PLH A to Z | Cosmetics

CPG Beauty and Beyond founder Loren West takes a deep dive into specific processes and stages involved in successfully launching cosmetic products, which could also very well apply to many other different categories. Whether you are an entrepreneur starting out with your own beauty brand, dabbling in producing cosmetics, planning a cosmetic product launch or are working on a totally different product category, you will definitely have something to learn from Loren’s rich industry experience. As she connects one beauty product launch process to another, she will show you how all of its moving parts, from teams working on product development, market research, sales and marketing, logistics and more could work in harmony to help you achieve your business goals.

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We’ve got another great Office Hours for you. This one is with Loren West. If you remember, Loren is our Product Development Expert in all things consumer package goods that are a little bit more complex. Anything that requires compliance, FDA approval, all of those things, Loren is your person to talk about the process flow, project management, process management and anything related to those systems and tools. Let’s hear it from Loren.

This is Loren West, I’m with CPG Beauty and Beyond. I have expertise in project management, product development and delivery for a variety of different companies within the product-based, consumer product industry. We’re going to talk a little bit about a beauty launch. Basically, the five keys to achieve better results. We’ll go through the different aspects of a launch or review for the beauty business, primarily that this can apply to a lot of other types of product-based companies. Initially, most companies they’re going to start off with coming up with a new innovative product idea or it could be a product extension or reformulation of a product that they already produced currently. That will coincide from an executive staff that’s bringing in a new idea or their PD department, product development. That will coincide with their marketing and sales departments that may bring back some additional data from a field, whether it’s merchants that they work with primarily or internally from consumers that also provide feedback based on their current product or what they might like to see next.

They’ll kick off with a product idea being brought to a PD department and utilize the marketing and sales departments to come up with some initial strategy of how they might potentially sell that product and where they would sell that. How that will connect with their current consumer base or they’ll be reaching out to a new consumer target. That’s to moving in with proper planning, which ties in project management and operations from a larger level of what options do you have to launch this within a certain specified timeframe? Most merchants may come back with a target of when they’re looking to launch a particular type of product in store.

Brands will go back and reset of what’s possible for them or they’ll also come to various different merchants already with some to plan to launches in mind and see what works. As the product idea progresses from being introduced, it also concurrently works within PD more with the development from a formula standpoint as well as a packaging standpoint. That can be handled both internally and externally with a variety of vendors that a brand may already be working with or they may have a lot of those resources in-house internally. Once the whole product is essentially planned out and approved, then it goes through the phase of execution.

Basically, implementing that plan that initially was designed and that will include a variety of different things from operations to shipping. We’ll walk through different stages of this. Starting off with the product idea. Most companies will kick off with whatever product they’re creating. What are going to be the key benefits, key focus and specifically ingredients as well? Within a lot of cosmetics, that’s a key highlight. One to three key ingredients that might be providing the key benefit that might be tackling redness for example, adding additional hydration, or some new ingredient that a lot of companies are not using, then that’ll be played up from a marketing strategy or story with it. A PD department will want to get those clear benefits first so they can then go through the process of further development, whether that’s internally and they have their own labs to do that or they’re working with external vendors.

Most often than not, they’re looking to create a clear product brief. Anything will list out, something that will help them work with different labs, having a clear picture of quantities, and focused benefits of a product as well as providing competitive benchmarks. A PD department will rely heavily on what exactly does marketing and sales want us to create for them or even from an executive standpoint. Let’s say they’ve gone to a recent beauty trade show and they picked up some different products and liked the touch, feel and look of them and wondering how they might incorporate that into their own brand. They can easily come back and provide some different options, whether it’s different cleansers, moisturizers, lotions and be able to provide a reference point. Instead of having completely no reference, it’s better to provide as much references as possible to your PD team to then be able to do the development of it.

[Tweet “You can contact manufacturers that do private labeling if you are starting out your own beauty product company.”]

This also can be done from a product ideation basis. If you would like to start a beauty company yourself or make your own beauty product and you were just an entrepreneur individual and you don’t have a whole team, there are a lot of companies out there that work as contract manufacturers and will do private labeling for a variety of companies and individuals, should that be the direction you want to go. They’ll provide a lot of this for you, these different stages and handle all that as if you had your own beauty company at your disposal. That’s also another avenue to go. When you’re approaching a cosmetic manufacturer, it’s also good if you can provide some samples of products that you like already and what you like about them. Whether it’s a cleanser and it foams up a certain way or working with a variety of different products. It’s good to present something to them as a reference point.

From a company standpoint, from a brand standpoint, a lot of companies will take their new product ideas and divide them into a few different categories whether it’s a completely new product idea they want to create that’s innovative to them or innovative to the industry itself. It can be easily a product extension from a current line and they want to offer more to their consumers within that same family, whether it’s a treatment or a cleansing line or it could be reformulation, tackling any consumer issues that might come up or things that need to be tweaked a little bit, related either to formula or packaging. They can hit those few different areas.

The next one is we transitioned to the product idea of being introduced. Usually, a marketing and sales department will work on the whole strategy around the product piece. This is key and helpful for a PD department to better understand how this product is going to be sold. That in turn will help the next step when they do the development. Some of this happens concurrently at companies that’s a little bit of a flow and things are intertwined. In marketing and sales departments, they’ll consider the demographic of who they’re selling to, what their specific pain points are, and what they’re trying to solve. From a particular skin issue or something that is trendy for ingredient and that they want to jump on the bandwagon with that and participate in the marketplace that way and look at just from whatever product they’re creating. What sales channels will they be selling through? Whether it will be through their normal retailers or do they want to approach a new particular retailer to focus on and look at the market competition, what other companies are currently selling you this cosmetic or skincare product that’s very closely to them?

They can try to then develop their pricing strategy and their suggested retail price for it. The suggested retail price that’s given to a PD department or even working with a cosmetic manufacturer, doing that initial research is key to know where your brand or your particular product. If you’re just starting out where that’s going to land and that will also help signify what formula you can go with and what packaging options you’ll have available to figure out what price point you’re trying to target at and knowing how much profit you’ll have. Another thing that brands sometimes consider as well is looking at continuity options. Does this particular product fit into a kit that they may currently do or a regimen? Some companies like to structure their products in support of specific regimens.

PLH A to Z | Cosmetics

Cosmetics: When you’re approaching a cosmetic manufacturer, it’s also good if you can provide some samples of products that you like already and what you like about them.

A day and night putting together a treatment regimen depending upon what they’re trying to focus on. From a sales standpoint, really looking at how you can sell that product in multiple different ways. The other thing they look at too is what existing or new partnerships they could create for themselves to help leverage all the different network and opportunities. Some companies will start to initially look at on Instagram and other options. What influencers are they currently connected with? From some companies that want to project themselves giving back socially, what nonprofits can they partner with or show that they have sustainability? That comes a little later in the packaging piece.

Essentially, having a clear picture of whom exactly are they targeting for this product and where is it going to be sold, that will also help basically formulate and dictate a lot more of the formula and packaging decisions that come into play with the development piece of it. Sometimes this information is included as much as possible with known details in the product brief up front, or definitely shared a little bit later on once it gets kicked off into motion. The PD receives what kind of product is going to be developed. Moving on to the planning piece, which to me definitely coincides with the fourth piece of development, is coming into the piece where I hold more expertise in with the project planning, looking at all the different stages of what needs to be done to be able to create a launch.

Essentially, looking at all these frontend steps from product development, marketing, all these aspects and then all the product piece of it from the formula, packaging development, to execution. A lot of times there is an initial project plan roughly put out for a launch and a lot of beauty companies will put timing seasonally. That even coincides a lot with the whole fashion industry. Looking at spring, summer, fall and winter and looking at a holiday, sometimes you’ll notice a lot of beauty companies either independently or those that sell primarily at Sephora and a few other retailers as well, they’ll come out with seasonal-looking kits based on that reason.

Some target factors to keep in mind is as you’re developing a new product, a lot of times your PD department or if you’re working with an outside consultant such as myself, you’re looking at vendor lead times and what additional things they need to get your product done. With PPS approvals, that stands for pre-production sample approvals. That ties into creative development and having time to approve colors that are used on primary packaging such as bottles, caps, jars, anything that’s the actual physical product and with secondary packaging cartons and insert shippers, all of that. If that has any color, that will also come into play but usually later on.

Some aspects when building out products, some companies will need to do tooling. If you’re doing a custom bottle shape, all of that that’s not necessarily stock and standard size, most companies can work with you to create something just for your particular product. It’s always a good thing to keep in mind that adds more cost and more time involved. It does make it more unique to you. It’s something to consider. Tooling can range at a variety of companies. Most often than not, you’re looking at five to seven months additional time added on from a development standpoint before you order components to then be mass produced. Within that five to seven-month range, that will include a couple sample versions. It’s always good to look at all of the sizes and make sure internally as a company you have everything signed off and approved from a technical drawing standpoint.

I ran into a case with a client once where they had approved everything but something was off a little bit on a neck size, which is the top of the jar. They went to put it on the line and production and it did not fit. They had a huge problem on their hands. They’ve got a shipment in from Mexico, a huge assortment of bottles and they could not use them, they had to get everything redone. It’s always good to double check everything that you’re approving and to work with your operations team. That’s primarily if you’re a brand and working independently internally. If you’re working with a CM of just having all those little pieces checked off, making sure that you have what you need done, that’s something you can rely on your CM to provide those types of checklists to make sure all those approvals are done. It’s something to keep in mind if you’re working with someone that that’s needed.

With timing and looking at manufacturing and shipping, a lot of fillers, they range on how much volume they’re going to be producing for you. On the short-end from a planning perspective, you’re looking at two months, about eight weeks to produce most products. You could easily, depending upon the volume that you’re requesting and if there’s anything custom involved, some additional lines and they might potentially send out to an additional vendor. You could be looking anywhere between eight to sixteen weeks to produce most products. Shipping ranges itself depending upon what manufacturer you’re shipping to. Either if you’re partnering and working with Sephora, working with QVC or additional retailers, that whole piece will range on anywhere between nine weeks and less. Two months is a good rule of thumb to plan per shipping cost once your product is ready to be shipped to actually be in store.

Then various packaging options. I bring this up because a lot of companies tend to forget about this. They’ll tend to talk about, “We want to look at all these different specialty packaging options.” They want to do some additional hot stamping or direct printing, all these different aspects or spraying on their components if they have a clear bottle and all these additional steps take time and cost different amounts of money. From a launch standpoint, it’s good if you can have either your consultant or your internal project manager tries to look at all the different options and map those out that. As an executive team or as an inventor, you’re looking at, “Here’s the timing for all these options.” One particular path may take three months longer. If you’re doing a custom bottle, that might add a whole another five to seven months on top of your whole launch with your whole plan overall. Really taking into account looking at all the options, you can make an informed decision when you’re working with the different merchants to know if you can hit what their targets are when they need product in store.

[Tweet “It is best to provide as much references to the product development team to help them determine how your product is going to be sold.”]

Transitioning from planning and this coincides with the product development stage. From a product development standpoint, once your PD department or if the CM you’re working independently with a contract manufacturer, they have a variety of those around the country, they’re taking that product brief that you’re giving to them and preparing rounds of samples to meet what marketing or sales is requesting. Sometimes companies will do preliminary focus group research that I recommend to do just because you never know how people might react to things and sometimes it’s good to get a little bit of a blind consumer read on things before you march down the path and approve what product.

Some companies internally should build this out more because a lot of brands are racing behind the eight ball to get this done. I would say easily around a good four to six months if you plan to provide your PD team enough time. With my history of working with different CMs, I would say, definitely the more time the better. Ideally, I would say the beauty industry, everyone’s rushing behind the eight ball and everything’s needed tomorrow. If you can start to plan with more time in mind, that’s better of course. From a packaging standpoint, these can be done a little bit concurrently. Sometimes companies will be working with an outside consultant just for packaging itself or they may have that internally.

That will comprise of any secondary packaging needed from you that curtains the shipping. If you’re shipping a kit, also thinking of back trays that might be needed because the weight and the materials used, such as glass products definitely need trays and the quantity of it. The other thing to consider is when brands start to develop a lot of products, sometimes they’ll do a larger size. For example, for a holiday promotion and what some marketing departments or people will forget is the weight and size of the products may not have passed the shipping drop test. They do those so that way over time, early on, you know if your products will pass shipping. Once you’re sending these to the merchants, you don’t want all your products to come in broken or damaged. That would definitely not be ideal.

The other thing a lot of brands are starting to get into over the last year or so is looking at sustainability. Looking at recycled materials and carton companies are becoming more open to this and carrying a variety of substrates to work with. That’s something that I’ve seen probably in the last five years take priority. In the packaging, I project that it will become a main thing going on. It might even go into from the creative aspect really thinking of inks and recycled inks and all of that. From a COG standpoint, usually, that comes into play where marketing and sales is providing that target either to a PD department internally at a brand or they’re working with an outside contract manufacturer that’s providing that information to them based on their target suggested retail price.

At this stage, once you’ve developed your formula and your packaging, you’ll create some type of sign off. Whether you’re agreeing to all the CM that’s providing you’re private labeling and private manufacturing, they’ll provide you samples and you’ll sign off on everything. It’s good to do a full inspection on what you’re being given to make sure it’s exactly what you want because most companies can’t make a lot of tweaks so they’re going to charge you a lot of money to do that. It’s good in this development phase to be clear on exactly what you want your end product to look like and get all the approvals aligned with that.

From an internal standpoint at most companies of really building in that structure and sign up process, I’ve seen some companies that don’t have those types of clear approvals in place or enough parties involved from various different departments. What will happen is you can get into a case where some people have approved it and run with it, and then they have to go back to the drawing board later on because they weren’t clear that everybody was not aware of it. Having a clear approval process and setting that up within your company is important.

With these types of sign-offs, say a company is doing a partnership with a major celebrity or someone in fashion. I had a client once before they were involved with a high-end fashion designer and producing a collection of beauty products for them. What they failed to do at the time was they didn’t have an approval process setup for that celebrity’s rep, the company that was repping them and handling all of this product partnership. They went ahead and produced everything, thought everything was signed off on and this woman hated it. Unfortunately, that can be somewhat common in the sense of doing partnerships and you’re working with these additional influencers and celebrities to help bring more recognition to your product or a particular promotion. It’s good to make sure that they are signed off, especially when it relates to color.

Besides the formula development within color cosmetics and companies that work with those types of products in lipsticks, shades, eye shadows, all of that, you’re having additional color development and samples. Having any brand partnership you’re doing where you’re utilizing someone’s name or supporting that, make sure that there’s that sign-off too so that you don’t come back in the end and have anything come back to you in any way, shape or form. Moving to the last stage will all these other frontend planning works to set up your team to be able to execute well. As you are basically going through all the stages of coming up with an idea in working through what strategy of how you’re going to sell it, what are the pieces for development and I now have a final product I want to produce, I now know what formula, what colors it’s going to be, what form it is and all the packaging that’s going to be used.

PLH A to Z | Cosmetics

Cosmetics: Marketing and sales department will work on the whole strategy around the product piece. This is key and helpful for a PD department to better understand how this product is going to be sold.

I can step into a longer phase of executing it. This ranges across the board from actual execution. The beauty industry I feel it’s pretty notorious of having quick turnarounds once all these pieces are known. A good eighteen months is more ideal to shoot with. A lot of companies tend to work within a range of a five to nine-month window. That can be somewhat detrimental to either working with a variety of your vendors where you’re trying to have them rush a lot of items and condense their vendor lead times based on their relationship with you. With most of my clients, I try to work to transition them from a five to nine-month plan more to an eighteen-month plan, but still allow for some flexibility. Really planning more time for your projects overall, it allows you to be more agile because your team is not as stressed and running around trying to create miracles every day.

From an execution process standpoint, this will be kicked off with a final cost of goods approval and providing final forecast to your operations team or providing that to your CM that’s handling all of your private labeling and to include consideration of launching along with the six-month forecast. If you launch your product and you’re getting some good feedback in there, some sales to take into account of what the next six months of sales might potentially look like, it may be hard to determine that if you’re a completely a new company and just launching with one new product and seeing where it fits. It’s definitely something to take in mind for future use is to start thinking ahead and planning in the longer forecast.

This will help your operations team from a planning perspective of components and keeping certain core product components on hand as you expand your line. From a merchant presentation standpoint, it’s key if companies can start to have those conversations sooner and develop a little bit more ongoing communication with your retail partners that you have. I find that a lot of brands struggle with gathering concrete information and obviously different buying teams that they’re working with can have other demands and factors on them. It’s good to try to have that ongoing communication setup that allows frequent changes. A lot of times I’ll definitely see where initial forecast has come in. They’ve also agreed to take particular shades or particular products and then there are a lot of changes later on or there’s a request for a new shade.

I try to work a lot with teams of having those upfront conversations with merchants so that as your teams are developing the products or particular shades, that retail partners are already aware on the direction you’re headed in. You’re getting that feedback from them on what quantities of shades they may take in store so that you’re not coming down to them having to do last minute development once you’ve already ordered your main set of products. The other piece of execution too and sometimes it starts earlier at companies or varies how they’re built out is doing the branding. It’s usually the same time that a product is being kicked off with PD is bringing in a creative department. Sometimes this is done by an outside company as well if the company is very small is having all the creative development added in and the messaging.

For primary components, say the bottles, the look of the product name, all of that as well as the secondary for packaging and taking into account any regulatory information that’s needed as well can add that on here too. That’s always key from a product standpoint. Usually a branding and packaging personnel will be responsible for looking at your pre-production approval samples and looking at all that color matching. Most teams will rely on that. Once your quantities have been determined for your product launch, your operations team will be looking into purchasing all the components that are needed and as well as secondary packaging. That comes in later on.

If you’re building out a purchasing team and just starting with this, something that’s helpful to do for your team is to start building out a component list and lead time list so that your marketing and sales teams can be better informed. If I pick this product to do in the future, how long is my lead time? That’s something I’ve noticed a lot of companies don’t have things written down and known cross functionally between a lot of different departments.

Keep everybody informed of what your department does and how they conserve the next one involved. That process or range from sixteen weeks for on the low end of a component lead time to 27 weeks or further, depending upon what processes are needed. If bottles are sprayed and they could potentially be sent out from that bottle vendor to be sprayed and then come back in-house and then go to your filler tray manufacturer. There’s a lot of moving pieces of that. That’s another reason when you are product planning at a company, it’s a good to bring in an operation’s representative from your team for an outside company that’s handling all that for you. That timing is accounted for upfront when you’re considering your packaging options.

Having a clear approval process and setting that up within your company is important. Share on X

From an operation standpoint, you’re looking at a variety of things. Operations will be involved with scoping out new vendors. They might be helping the product development team to source new vendors for manufacturing, get all the vendors set up in whatever your vendor management system might be, then tracking all that from ordering the components to having the filling done at various different manufacturers in going through batch approvals. Most brands will have a QA regulatory department or they might be using an outside consultant for that. Keeping the history and all of that, that’s important to keep routine samples from production batches and what’s been approved. Even more so with SPF products, for example, that has a whole regulation with FDA requirements and everything. SPF products specifically are specialized and have certain QA requirements. All of this collectively, there are a lot of different factors that go involved and packing out with some brands that will have their own warehouse directly, internally or they’ll be hiring out for packing out services.

Keeping in mind of shipping lead times and that varies. The other thing of shipping keeping in mind too is for example our brand is working with a particular company that builds their product that may not necessarily be domestic and in the States. A lot of companies tend to work with international companies and providers. That always comes into play on timing and planning back in step five of looking at what products potentially could be coming from China. Anything shipped in, you’re looking at three to four months added on before you’re even doing your pack out to then ship your product to the manufacturer. If your product’s being produced over in Europe, overseas, you’re easily looking on the short-end of around six to eight weeks of shipping time before you even start a typical one month pack out process.

There are many processes to keep in mind. I find a lot of companies don’t offer enough planning on the front-end activities of getting clarity around their marketing and sales teams to come up with those strategies. I find a lot of companies struggle in their operations to go back and forth and meet marketing’s demands of not having clear forecasts upfront and a clear strategy in place, which is something I always recommend putting together a project brief in place to have that clarity internally of what is this product? What’s going to go in it? How is it going to be shipped? What packaging is required? That can also add a basic brief that can be further developed at whatever company or location you’re at. That’s something important to add when you’re kicking off projects internally.

From a collection of all of this, from a tracking standpoint with project management, there are a lot of options out there. There are a lot of different online platforms. There’s new software that I’ve been using recently at one of my clients called Workfront. What I like about this particular platform is that it’s very universal to setup a basic timeline. This particular client of mine, they use I believe just the Workfront. They have some additional types of products that are available from this company. It has multiple users and the users themselves close out their tasks.

Whereas in some other types of product software, you’re reliant on either your consultant or your internal project manager to constantly update timelines. Whereas this allows a lot more of the ownership on the task owner themselves so they can go in and individually close stuff out. They have a few other platforms. This company is based on a user cost per month. It starts off at around $30 a month per user. Depending upon what your needs is, if you’re not a huge company or even if you are, it might still be good to look at. It definitely is universal and puts more ownership on multiple departments.

Another one that I’ve worked with is Basecamp.com. They have a variety of things. I’ve used them before in the past. It’s very visual. For someone like myself, I tend to line up much more with tasks and to-do list-oriented type of systems. This is definitely another option that’s out there. Traditionally, another option is Microsoft Project. That particular system is a little bit more robust version of Excel and you can do a lot more Gantt charts and stuff with that. However, you don’t get that real time feedback because there’s always constant updating. I definitely recommend as a company trying focusing on finding some type of online platform that you are comfortable with. I feel that’s the long-term vision of different project management software is using the internet, using that capability, but also allows your team the flexibility of being able to check wherever your project status is.

The other thing I’ll be doing, like a review, I’m looking into a new software that’s come out in the last year and they’ve gotten a lot of notoriety is the software called monday. That looks like that mix is a little bit of visual and to-do lists together. They also have another platform out there called Asana and that has worked well for multiple teams of creating to do lists, dropping in documents and everything together in one place for a variety of teams. They just added a new feature on their software with adding in timelines. I don’t know if those automatically update. I’m hoping that they’ve made it more integrated and user friendly. They’ve been working off these other platforms to help integrate similarly.

PLH A to Z | Cosmetics

Cosmetics: The other piece of execution too and sometimes it starts earlier at companies or varies how they’re built out is doing the branding.

There are a lot of aspects that go into a product launch. I’m looking at all those stages from the ideation phase, going into planning your sell strategy, putting together a proper plan and mapping out the development of your product to set your team up for success and execution. I’m often asked how much time is a good amount of time to plan for products. I would really say for most teams you should be planning around two years out. There are a lot of various different hiccups at different stages that occur and issues with vendors and it’s better to give your teams more time than not. On the back-end of that, if you’re not at a place where you can do that, I wouldn’t suggest trying to launch something less than a year. Especially if it’s something new and you’re new to this, there are many different variables to run through. You want to make sure you’re producing a solid product. From a CM standpoint, it’s good to get advice and get recommendations for people that have used companies before.

As a business industry as a whole, people are open to connecting with others and sharing what has worked for them. I recommend reaching out to the network that you do have of people that you may know that work within the PD industry and see what feedback or experiences they’ve had with various different companies whether it’s a manufacturer, a contract manufacturer or various different suppliers. Word of mouth is key to most businesses and most definitely within manufacturing. I definitely look at referrals and look at what other companies help and what success that they’ve had for those you’re already connected within the industry. For those getting started, it’s really doing your research, approaching a lot of different companies to gather overall pricing and looking at price breaks. That’s another thing too of looking at what quantity you want to come at producing with. Sometimes companies come in way too low, they’re not getting the price breaks available to them and looking at the longevity of this particular product launching and maximizing profit that way.

From an execution standpoint, it’s common, as a lot of companies are not planning well enough or tracking well enough. I would recommend taking times put together a proper project plan of what is it going to take to create product XYZ. It is important to do and mapping out those multiple paths based on what packaging direction you want to consider and having that time up front. Those are three common questions and I definitely have some space on the product platform here to feel free to reach out and to connect with what type of launch you’re looking to do. I might be able to point you in a couple directions to help support a successful launch for yourself. I look forward to hearing from you soon. I look forward to our next product session next month. Thank you for your time. I really appreciate it and feel free to drop some questions you may have in the inbox on the platform.

Loren, I’m going to ask you a question. You mentioned the whole idea of checking everything like your packaging and getting all of that checking to making sure that it matches the sample. We have this thing. We call it the golden sample. A lot of times when you’re in the early development process of launching a new product, you’re developing the samples over. There’s a sample shop, a product development department, formulation department I suspect might happen in that and they’re the best people to make samples, the best experts are in that area and not necessarily what you will see in production. Does that happen in your area?

Yes, there are definitely variances across the board. A lot of companies, they’ll have a general sample that they’ve approved but then having a range, whether it’s from the printing aspect or a company’s come back with tolerances. A lot of vendors will bring in here’s what we’re going to produce to you, but there are tolerances a little bit both ways of what would be acceptable. From a sample to actual production, they do look different. Whether that’s a promotional purse or bag that’s added on, a lot of those tend to come from overseas. From even that added on, it’s a real hit and miss on what you get back for that packaging at a variety of companies.

Color ranges, scent ranges, could that happen?

A lot of companies will have a range. Even if there’s an approved color approval. It will come back with a range. Most companies are being more proactive that way from a delivery side to beauty companies, that they will provide a range instead of things be exact. Things do happen in manufacturing and things can shift a little bit, or if a file comes in off. Which is why there is that case in point to have pre-production samples approval. That way there are clear colors, you can see what it’s going to come out like. The other thing is getting with samples of production samples. Sometimes the early production samples will be sent back early enough where if you’re doing along range production, you might have a chance to stop it if you don’t like it. They haven’t produced the whole entire order. There might be still some catchall for that.

We do that. We have special monitoring happening of first run manufacturing because those things happen. We have a lot of finish issues. We do a lot of wood products and things you might have a range of finishes because it’s a natural material to begin with. Your tolerances are wider. What we do is we set what we think it’s going to be and then as they start to run greater production and get more material running through, we have a team in place that will recommend that we widen it or we shrink it. That’s what we monitor over the first run to make sure that we refine those standards. That’s a good practice and that you suggested when you were talking about that is that to stay involved and to stay on top of that and to stay all the way through your first run.

It’s a pretty standard practice across most companies as a beauty company who is starting to grow, develop and expand their team from the entrepreneur to a few more people. Typically, when they’ll bring in someone for their operations role or QA regulations area, most ops bring in sample control and monitoring and looking at that aspect. It’s good even for people to do that if they’re individually and private labeling. It’s good to be connected to who is making your product, what exactly are you expecting and to retain those kinds of samples so that you have recourse with the companies you’re working with to be involved in what you’re producing, especially when it comes to all the different regulations and industry. It’s your name on the product. You’re responsible for how things happen for consumers, although you’re relying a lot on the expertise of a variety of different vendors. You still want to take a very active approach of how does your product look. How is it going to work? Follow that all the way through.

[Tweet “When developing beauty products, companies should also explore new partnerships to help leverage networking opportunities with influencers.”]

Thank you for that. I want to remind our readers that there is a resource library on the site. I personally have loaded up my template that we use for sample reviews. Keep in mind, we mostly review consumer goods. They’re beauty products. They don’t usually have formulas. They’re not as complex as what you might be doing in the beauty area. It gives you a sense of you need to tag your samples. You need to have examples, and you need to know the date they were made, and where they came from. There’s a template that might be a great starting place for you startups out there where it’s there for you to use. Take advantage of that and then learn. Even seeing an example could help a lot of our startups figure out what they do need because when you don’t have enough people, you better have a better system.

That is true. It’s harder in the beginning when you’re doing things almost all yourself because you’re reliant on the expertise of people that you’re going to. You have to make sure that you’re utilizing the best in the business, especially when you’re starting out.

I also did want to make the comment that we use Basecamp with our clients. We utilize it for a little bit different purpose than most people do. One is because it allows large file sizes without a problem. When we’re transferring to our Asia factories or even back and forth with our clients, it gives us the ability to put those in a place that’s not going to be Dropboxing, Google docking, and being in all different weird places. It allows us one place to do that. The other thing that I do like about it is to keep the discussions out of everybody’s individual emails and to force it to be on the platform together. That’s how we utilize it. We don’t go into great timeline management or any of those things because everything is always influx and we’d spend more time updating that then we would actually doing the work. It’s not a part of what we do with our clients.

For a lot of people and for very sensitive product lines like yours, you need to do stuff like that. I would love for you to do some reviews of those for everyone here because you have much more insight onto more complex use of them. Let’s take one a month maybe and you could do a little segment on them. We’ve been doing this on the market research side. We’re going to have Field Agent, this market research platform that we utilize. They’re going to come in and they’re going to talk to us about it. It will be a review, an interview process. If you find that there’s one out there, maybe we should do the same thing.

I can take a look and see what might be a great fit.

Tune in to Loren West next Office Hours. Connect with and find out more about Loren West in our Experts Directory.

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