By  on April 8, 2010

Chicago-based Votre Vu, a fledgling direct sales beauty firm that has generated about $5 million in revenues since its launch in January 2009, is looking to more than triple the size of its business to $16 million this year via a brand awareness campaign and new products set to launch this spring and fall.

The company markets about 50 products in the face, body and hair care and antiacne categories. It recently launched three men’s shaving and skin care items and is planning the introduction of a whitening line next month. The whitening trio will kick off with the May launch of a spot treatment, which will be followed in the fall by two more products.

“It will be a regimen [for those] who want to even skin tone,” said Harold Zimmerman, Votre Vu’s chairman and chief executive officer.

Zimmerman, who started a software firm in 1999 that included clients like direct sellers Avon and Mary Kay, said his vision of melding computer technology with skin and personal care brands wasn’t coming to fruition. So, he eventually decided to get into the beauty business for himself. He saw a void in the direct sales marketplace for “extremely high-end products that got the job done in an affordable [price range].

“I had a vision with my software company, and we brought that to great heights,” Zimmerman said. “This is a new canvas for me.”

He said his goal is to build Votre Vu into a $100 million business within four years and into a $500 million business within eight years. By comparison, May Kay’s annual beauty sales are about $2.6 billion, while Avon’s are $7.6 billion.

Votre Vu products, which are made in France, are billed as sodium lauryl sulfate-free and feature botanically, marine- and essential oil-based formulas.

One of the brand’s best-selling products is called Duette Luxe Lip Balm & Hand Crème, a tube of hand cream that features a pot of lip balm on its cap. There’s also a mirror attached. The item is $38 and includes 1.5 ml. of lip balm and 100 ml. of hand cream.

Other key Votre Vu products include a restorative neck cream called Portrait Collar (50 ml. for $49), which features beeswax, jojoba oil, and marine collagen and elastin. There’s also the Tarte d’Amande body soufflé (200 ml. for $48), which includes grape seed oil and shea butter, and an oil called Amour d’Ore Les Vitamines Pour Vous (80 ml. for $49). Antiacne items include Au Revoir Trouble Spot Treatment (30 ml. for $19) and Peau Equilibrée Cleansing Gelée (120 ml. for $29). The men’s line, called Votre Vu Pour Homme, includes the SPF 15 Men’s Daily Face Cream (50 ml. for $35); Organic Shave Balm (88 ml. for $42), and the three-in-one Hair, Face & Body Wash (88 ml. for $37). The firm’s sales force of 2,000 representatives have about 40,000 customers in total, according to Zimmerman, who said about 55 percent are return customers. About 95 percent of Votre Vu’s sales representatives are women, but, Zimmerman said, “We’re going to start targeting men with the men’s line.”

Key to the firm’s brand awareness campaign is a mobile, so-called VuBar, an Airstream trailer whose interior features two bars with stools where visitors can receive product consultations. “We travel around to take it to consumers, [and] wine and food festivals,” said Zimmerman. “It’s one of the many things we’re doing to get the brand out there.”

Another is producing short video features of the VuBar’s travels, shot by Votre Vu’s film crew and posted on the brand’s Web site. “You have to bring sight, sound and motion to bring the brand alive,” said Zimmerman, who called the concept “infotainment. We’re producing content about the brand nonstop. Every product has a video tied to it.”

While the brand has a “heavy concentration of antiaging products for baby boomers,” and sales representatives are typically about 35 and older, Zimmerman said the brand is starting to see younger sales representatives of 25 to 35 years old because, “We’re starting to get the message out of taking care of your skin.” Plans call for an advertising campaign later this year, according to Zimmerman, which could include regional TV spots as well as print ads in beauty magazines.

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