From Kitchen to Market: Scaling Beauty Brands with mSeed Group

ExpertCPG Commerce Podcast
ExpertCPG Commerce Podcast
From Kitchen to Market: Scaling Beauty Brands with mSeed Group
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ExpertCPG Commerce Podcast: Episode 6

Join us in an inspiring episode where Anthony Standifer from mSeed Group unveils the journey from homemade beauty concoctions to market-ready products. Learn how entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds, from teachers to engineers, transform their home-based beauty solutions into thriving businesses. If you’re ready to take your at-home beauty brand to the next level, don’t miss out on expert insights.

For a Free ExpertCPG Amazon Audit, to get valuable insights, strategy tips, actionable ways to boost your Amazon sales, and ways to increase your brand’s visibility and growth, visit https://go.expertcpg.com/amazon-audit to sign up and begin your journey to success.

 

Podcast Video

 

About our Guest

 

ANTHONY STYANDIFER

mSEED Group – Co-Founder & CMO

 

Bio:

Anthony Standifer, with over two decades in the beauty industry, is the Co-Founder and Chief Marketing Officer at mSEED Group. His company is pivotal in providing strategic growth solutions to aspiring and established entrepreneurs in the beauty and personal care industry. At mSEED, Anthony leverages his extensive experience to offer product manufacturing, scaled production, and comprehensive marketing and brand management services. His passion lies in making the industry more accessible and helping small-scale entrepreneurs overcome initial barriers, such as prohibitive minimum order quantities that often stifle budding businesses. His approach allows for custom product development and manufacturing, even for orders as small as 500 units, reflecting his commitment to fostering innovation and inclusivity in the beauty sector.

Anthony’s leadership extends beyond business; he is deeply involved in the Entrepreneurs’ Organization in Chicago and has been nominated as the incoming president for the upcoming fiscal year. His mantra for entrepreneurship and his vision for mSEED Group are driven by a desire to support and scale businesses innovatively and inclusively. Anthony’s forward-thinking strategies have not only made significant strides in the beauty industry but have also paved the way for many entrepreneurs to turn their visions into successful enterprises.

Contact Information:

https://www.anthonystandifer.com/

anthonystandifer@hotmail.com

https://mseedgroup.com/

 

Podcast Video Transcript

Ryan Flynn: [00:00:00] Hello and welcome to another episode of the expert CPG commerce podcast. I’m super excited today to welcome Anthony Stanifer from MC group. Who’s going to be talking to us all about the beauty industry, mainly also beauty manufacturing. So Anthony, welcome to the show. Super excited to have you.

Anthony Standifer: Hey, Ryan, thank you. I’ve been looking forward to this conversation, so thanks again for having me.¬†

Ryan Flynn: Yeah, likewise. Anthony and I go back a number of years, both being part of entrepreneurs organization or EO in Chicago. And Anthony is , Get this out of the way out front, but it could be incoming president, the upcoming fiscal year for EO Chicago. So congrats on that as well. 

Anthony Standifer: Thank you. I’m excited. It’s gonna be an Awesome. year. It’s gonna be awesome.

Ryan Flynn: Awesome. Let’s talk a little bit about you and obviously yourself, but also what does MC group do?

Anthony Standifer: So I am a lifelong at this point, professional beauty industry person, and I’ve had several iterations inside of my life. But for the last nine, almost 10 years, I am co founder and chief marketing officer of [00:01:00] MC group. We are contract manufacturers and the beauty and personal care space. That just means that I formulate in my lab and produce in my manufacturing facility, a bunch of products for a bunch of different people.

Cool. I don’t own any of those products, but I am a service provider and I operate as a contract manufacturer. And so within that we do product development scaled manufacturing, as well as marketing and brand support for people that are generally starting or trying to grow inside of the beauty space.

Ryan Flynn: Awesome. And, let’s say a potential companies, or individuals looking at your service, like, when would they come to you? Like, when do you typically see I guess maybe what type of people or what type of companies and when would they originally approach MC Group?

Anthony Standifer: Yeah, so it’s a great question. So typically that, contract manufacturing is not anything that’s super unique in and of itself, particularly in beauty and personal care. There’s a lot of companies that do this kind of work. We found when we started nine years ago that there were not a lot of places that could do small scale manufacturing.

[00:02:00] And so our niche is that we work with companies that are often being rejected by other contract manufacturers. I will literally manufacture 500 units of something for someone. And in addition, I’ll do custom product development against those 500 units. And so for me, we recognized that there was an opportunity of people who wanted to enter into the beauty space, but found that the typical minimal order quantities or MOQs were prohibitive and were a significant barrier for most people even starting their

journey. So I get customers that come to me when they’re in the ideation phase and they’re saying, Hey, I got this amazing idea. I really want to do this facial product or this skincare brand. But I don’t have a ton of money. I’m resource constrained. Who can help me? mSeed group is the place that can help those types of folks.

Cause again, I’ll make something as small as 500 units. But then on the flip side, as your business grows and scales, I’m also happy to make 50,000 units of that same something for you and find that the economies of scale and the entry point at small batch [00:03:00] manufacturing is something that is tremendously needed in today’s entrepreneurial environment, particularly here in the U.S but really around the world. People are launching brands on the highest levels and the highest numbers I think in our history right now because of a lot of economic factors that are happening in the world and just people’s desires to see what entrepreneurship looks and feels like for them.

Ryan Flynn: I think it’s a great niche you guys fill because I think a lot of people think I need to have the MQs and you said minimal more quantities, right? That’s the industry term. M OQs is, or can be so high or they seem like they’re so high to some products, but and some people are like, oh, I wanna start with that many, I wanna start with thousands, right?

I want to, I wanna be that high. But no, you really want to test out, ideas are cheap. Execution is everything. That’s a common kind of business mantra. And so it’s great that you guys can, take that idea from even just a 500 unit run and improve it.

Because you don’t want to produce 10, 000 units. Not have the product market fit. Yeah. So that’s a great, that’s a great niche. You guys are feeling. So like what do your typical customers look like? Are [00:04:00] they people that already maybe have, again, you said maybe some people just have an idea.

Does some already have a product? Maybe, I know a lot of beauty products maybe started in the home. Is that where you’re seeing some of these people as well?

Anthony Standifer: so I get a mixture of both I, and I get people from all walks of life is what makes my job super, super fascinating. When I came in to the industry or at least into this part of the industry, nine years ago, I thought, Oh, I’m going to be dealing with a lot of professionals, a lot of hairstylists, people in the beauty space, estheticians and the like.

And that has been far from the truth. I do get some of those people, but I get healthcare administrators, I get teachers, I get engineers for a while. it was like every engineer. Wanted to launch a beauty brand. I was like, where is this happening? And so people come to us literally when they have ideas and they’re saying, Hey, I’ve got this amazing concept because I’m trying to solve a problem that I have or something that’s resonant with my children.

And so we’re able to formulate from scratch and then start people from ground zero and then help them get to the starting line. But then I also get people who are selling their own products and what social media has [00:05:00] done is democratize access to consumers. And so there’s a ton of folks that are selling beauty brands that are DIYers.

Meaning that they do it themselves inside of their homes or inside of some commercial space. And so at 01:00 AM people are up batching body butters and trying to, use this as a side hustle to explore what it looks like to be an entrepreneur in the beauty space. And so people then come to mSeed group and to places like me because they go, Hey, I’m tired of doing this myself.

Inside of my own home and I’d like to be able to scale to accommodate demand, and so I’ll then take existing formulas or recipes as we call them, when they’re being done in the home, and then translate them into stable, qualified formulas inside of our facility, and then allow the owner to focus on sales and marketing without the hassle of them having to think about product development, manufacturing, and all the other elements that come along with production.¬†

Ryan Flynn: Yeah, that’s awesome. And I’m curious, is it hard that someone develops a product in their home, right? I’ve heard of that. I thought of some of those folks in the years as well, I’m making stuff in my [00:06:00] bathtub, my kitchen sink at home. And, I want to get it on Amazon or whatever, but is it hard to take a product that someone’s developed in their home and then you guys have a lab and you guys are formulating it, the correct way.

Is it sometimes hard to do that? Or is it’s a pretty standard process. It’s dependent on the type of product.

Anthony Standifer: It depends on the type of product. Google university has given access and made many a cosmetic chemist. And so certain formulations are relatively simple to do at home. And so people are often Googling and using YouTube and using resources on social media and the internet to devise the formulas that they then go out and start.

Some of those are easy to do. Like oils are usually, oil blends are usually the easiest thing to do. It’s usually like multi phase products when you start talking like conditioners or shampoos that they become a bit more cumbersome. And so people that are doing those in their home are doing okay, but what ends up happening in most instances is we find as we take ownership of those formulas and try to find ways to produce them in our facility, we typically deal with stability related issues.

So people find yeah, I’ve got [00:07:00] it, but it tends to go bad after three months or if it gets too hot, then these things are happening. And so we do a lot of work with preservative systems and just making sure that products are stable so that they have longer shelf lives and so that you can make a batch today and six months later so that same batch and have it have the same performance levels that it did on day one.

So we do spend a bit of time, particularly with people that are making their own formulas, just making product enhancements and really working on stability and the stability coming through generally preservative systems that are added to the formula. 

Ryan Flynn: that’s great. I mean, I I think about, you’re

right, the shelf stability and the shelf life of these products. That’s something I didn’t think of when we started talking about this and that’s a whole nother ball game, right?

¬†It’s one thing you’re D to C, right? Which we’ll get to that and talk about brands starting there, especially if you’re getting into more retail, whether it’s maybe more boutique or independent or bigger retail in the beauty industry, like they want to make sure it’s shelf stable and it’s going to.

Ryan Flynn: It’s going to last a while. They want it to sell through, but they want to make sure it’s, I can also go bad in the first 30 days and sit on the shelf. Yeah.

Anthony Standifer: A [00:08:00] 1000%, so when you’re selling made-to-order and selling directly from your kitchen into somebody’s hands, not a lot of issues, but the moment you say, Hey, I’m going into retail and that thing sits on a shelf for two, three, four months, it still has to have first day performance and first day freshness and performance capabilities.

And that can only happen through stabilization and making sure that your formula is durable enough to operate in those environments. 

Ryan Flynn: And I feel like those are the things that, we all as entrepreneurs, I know I’m guilty of, you forget about those little details, right? You’re so focused on the big vision and you’re just like, Oh man,¬†

Anthony Standifer: I’m super, super encouraging to folks that are DIYers, do what you got to do to get in the market and validate that your idea is a good thing. The thing that I tell every entrepreneur, particularly coming into our environment is like the product development and manufacturing is not difficult.

That’s my challenge to deal with, not yours. The hardest part of owning a business is convincing somebody to open their wallet and give you 22, 37, 67 for your two or three step system. And convincing them to come back again and [00:09:00] again for that. That is truly the hard part. The development and manufacturing is not difficult.

So let the hard part be the hard part and we’ll focus on, product development and making sure you’ve got a great formula and that you’re able to have a product that

you’re able to then have produced so that you can truly focus where your energy is, where they really¬†

matter 

Ryan Flynn: I love that you’re right to you. These are all solvable problems that the manufacturer that stuff you guys do. It’s the marketing and the putting in people’s hands and getting to buy it’s the hard part. So explain to me a little bit about cause I think you, you made this distinction with me and it’s really important.

I think people jumble these words up quite a bit, but it’s true that, you guys are a contract manufacturer. Some people think private label manufacturer, they get those two, confused. Can you just explain real quick for the audience the difference between, and obviously it applies to your company, but also it applies, really, to anybody that’s getting anything made.

Anthony Standifer: Yeah.so it’s an easy thing, and they do get interchanged quite a bit. So I’m a contract manufacturer, which essentially means that I am formulating products. From scratch for [00:10:00] a hundred percent of my customers. I do have some base formulations that can be tweaked and customized to a certain degree.

So I may have a base conditioner. I’ll add your key ingredients. I’ll give you a custom fragrance. And then you’ll be able to develop an entire story around that. But most of our customers actually start from the ground up. Tell me what you like. Like you like the performance of this product. I want, this, the shine that this product elicits me, but I want the consistency of this product.

I want the fragrance of that. And so we literally are building products from the ground up and then manufacturing those products on behalf of our customers. And so that is what classifies us as contract manufacturers. Private label manufacturers which are adjacent. They are still manufacturers, but they typically have stock formulas that are ready made and don’t offer high degree of customization.

And you can find beauty manufacturers that have private label companies. Like Color Cosmetics is the most common. If you’re interested in having a makeup line or color cosmetics line, there are a ton of customers or companies that are out there that have pre formulated products.

[00:11:00] You essentially are taking their packaging, adding your own custom label, but you’re not going in to tweak the foundation or to, make alterations to the foundation. Like those things are not happening because they’re ready made private label manufacturers. And so the formulas have already been provided.

And you are. Literally, just taking those products and then customizing it with your labels and your marketing span to go to market. 

Ryan Flynn: yeah, that’s okay. Great. There’s an awesome explanation that should be like

in the Google snippet of like difference between a private label and a contract manufacturer. 

What do people, they come to you. They have a product, whether they’re something they have an idea for, or maybe they already have a base they’re working with they’re doing DI ying it.

What’s the timeframe of you guys developing and producing a product? Hey I talked to you today, Anthony, when am I going to have that product to finish goods in my hand?

Anthony Standifer: great question. So it is the awareness point that 100 percent of my customers or leads that then become customers have when they come in. As a contract manufacturer, we are doing custom product development. Again, I don’t [00:12:00] have a vat of gel sitting in the back that I’m just going to pump into a jar and send out to you with your label.

It is six to nine

months. From the time you come in and make your down payment to the time I’m shipping out product to you. And the reason is that most of this is customization from a formulation perspective. I tell people, if you’re going to spend the money to do a custom formula, make sure it’s a formula that works for you and works for your target audience.

And so we could literally spend three to four months just doing product development work. So I send you an initial formula. You go, Oh, this was nice, but it’s not thick enough. The fragrance is a little uh, but I love the shine. I love the crow definition, or I love the performance of these things. And so we literally go back and forth.

From an R and D perspective, multiple rounds with most customers to ensure that we’ve got a formula that you feel confident marketing and selling as the brand owner. And so that process is a process and it is not a ready made process. There is trial and error on my [00:13:00] side, my chemist and the team that does formulation work for me while trying to make a tweak or an alteration to a formula and feedback that you’ve given may have to do three, four, five rounds, To find and really nail the direction that you’ve given before ever presenting it to you as a potential customer.

And then you have every right to then beat that thing against a wall and say yes, this is 80 percent there, but I’m really looking to get to 95 percent. Can you go back and do more? And so as formulators, it’s our job to then develop those types of formulas that are accessible. So the first time orders are six to nine months.

 There is no rushing that when the, every time we try to take a shortcut, it shows up in some format. And so I believe you rush it and you pay the consequences for it on the back end when customers then give you the kind of feedback that says, Oh, this is not what I thought it was. And we go we were rushing.

So let’s not rush the next time. And so for that reason, give yourself six to nine months. But in that time, there’s a ton of work that brands. And entrepreneurs [00:14:00] can do to start a base. Again, the hard part is convincing somebody to buy your product. And that requires you to go out and establish a relationship with people, determine how you’re going to generate leads.

How are you going to nurture leads? How do you communicate to them? All of that can happen before you ever have a product. And so give yourself the ability as an entrepreneur to go through that process and understand what does digital marketing look like, what does social media and how do you communicate with people in ways that are engaging?

Don’t wait until you got, 5, 000 units sitting in your warehouse or in your garage to then start learning that process. Do it while you’re in the development

phase is what I coach and advise clients on, as they’re in our environment.¬†

Ryan Flynn: Yeah. I love that. And I think what’s unique about you guys at MC Group is

that, you’ll help brands not only with the formulation and the production obviously, of the. the item it’s also, you’re going to offer some of that marketing support and, or work with those companies that maybe are more resource trained and really bootstrapping it.

Can you talk a little bit about that? Like, how does that work when someone says, Hey, I’ve only got [00:15:00] X to invest in this, like how far it gives. Because obviously it’s easy for and that’s saying you obviously, but like other, I’ve heard about it before of other manufacturers and people that are saying, just take the money and they don’t care where the product works or not.

They just want to get that order run. And know that person won’t be back. But you guys are kinda unique that you offer some of that support. So talk to me a little about that. When someone’s maybe resource trained or has an XX number of dollars to start with, how do you make that work?

Anthony Standifer: So it’s simple. Again, our ethos has been to support small. Starting budding entrepreneurs that oftentimes have had a gate put in front of them that they cannot financially jump over. And so if you don’t have 35, 000 to start your adventure, then you go I just can’t do this because I don’t have 35, 000 to just focus on product alone, let alone the marketing piece.

So I tell people, be realistic about what your starting budget is, and if you say, listen, I’ve got. $750 that I go, you may not wanna start right now because $750 is not gonna take you very far from a realistic development byproduct and then support [00:16:00] product perspective, you may decide now it’s a DIY situation where you’re then taking your $750, making your own products using Google University to then go out and take your weekends and do fairs and in-person events where you can hand to hand sell product in order to grow and establish your base.

So 750 doesn’t say no, it just says that your starting point is different. If you have, potentially more accessible dollars to really focus on things that I said, great. If you can take the $3000 – $5000, outside of the product itself, then you can really make some really smart, gritty moves to establish a base of people that have a desire for your products and get them into a rotation.

The biggest question becomes, and the thing that we advise customers on is where do you spend it? My philosophy after having worked with about 250 or so brands over the last nine years is: Start in a place that’s going to be the lowest cost [00:17:00] for the highest return and typically for me I see that in the form of email marketing rather than spending money on digital marketing or social media or pr. Build leads wherever you build leads at, and then get those people into an email funnel, and they really focus on how do you communicate with people via email, which is a low cost marketing tool to then move them through a funnel that then allows them to make a purchase.

If you can master that on a budget, you have now unlocked the keys to the kingdom because now you can say with a thousand dollars, I can go in and talk to 300 people and of those 300 people, I can now convert. 75 of them into buying customers for first time purchase. Great. Now we’ve got a formula and we have a methodology by which you can engage people.

So the next time you make money and you make more money from those 75 people buying product from you, maybe now it’s time that you can add in some digital marketing and put some advertising in front of people because you’ve talked to people enough that [00:18:00] the lingo and the language that is going to most likely lead them to say, yes, let me try this.

Great. Now let’s use that and learn that and now add on digital marketing as a layer. And then still layer in the email marketing after that. And so it is a slow methodical approach when you don’t have a hundred thousand dollar budget, I’ve worked in big companies. I’ve been given, 600, 000 budgets to launch a brand.

And so I know what that looks like. Bells, whistles, and all of the that come along with it. But when you’re going like, literally I am tapping into my 401k here. And I need to get a borrow from the kids college fund to support this idea, then you want to make sure that those dollars are going to be used.

The most efficient way, and that means going slow and methodically in order to build a base and a foundation. That was a long-winded answer,

but you can tell it’s something that I talk to people about on a regular basis, but it’s super, super important. At least for me,¬†

Ryan Flynn: Yeah. No, it’s, you

can tell you’re passionate about it,

right? You’re definitely right. Like it’s, you’ve gotta.

A lot of people, and I’ve seen [00:19:00] this over the years as well. Like they come up with a product and they think it’s great. Maybe it is great in their eyes and everything else, but it’s going to have a product market fit and you’ve got to be able to get it in front of the right customers.

And so can you talk a little bit more about that? Cause you and I had a conversation about this before of Really narrowly defining that target market, like who that is and how do people do that? In your estimation? 

Anthony Standifer: So most times people come to me, they have such a broad idea and it’s a broad target audience. And I say hey, who are you ideally selling this customer to? And I get answers like I’m really looking to get to women between 25 and 49 or 25 and 65 that have, dry skin issues and are trying to find accessible

solutions. Wow. Is Estee Lauder type mature marketing for women. And so if you’ve got 250, 000, we can effectively talk to women between that demographic. If you don’t have that kind of money, you’ve got to get like super narrow and super focused. [00:20:00] And so you cannot talk to women 25 to 65. Instead, let’s talk to women that are perimenopausal.

And I say this only because I’ve been receiving this recent communication for women that are entering that phase of life and just understanding the nuances that are happening with women before they enter full menopause, they have evolving hormones and drastically different needs than what they did prior to this stage of life.

And so if we could talk to women that are in that age group, which is typically going to then be women that are in their forties, late thirties to forties, and talk about the things that are happening that as their hormones are changing, how that might impact their skin care or their hair care regimen or other parts of their feminine care routine.

Now we’ve got a really specific focus because I’m not just talking to women, 25 to 49 and say, Hey, let me give you a clue, ladies. There’s this time of life that your grandma may or may not have mentioned to you, but it is coming for you. And if you’re in the middle of that, here are the things that you need to be concerned about.

It’s not just hot flashes, but you need to be concerned about pH balance. So you need to be concerned about [00:21:00] skin hydration. You need to be concerned about whatever these things are that you as a brand owner have identified, and you can now take a broad conversation and make it so specific. That people get the impression, Oh my God, this person made this product just for me and it has hit me at the right time of life.

And so if I’m a 32 year old woman who isn’t dealing with peer menopausal issues, then I’m not leading into this conversation. But if I’m in that sweet spot and there’s enough people that are in that sweet spot for you to make 250, 000 or half a million dollars in sales, you have established yourself and established a base and an initial reputation for your brand and your products.

That gives you the ability to stand out and you can then take a little bit of money. Talk to target it to a very specific demographic and make that money work for you in a way that is going to be impossible to do when you have these 20 and 30 year age gaps. And you’re talking to every race and every gender and every skin type and every hair type, like that you’re just [00:22:00] throwing, pebbles into the ocean, expecting to get a tidal wave. And it just doesn’t happen that way.

Ryan Flynn: Yeah. Yeah. The riches in the niches is a cliche thing thrown all out, but it’s true. I mean, there’s, You gotta narrow down and. find those people. And typically what I’ve seen work with brands is , once you find that target market, you can charge more. When when you go super wide, you’ve got to have typically you’re competing maybe on price.

And when you get super niche oriented and you find that right target market, you can pay premium for your pod, even if you don’t really have a premium product yet.¬†

Anthony Standifer: it feels like you’re speaking directly to a specific person and the pushback or anxiety that I get against that is that, oh, my God, if I’m talking to just

that person, then there’s seven other people that I’m not talking to and I go exactly¬†

 

Anthony Standifer: because you’re not talking to seven other.

You’re not talking to eight people. You’re talking to these three people here. And you’re telling these three people that I understand you so well that I’ve developed a product that was curated with you in mind and the issues. And here’s the connections that you three people have together that I have directly or the other people like you have [00:23:00] directly.

And now we can talk premium pricing because now it’s not about what’s on sale at the local retail store, it’s wow, this person has customized this with me in mind. I’m absolutely willing to pay a premium cost because it’s not this general generic. Solution that’s being offered, but it almost

feels like something that’s bespoke or customized to the specific customer that you’re trying to reach out¬†

Ryan Flynn: Yeah. No, that’s great. I think another thing that goes, it’s great segue to go right into this

is, I think when brands start a lot to think, Oh, I want to get this product, if you’re thinking about beauty and that could be wrong here, like I want to be the beauty counter at Macy’s or I want to be an Ulta, and they’re like, that’s what they’re thinking at. And talk to a little bit about,

Starting with DTC and using that as the foundation to really, and you touched on a little bit earlier and talking about target market and email marketing, but use that as the foundation to, to get your brand right a little bit.

Anthony Standifer: yeah, so I’ll

anchor this in. I 14 years of my career. I’ve been in the beauty space for 24, almost 25 years [00:24:00]¬†

Ryan Flynn: You don’t even look that old, Anthony. I can’t believe that.¬†

Anthony Standifer: I said literally my second job out of undergrad, I like stumbled upon. a position in a beauty company. And so I was, 22, 23 at the time. And I was like, Oh my God, this is amazing.

I get to work in the beauty industry and this is, the glamor, the glitz and the, ah, that comes with it. But behind that is that it’s a solid consumer packaged goods business. And so within that I have sold to every major retailer in the United States. And that’s not a. A brag or flex, it’s like about eight years of my life was inside of Revlon and different divisions of Revlon.

And part of my job was launching products, managing brands, and selling to everything from Walmart, Target, Ulta, to Piggly Wiggly grocery stores. And so this is the life that I’ve lived inside of corporate America. And what I know to be a hundred percent true. Is that doing business inside of retail is extremely expensive and retailers are not in business to give opportunities to new brands.

Retailers are in [00:25:00] business to sell product profitably to the customers that come in and out of that door. And the retail math is extremely difficult to master when you’re a small brand, even inside of big companies. So I work at Revlon, we spend exhaustive amounts of money and try to find ways to maximize efficiencies inside of big retailers.

Because the expectation was you’re Revlon, you can afford to pay, this extra cost and these extra expenses. And so we would have to fight really difficult. Having had nine years now with smaller brands and still managing that process, it is the kiss of death. And so we say, yes, we want to be in Target, but then Target says I’m going to try you out and I’m going to put you in 93 doors amongst the several thousand doors.

I forget their store count off the top of my head. And they don’t just say I’m going to put you in 93 doors that are all centrally located where you live. They said, I’m going to put one in Spokane, Washington. I’m put one down in Tallahassee, Florida. I put two in New York. I’m put one in Michigan.

I’m put. And so they get spread out everywhere. And you as the brand owner are responsible for making sure that your product [00:26:00] sales on 93 doors with limited dollars. And so you can’t even do national advertising to say, please go buy my product. I got my first entry into target. I’m so excited. It is now.

How do I

get? Millions of people, hundreds of thousands of people to go into 93 stores and 93 locations efficiently, and that’s been all of my money talking to people in the center of the country where there are no, the stores don’t carry the products, but to go to these disparate places, it is the reason that I say the only time that is effective is when you have a built in existing base.

Of loyal, excited customers, because if you have been used to selling directly to consumers and from a DTC perspective and people have gotten accustomed to ordering online and receiving it in the normal process that e commerce sales go, the moment you offer up that, yes, we have retail distribution now, people instantly go, great, the convenience factors now here on my normal target run, I can go into the store and start looking for these products.

[00:27:00] But you’re not going to convince a new person to go in looking for your product. Like the cost to do that is so expensive and you don’t have that kind of money or time. And so build your base is what I tell to every Entrepreneur that’s coming into the beauty space or any consumer product goods space Build your base selling directly to customers.

It’s cumbersome. It’s clunky. We’re all trying to figure out the visual advertising and the lowest cost to spend and all of the things that are going on, but it is the absolute necessity for you to build a loyal base and loyal means that you’re making six figures or a good seven figures.

Selling directly to consumers before you ever decide to go into one of the major retailers. Now, if you find an independent retailer someplace, it’s yeah, I’m in your town. I got four stores. I’m happy to take your products. Great. Go learn there. But the more that you say, I want to go to a big box retailer, be prepared to deal with big box retailer rules.

And those rules are designed for their profitability, not for your brand convenience and not for your brand [00:28:00] budget.

Ryan Flynn: That’s a great learning lesson there. You know, it’s you’re right. They all, all brands and, we see it in food beverage a lot too, in the grocery stores, they expect you to drive, traffic to the stores. And then you want to get people there to buy it, but then also they want to see a certain sell through rate, like that’s taking finite space on their shelf, or their spot. And it’s got to move for them as well. So that’s a great, that’s a great add there. Yeah.

Anthony Standifer: And the reality is, don’t care. They will sell your products. They’ll sell Procter and Gamble. They’ll sell Unilever.

They’ll sell Estee Lauder. They’ll sell this Indie brand. It doesn’t really matter to them because retailers are in the business of moving units off the shelf and the moment, the first day you go on shelf, you are now being compared. From a financial perspective against every other product that sits in that section.

And it doesn’t matter if that’s a new Indie brand or if it’s Unilever. You’re being benchmarked against them. And if you can’t demonstrate [00:29:00] movement off the shelf, movement off the shelf, then you don’t have a long term future there. So day one comes and you’re super excited. I got this distribution, but by the time you get to day 90 and 120.

If you’re not making like a significant input in terms of how much product is moving, the retailer has literally at 120 days said, this is probably not something that’s not going to work. They’ll give you the full year, but they’ve made a decision. Like you’re probably not going to have long term success in this.

And it behooves you to build a base of loyal customers

in the way that’s most convenient. And the way that’s most convenient is through direct to consumer sales.

Ryan Flynn: Yeah, again, that’s great.

Super wise sage advice For anybody building a brand. That’s awesome. Talk to us a little bit about, I know we were talking earlier, some changes that are coming up are happening in your industry. The beauty industry in particular. And I know, I think the acronym is Mocra, is that right?

Is that the, did I get that right? So tell us a little bit 

Anthony Standifer: you got it 

right. 

Ryan Flynn: that? 

Anthony Standifer: And so I literally was just talking to somebody before this. So Mochra is [00:30:00] an acronym for the Modernization of Cosmetic Regulation Act. Who wants to say that three times? But essentially in 2022 and then implemented in 2023, the federal government decided that the beauty industry needed additional oversight.

Because right now, people are allowed to make products in their home, in their kitchens, and in their bathrooms, and then sell it directly to consumers. Because the Food and Drug Administration doesn’t oversee most of what is sold. There are certain instances where the FDA, based on ingredients or claims that you’re making, does have oversight.

But for the vast majority, there is no governmental oversight, which is why it’s so easy and convenient for people to launch beauty brands. So the federal government decided, through whatever influence was given to them, that yes, we want to have oversight. And so Congress passed. In 2022 and so the 2023 Congress to the FDA and charged them with go find ways to regulate this industry and add some structure to this industry.

And it is not uncommon when you leave outside of the United States, even when you [00:31:00] go to Canada, like you can’t just launch a brand in Canada from your house and say, we’re here. You go through a very official government process to register your business, register the products that you’re selling. And the same happens for any place in Europe, Australia, and other parts of the world.

The United States is the place of freedom and liberty. And so now MoCRA has come and said, yes, we are going to have oversight. And so we don’t know when the legislations will start to take effect, but it is suspected that they will start somewhere around 2026. And at that point, small businesses and businesses of a certain scale, We’ll then have to go through this formal process of registering their business, registering their formulas.

As a manufacturer, I will then have to make sure that I am compliant with the regulations that are then being provided by the federal government. Essentially the government will then collect funds against that, because why not make some money on entrepreneurs while you’re regulating what they do?

And so it’s a great time now to launch a brand and launch a product because I’m sure there will have to be some sort of provision for [00:32:00] people that are in the market that were, launched and that had launched and can prove and demonstrate that they launched prior to the enforcement of these laws.

But just know that those are things that are coming and that kind of oversight is coming down the pipeline because the FDA has already started to engage with various entities in the beauty space to figure out ways to structure regulation structure

and how to, provide oversight into something that they traditionally have not done.

Ryan Flynn: yeah. Yeah. That’s fascinating. It’s one of those things where it’s it is scary that anybody can just start and , make something that, without any oversight that’s gonna, put in your skin or, I like it.¬†

Anthony Standifer: want to have a t shirt company and so I can go print t shirts, put whatever I want to on it and sell it directly to people. So the foundation. Of what we experience here in America is that, entrepreneurship is the lifeblood of the country. And so people start businesses and launch every day.

And so in certain areas, we have, for things that we consume and that we digest, the FDA has oversight because like their people are going to swallow this thing and digest it. Things that go on here and on our hair. People are like, ah, go do it. Now they’re like, no, now I want to [00:33:00] get, I want to know what you’re putting on your skin and what you’re selling to people to put on their hair.

So it’s a, it’s an interesting line and an interesting development. Everything in the world changes. Again, 24 years in the industry, I’m not completely surprised. That this thing is coming down the pipeline because again, we’re an industry and certain categories that are just out here defining what they want to be for themselves.

Clean beauty is my great example of that. Again, this is, the oversight

that I expected to come at some point, but it’s now imminent on us Yeah,¬†

Ryan Flynn: this industry term. It’s one of these things in a certain segment that just gets, overused or it gets very vague. So talk to us about the whole clean beauty thing.¬†

Anthony Standifer: I rolled the eye as a formulator and as a manufacturer, people come in and say, I want a clean beauty formula for me and I go, okay well, great. What does that mean? I still want anything toxic or, harmful in it. Okay, what does that 

Ryan Flynn: Yeah, 

Anthony Standifer: And how do we define toxic or harmful?

And there is no, in the industry, from the beauty perspective, [00:34:00] there is no uniform communication that establishes what clean beauty means. If I buy products at Target under the clean beauty section, their parameters and specifications are different than if I go to Sephora and say, Hey, I want products that are labeled as clean beauty, which is different than what you buy at Whole Foods, which is then very different than what you, if you buy something that has credo beauty, which has a higher level and a higher standard is very different there.

But all of these things are using the same vernacular to say that we are part of clean beauty. Okay. And so there has even been like recent lawsuits that have been pushed out from consumers against retailers for this very reason to say Hey, you gave me, you communicated clean beauty, but it didn’t meet this.

It didn’t meet that. And so again, because this is a consumer driven conversation, the consumer driven conversation says, this is what we want. But from a regulatory perspective, there’s no oversight to clearly define this is the sandbox for which defines that and claim duty right now is the preteen child.

[00:35:00] That is trying to determine who it wants to be when it grows up. Because again, when you ask me to formulate a clean beauty product for you, then I have to now come back to you and say, what do you mean by that? And generally what I do now is I say tell me what retailer you’d ideally like to sell in.

Because then if you say, Oh, I want to be able to sell in Ulta or I want to be able to sell at Whole Foods. Great. Each retailer has defined what they classify as clean and has given the parameters. They don’t match from retailer to retailer, but I at least know, if you’re trying to get into Whole Foods.

Okay, great. I can formulate so that you meet those standards so that as you try to sell and pitch and register your products in that retailer, you very clearly meet the regulations that they’ve specified as an independent retailer. Yeah.¬†

Ryan Flynn: that you’ve just gotta navigate and when I think you’re talking to an industry expert like yourself that knows the industry super well. You can help a brand advocate that it’s like you said, it’s what does non toxic mean?

You can help guide them in that way. So that’s great.¬†

Talk to us a little about one of [00:36:00] the, success stories, maybe from MC group that you’re most proud of, or one that resonates with you and of a customer or brand that you helped out and help blossom and grow.

Anthony Standifer: So again I’ve been super passionate myself and my business partner, Erica, from the onset that we wanted to support underserved, under resourced entrepreneurs. I’m many of those entrepreneurs have been women. Many of those have been black and brown women. That don’t Get the type of funding that other entrepreneurs get.

And so because we’ve had 250 or so entrepreneurs come through our doors and been able to support them at this point it is giving me great pride. We have a standout customer Monique Melva Rodriguez. Monique was a registered nurse when she came to us and we met her like 2000. 15, maybe 16. She was selling products, e commerce only.

We then came in and reformulated some existing products, did new products, started to manufacture, then put together a marketing structure that allowed them what we were talking about earlier in terms of building a base. She was able to take this idea of curly textured hair for black women [00:37:00] and talk about hair growth and some interesting niche ways to talk about what hair growth looks like from a product perspective.

And this company just. Skyrocketed. And so they this is 2024 we’re recording this, but in 2023 they had an acquisition from Procter and Gamble that is disclosed to now, but we do know that it was a great nine figure partnership with them. And so that is like the unicorn of our industry.

They are the fastest growing brand in the care to your market. So yes, we’ve had the privilege and the honor of being able to be a part of that, but that’s one of the million. There are others that have had. Other levels of success that I’m equally as proud of and so at a health care administrator who was In her mid fifties when she came to us and we formulated body products for her at the time that she would go out to these fairs to sell her product She was a woman in her mid 50s and had this beautiful gray hair.

That was Just and is amazing. And so people would say oh my god, like what are you using on your hair? These body butters are nice, but what are you using in your hair? What are you using in [00:38:00] your hair? And one day she’s talking to myself and my business partner We’re like how many times are people gonna have to ask you what you’re using in your hair before you?

launch a hair care brand.

Ryan Flynn: Yeah,

Anthony Standifer: She’s can we do that? And we were like, we absolutely can do that. We are cosmetic chemists. We can do that. And so we launched and formulated a three step system for her to maintain specifically gray hair and for people that are embracing their gray hair without some of the typical challenges that you get from other products, which usually pass like a purple cast or a green cast on the hair.

And this woman Then was able to go out And so HSA and QVC at a certain point, she called us and she’s listen, Anthony, I think I’m going to quit my job in a couple of months. And people are telling me that I’m crazy because I’m in my mid fifties. I should be getting ready for the sunset of life and retirement.

And I’m going to quit this job and bet on myself. And it has been an amazing journey to watch her do that. We have other customers that come out and, the school teacher who is full time with a kid or kids [00:39:00] making solid six figures. So it wasn’t like they’re making millions of dollars, but they consistently year over year, make six figures.

They employ one person and a few part time people, and it’s a solid living. And it is now the supplement that then will provide for her retirement at some future state. And so for me, it’s those people that really fall in that middle space that give me the most pride and joy because people are truly living out the dream of entrepreneurship.

And they do it because we were able to lower the barrier. For them to be able to get onto the playing field to prove that they had what it takes in order to manage and grow a successful beauty brand.

Ryan Flynn: yeah, I love that. It gives me like goosebumps share those stories every time of like.

Anthony Standifer: Yeah. 

Ryan Flynn: Successes of yeah, obviously everybody wants the big exit. And those are great. And we celebrate 

those for sure. But man, the little, just to, to have somebody just even take the leap of entrepreneurship and have it quote unquote work right and have it, and make a go of it.

It’s awesome. So I love seeing that as well. As we wrap up here, Anthony To any resources you recommend for people, maybe especially in the beauty space that you [00:40:00] follow, you recommend and people will plug into outside of MC group, obviously I’m sure you guys have some resources.

I know you have a podcast, you’re very active on social media. I love yourself on social, but any other resources to outside of that?¬†

Anthony Standifer: Yeah, there’s a ton of stuff that’s out there. So if you’re interested in the beauty of personal care space from an industry perspective, what are the big resources? There’s an annual conference called Cosmo Prof. It happens twice a year, July and January, I believe. July is, I think, their biggest show, and it’s the largest B2B resource for people that are involved across all levels of the supply chain.

It’s a great place to learn and indoctrinate yourself if you’re thinking about launching a beauty brand. They offer classes and education at this three day or four day conference that happens annually inside of Las Vegas. Online resources, beautyindependent. com has amazing, they provide a ton and they focused really specific since 2019 on the small indie brands and providing valuable resources and education to folks there.

Beautymatter. com uh, projectbeautyexpo. [00:41:00] com is specifically targeted towards black and brown female founders. They do a show and provide a bunch of resources as well. So the things are out there I just encourage people to do your research and do your due diligence and then after you’ve done some due diligence, get in motion because you can only analyze at a, to a certain level.

I can only coach you so long in terms of what it’s going to be like, but until you get on the battlefield and are working to convert a sale from somebody that doesn’t know you and you’re trying to get their interest and their money, like that is a skill set that has to be practiced in order to get, I believe the maximum amount of learning, but these online resources do exist.

Of course, MC Group is out here. I provide a ton of free content through social media and other places. So the stuff is there. Go consume it and then get in motion. Yeah, so if you’re looking for me on mcgroup. com I am the Anthony Standifer on Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, and all the other places of [00:42:00] social media. And then I have a podcast called Driving the Business, Beauty Brands and Entrepreneurship with Anthony Standifer that also offers resources. So the stuff is there.

If you Google Anthony Standifer, all other things will come. Find me on social media, whatever that is. But again, the main thing is the resources are there. Please take advantage of what’s out there. It is not impossible. It doesn’t matter what stage of life or what level of chaos is existing in your life at this moment.

If you have a commitment to make your thing succeed, there’s absolutely avenues

and venues. To make sure that your success eventually happened. 

Ryan Flynn: there, Anthony, with some positive encouragement for all entrepreneurs. So thank you so much for giving us that. And man, a wealth of information. I learned stuff today too. And it’s always great to hear things that I probably did know. I thought I’d know reinforce from somebody else in the industry.

So Anthony, thank you so much for joining us today. I appreciate it. 

Anthony Standifer: Thank you. I appreciate Sam. 

Ryan Flynn: Yeah. Take care.