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U Beauty’s Tina Craig on Pivoting During Coronavirus

The instant cult classic brand wound up being well suited for consumers’ essentialist approaches to skin care during the coronavirus pandemic.

When influencer Tina Craig launched U Beauty in 2019, she didn’t predict the frenzy that would ensue. So, when it was time to restock after a global sellout within weeks of launching, Craig reordered as much product as possible, following its global sellout within weeks of launch.

“We knew to order a lot, but imagine if we didn’t sell out that first three weeks. I was thinking about that the other day, and we just had that original stock, we would have been totally screwed during that first few months of pandemic,” Craig said.

Craig knew she was onto something new with U Beauty, which features patent-pending technology called Siren capsules, which are said to only target damaged skin areas and concerns. She put much of the brand’s capital behind free sampling, and sent out 100,000 free samples prior to launching the product.

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“There was no money on social. It was really risky, but we paid for shipping because we really wanted the samples to be free,” Craig said. “But for us, product is king, and we knew once people tried it and saw this incredible transformation, it would pay off.”

The technology that powers Craig’s products takes some education, seeing as her first stockkeeping unit, the Resurfacing Compound, contains retinol, vitamin C, AHAs and PHAs yet is still suitable for sensitive skin.

Although Craig didn’t foresee the shift to e-commerce, she said putting resources behind the brand’s own channel — which now makes up 90 percent of the brand’s sales — was in the works before the pandemic. “We really focused on our d-to-c, which is what we wanted to do in the beginning. We just thought using retailers helped build brand awareness,” Craig said, adding that being less reliant on retailers helped the brand stay nimble through 2020, and keeping distribution partners stocked was challenging.

One of the greatest pivots she took, though, was building a global team of advisers and consultants to help anchor the brand’s success, noting that U Beauty is a fully global brand now. “I’m in Dallas, my business partners are in Florida, we have creatives in Los Angeles,” she said.

“We built our team that way and, it was so incredible. Imagine from March to now, we’re building our team by just finding the best talent in the world and the best person for the job. Because they don’t have to consider relocating. A lot of pivoting was that staffing, and the overhead of having an office, and not having to deal with that.

“I learned that you don’t have to spend wastefully. You can be smart and strategic. When I started blogging 16 years ago, there was no business model. Again, I’m blazing a new trail of how businesses are built in the future, and the future is right now,” Craig added.

Having just put out her first body product — the Sculpt Resurfacing Arm Compound — Craig says there are more launches in the pipeline for the year, although they’re all aligned with the brand’s minimalist philosophy on product formulation. “Our next launch is another game changer, that’s creating a new category in the way people think about outdoor skin care,” she said. “It’s gonna be outdoor and indoor, and truly a treatment that’s never been seen before. It’s taken so long for the FDA approvals because there’s nothing like it.”

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