Building ZAILA from the Ground Up - Part 2
Now that I had set my company up legally and financially, it was time to think about Product Development. Before jumping into the Research & Development process, I wanted to do as much research as possible on market trends and ingredients. I learned about Ayurvedic ingredients and their chemistry with our beloved actives like niacinamide and retinol. I also conducted market research on what ingredients, product types, and sensorial qualities people looked for in their skincare. I recommend Spate.nyc if you are interested in the latest beauty trends. Thank you to everyone who has participated in my never-ending Product Development and Market Research surveys! I always learn so much from your responses.
After defining exactly what I wanted ZAILA to encompass as a brand, it was finally time to start looking for a lab that could make my dream products! Little did I know this would be one of the hardest parts of starting a skincare brand. Finding a trustworthy manufacturing partner with high quality formulation capabilities and low minimum order quantities (MOQs) can be next to impossible when you are on a tight budget. Most cosmetic laboratories in the United States have minimum order quantities of at least 5,000 units per product! Luckily, I was able to find a few labs that had lower MOQs. But the struggle didn’t end there.
I learned the hard way that:
1. Most labs have thousands of clients and a small, one-person brand like ZAILA is not going to be a priority for them. You need to show the labs that you are serious and determined
2. The quality of formulation varies immensely from lab to lab - the only way to find out if a lab is going to be able to make your products is to actually start R&D with that lab
3. Not all labs can make vegan, “clean”, etc. formulas - As the brand founder, you need to know exactly what you want in your products and what you are willing/not willing to compromise on
4. Everything will take twice as long as you expected, and cost three times more than you expected - be prepared for lots of delays, especially during a pandemic
I interviewed over 50 labs, and started the R&D process with 8 different labs. As you can see in the pictures below, many of the formulas from the various labs were disappointments.
Some formulas that separated and did not work out:
I am so happy to say that 6 months later, I have now built relationships with a few labs that I trust and that have high quality formulation capabilities! The formulas we have been creating have turned out amazing and I can’t wait to share them once we launch.
I started the official ZAILA Instagram! I was really nervous about starting social media before launching and thought that I had nothing to offer my audience. But it really was the best thing I ever did! Getting to know so many beauty lovers and other brand founders through Instagram made this entire journey so much less lonely. I appreciate each and every one of you so much and am thankful that you chose to connect with me.
I also brought on our first interns ever! We have now grown the team to 7 people who I’m so thankful for. Song helped me really get our Instagram off the ground and run our first giveaway ever which was a huge success. Autumn and Easha help run our social media on a daily basis. Faye is helping to build our website and write our blog posts. Shruti and Farzeen will be helping with creating social media content closer to launch. I definitely could not do everything alone, and am so lucky to have help from these amazing people.
That’s all I’ll cover in this newsletter for now. I’ll send out a Part 3 that will cover the Product Testing and Packaging Design processes. Thank you so much for following along with me on this journey. If you want to be even more involved, be sure to follow us on Instagram where I post lots of Behind the Scenes content and company updates.
Read Part 1 of Building ZAILA here
Lots of love,
CEO and Founder | ZAILA