant Formulator to maintain ownership of the Intellectual Property (IP). If you are making a broad line (many products), likely Private label is the way to go.
    • In most cases the Contract Manufacturer will want to maintain ownership of the Formula if they do the R&D although there are exceptions. You need to determine how important it is to maintain the ownership in the end.
    • Have a realistic budget Being underfunded will doom your project.

    We do an initial one hour call at no charge if you have further questions.

  • Belassi

    November 27, 2017 at 7:27 pm

    From my own experience, yes, it’s possible. But it will take quite a while. Finding a “star” product is not easy. It’s the public that decides what becomes a star. In our case for instance we have around a dozen skin care products. One of them became a star. We have several shampoos, all of which sell well, but it was the unexpected one, the complete “shot in the dark”, the coffee, which became the star.

  • Microformulation

    Professional Chemist / Formulator
    November 27, 2017 at 8:07 pm

    @BelassiAnd in my experience it is not always the product that you believe will be your “hero” product that excels. Usually it is something that catches you unaware.

  • OldPerry

    Professional Chemist / Formulator
    November 28, 2017 at 12:05 am

    If you want to become a cosmetic chemist, then certainly making the product on your own is something you could do.

    But if you want to start a product line and be successful at selling it, you should not create your own formula. There are much more important things you need to work on (like marketing, sales & brand building) than coming up with your own formulas.