We sat down with Go-To Skincare founder and former beauty editor Zoë Foster Blake to talk about how she built her business from the ground up (and up and up). Zoe’s just launched her latest product, Zincredible (a moisturiser with SPF) and sold 33 pumps per minute in the first hour of launching. Talk about incredible; we asked her how she did it.
Congrats on launching Zincredible – it’s the moisturiser with zinc we’ve all been waiting for!
You’ve been waiting for it! HA. I started work on this beast in 2014. But who’s counting? (Me. Definitely me.)
It’s set to be one of the most-talked about beauty products of 2018. How many units did you sell in the first week?
It was a big, exciting, ludicrous time. Over 40,000 people visited the site in the first 24 hours of launch and we sold 33 pumps per minute in the first hour. It really tested us. Our server crashed, we had to hire 16 Air Taskers to come help pack boxes, (our core team got 2500 orders out in one day, which is phenomenal for such a small team) and our customer service genies were walloped with excited customers. An unprecedented success, with lots of learnings.
“I’m definitely a maker, not a manager, and as you grow, the decisions get bigger, and more critical, and more stressful, and the business shit really interrupts the creative stuff. It definitely got too much for a while there.”
Did you anticipate you’d move that many?
No. And I was its biggest champion! Before I launch anything, a book, new product, whatever, I always slide into a vortex of insecurity and anxiety in the weeks preceding. ‘No one will like it, read it, use it, because it sucks,’ etc. It’s an important part of any creative endeavour, this tension. It means you care, and you’ve chosen to make something important to you. I just let it come and go now.
How did you create the sell-out demand for your latest product?
Probably by talking about the importance of daily SPF non-stop for about 164 years.
Zincredible has been four and a half years in the making. Why did you wait to perfect it rather than release another (inferior) sunscreen product that would probably sell anyway?
Good question. We could have released a product that was SPF 30 or 50, full of synthetic chemical filters and silicones and had it on the shelf two years ago. But we don’t make things an ‘at any cost.’ (And those ingredients would be a big cost to a customer base who rely on us to produce clean skincare.) We take the long, hard road, to make products that we know a) won’t piss off our customers’ skin, and b) we can stand behind proudly, knowing no shortcuts were taken. Also, for me personally, the trust I have built over years in the beauty industry is on the line with every product we make, and I know people have high expectations of Go-To. I would never fuck with that.
Working with SPF has absolutely been the biggest professional challenge of my life. The first three years were spent trying to make a completely clean daily moisturiser with zinc oxide SPF 30. We could not get it right. And I knew that asking women to wear something that felt and looked awful was a bad idea. It would not be liked, or worn. And I really wanted it to be worn. So, I changed tack. I decided to make two: an SPF 15 for every day use, and a high protection product (coming soon!) for extended UV exposure. Also we made a tinted version, cos who doesn’t want that?
What do you think is the best way to launch a new product in 2018? Word of mouth? Influencers? Press? Social? A mix?
It’s got to be a combination. You’d be a dope to rely on just one. For Zincredible, I did something we haven’t done before, which is talk to our customers about it almost a year before it came out, and then again gradually building up to launch. I’d championed physical SPF for so long, so they knew it had to be coming, but I think taking the customers along with us presented us with a chance to make it a more meaningful product launch for everyone. They felt part of the journey, even invested in it, in a way.
Earlier this year you launched in Sephora in the US, congrats! How did that feel? And was that a long term goal of yours?
It’s bloody exciting to have launched into the US – and our first bricks and mortar store – with Sephora. But to say we meant it would be disingenuous. I never envisioned a path for Go-To; I am but a simple girl, only capable of working short-term. So, I set out to make some really useful skin care, and do the best possible job of it, and got on with it. Secretly, US Sephora was my pie-in-the-sky aspiration. As in, it-will-never-happen, but also… why not quietly entertain the idea that it might? And then get on with shit. Cos that’s the only way it will happen.
You started your career beauty + mag land. Did you ever anticipate being an entrepreneur? What’s been your hardest lessons since launching Go-To?
I’m definitely a maker, not a manager, and as you grow, the decisions get bigger, and more critical, and more stressful, and the business shit really interrupts the creative stuff. It definitely got too much for a while there. The best way to strip the joy out of something you love is attached a financial spreadsheet to it, amIrite? But this was completely normal for a start-up jumping the chasm to Proper Business. We’ve now got a team of very experienced grown-ups managing several departments, so not only do I have more support, I can get back to the bits I’m best at and enjoy, like NPD, copy and marketing.
Running a business can be bloody hard / exhausting. Who do you turn to when you need to make a tough decision? Who’s in your support network?
My husband is my number one sounding board, support and cheerleader. He’s a perfect blend of creativity and business smarts, and always has my best interests – and time, and sanity, and energy – at heart. My fellow directors are also brilliant. We’ve been in this together since day one, and understand the very specific intricacies and issues our business brings with it. We have been through some dizzying highs and some meaty challenges and we’ve got each other’s back. Also: my girlfriends. Lot of us have a hustle going on, as well as kids, and an epic vent over a wine (or even just Whatsapp) can take me from a 3 to a solid 9.