Rachael Tyers used to wake up in tears at the prospect of facing school.
The 25-year-old founder of TBH Skincare struggled with her skin from the age of 13, and it was a problem that stripped her of her self-confidence.
“With something like acne, a lot of people downplay it and say, ‘You know, it’s part of puberty and you’ll grow out of it’, but it’s such a big thing for a young person to go through - your skin is your face,” she told Yahoo Finance.
“People look at your face when they’re communicating with you and it’s so hard to deal with.
“I would literally wake up in tears first thing in the morning. I missed a record number of days of school.”
Tyers’ problem skin saw her prescribed antibiotics, benzoyl peroxide and eventually the contraceptive pill.
Little worked to ease her acne, and some medications made her skin worse or triggered changes in mood and weight.
She’s not alone: acne affects up to 85 per cent of Australians aged 15-24, but it can persist well beyond that.
And even if the acne itself cleared up, the challenges with confidence could remain, Tyers said.
While her skin has improved immeasurably since high school, Tyers admits to holding onto some self-doubt around her skin.
“Most people wouldn’t have seen me without makeup,” she said.
“You get into a habit of being so hyper-aware about what your skin is doing and how your skin is functioning that you probably become almost obsessive about covering it up.”
The lightbulb moment
After high school, Tyers went on to become a digital marketer working for a medical device company.
One of the suppliers, ASX-listed firm Next Science, had developed a technology that was being used for infection prevention in surgery.
Essentially, the technology broke down harmful bacteria to protect patients following surgery.
“This company ended up finding a way to apply its technology to skincare - specifically acne prevention.”
At the time, 22-year-old Tyers had just been prescribed topical retinol by her dermatologist but it wasn’t working and was simply drying out her skin.
“I looked at [Next Science’s] science, and I thought, ‘I definitely need to give this a go’,” she said.
“I ended up getting my hands on a batch straight out of the lab and I used it on my own skin and I loved it - my inflammation went down straight away and it wasn’t drying.”
After nearly 10 years, Tyers had found a product that worked for her. The only thing Next Science was missing was a digital marketer to take its product to the masses.
Tyers decided to pitch herself to them.
A winning pitch leads to $900,000 in sales
She met with the CEO and described her vision for the product.
“Having gone through that [acne] experience myself, I knew that there were very few brands talking about the impact of the problem,” Tyers said.
“I saw an opportunity to create something that I wish I had always had when I was a teenager.
“I’m someone who is relatively self-assured so I thought, ‘Why not?’ You miss 100 per cent of the shots that you don’t take and I was always the person to put myself forward for something. I just ran for it.”
Tyers won the licensing rights to Next Science’s skincare product, quit her job and went into business with her mother to launch TBH Skincare in March 2020.
Eighteen months later, TBH Skincare has reached 6,800 customers and sold more than $900,000 worth of product. It's on track to hit $1.3 million in sales in the 2022 financial year, with a stretch target of hitting $1.9 million.
Finding the right partners
Tyers understood that in the age of ecommerce, finding the right brand partners and influencers would be essential in reaching her base of young women.
But acne is a challenge that many influencers wouldn’t feel comfortable opening up about, presenting a trust paradox: who would buy a skincare product from an influencer with seemingly perfect skin?
She knew that Bachelor star and podcast host Abby Chatfield had spoken openly about her own struggles with skin care and had sent her a care package to try out.
“I remember seeing Abby using all of these different skincare products on her Instagram and I was trying to get her management to tell her to use it,” Tyers said.
“I sent this email to her saying, ‘Please stop using these other products. Just pick up this one product in your box and try it, because I know it’s going to work’.
“I sold her on the science and a few weeks later we heard back and she loved it.”
From there, it was a snowball effect.
Want to pitch yourself? Tyers shares her tips
Use personal stories. It’s critical to think about how you’re going to sell the overall concept, and personal stories will immediately connect a product or idea to an audience.
Bring your personality. If you have passion about a topic, that will also help cut through.
Present the market opportunity. Tyers had done her research and knew exactly who her addressable market was and the amount of money people were already spending on skincare.
Know your stuff. If you get asked questions, you want to be able to answer them comfortably.
Be honest. Authenticity counts too: if you don’t know something, it’s better to be honest than to try to fake an answer.
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