Beauty product makers have come up with scores of solutions for make-up removal. Two Polish women have assumed a revolutionary approach and turned it into a business idea
by Kamila Wajszczuk
Phenicoptere in Old French stands for flamingo, a bird seen as a symbol of both beauty and water. Ewa Dudzic and Monika Żochowska, the founders of a company by that name and the inventors of make-up remover Glov Hydro Demaquillage, met while studying marketing at university. It was then that they decided they would do business together one day, but they had no specific idea at the time.
So at first they went separate ways. Żochowska headed to Antwerp and became a certified expert on diamonds and diamond jewelry. Dudzic, meanwhile, started a sushi catering business in Kraków. Before she left for Antwerp, Żochowska went on another foreign trip, which later proved fundamental for their future business. In Tasmania, she did an internship at the marketing department of a plastic surgery clinic. It was there that she first came across microfibers used for skin cleansing.
“She brought the idea back with her and we started looking for solutions to be able to use the fibers on our own skin to remove make-up,” Dudzic explained. Their motivation was in line with what many women feel. Żochowska detested make-up removal and Dudzic has sensitive skin, which reacted badly to many cosmetics.
The fibers proved useful and convenient, so they started to do research on the technology necessary to create a professional make-up removal cloth. “When we decided that the prototype was ready, we started showing it to our friends and colleagues,” Dudzic explained. The prototype worked very well.
“That is why we decided to try and commercialize the idea,” Dudzic said. In order to be able to enter the difficult beauty products market they looked for a financial injection. They tried several options before they obtained PLN 100,000 from AIP Seed Capital and a place in the fund’s Business Link co-working space in Warsaw’s city center.
Getting initial financing was not “extremely difficult,” Dudzic said, though at that moment they were both still working elsewhere. Somebody told them about the AIP program, they applied and got accepted. “I think that if someone has a good idea, is determined and knows how to place the idea on the market, then the money can always be found somewhere,” Dudzic said.
While preparing the first versions of the product, Dudzic and Żochowska cooperated with a fiber producing company in South Korea, which had its own R&D unit. Prototypes of Glov were then tested in the physics and chemistry laboratories of the University of Warsaw and finally in a dermatology lab, which issued a certificate saying that the product was safe even for allergy-prone skin. The whole process, from concept to first sale, took about three years.
They knew from the beginning that their product had to sell both in Poland and abroad. “Every woman puts on make-up and every woman later has to wash it off,” Dudzic said. Glov is already available in France. Phenicoptere also has a distributor in Saudi Arabia, which sells their products to Arab markets. Talks are also in progress to extend sales to Sweden, Spain, Japan, Korea, Canada and the USA. “I think that export sales will soon exceed sales in Poland,” Dudzic said.
Customers may buy Glov via the company’s own e-commerce platform, in some other online outlets and in a number of beauty parlors. “We are now slowly negotiating with retail networks. We want to introduce Glov to cosmetics networks to make it as easily accessible as possible,” Dudzic said.
These two ladies’ product is quite unique. At a recent trade fair in Bologna it was the only one of its kind presented. However, it is not the only one that follows the idea of removing make-up without chemicals. Other similar products have emerged, made out of different types of fibers. Phenicoptere nevertheless claims their fiber is the best for this purpose. To secure their rights they have applied for patent protection.
Simplicity with perspectives
To most cosmetics producers they are a threat, as their product could, in the future, sweep traditional make-up removers off the market. Glov is part of a whole new category that the sector will have to deal with. “This is a very good response to trends prevailing in the world right now,” Dudzic said, “such as a turn toward simplicity, toward using as little chemicals as possible, especially on the skin.” These trends are both in favor of the environment and of simplifying our lives,” she claims.
Sales of Glov were just launched in the summer of 2013, so it is still too early to give any figures,” Dudzic explained. In the first few months, the goal was to check how the product would sell and what the return would be. “We knew that women in our surroundings like the product, but there is always doubt about how the market would react. Now we know that our customers are satisfied.” In 2014, the goal is to intensify sales as much as possible and ensure the company’s financial liquidity.
Phenicoptere remains a small company, though it has expanded since the time when a small core team was responsible for R&D, marketing, sales and everything else. Dudzic is responsible for the Polish market and Żochowska takes care of France in that respect. There are also people responsible for various distribution channels. Much of the rest is done by freelancers.
The business is still at an early, intensive-growth phase. “Forecasts for the coming months and years are very good,” Dudzic said, recalling reactions that Glov got at recent trade fairs. “Before we even came back and sat down to reach out to our new contacts, we had a lot of emails asking about potential cooperation,” she said.
There is need for new capital, which is necessary as the company widens its presence. “We are looking for an investor and we may also make use of a bank loan,” Dudzic said. The process should be easier now that the company can use signed contracts as security.
The entrepreneurs are talking to investment funds and business angels. “Our product is not what investors focus on, unlike the IT sector,” she explained. “Still, some individual investors are even more inclined to provide money for a sector that may not bring huge returns, but that is more stable, with long-term perspectives.”
Glov has two product versions now, but there are plans to introduce others, all of them based on microtechnology. They will include products for children, spa-related products and products for travel purposes, Dudzic explained. “It is all ready in our heads and some prototypes have been made, but the full process will require capital,” she added.
Managing a quickly-developing start-up is what Dudzic wants to continue focusing on. “My goal for the company is to create stable sales, both in Poland and abroad, create new products, develop the company’s portfolio,” she attests. Personally, she would like to continue to enjoy working for the business. “This is work on one hand, but on the other it is pleasure, because this is our company. It is so interconnected with our private lives that it is difficult to keep separate.”