Q&A: Scott-Vincent Borba

September 15, 2007

Scott-Vincent Borba, Founder and CEO,
Borba Skin Care Products, Woodland Hills, CA

Beauty I&O caught up with Scott-Vincent Borba, creator of a variety of ingestible and topical skin care products, to discuss his company, products and plans for the future. He’s originally from a small farming town in California called Visalia, and from a very young age he admits to being on a “different wavelength.” At 33, it seems not much has changed. Mr. Borba launched Borba Skin Balance Water approximately three years ago. Since then he has licensed the Borba name to a variety of brands, which use the “secret” formula in everything from smoothies to chocolate bars to lip gloss. So what’s next?

BI&O: Can you discuss the genesis of the Borba concept?

Borba: We spent years developing this proven nutraceutical. The goal was to bring supplements, vitamins and herbals together in one bioavailable form. I had such an interest in this because I was already taking vitamins, drinking two liters of water a day and using a combination of more than 10 topical products. As a male, it is extremely difficult from a behavioral perspective to spend all that time taking care of yourself throughout the day. That’s how Borba Skin Balance Waters were born.

BI&O: What role did science play in developing the product?

Borba: It took many years and many scientists from different parts of the world—I flew over delivery specialists from Japan to figure out the encapsulation and micronization processes. We also had to find out what was needed in a formulation to make it truly effective, so we worked with internal specialists, dermatologists, chemists and water specialists to find out how to make the formulation work. We also tapped into the top flavor specialists to determine the best coloring and flavoring systems to work with the extracts already in the formulations. This is no Vitaminwater. When you see the milky consistency you can be sure there is some serious efficacy to the product. In fact, each one of our products has demonstrated clinical results in some area of skin care.

BI&O: Can you describe the flagship products?
Borba: I started off with a line of three enhanced water products. When you walk into major cosmetic retailers there are literally hundreds of products to choose from, and if you watch focus groups you will see how overwhelmed consumers are with the products and assortments out there in the marketplace. The point of the Borba concept is to simplify consumers’ regimens to the point of effectiveness by offering them one product, or at most three products—what I call “tri-products.” This is why I came out initially with three different waters—in order to offer a full body benefit from a daily perspective. These products address the three major challenges consumers have, which include acne and blemishes; age defying; and dry and sensitive skin. I aimed for these major categories in an effort to provide them with a comprehensive program to address their skin care concerns. Most consumers have two major concerns that they try to address through a particular skin care regimen. For me, it is skin clarity and anti-aging, so I will drink two out of the three waters to get the benefits I need. Most consumers will do a combination of the three to get the full benefits. Later on in the development of the line I added a “firming” formulation, which addresses stretch marks and weight management. And that’s all I need. I don’t need to go any further. I will turn out innovations in those categories, but consumers really embrace that philosophy because it makes it so easy for them to shop. They don’t need to worry about picking up four more skin treatments for the same condition.

BI&O: What past experiences helped you shape the Borba brand?

Borba: Prior to developing this concept I was a luxury marketer and I knew that I could positively affect a common behavior through a problem/solution approach. I thought if I could design something from a luxury perspective that incorporates this problem/solution approach people would walk around with it (i.e., the Starbucks model). Eventually I thought it could even become a conversation piece on your office desk or if you’re walking into a club.

BI&O: What was your first big break?

Borba: Within the first five minutes in a meeting with executives from Fred Siegel, they got it. They supported me like no one else and knew from the start this would be the biggest thing since alpha hydroxy acid. We sold 10,000 bottles in two days at $4 a pop. On the heels of this, we took the concept to Bergdorf Goodman and Henri Bendel and they took it on immediately. Because everything seemed to be going so well, I decided to take the product to Sephora and Nordstrom. There were literally 15 executives in each of the meetings and they gave me a standing ovation after I was done. Now, I’ve been presenting products forever, but I’ve never received a standing ovation. They loved my idea but they wanted to see my clinical research. They also wanted their legal departments to approve my clinicals because they knew this was a radical approach and they didn’t want a lot of people challenging them. Everyone had to have their buyers and their lead consumer specialists try the products to see the benefits before they would take a PO (purchase order) in house. So I started the sampling process with these organizations and within a week they were sending in their POs because they were starting to see the full body benefits. Within three months I had full distribution across the nation with both retailers, which has never happened in either of their histories.

BI&O: What happened next?
Borba: After I started shipping the waters I came up with another idea. Because I travel so much I couldn’t lug around the bottles, so I came up with another way for consumers to get the full body benefits of the Borba formulations—I developed the “Aqua-Less Crystalline” powder version, which can be added to any liquid or food. This was my second sub-category, which made the Borba formulation even more portable. Following this development, I decided to pay a visit to Jamba Juice—a high-end chain of smoothie restaurants. I told them I needed to infuse their smoothies with my skin care powder. They told me I was crazy and I told them to trust me to at least test the concept. Jamba Juice tested the concept with their consumer base and it was the highest scoring concept in Jamba Juice history. It was tested in 25 stores and it raised the total store comp by 30%. What we realized from this and other successes was that the Borba formulation could live in multiple categories, from smoothies to cupcakes to chocolate drinks to jelly beans.

BI&O: Beauty in drinks and powders I understand, but candy?

Borba: We went to the top companies that make the most famous jelly beans and gummi bears in the world. We told them we wanted a 100% organic candy with half the calories and half the carbohydrates of the normal jelly bean and gummi candies out there. Honestly, this was the hardest thing we’ve ever done. We finally made the products, however, and shipped them to one of our retailers who said we were crazy to think we would get $25 for a bag of skin care jelly beans in their channel of distribution. I told them I’d been marketing products forever and not only do these products work, but consumers want this because it taps into another common behavior that people have, which is snacking. Eventually they agreed to carry the product but said I would have to take it out if it didn’t sell. I told them I would go a step further and pull all of my products out of the retailer’s stores if it didn’t work. The jelly beans sold out within a week across the nation.

BI&O: Were you worried about the critics?

Borba: What you have to do is challenge the critics and go around them and find someone who will support you. Market your products as best you can so people know you are first to market, a pioneer, instead of a “me too.” Everyone is trying to copy our waters and everyone is trying to copy our candy. We are the leaders in every category we touch; we raise the price point, the efficacy and the luxury marketing standard—and I love it. Even though we are innovative, cool and our products work, retailers still challenge us. I still have people in Nordstrom and Sephora that challenge me with regard to my shelf set and ideas. This will never change because I am constantly doing something that is so innovative and different. I am igniting the future of ingestible skin care and I would rather leave a retailer to do what I think is right than be a “me too” product.

BI&O: What lessons have you learned from your experiences as an entrepreneur?

Borba: First, speaking of “me too” products, steer clear of them. Second, believe in your concept and yourself. When you’re challenged to the point of efficacy, a delivery system or packing, push through. Sit down, take a deep breath, and embrace your team and make an effort to figure things out. Support your team so they can help you through the innovation. Third, make certain you do enough qualitative and quantitative research so you can determine for sure whether or not the consumer really has a need for this innovation. Fourth, make sure you are in an organization that embraces innovation. If you are in an organization or department that doesn’t embrace innovation, you need to be strong yet kind in your delivery in order to bring people over to your side of thinking—work on being the catalyst for change in your organization. A lot of people don’t want to rock the boat, they just want to take their paycheck and go home. Take charge and do something that not only benefits the company’s bottom and top line, but also your career in the long-term. Fifth, you must be kind in your approach to innovation, as well as to the people that help you follow through with your idea—give credit where credit is due.

BI&O: Do you think Borba will be acquired in the future?

Borba: There was a rumor about Anheuser-Busch—but I’m going to have to decline talking about that. In the coming months there will be two big announcements that have to do with Fortune 500 companies and Borba. We’ve been blessed in being approached by all of the top beverage companies, but it’s all about the connection fit. This is about who you are as the founder and in terms of your brand equity. A lot of people look for dollars and cents, but I look for long-term strategy and partnership—you want a company that is going to support you through the innovation cycle vs. taking a budget only to have it taken away because one of the company’s other major platforms is launching a different flavor. You want to be that company’s crown jewel—you don’t want to be within a category where there are already several different brands.

BI&O: Any new launches planned?

Borba: Soon we will be launching the Borba Atomizer. This spray delivers our fashion fabric technology, as well as well a cosmeceutical. It eradicates with mangosteen oil and natural alcohols, which help slug off dead skin cells, and then it lays down a Borba cocktail for clarity and age-defying benefits. It’s like taking Febreeze and eradicating a perfumed effect and taking that to the next level for skin care.