If I had a dollar for every time someone said to me, “You know what beauty product I wish existed?” I would have the funding to start my own beauty company. But if I didn’t, beauty brand Volition could help me get started. Better than a Kickstarter, Volition helps beauty entrepreneurs (or as they call them innovators) get their products made. An innovator submits an idea to their site, Volition vets it and acts like a well-connected co-founder, connecting them with chemists and labs. It gets crowdsourced on Volition’s page to identify the best idea, and the brand helps them with selling and distribution.
Patricia Santos and Brandy Hoffman, a former founding member of Algenist, both believe the consumer should have more power and that Volition helps produce more needed, original products. One product, Mission Brows, are realistic, stick-on brows developed by an cancer survivor innovator. A long-time makeup artist wanted an eye cream that truly worked well under makeup and created the Helix AM/PM Eye Gel. The Cut talked to Hoffman more about how Volition turns beauty product dreams into realities, then gets them sold at Sephora — making their innovators rich in the process.
It sounds like Volition is “disrupting” the beauty industry. Is that how you would describe it?
I hate the word disrupt. Everyone uses it too much. I want to humblebrag — we aren’t trying to disrupt, we fundamentally believe our process is better because we aren’t the ones making the decision about whether a product goes to market. We didn’t set out to be Kickstarter. But we are harnessing the power of consumers and effectively leveraging it into making better products.
Patricia and I looked at what we loved about beauty and what we thought was a way to allow the consumer to get into it. Once we started to peel that away, we came up with the Volition model. The people feeling the need would be the best ones to answer it. They may not know how — but they know what they want. Out of their personal stories are personal products.
What is the value proposition for someone to go with Volition rather than try to create a product on their own?
I’ve been on the operating side, I’ve had product development and manufacturers report to me for over 15 years. I can help them navigate that process. We can guarantee distribution for the innovators chosen. We know the pitfalls. We know where we made mistakes before. We use multiple labs and independent chemists and can direct the ideas to the right person to make the formulas. If you went about it on your own, you might go to one lab and they would be awesome at one thing, but they might not be able to deal with something else. We usher the ideas through the funnel, and help find the best people to execute.
In picking labs, we pay special attention to performance and look at those who have delivered. There’s something to be said about having ideas come from men or women experiencing the pain points themselves, instead of us deciding what we are going to launch. It’s truly authentic — these are these people’s desires. Some are very personal. Some come from confidence issues like Mission Brows.
How involved are innovators?
It’s a combination. Each innovator can be involved at different levels. Most of the people are involved in key milestones. We write the briefs for the products and they are a part of that, and have to agree with it. We make sure that we can deliver what they asked for.
Once the formulating gets started, they get prototypes for themselves and get real-life field testing. They have feedback and give it. They might say, “This is good but this is something I think we should add now.” Sometimes they ask for ingredients and with all the information out there, there’s misinformation and confusion. That’s when the labs are really critical. We’ve had situations where an innovator will be like, We want to put this in there. But when we look at the formulation,we know it’s not going to be the best ingredient, it’s just not working with something else in the formula. That’s really a three-way partnership. We are the liaisons between the innovator and the lab. But if they want to talk to the lab, we have no problem facilitating those calls.
How much of the profits do you share with innovators?
We do share revenue share. If someone defers their revenue share into charitable foundations, we will also increase and match that. We’ve had great success and real traction with Sephora, and our innovators are really getting the rewards of distribution.
We are a brand without a doubt. Everything falls under the Volition umbrella. We sell the product. We get some money from the sale. But it’s marrying the empowerment and change with the business we think we can be successful in.
One of our innovator recently put a down payment on her first house. Hearing about it still makes me cry. I hope I get a million of them, that’s our goal. We’re a female owned and run company. We want to empower women in a very meaningful way. If we’re able to do that, then they’re the ones who should be rewarded. We’re merely the guardians.