This is a guest post by cosmetic industry consultant Mark Fuller of Microformulation.
Several years ago when I was working as a Chemist in a traditional Contract Manufacturing setting one of my responsibilities was to occasionally sit in on the initial meetings between the Client and the Sales/Marketing team. In many cases the Client was an Entrepreneur with a product that they had developed themselves in their own “kitchen.” In general, I found that these “Hobbyists” were very well read regarding their product and they were very passionate. However, due to the artificial barriers that the Traditional Contract Manufacturer placed in the path of these Entrepreneurs, these wonderful products never made it to the Market and we inadvertently dampened the enthusiasm of these Clients.
Later, I started my own company as a Cosmetic Consultant in order to help this specific type of Client to navigate their way through the barriers and to effectively sell their product in the Cosmetic market. This has afforded me the opportunity to work with some wonderful, passionate and driven Clients. So, why work with a Cosmetic Consultant? A Cosmetic Consultant can offer many services to you, especially if you are new to the Industry.
Most Cosmetic Consultants will offer a free initial consult call to discuss the general details of your project. Many will be surprised when I say that in about two-thirds of these calls I say “I would love to work on your line, but not yet?” This is because although they have an idea for a great project, they have not yet developed any plans for Sales, Marketing and Funding. While a Cosmetic Consultant can help to reduce costs in certain areas, there will be some moderate costs that cannot be reduced in any way. Also, my goal is not to collect Consultation fees and move on to the next client. The goal is to develop long term business relationships and to foster the growth of your line. This does not work if we get a product produced and it sits on the shelf and never sells.
An effective Cosmetic Consultant should be active in professional societies such as the Society of Cosmetic Chemists (SCC), Independent Cosmetic Manufacturers and Distributers (ICMAD) and have a strong presence in Social Media. This will ensure that they develop the referral sources that you will need at this point. No one person can adequately serve you in all areas such as Marketing, Regulatory and Business planning. In many cases I will refer my clients to the Small Business Association for assistance. This organization will assist them in crafting a well written Business Plan as well as making available some sources of loans. The business plan is essential for anyone hoping to be successful in any Industry!
At this point the Client will be much more informed, realistic and better prepared to make their first foray into the Cosmetic market. This is where we will start to create a “vision” of what your product will be. The clearer this vision is, the more effective the Formulation process will be. We will begin looking at other products “standards” that may already exist as potential direct competitors to your product. We need to begin to ask “What does your product deliver to the Customer that the other products do not?” “Why will a Customer select my product instead of product X?” Also, at this point you should try some of these other products. Then we need to determine “What do you like about how these products work and feel?” “What don’t you like?” At the end of this process a detailed vision should exist. This will greatly assist the Consultant in formulating your product.
At this point a Consultant will begin the lab work which will ultimately lead to the final prototype. It is here that their familiarity with the raw materials will come into play. They will use their experience to develop the product, identify effective actives, order samples and ultimately do the design in the lab. This can be a frustrating point for many Clients as while they will get periodic updates, it will seem as if nothing is proceeding. As anyone can attest who has worked as a Formulator, there is a great deal going on that is internal.
Prototypes will be developed and sent to the Client. Using their feedback, the product will be refined and a final prototype will be developed. It is here that the clear Product Design vision will be invaluable. Also, well thought out objective data about the performance and feel of the prototypes will greatly help the Formulator to quickly arrive at the final version.
It is important to identify a huge advantage to using a Cosmetic Consultant at this point. When working with the internal R&D team at a manufacturer, oftentimes the formula (now considered intellectual property) becomes the property of the Manufacturer. This will make it difficult to outsource later on and will diminish your control over the Formula. Most Cosmetic Consultants will consider the Formula your property and will release the final documents to you.
Planning and Referrals
As we saw above, oftentimes during the Formulation process it will seem to the Client as if nothing is happening. We now know that this is not the case. However, this is an opportunity for the Client to begin sourcing out other aspects of the job. Packaging will need to be identified and purchased. Labels and graphics will need to be designed. Any Regulatory issues should be identified and resolved. Marketing sources should be contacted. An effective Cosmetic Consultant should be able to steer the Client to the proper resources and referrals. It is key that these tasks be developed during the “down-time” during Formulation. Otherwise they will hold the Project up later.
It is again at this point that the Cosmetic Consultant’s contacts, activity and presence in the Cosmetic Market will pay off. These relationships should help to identify the best fit for the manufacturing of these sources. Manufacturers should be vetted and qualified. While it has been my experience as a whole that the Cosmetic manufacturers are ethical and effective, there are certain benchmarks that should be used to determine a qualified manufacturer. Do they have Quality Assurance programs in effect? What certifications have they achieved? Do they have the credit that is needed to deal effectively with the suppliers?
When at all possible the Cosmetic Consultant should perform a site visit. Site visits are ineffective and generally not permitted for the Client. A Cosmetic Consultant can utilize their credibility and experience in the Industry to identify any issues. In the end the Cosmetic Consultant should have developed a network of qualified Manufacturers.
Why do we need a “network” of Manufacturers? Simply, not every Manufacturer is suited to every product. The majority of manufacturers will not run smaller batches of products. In many cases the Cosmetic Entrepreneur will need a smaller run than an established line. If your product is “Natural” or “Organic” (as many of my Clients projects are), you may need a manufacturer who has been registered and certified in these Natural standards. In the end an effective Cosmetic Consultant should be able to develop and make available these connections to foster the effective production of your
In summary, an effective Cosmetic Consultant should serve as a teacher and mentor to these smaller lines. By utilizing their experience and connections in the Industry they will be able to help you to navigate the labyrinth of artificial barriers placed in the way of these passionate Entrepreneurs. A Cosmetic Consultant can also identify areas where cost savings can be realized.
Mark Fuller, the Technical Director at Microformulations Cosmetic Consulting, a firm dedicated to helping small entrepreneurs create their own cosmetic formulas.