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June 27, 2012

Start-Up Survival

According to statistics, 80% of brands don’t’ survive the first year in the marketplace—or worse yet, don’t even make into the market. And while the odds are stacked against your brand succeeding in the competitive beauty space, don’t give up hope.

There are ways to tip the scale in your favor, said speakers at “A 360° Look at the Beauty of Strategy” session held during Day 2 of HBA Global Expo in New York.

The panel included Karen Young, president and CEO of The Young Group and a former Estée Lauder executive, MaryLeigh Krasniewicz, executive director of TrendEra, and Michelle Olsen, VP of brand development at online retailer DermStore LLC.

These experts agreed that to be successful in the space, your brand needs a sound strategy.

“We need to keep in mind, we are in industry that people want not products that people need. If you are in North America or Western Europe, you are dealing with and incredibly saturated market. Without an exhaustive, well planned strategy, you are not going to make it,” noted Young.

Moderator Sheri Koetting, principal at MSLK, presented the components that must be addressed in order to have a sound strategy: market research, customer priorities, target distribution, product concept, mission and position, brand architecture, brand tone, and design.

For example, panelists suggested you must know your core customer—not just her age bracket. In other words, your core customer isn’t "18-34," her name is Michelle, and she has two teenage kids and works part time….

“Brands that are successful create a true narrative,” said Olsen. “They give that customer a name….She likes to shop at X store. Her favorite fashion brands are X and Y, “ Olsen continued, noting that specifics about a core customer can help brands better target their demographic.

“It helps to bring that customer at the end of the line to life,” added Koetting.

Later in the discussion, Young offered a dose of reality.

“In addition to putting together a solid strategy that will rise above the crowd, you also have to have money...That is the 900lb gorilla in the room,” she said.

Well, just how much? About $1 million dollars, Young suggested.

That’s big money, but without it, a start-up is lowering its chances of success exponentially, according to Young.

Regarding funding, the Koetting discussed Kickstarter, Inc. the funding platform.

This online forum is one way for start-ups to raise funds, but it offers opportunities for new companies and ideas and even sampling, according to Krasniewicz.

“Kickstarter has been revolutionary for new brands,” she said. “People are investing in brands so they can get hat product when it launches. It has become a marketplace."