For those who haven’t heard of Sara Happ yet, next year may change that.
This story first appeared in the July 22, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The former journalist who left ESPN in 2006 to devote herself full-time to The Lip Scrub, a product she formulated from ingredients she found at Whole Foods, is primed for aggressive expansion starting in 2012. Until now, she’s turned down retailers (QVC and Sephora) and product extensions to concentrate on building a solid customer and retail base. During the first three years of operating her namesake brand, her line consisted of The Lip Scrub in six varieties, until introducing lip balm, The Lip Slip, in 2008.
“In the last two years, we’ve played it safe because of the economy,” said Happ. Playing it safe has meant the small Redondo Beach, Calif.-based company releasing one new product a year at most, but that’s ending with at least four annual product launches in the pipeline and a vision to spread the assortment from lip to the entire body.
Happ’s plunge into body products is beginning this year with The Body Scrub, for $46, in a vanilla bean scent. Unlike many scrubs that leave behind unwanted residue on skin and in the shower, Happ said her intent with The Body Scrub was to have it “rinse away completely clean.” The body product lineup will grow again next year with body cream, The Body Slip. A lip gloss, The Lip Slip One Luxe Gloss, is on the product docket for next year, as well.
“Our goal is to exfoliate and hydrate. Every product has to solve a specific problem and do it the first time you use it,” said Happ.
Leora Mesica, owner of the Beauty Bar Apothecary in Beverly Hills, Calif., thinks that Happ has a strong following that would be happy to pick up new products from the brand. The following is so strong, in fact, that Mesica was sold out of The Lip Scrub on Thursday. “It does very well,” she said. “She’s a smart girl. Her packaging is unbelievable. The product is wonderful. The price is good. People like it.”
Happ’s conservative approach to growing the business so far has a lot to do with the influence of William Botts, the former chief executive officer of Hard Candy. After he spoke at Happ’s alma mater, the University of Southern California, Happ was convinced he could help her with her brand. “I called every Bill Botts in the country. There were 25 or 30,” Happ said. The calls paid off and Botts joined Sara Happ’s advisory board.
Botts has raised red flags when he thought Happ was going in the wrong direction. Candles is one example. She wanted to do candles, but he instructed they would dilute her brand and force it to compete in a crowded field. She ultimately agreed and is certain today that candles would have been a bad move. “He really thinks big picture. This is my first rodeo, but it isn’t his.”
Botts has also stressed the importance of having a healthy balance sheet. “We have been profitable since our second month in business,” said Happ. “We’ve never had any debt. I run the company like I run my checkbook.” This year, the brand’s revenues have been up 60 percent, and it’s on track to generate $3.5 million in sales, well above the original goal of $2.6 million, according to Happ. Next year, she projected sales could double with Sara Happ entering China. The brand is currently sold in 16 countries outside of Canada and the United States, where it is in roughly 300 stores.