Manny Barbas and James Hachem aren’t your typical boys.
At 24 years old, Barbas and Hachem, who had known each other since high school, created a pink clay face mask for women with sensitive skin, and are set to turn over $20 million by the end of this financial year.
But the company they founded, Alya Skin, wasn’t a fluke: it was a carefully planned operation.
“I would keep my eye out in terms of what people were posting, like what niches. We knew that teeth whitening was going to be big before it was, and we knew that it was going to move to skincare,” Barbas told Yahoo Finance.
“And we noticed that, in skincare, clay masks were going to be really popular.”
As it turns out, ‘really popular’ was an understatement.
Alya Skin packs between 300 and 400 orders of its face masks and other skincare products per day and is stocked in around 20,000 stores and pharmacies, a figure the boys attribute to great brand awareness.
The power of an influencer
Barbas and Hachem had predominantly relied on influencer marketing, and it’s something they can’t foresee changing in the near future.
“A lot of people are talking about whether the role of influencers is going to continue to convert the brands,” Hachem said.
“And, I’m not sure – I wish I could see into the future – but I do know that they create brand awareness, and that’s the most important thing for us.
“We don’t really work with influencers just for a return-on-investment or a conversion-based point, it’s more for brand awareness and to create hype around our brand.”
But influencers wouldn’t want to work with Alya if it wasn’t a good product, Hachem and Barbas said.
“Influencers want to work with us,” Hachem said. “Anyone in this space would understand that not every influencer wants a free product, or wants to be paid. If they don’t like the brand or like the product, they’re not going to align the brand with our brand.”
The signature Alya Skin pink face mask took time to create: six to seven months, to be exact.
“We started seeing a lot of clay masks being thrown around online, but we were speaking to some of the people that were posting about them, and the feedback was that a lot of them would really dry out the skin,” Barbas said.
“We thought there would be a gap in the market for one that was more of a moisturising mask – a mask for really sensitive skin that doesn’t dry.”
A foot already in the door
While they didn’t know much about the skincare industry before, Barbas had worked in the beauty sector before, with a teeth whitening business and had a customer base that would suit a skincare company.
With the consumer already defined, the boys just needed the product.
“We did a lot of research, like six to seven months in the office, 8am to 6pm every day researching databases,” Barbas said.
“We also learned a lot from our manufacturers and the chemists they work with because they’re already experts at what they do.”
From there, Alya Skin launched other products around the hero product, like a cleanser and moisturiser, and ensures the product sells until the next product is added.
With Australia pretty much covered, Barbas and Hachem have their sights set on international markets.
“We want to do it in a mature way, where we don’t overextend ourselves,” Barbas said. “We want to make sure we have a solid plan with our go-to-market.”
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