How micro-influencers, Instagram and the colour millennial pink led two Aussie 23-year-old men to create a multi-million-dollar global skincare brand.
Bondi Beauty sat down with the founders of Alya Skin.
This is new retail at its best. A pink packaged jar housing a pink clay mask comes wrapped in a pink and white box delivered to your door. The words ‘Alya Skin’ are inscribed on the side; the name Alya derived from a baby name website, meaning ‘heavenly’ and ‘soft’.
Applying the mask to the face, it’s cool to the touch, the clay hardening in a matter of minutes in a delicate light pink tone.
Soothing acne and addressing inflammation, it’s a product you wouldn’t expect to find sitting on the bathroom vanity of two Australian guys in their early twenties.
But for Manny Barbas, 24, and James Hachem, 23, both from Melbourne, Alya Skin is their baby – and it’s just made them millions.
A combination of solid branding, using Instagram and micro-influencers as a business tool, and capitalising on a global trend has seen Alya Skin earn $7 million in sales in their first 14 months of business. By the end of 2019, the brand is forecasted to hit $10 million in sales.
As two lifelong best friends, Manny and James’ foray into the skincare industry wasn’t as typical as having a personal skin issue and wanting to fix it.
The pair co-founded Alya Skin simply because they detected a trend on Instagram, and they saw a way to capitalise on it.
“In our previous businesses, both Manny and I were really good at identifying what was trending at that time,” James says. Manny’s previous business was a teeth whiting company, while James was involved in the café and hospitality industry.
“We noticed that clay masks were trending, as well as products that were ‘instagrammable’.
“We thought if we can turn this into a company that produces great product that actually helps people with their skin troubles, then we’re onto a winner.”
And a winner they have created.
With its millennial pink packaging and matching pink formula of Australian Pink Clay, the pair have created the world’s top rated clay mask. Since its launch in January 2018, the The Alya Skin Australian Pink Clay Mask is now in 2,000 stores globally.
The brand has evolved from the one pink clay mask, to a four-step skincare routine, with an exfoliator, moisturizer and a new foaming cleanser.
James says it’s only the beginning for the business, hoping to have between 10-15 products in their brand within the next 5 years.
“Our end goal is to be a global skincare household name,” says James.
“Hopefully in the next three to five years we can be a $50-100 million company, and we would like our products to be in 10,000 stores worldwide”
Behind the Branding Strategy
The success of Alya Skin comes down to its cohesive and attractive brand, says James.
“We wanted to develop something that was going to connect to our consumers, and the colour pink was obviously something most females and most girls love, and that’s why its replicated into our whole brand,” he says.
“Consumers have connected really well with it, but it’s also our formula that makes us different from our competitors.
“We spent a lot of time sampling different products and ingredients to really create that perfect product. We wanted to ensure every ingredient was right.”
The Power of the Micro Influencer
The pair spent six months developing their product. Once it was ready to take to market, it was fitting that the original inspiration behind starting the brand, Instagram, would be the strategy used to reach their consumer.
It’s a concept some business owners are apprehensive to incorporate into their brand strategy, but Manny and James instead saw the enormous potential of utilising social media influencers to market their product, basically for free.
“In the first six months, we would have sent out the product to I don’t know how many girls on Instagram… definitely in the hundreds per week,” James says.
But they weren’t after the likes of models and celebrities with millions of followers. They wanted to genuinely connect with their consumers, and know that the people promoting their products could be trusted.
“We specifically targeted micro-influencers, those with followers between just 2000-3000 people.
“Because not that many people [with that little following] are actually promoting a brand. So, when they do promote one, people are going to believe what they are saying is true and because they love it, not because it’s a paid post”, James explains.
It’s the power of real people posting their honest reviews about a product, and it’s a strategy that worked. On Instagram, the brand has amassed a following of over 340,000 people. The hashtag #alyaskin has over 5000 posts, the tag riddled with shots of pink-clayed faces and before and after photos demonstrating the power of the formula.
There’s no shortage of pink clay masks on the market. But what makes Alya Skin’s hero product different is the hydrating and moisturising ingredients that aren’t always present in competing products.
Containing witchhazel, watermelon seed oil and rose geranium oil, the pink clay mask doesn’t dry skin out, instead moisturising and softening the skin. Combating inflammation, acne and breakouts, it’s also helps to detox, renew and protect against pollution, thanks to the hero product, Kaolin Clay, which is sourced directly by the brand from South Australia.
It’s perfect for girls aged 16-35 years, although James also admits to loving and using the mask.
“It’s a great hangover cure,” he laughs.
“We have people with acne, eczema and extremely sensitive skin using our mask, and it doesn’t irritate or cause flare ups because of the time we’ve spent perfecting the formula here in Australia,” James says.
The brand also holds an animal cruelty free and vegan formula at its ethos.
“For us, it was just something that we didn’t even consider not doing. The brand had to be vegan and cruelty free, and we made sure that our manufactures don’t test on animals in any of their facilities. It was just a no brainer,” James explains.
Other products in the Alya Skin family include the Australian Native Berries Moisturizer, (RRP $25) which contains antioxidant rich berries that help to restructure and repair the skin from the inside out. Sweet Almond Oil, Macadamia Seed Oil and Shea Butter also help to deeply moisturize.
The Pomegranate Exfoliator Facial Scrub (rrp$29.99) is an everyday exfoliator smelling bright and fruity. With a smooth texture, it assists the pink clay mask in removing acne and eczema, while tightening the pores and smoothing the skin.
The new Foaming Micellar Cleanser (RRP $19.99) is the brand’s solution to remove makeup and toxins while moisturizing the skin. Lathering and foaming beautifully, it feels soft and gel-like on the skin, stripping the face of any makeup or added impurities.