Let's take it back to the basics - writing blogs - Hell to 2020 right? We have all had plans and projects disrupted, postponed, or completely destroyed that year and we never want to be reminded ever again.
2020 started on a high note for us. We were fresh off our Travel collection featuring Flight Ready and Island Glow face palettes. This was the peak of selling eyeshadow palettes in the beauty industry - international giants like Anastasia, Huda and Colorpop were launching new palettes every weekend and -somewhat it seemed to be working. We knew what we wanted - I mean we were only 2 years old at that time and our previous collections had sold-out in minutes. We were confident about the Travel collection - then came our first real life industry problems.
It's September 2019 - this means one thing! HOLIDAY SEASON. Your timeline is filled with new launches from a million brands accompanied with gift bundles and all types of specials. Holiday season means a few things for us - Sleepless Nights, Black Friday, More Sales/Money, No Christmas. Firstly, we were late with production. This was entirely not our fault as brands with smaller budgets gets pushed down the assembly line. Bootstrapping a brand (aka using your own pocket money) does not allow you the luxury of major marketing campaigns. I remember inquiring for models from MyFriendNed the year before and we simply couldn't afford it. This time we had save up enough and had generated enough internet clout as Gen-Z's say for this launch. We booked Mew (@babymew) 24hours before the shoot -- 4 days before Black Friday. Shoot done, campaign ready, launch date is a day before the big BF. I remember vividly turning on my laptop and activating the new products ready for sale. Heading to instagram to announce to our 35K followers that the Travel Collection is live to shop. Ok here is how it works, usually in the first 5-10 minutes of announcing you will know if your launch is a good one, if the algorithm gods are on your side. First 15 minutes - silence. 30 minutes - crickets. I tried to reboot my router perhaps there was a break in connection. Our first sale came around the hour and half mark and subsequent orders came in slowly, very slowly. I think we ended the day with about 207 orders in total which is very poor for holiday sales considering how we bootstrapped a few thousand products and paid for a campaign with 3 supermodels. I spent the holidays in bed depressed - done with the 'makeup' business.
On our instagram it was a different story. Miraculously our content went semi-viral anytime we made a post. We were gaining a new wave of followers - organic fanatics who were crazy about the brand and its safe to say "the streets were watching". Internally the brand was nearing bankruptcy and I was so close to quitting. An email came on a rainy Monday morning of Jan' 2020 : Sender :- Beauty Revolution. Beauty Revolution????
The same festival I could not get my brand into because I could not afford a stand last year? Summary of the email read - 'we are aware of what you guys are doing and we will like to offer you an opportunity to apply for our Beauty Summit program' - more like an award show for the upcoming brands without the competition label. This is like an exam where you have to go through series of tests - a lot of them. I said to myself this was another chance to get rejected but what's the point if you are not shooting your shot. Miss ole I-applied-for-80-investment-funds-and-government-grants-and-got-rejected-80-times - yeah that's me! I'm built for this. Fast forward to the gala-night, I remember after sitting at the corner table at the Bakalaika with everyone you can name from the industry - from L'Oreal to Revlon executives enjoying wine and canapés after listening to pitches from the next best brands in the country. I could not eat - I only had 2 shots of cognac, that's all. All the founders were waiting for that one moment -the winner of the beauty summit. At 9:45 I saw Pride from Foschini mount the stage - the last thing I remember was "....and the winner is Chick Cosmetics". Everything after that was a blur! I woke up the next morning to check Instagram and we had gained 18K followers overnight? What? I have an interview with Sandton Chronicle at 10am? YFM at 6pm? I need to be at the Facebook HQ at 8 the next morning? Things are moving too fast. The forthcoming weekend was the actual beauty festival. It started on Friday morning - all our top lines sold out in the first 30 minutes - even before I left my hotel to the convention center. Remember our travel collection that flopped? Sold out in seconds. We spent the entire weekend tiktoking and explain to our new cult why we are sold out. That feeling when the prize money hit our business account and paying for our new game changing collection we spent a year working on is a feeling I can never recreate.
Then COVID came. We heard about it in January as part of our products are made in Asia. By March, we had to shut down our entire manufacturing while explaining to our new beauty customers online why we are out of stock and not supplying their essential products. We spent about 6 months doing just that. By mid-July our next one SKIN BAR was ready. We knew it was skincare szn but we never got our hopes high. The collection went live at midnight with 89,000 live visitors waiting. Numbers we have never seen before. Serums went out of stock in the first 5 minutes and by 6am our entire inventory for the year was done. For the year! In the middle of a pandemic, in the middle of the year. That was a record for us and for South Africa. This also brought a lot of pressure on us - we were understaffed, emails quadrupled, packing time took all day and 70,000x customers.
It's still a pandemic and production is still very slow with so many restrictions. Chick Cosmetics now works with a few potential investors and major consumer goods conglomerates most of which do not understand how the internet works. Usually signing major deals means we give up a bit of our decision making, creativity and speed. We went into production for the new Pastel Dreams collection around September 2020 and have since cancelled 3 launch dates not because of the perfectionist that we are - but because we did lose control over decision making and also COVID and high shipping fees. Imagine shipping costing you 6x more than the cost of the serum you purchased? 2020 really crushed small businesses so always remember to support local and small entrepreneurs as most of them have no other options to live on.
It's a new year now and we are ready for newness! Ready for the challenges this year brings while humbled and learning from our 2020 mistakes. We are ready to take it back to the basics of community building while scaling steadily and slowly. This year looks very bright.
You can shop our new Pastel Dreams collection starting with our merch collection from 25th January 21'. Next few days will follow with new skincare products we cannot wait to show you! A percentage of our proceeds will go to other small business striving to stay afloat in the pandemic. It will be an honor for you to support us as we support others.
We are truly overwhelmed and can't say thank you enough for being on our side. Day 1 or Year 3 you have changed our lives so many times without even knowing.
Until the next story time - stay safe and stay positive in this historical era.
Nomfundo from Chick Cosmetics
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