What makes a cult beauty product? According to Alexia Inge, it’s one of those finds that as soon as you try it you can’t wait to tell your best friend. “You cut open the packaging and you squeeze out the last little bit because it’s so good,” she told WWD. And as the co-founder of e-tailer Cult Beauty, it’s those coveted, cult products that are behind the success of her growing business.
The London-based company offers customers a curated selection of niche products from select brands, alongside online access to insider knowledge and expertise. And profiled by WWD’s Samantha Conti, Inge shares her experiences in launching the start-up, offers advice to other budding entrepreneurs and discusses the cult of perfection in the journal’s October beauty issue.
According to Inge, small remains beautiful. Unfazed by the size and exhaustive stock list of some of the company’s key competitors, the former model and journalist counters, “It’s about finding your niche and exceeding the expectations of your customer”. And with a focus on service and seeking out the most exciting brands, the company has built a thriving community where must-have products from established names sit alongside new discoveries from emerging businesses.
Launched in 2008 by Inge and Jessica DeLuca (now a non-executive director), with an initial £70,000 from the duo’s savings and contributions from friends and family, the total investment has today reached £1.75 million, with support from stakeholders including Carmen. Current sales of £36.6 million are projected to rise to £63 million next year, but despite consistently exceeding growth targets Inge acknowledges that Cult Beauty still has plenty of development opportunities that remain untapped.
Eschewing the opening of a store, she highlights the absence of a brand app as one such opportunity, as well as recognizing the company’s growing international customer base by adding currency options to the website. She is also acutely aware that although 50% of the business is UK-based, the brand is still unfamiliar to many, which presents further opportunities at home. However, “It’s important not to choose growth over quality,” she cautions.
Reflecting on her own experiences in launching Cult Beauty, she recommends that entrepreneurs who are starting out find a mentor, someone who has built a business from scratch or has worked in a start-up, and also advocates the sharing of ideas. “Collaborate your way to the top,“ she told WWD, “and be charming to everyone, as you never know who might help you in the future”.
Describing the excess of choice in today’s market place as “The scourge of our times,” Inge explains in the article how she wanted to create a beauty retailer that was centered on excellence, not necessarily on themes or trying to deal with a specific concern, just pre-eminence. “I see cult as a culture of perfection,” she says. And that’s something that the company’s growing fan-base is certainly getting behind.
Read more about Cult Beauty here.