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Serial Beauty Entrepreneur Randi Shinder Shares Secrets for Brand Success
As a beauty-industry veteran and serial entrepreneur, Randi Shinder has a proven track record of launching wildly successful brands. Her latest endeavor has her serving as CEO, President, and Founder of SBLA, which has emerged as a DTC juggernaut. From her experience that paved the way for SBLA Beauty to what’s up next for this digitally-native brand, Randi sat down with CEW Beauty News to provide a peek behind the curtain.
Once upon a time, during the dot-com boom, a site called Youtopia.com first tapped into the influence that celebrities could have in cyberspace. The star was Britney Spears and the mastermind behind the idea was Randi Shinder. Although social media as we now know it had yet to emerge, this novel idea proved to be a successful one that set the stage for Randi’s entry into the beauty space.
“Today we’d call this influencer marketing, and Britney was the Kim Kardashian of that time. In fact, we did the most downloaded webcast of all time with Yahoo!, which featured Britney and Justin [Timberlake] in FAO Schwarz and Bloomingdale’s talking about their favorite brands and buying them,” she recounts.
Randi’s first foray into beauty was with the fragrance brand Clean, in 2003, which was borne from Randi’s desire to smell fresh as opposed to perfumed. “This opportunity became apparent when people would ask me what scent I was wearing when I had simply just showered. The fragrance wheel didn’t have a ‘clean’ category, and nobody had brought this to market,” Randi recalled.
Sephora became an early retail partner, giving Randi a foot in the door when she embarked on her next endeavor, Dessert Beauty, in 2004. This multi-sensory fragrance and bath-and-body line launched with Jessica Simpson as a collaborator and minority shareholder and resulted in more involvement than Randi expected—and much more visibility. “In addition to being wearable, edible, and clean well before this was an industry buzzword, Dessert Beauty was the first brand to gross more than $10 million at Sephora. Then, mass came calling. We created an extension brand for drugstores and a dedicated brand for Walmart, and before we knew it, we had three brands in one. It was truly a brand that kept on giving.”
Recognizing the runaway success of Dessert Beauty, Randi’s manufacturer offered her an 18-month exclusive on a novel microsphere, which sparked the idea to create a lip plumper, “Because nothing like that existed.” When LipFusion debuted in 2005, Sephora ordered 100,000 units.
Randi explained, “This essentially became a partnership because they ordered 2 million components and deducted the costs from our [product orders] while our company kept control of the manufacturing and supplied the artwork. During the first nine months, LipFusion’s original sku was sold at Sephora, the brand raked in $32 million wholesale.” (The lip plumper retailed for $38.) Randi proudly said, “LipFusion was the first brand with a single, vertical launch to do over $50 million at Sephora. That would be considered a strong launch for a brand, much less a single sku.” The brand grew to include skin care, self-tanning cosmetics, limited-edition offerings, and LipFusion XL, which would become the brand’s biggest seller.
After selling her majority stake in Fusion Brands (which owned Clean and the Fusion product portfolio), Randi stayed on as CEO for three years and in 2009 sold her remaining equity. After waiting out a three-year non-compete, Randi reentered the beauty space in 2014 with I Smell Great, a collection of fragrances that tapped into the “influencer” power of actress (and shareholder) Sophia Bush. Randi explained, “There was no such thing as digital advertising at that time, and we had to get people to our website. Nobody was reading magazines anymore; it was a very strange time. But when Sophia posted, people responded.”
Randi’s latest venture, SBLA, launched in June 2018, bringing her into familiar territory. With a minority shareholder/spokesperson in makeup artist Spencer Barnes, and a single vertical sku in Randi’s creation, Neck Wand, she knew she had found white space once again. SBLA stands for Scientific Beauty Los Angeles.
A pivotal part of the brand’s initial sales strategy was Facebook ads, which Randi had never been able to leverage before, and was the only means of digital social media advertising at the time. “Our $3.2 million ad spend resulted in $8 million in sales.” Today, SBLA advertises on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and TikTok. As a direct-to-consumer brand, these channels are SBLA’s primary sources of revenue. (In 2021 the brand saw more than $20 million in revenue from digital ads alone.) To date the brand has generated nearly $45 million in sales.
The brand’s social media content strategy also includes Instagram Lives with ambassador Christie Brinkley. Randi laughed when sharing how Christie was “addicted” to the brand’s Facial Instant Sculpting Wand. “She kept talking about it and I was like, ‘Can you talk about the neck wands a bit more?’ For her, it was all about the face wand.”
When pressed further about social media content strategy, Randi said, “My opinion is that people don’t go through brand [Instagram] grids often or use them to decide if they are going to make a purchase. When it comes to ads, I believe you have three to six seconds to capture your customer. You need to make your big, strong statement at the beginning because that will determine whether they want to hear what else you have to say for the next 15, 30, or 60 seconds. As a consumer, I have no patience for ads that go on and on.”
The success of the original skin-smoothing, tightening, and brightening SBLA Neck Wand spurred the launch of the Neck Wand XL, which features an amped-up version of the original product’s macro-sphere technology that also helps address stubborn fat under the chin, along the jawline, and on the neck. Up next is an eye product that has pre-launched, and is actually the brand’s first formula to receive a patent. It is currently being filled and is expected to ship shortly. “It actually lifts the eyelids and has been so much fun to test and see people’s reactions,” she shared.
The brand also offers lip-plumping products, but Randi firmly believes in “focusing on one story at time.” She also said that one of the things she learned from Fusion Beauty is, “When you offer the customer too many choices, they don’t know what to buy.”
The ability for customers to subscribe to auto-replenishment is also on the horizon. “We do a lot of retargeting marketing to customers who haven’t been back within 90 days. Fifty five percent of our customers repurchase, and our return rate has never exceeded 1.6 percent. The time is right to offer this option,” Randi said.
Randi has a formula that has proven to be the secret to her success. This includes being the majority shareholder in all of the brands she’s launched, and being self-funded every step of the way. “I believe in putting everything back into the company in order to grow it. I’m the daughter of a CPA, this has always been my mentality,” she shared.
When asked about seeking outside funding, Randi said, “We’ve sat down with several different groups. There are certain things I’ve wanted to see happen, and 2021 was a phenomenal year for us in terms of online sales and other aspects of the business. In 2021 alone, we did as much revenue as we did between our launch in June 2018 and the end of 2020. This may be the year we start serious discussions with an outside investor or someone who could acquire the company, but it has to feel right.”
When asked what the future has in store, Randi shares, “I want to create a little beauty empire of independent brands that are based on the ideas in my intellectual-property wheelhouse. It’s a lot of hard work, but I enjoy it—and I think that’s really important.”