As a student at MIT, one luxury that Megan Cox afforded herself was eyelash extensions. After a while, however, the experience grew wearisome. The pro- cess took up to three hours, included ingredients that she worried about (such as hormones and prostaglandin), and wasn’t that effective. The ex-perience prompted Cox to start thinking about creating an eyelash extension product of her own.
In early 2012 Cox, who was a student in the Sloan School of Management at MIT, started studying the eyelash industry and the different options that were available. Although having long eyelashes was a hot new trend, many of the solutions had problems. Applying false eyelashes, one of the solutions, was frustrating for many peo- ple. False eyelashes are often sticky and itch and use glues that can cause fungi to grow around the lash lines/eyes. Other options were equally unappealing. In some cases, people’s eyelashes grew longer but they still had sparse lashes. Additionally, once a person gained long eyelashes, maintaining them was pricey and time consuming.
Cox proceeded to start experimenting with formulations of her own. The goal was to create an all-natural lash and brow enhancer that would stimulate growth in dormant follicles while strengthening the lashes and brows that a person has. Drawing on her chemistry background, she considered different options before settling on a hypoallergenic formula made from natural ingredients. The product that emerged was an eyelash pen that, when glided along an individual’s lash line once a day, was intended to produce longer and healthier eyelashes. The pen, which would eventually retail for $39, contained enough ingredients to last three months.
Rather than rushing forward, Cox tested the product. The results were good. In testing trials, Wink, the name Cox attached to the product, increased eyelash full- ness by up to 20 percent (60 lashes) in 100 percent of participants (after 8-10 weeks of product use). In addition, due to Wink’s conditioning effectiveness, eyelash length increased by up to 20 percent in 80 percent of the participants. Wink was also effec- tive in regrowing eyebrows in patches where brows had previously stopped growing because of overplucking. Best of all, Wink was a hypoallergenic natural serum. Many cosmetic products cause allergic reactions, something Cox wanted to avoid. A hy- poallergenic product causes fewer reactions. Wink was also minimally processed and free of parabens, sulfates, phthalates, horomoes/prostaglandins, artificial fragrances, and artificial dyes.
In terms of marketing, at the start Cox and Salinas were it. They wrote their own press releases, product descriptions, and brochures. To gain visibility, they sent samples to salons and sponsored events. They made contact with catalog companies and got Wink placed in several cosmetic catalogs. All of these efforts were aimed at building Wink’s brand. They also reached out to salons by offering risk-free trials. They would send the product to salons in lots of 12, and, if they didn’t sell, would take them back. They found that the more they reached out to people in the cosmetics industry, the more people reached out to them in return. They also signed up several salons that agreed to act as distributors and place Wink’s products in other salons. Cox and Salinas experienced several surprises along the way, one of which was the target market. As it turned out, the salons that carried Wink’s products had the most luck selling to 50- to 60-year-old women. That realization changed Cox and Salinas’s marketing tactics some. Wink is not big into social media, for example, because 50- to 60-year-old women are not heavy us- ers of social media.
Wink’s products are made in both China and the united States. The bottles and boxes are made in China, while the product itself is manufactured and placed in the bottles in the united States. The manufacturing is done in an FDA approved facility. In terms of future growth, Cox and Salinas plan to grow Wink natural Cosmetics in two ways. First, they plan to continue to increase the number of salons that carry the product. There are no present plans to place Wink in a mainstream retailer such as Walgreens or CVS. Second, they plan to introduce new complementary products, such as brightening and anti-aging creams.2
When talking about her experiences, one thing Cox stresses is to not underestimate yourself. At one point Wink hired a PR firm to write press releases, for example. Cox says that the press releases that she wrote were better than the ones that came from the PR firm. It’s also important to get free press. Cox actively reached out to organizations that write about student-initiated companies. Many took an interest in Cox and Salinas and wrote articles or included them in lists of top college start-ups. For example, Wink natural Cosmetics was included in the list of “America’s Coolest College Startups” by Inc. magazine in 2014. Cox and Salinas believe that generating positive press is helpful in building a company’s brand.
In this chapter, we’ll look at the marketing challenges confronting entrepre- neurial firms. Marketing is a broad subject, and there are many books and websites dedicated to marketing and its subfields. However, in this chapter, we zero in on the marketing challenges that are most pressing for young en- trepreneurial firms. The reason for doing this is that marketing is an essential component to a start-up firm’s success.3
We begin this chapter by discussing how firms define and select their tar- get markets. Next, we discuss how a firm establishes a brand. We then con- sider the four key aspects of marketing as they relate to young entrepreneurial firms. These four aspects, commonly referred to as the “4Ps” of marketing, are product, price, promotion, and place (or distribution). We conclude the chapter with a discussion of the sales process, which consists of the steps a company goes through to establish relationships with customers and close sales. Many new ventures do a good job of developing products and defining the size of their markets, but do a poor job of dealing with the practicalities of how the products will be sold. It’s imperative that a new business have a plan that de- tails how it will sell its product within the confines of a reasonable budget.
Source: Barringer Bruce R, Ireland R Duane (2015), Entrepreneurship: successfully launching new ventures, Pearson; 5th edition.