Winnie Harlow has two nonnegotiable house rules: “You must wear sunscreen and you must take off your shoes.” It’s a great step toward protecting friends and family from harmful rays, but her ultimate goal, she told WWD, is bringing sun care to the masses.
After two years of research — and some COVID-19-related delays — Cay Skin is officially launching in Sephora. Importantly, the sun care beauty brand cofounded by supermodel Winnie Harlow marks the second to be incubated through Kim Perell’s 100.co, the artificial intelligence-powered consumer brand group.
Through 100.co, Cay Skin was developed using the company’s proprietary AI technology called Claire. The technology analyzed millions of retail data signals and beauty trends to develop a brand that fit both Harlow’s vision and to meet market needs. The platform also analyzes consumer product reviews and translates those insights into recommendations for formulations and packaging.
“I wanted to create Cay Skin for all those people who have sensitive skin, who have vitiligo, who are light, dark, any color under the sun, and Kim and the 100.co team have given me an unbelievable platform to develop this line of products,” Harlow said. “They were with me every step of the way, from product concept to manufacturing and from fundraising to marketing. Most importantly, their AI platform gave us the data and insights to understand the market gaps not being fulfilled by traditional skin care brands.”
A huge advocate for helping other female entrepreneurs, Perell, founder and chief executive officer of 100.co, told WWD it was Harlow’s passion that made her so excited about the brand from Day One, but it was the data that solidified getting it off the ground.
“The brand was so strong because it was purpose driven and that’s really what we wanted to get behind,” Perell said. “Having been a founder of many companies, it really comes down to the people, and she is one of the most authentic females I’ve ever met. But it was so important for us to first make sure that we could validate the market opportunity and we were able to do that using our artificial intelligence and our technology.”
Moreover, she said, the process was quite collaborative, making sure the brand fit Harlow’s vision, included consumer insights and met retail partnership standards. Both Perell and Harlow agreed that Claire technology made the process a more confident one.
“I’m passionate about sun care, but the beauty industry is such a crowded market,” Harlow said. “Getting insights on what makes consumers passionate about skin care and what they love and what they don’t gave me confidence in the products that we were building together. The insights enabled us to create products that people are going to love.”
“From our standpoint, we see there’s a high level of brands that don’t make it and we want to ensure our success by de-risking the brand using data and making sure that we were really able to use technology at the start of product creation,” Perell said. “By taking the technology learning about the skin care products, marketing claims, benefits and ingredients to really understand what customers. We were then able to make some great recommendations for Winnie to evaluate because, ultimately, this is her brand and we’re here to power her vision.”
Some of the specific elements the AI identified were hero products and an increasing interest in blue light protection. The data also confirmed the importance of not leaving a white cast and being silicon free.
The technology also got Cay Skin “Sephora ready.” According to Harlow, getting her products into Sephora was a goal from the very beginning and was always part of the discussion as the brand was developed.
“Two years ago, we started collaborating with Winnie to develop Cay Skin and we couldn’t be more excited to see her vision come to life,” Perell said. “For both 100.co and Cay Skin, working with a partner such as Sephora is a huge moment of success. We all have a shared vision for a diverse and inclusive beauty industry and I’ve always believed in supporting female founders from diverse backgrounds, which Sephora is committed to as well.”
With $6.5 million in funding for Cay Skin, Winnie Harlow has officially become one of only 100 Black female founders to have raised more than $1 million in venture capital — a number Harlow and Kim Perell, founder of 100.co are eager to see grow.
Passionate about helping “When I read that statistic, I thought ‘This is insane, something’s wrong,’” Perell said. “But data doesn’t lie.”
“What I pulled from that is that I really want to make that number bigger not just with myself but to figure out ways to encourage and empower other women, other Black women and women of color,” Harlow said.
Notably, as part of Harlow’s vision for Cay Skin to have a positive and social impact — all formulas are reef safe and certified carbon neutral — the brand has partnered with A Place Called Home, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit organization that provides a safe, nurturing environment and educational support for youth. Harlow shared that the partnership has also been a hands-on experience for her where she has made the time to visit in person to talk with the boys and girls about her own experiences and give some mentoring advice.
Looking ahead, Perell looks forward to the ongoing partnership between 100.co and Cay Skin as the brand grows and continuing to invest in amazing founders. She also recently published a second book, called Jump, to guide upcoming entrepreneurs through making the decisions they face fears in starting a business.
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