Faace: why keeping a product on the shelves is harder than getting it stocked

To celebrate International Women’s Day, Alexandra Leonards spoke to Jasmine Wicks-Stephens, founder of UK cosmetics brand Faace, who recently graced our screens when she received funding from Steven Bartlett, Touker Suleyman and Peter Jones on the BBC's Dragon’s Den. She speaks to Retail Systems about what it’s like running a female-founded company, her recent experience on the show, and explains why getting a product stocked isn’t always the biggest challenge for an emerging brand.

What’s the most frustrating part about launching and owning a female-founded company? And what has been the best part?

The most frustrating thing about owning any beauty brand, female-founded or not, is the amount of funding that is required to market your business in such a saturated category. When I first launched Faace, I was naïve about the level of investment that was going to be required. I knew that global brands had hundreds of thousands – if not millions – to spend on marketing, but I thought there would be a place for independent brands. What I have realised is that there isn’t really, and that you are still competing on the same level as the massive ones, without the funds to do so. I find that endlessly frustrating, as it just means the ones with the money always lead the market.

The best thing about owning a female-founded brand is the incredible network of other female founders that are out there and willing to support and be supported. I have met some amazing people, and we all help to inspire each other, sharing ideas and contacts, whilst also just generally being a sounding board, someone to share your worries with and lend a friendly ear. It’s nice to know you’re not alone and to share the experience with those going through the same thing as you.

On Dragon’s Den you explained a little bit about how you’re honest about not giving people a ‘complete transformation’. Isn’t being so honest in an industry that often promises to ‘turn back the clock’ and provide a total transformation a risky move? Why was this culture of honesty so important to developing your brand?

I think it’s riskier to over-claim, or over-promise and under deliver, in any industry or any relationship. At the end of the day, skincare can only work on a surface level, whether you opt for natural or more cosmetic, active led skincare, it can only penetrate so far and work to a certain extent. Even with something like Botox, you can eradicate the lines but it is only temporary – there’s no miracle cure for ageing (maybe a face lift?). Or with acne for example, there’s so much more going on internally than what can be treated topically. I always want to be honest about that.

Having said that, the ritual of using skincare, of unwrapping a new, gorgeously packaged product, or inhaling beautiful aromas for example, is all part of the enjoyment of using skincare. So yes, of course you want it to work for you, and for your skin to show improvement, but you can also find pleasure beyond the end benefits of using a beauty product. We’ve tried to consider all of those things in the creation of Faace.

This culture of honesty is important to me as I want the brand to be credible, it’s as simple as that.

What was it like being on Dragon’s Den? What were the highs and lows of that experience?

It was definitely more intimidating than I had expected. I had imagined it to be like a live TV show where there would be staff around – camera operators, make-up artists – that type of thing, that you’d break for makeup artist touch ups and for the producers to direct the segment, but there’s none of that. It’s just you, in a room, with the Dragons that you’ve seen on TV so many times before. Whilst you get a sense that they are rooting for you, it’s also very intense with them asking you question after question without a break. It also went on a lot longer than I thought, I think I was in there over an hour and a half.

The high was of course the end result of securing three dragons, but also, the support and feedback, the kindness people have shown me since the show, that’s been the best bit (and one I didn’t really think about).

What was it like to take the leap and launch your own brand following your background in helping others launch their companies in the beauty industry?

A lot harder than I thought. It’s been an incredible journey and I have learnt so, so much. As have my team. This supports our other business, Known which is a comms agency, so the good and bad bits have all been beneficial in one way or another. But, in summary, it’s been so much harder than I ever thought it would be. There are so many things that can go your way, and it still might not work out.

What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced in trying to get your products stocked at retailers? And what has been your proudest moment on that journey so far?

Getting the product stocked in retail isn’t the biggest challenge. The challenge comes with keeping it stocked in there. My advice for anyone would be to lean into retail partnerships more and not spread yourself too thinly across lots of them. That’s something I have had to learn the hard way. We’ve had incredible interest in the brand and have been stocked in the best retailers, and still are. But, if I could have my time again, I would have maybe just stuck with one and really tried to make the most of that partnership. It requires a lot of marketing activity, and therefore budget, to make a retailer partnership work. You need to drive the footfall and the sales.

It's hard to choose just one proudest moment. I am proud of everything we’ve achieved with the brand. I do think Dragons’ Den has been a peak moment though. I really stepped out of my comfort zone to enter the Den – from memorising the figures (I don’t have a great head for numbers), to presenting (I’ve always disliked it), I am very proud of getting the result we did.

What’s the next step for Faace following the investment from the Dragons? What would be the big dream for the brand?

My dream is to secure a larger retailer roll out – like a Boots. Fingers crossed this will become a reality in the future.

Faace is currently stocked at Harrods, Selfridges, and Lookfantastic. Jasmine’s Dragon’s Den episode was first aired on 15 February and is available to watch on iPlayer.



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