Expert's Opinion

How Indie Brands Are Setting the Pace & Influencing Beauty Trends

Shea Radiance co-founder Funlayo Alabi explores this hot topic.

By: Funlayo Alabi

How Indie Brands Are Setting the Pace & Influencing Beauty Trends

For years, trends in the beauty industry have been set by established consumer packaged goods companies like Procter & Gamble and Unilever.  Large multinationals ruled the retail channels and had a very strong influence on the type of products consumers had access to for their personal and homecare needs. Early adopters to natural and organic products relied primarily on a few specialty retail outlets to find a limited offering of natural and organic products free of synthetic ingredients and additives. However, the global natural and organic personal care market has been growing at a rapid pace over the past 5 years.  According to Persistence Market Research, this market is projected to be valued at $21 billion by the end of 2024 with a CAGR of approximately 9%. The demand for clean ingredients isdriving growth causing the niche to become more mainstream which is creating a direct impact on the innovations in the beauty space.
Consumers are driving the trend toward sustainable living principles that include, buying local, farm-to-table, giving back, ethical sourcing, small batch processing and an appreciation for simplicity and authenticity.Consumers are choosing to buy products that are aligned with their values. They want to know the origins of their products, what the environmental impact is and who they are buying from. Women between the ages of 25-45 are choosing to spend their money differently and more thoughtfully. This gap in the market for premium quality natural beauty products has created an opportunity for Indie brands.  Large traditional companies cannot compete in the same manner due to the potential complications of changing formulas, supply chains and disrupting their existing business.
Many Indie brands offer a value proposition of creating and curating solutions tailored to solve the unique problems identified by consumers.  Shea Radiance was born to address the issue of my family’s extreme dry skin and eczema issues. I found that conventional products were lacking the natural oils, butters and humectants needed to provide long lasting moisture and control the effects of dry skin and eczema.  We began by mixing formulas in our kitchen using shea butter, rice bran oil and oat extracts to create a truly emollient moisturizer.  This is a common theme among the growing number of Indie brands, something was missing and could not be found in the retail environment, so they created their own. Indie beauty brands like Mad Hippie, One Love Organics, Tata Harper, Kahina Giving Beauty, Indie Lee and Drunk Elephant are great examples of brands creating their own high performance natural products with unique ingredient formulations and connecting authentically with their customers.
The Indie Advantage
According to Donna Marie Coles, founder of Indie Business Network, a membership platform providing product liability insurance and mentoring, coaching and training to entrepreneurs who make the beauty products,a major factor for the growth of Indie brands has been the ability of smaller brands to harness and leverage the power of the internet and social media platforms to connect directly with customers. Coles believes that on a subtler level, a culture that encourages collaboration and innovation has helped many smaller brands grow to where they are able to secure investment funding from angel and venture capitalists. She also noted that approximately 93% of Indie Business membership is women owned enterprises. Data shows that women do 90% of personal care shopping for themselves and their households. Indies have the unique advantage of focusing on a niche and going deep to meet the needs of their identified demographic. Through social media channels they are able to change and pivot in response to customer demand. They hear and understand customer pain points and create new and innovative products to meet them. Indie brands can focus on niches that larger brands typically ignore. Reina Rebelde, created a bold line of color cosmetics, that celebrates the powerful cultural duality of the Latina woman; Oyin Handmadestarted making natural hair products using ingredients like shea butter and coconut oil for women with textured hair that needed more moisture than the typical hair products sold in the mass retail channels.  
Distribution & Retail
There a rise in retail and distribution channels focused on Indie beauty brands that produce premium quality personal care products for the health focused customer, such as Credo, Follaine, Nordstrom Natural Beauty and Cap Beauty.  According to Romain Gaillard, founder of The Detox Market a green beauty e-commerce shop that he founded in 2010. His business catapulted with the rise of new independent beauty brands. Now his company has four brick-and-mortar retail locations and an online store that has been doubling in size for the last four years. In the coming year, Gaillard wants to open more shops, partner with restaurants and lifestyle brands, and launch an ambassador program.[i]
Support for Indie Business
The Indie phenomenon has created an ecosystem of other businesses that support and foster growth.  Indie Business Expo(IBE) co-founder Nader Naeymi-Rad notes that indie brands are among the fastest growing product categories that have become a requirement in almost all markets. IBE was founded to support the growth and success of Indie Brands and the entrepreneurs behind them by providing a platform for Indie Brands to showcase their products to potential retailers. Founder Made, is another organization that helps entrepreneurs everywhere scale their business through thought leadership, investment, distribution and high-impact marketing initiatives. The Founder Made Summits are fast becoming the ultimate destination for entrepreneurs to build the business of their dreams

Proof of Success – Win-Win
According to Bloomberg News,Indie brands with social media savvy are winning top-dollar bids from cosmetics giants seeking growth. There were 52 acquisitions in the beauty and personal-care industry last year (the most in a decade), and some of the hottest targets were private brands with massive social media fan bases[Office1] . Unilever purchasedDollar Shave Club for $1 billion, instantly gaining a top position in the men’s market. In November Unilever acquired Sundial brands (Nubian Heritage and Shea Moisture) a multi-cultural beauty brand focused on natural hair and body are products.   
The future of Indie beauty brands is bright. While some will exit and be acquired by larger brands to enjoy wider distribution and brand recognition, many will choose to remain independent and profitable catering to their niche market.


About the Expert

Funlayo Alabi is the co-founder of Shea Radiance, a natural beauty brand dedicated to transforming hair, skin, thinking … and lives into something more beautiful than what it was before. An integral part of Shea Radiance is to empower the 16 million African women who are picking and processing Shea nuts and butter, and connect them with women around the world who benefit from their artisan craftsmanship. She spent nearly a decade working on all-natural product formulations for Shea Radiance, with the objective of perfecting a high-percentage of shea butter formulation. Funlayo is a global business leader who speaks domestically and internationally on matters of international business, market and economic access for African women, Africa’s agricultural sector and Shea butter. 

Shea Radiance was founded in 2008 on the premise that women need to care for themselves and each other. The company crafts artisanal skincare and haircare products that are all-natural with the purest, small-batch, women-sourced shea butter from West Africa as a primary ingredient. Shea Radiance promotes the power of community and empowerment for women around the globe. 

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