From left:  Joe Cloyes, Monique Rodriguez, Fiona Stewart

The coronavirus has made for a challenging year for the beauty industry, but some brands have fared better than others.

Indie brands such as Mielle Organics, Youth to the People and Slip were able to lean into their nimbleness and adaptability and have all reported success this year while navigating the global pandemic.

Youth to the People, a buzzy clean skin-care brand that formulates its products with superfood ingredients, was able to avoid sales losses by immediately shifting focus to emphasize its digital footprint. The brand avoided layoffs by repurposing its sizable field team to digital operations, moving consultations and events that would typically happen in-store to online. “Anything we lost in brick-and-mortar went to e-commerce,” said Joe Cloyes, cofounder of Youth to the People.

Monique Rodriguez, chief executive officer and founder of skin and hair brand Mielle Organics, took to social media to connect with her existing community and acquire new customers. Prior to the pandemic, Rodriguez spent heavily on in-person marketing. “I was texting my mentor, Richelieu Dennis, ‘OK, where do I spend my marketing dollars? Do I hit the gas pedal or keep my foot on the brakes?’ and he told me to keep my foot on the gas pedal, so we did and started speeding.” Before COVID-19, the Mielle team was doing 10 to 12 in-person events and trade shows per year to connect with customers in person. When stay-at-home orders were issued starting in March, Rodriguez quickly pivoted to Instagram to stay in touch virtually.

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She did an Instagram Live every single day for three months straight. “I went back to my mission, which is to empower and educate and excite our community,” said Rodriguez, who suspected that people were likely consumer a lot of content on their smartphones during quarantine. “If people are consuming content on their phones daily, I want to be that content.”

While Slip, an Australia-based brand that makes silk pillowcases, hair ties and sleep masks, initially pushed back its launch calendar in the early days of the pandemic, it quickly found its footing with an unexpected, if highly successful launch: silk face masks. “Face coverings will be in our future for who knows how long — it’ll be one of our product lines for at least the next few years,” said Fi Stewart, ceo and cofounder of Slip.

Looking ahead, Cloyes said Youth to the People plans to double-down on its original brand pillars, which he thinks will be especially resonant post-coronavirus. Youth to the People is all clean and sustainable ingredients, something Cloyes thinks customers are even more interested in after having gone through a pandemic. “The consumer is definitely rethinking [ingredients],” he noted.

Stewart said she she’s seen in an uptick in repeat purchases from customers. “With people spending so much time at home and spending time shopping on the internet, we’ve found that customers are really loyal. They’ll buy [multiple] pillow cases to [gift.] Our retailers joke that we’re the new candle.”

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