Atelier aims to help beauty streamline the supply chain.
The company was cofounded by Nick Benson, a former beauty brand founder who amassed thousands of manufacturer contacts while building product experiences for luxury beauty brands. Atelier’s clients run the gamut from creator-preneurs on tight budgets to established beauty brands looking to simplify, and thus, grow.
The common denominator, Benson said, is Atelier helping beauty brands “exercise their creativity to the nth degree.”
“To bring a product to market generally is 12 to 24 months if you’re doing it the old way,” Benson, who is based in Australia, said. “We create product with velocity, not just in terms of the time it takes to bring a product to market — two to six months — but we [have created] over 200 [products] in a few years. We learn much faster than any brand would launching three products or five products a year. All the brands benefit from the amount that we’re able to learn as we develop so many products and maintain their individuality and differentiation.”
Atelier works by aggregating supply and demand, using volume of product to negotiate with a factory on price. Atelier factors a margin, which becomes their fee, into that price and charges a service fee of $1,500 per product.
“We take a margin on product,” Benson said. “That’s obviously fully transparent. We give pricing at the very start of a project before anything is made. Everyone who’s ever tried to make a product would understand that getting pricing for manufacturers is generally something that’s next to impossible. A manufacturer will give you a price at the end of development. The entire cost might be two times or three times what you’ve raised. So we try to be really transparent around the pricing at every stage so that there’s no surprises.”
Benson said Atelier currently has nearly 200 products in the pipeline, with projected 2021 growth at about 240 percent.
At the beginning of this year, Rowi Singh, an online creator, was put in touch with Benson through a friend who specializes in nail art. Singh began working with Atelier on a line of makeup adhesives she plans to launch later this year.
“Nail decals, face decals, it’s within the same realm,” Singh said. “I had no idea that Nick was like the connecting middleman between me and the supplier and can cut out all that back work of me having to find the right supplier for my business. I can focus on the creative aspect and pushing that forward.”
Singh is “very much in the beginning phases” of creating her beauty company, which she plans to call Embellish by Rowi. She is working on face add-ons, such as gems and pearls, that are meant to act as makeup enhancements.
“It’ll start with makeup decals and I might expand it to eyeliners and it becomes a makeup beauty brand,” Singh said. Think: the HBO show “Euphoria.”
Sam Leetham, who cofounded Bear with his wife, began working with Atelier at the end of 2018. Bear is a Certified B corporation that sells vitamins, powders and topicals in pharmaceutical-grade, recycled glass packaging.
“Nick and I particularly connected around this kind of evidence base,” Leetham said. “There’s a lot of very good marketing in this in the category in the space and, often, particularly with new brands, there’s a lack of science, the peer-reviewed science anyway. Nick and I initially bonded over that, and then it blossomed into we have a shared interest in sustainability and what that means for the industry and the category going forward and what can you be doing in a supply chain.”
Prior to COVID-19, Bear’s business was largely driven by wholesale. Leetham estimated that 80 percent of the business came from retail partnerships, which initially was a strategic play to boost the credibility of the company’s ingestible products. Bear’s direct-to-consumer platform has become “really successful” since the onset of COVID-19, Leetham said — thus granting Bear greater bargaining power with retailers.
“A lot of retailers are introducing conscious ranges or clean assortments and categories, and that’s not enough anymore,” Leetham said. “We are pushing back on retailers where there’s not this deep-seated authenticity running through their entire business. Because of the challenges of pivoting toward becoming more of a direct-to-consumer business, it has allowed us to be more selective with our retail model.”
Atelier uses data to build out a company’s supply chain, especially if that company is set on creating as sustainable a supply chain as is currently possible.
“We make sure we can tell the story through data and not just through an anecdote that a manufacturer uses,” Benson said. “You see those kinds of scandals where a brand has stated their packaging is one thing and it’ll come out six months later that it’s not that thing. I don’t think there’s anything nefarious from the brands there. I think it’s just that the brand gets told something from the manufacturer and the brand then passes that information on to the consumer. The whole thing comes undone in a spectacular way. We work to provide that data that supports the supply chain and the product so that the brand can tell the right kind of marketing story.”
Trend-wise, Benson is seeing movement in the hair care category. He recently fielded requests for solid shampoo and conditioner bars, which he thinks is related in equal parts to sustainability (a lack of packaging) and convenience. One space he is seeing “move aggressively” is skin care for teenagers.
“Usually, there’s CVS brands that service teens or they go into something that’s a lot more expensive and not targeted to teens,” Benson said.
There is also a general embrace of niche markets — Singh’s business model, for example.
“We’re seeing hyper-specific product application toward small communities,” Benson said. “It’s a smart way to do business, especially in light of the creator economy, where you can see anyone speak to any niche. Those communities generally have quite specific needs. It goes to show you how much space there is within the beauty industry to create products to support [them].”