THE MID-LIFE CRISIS THAT LED TO A SUCCESSFUL MEN'S SKIN CARE RANGE
Written on the 18 May 2017 by David Simmons
THE story of how Anthony McDonough's men's skin care range dates back 20 years when he was living in Russia in minus 35C temperatures and every product he used to try and moisturise just made his skin more irritated.
It took a while to act on this, but in 2012 McDonough decided to make the leap and start his own skin care brand.
He quit his job as a marketing specialist, bought a Porsche, and doubled down on his new project with his life partner Chris Glebatsas (pictured right), and so Lqd was born.
The product is designed especially for men's skin, which McDonough swears is completely different to what women's skin needs.
"Most men's skin care is about taking an existing formulation, recolouring it, re-fragrancing it, repackaging it, and selling it to me," says McDonough.
"While women want their skin to feel really tight, guys don't want that. They want clean, soft, supple skin. It's a really different feeling.
"There's a fundamental difference between men and women's skin care needs.
"Men shave, and this trauma causes the skin quite a lot of discomfort so you need products that will quickly repair the skin and also maintain the hydration."
It has been five years since the product line officially launched, and Lqd has gone from strength to strength since.
McDonough first launched the product on social media, but took his time entering the retail market and now his product has a global reach, being stocked exclusively in Bloomingdales in the United States, and most recently, in Harrods in the UK.
We spoke to McDonough about how the brand realised its overnight success, how he differentiates the product in a highly competitive market, and the future for Lqd Skin Care.
What inspired you to start Lqd?My background was originally as an organic chemist, but I spent most of my life in marketing working for some global brands including GM Holden, SGA, and Tabcorp back in Australia.
So, I've worked with brands selling products to people, basically things that they don't really need or want, probably my whole life, and I wanted to get out of corporate and at the same time do something that was a little bit more honest.
I've had an idea for a skin care range pretty much 20 years ago, and the reason for it at the time was my partner got me using her products which is the normal route to market for a straight white male at that point in time and then once I started using her products I started looking for products for myself and there were really no good men's skin care products on the market.
I thought if I ever had the time and money, because normally you have too much time and not enough money or too much money and not enough time, I'll take the opportunity to do it.
And fast forward to coming back to Australia at 39 I went through a bit of a mid-life crisis, I separated from my wife, I came out, bought a Porsche, all the things you do and took a redundancy from corporate.
And it was then I met my partner Chris Glebatsas, and he's an investment banker and he'd been through a similar crisis. So, I decided to do something that was more of a passion project at the start, really just to find out what is good for skin and what isn't, as somebody who had always suffered from really dry irritated skin I wanted to know what was causing that.
So, I got out my old research books and went back and looked at what does and doesn't work in skin care.
How did you launch the product over the last five years?We originally launched online. We built our following just through social media, it was in the days where businesses were trying to work out how to sell on Facebook and it was still a mystery and everybody was saying "you can't make money off social media".
So, what we tried to do was not to sell products directly through our social media but instead to really try and create a cult following for our brand through giving them something that they couldn't get from somebody else which was information on fitness, diet and skin care all in the one place.
We also spent the first two years making sure we had what we believed was a really good product. We held off coming into retail pretty much as long as we possibly could on the basis that when we did it, we did it well.
We made the decision that we wouldn't launch in Australia until Sephora came into Australia. Within the first six months of selling in Sephora we became their largest selling men's skin care brand in Australia, only in a small number of stores because that was all they had at the start, but we were beating Clinique and all the smaller players and we were like "okay, we're really onto something here".
After using every contact we knew, we organised a meeting with Bloomingdales in the US and they launched us across their top eight stores last September.
We then came home and launched into David Jones and across their top eight stores and online in October.
We just came back from the US having met with Bloomingdales in New York and we're now their third largest selling men's skin care brand in the stores they're in and they've offered us their whole network to roll out to which has been phenomenal.
On that same trip, we had our third meeting with Harrods in the UK, and the buyer for Harrods had just finished a world tour with his boss, and said he'd seen us in Australia and in the US and we thought we were going to get a shelf in what they call their 'Gentlemen's Grooming Lounge', in fact they've given us a wall space the same size as Khiels.
While we were there we also signed on to be a principal sponsor for London fashion week for men.
What were some of your biggest challenges starting up and in these last five years, and what do you wish you'd known before going down this road?One of the big lessons for us is people quite often promise us they're going to do things that they just aren't able to do. And the reason we've been so successful with Bloomingdales, the reason they want to roll us out to all their stores, is they bought in about five new brands at the time they put us in.
One of them as an example was Baxter of California which is a big Loreal brand, and we're selling five times more than them in the stores they're in. And [Bloomingdales] said, 'well you guys actually did what you promised'.
We've found that has obviously been one of the keys to our success is promising only what you can do and delivering on it.
You mentioned that you were very strategic about your expansion. And your recent expansion into the UK is interesting too, but what are your future plans?Part of what we're doing in the UK is we're now talking to a number of retailers across other parts of Europe, because once we have our base in the UK, which we've just established with our distribution and warehousing, it allows us still to start distributing into the EU much more effectively than what we could do from here.
Definitely the larger department stores in Europe are now our next big focus. And we're moving into Europe specifically first with some of the bigger online retailers, it's actually smarter to do it through them than it is ourselves to do it.
Where do you see the company in 5 years and in another 10 years?Certainly, within the next five years we should have a massive distribution footprint.
What about expanding into the Chinese market?We're a really ethical business and we always place our ethical business model before profits. At the moment, China still has a law that any cosmetic company that sells its products in China has to test their products on animals, and we refuse to do that.
Unlike our big international competitors, we won't sell products into China up until that law changes.
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Author: David Simmons