This edition of industry voices brings you a closer look at startup skincare brand - Three Ships Beauty. The Cluster interviewed the founders of Three Ships Beauty, Connie Lo and Laura Burget. Startups are the future of the cosmetic industry. We will be interviewing startups to get a better understanding of their needs, goals and how cosmetic cluster can support them.
1. Tell me a little bit about your company? Why did you launch a skincare business?
We founded our skincare brand in 2017 after being frustrated with how high-quality natural skincare products cost so much. Both 23 at the time, we decided to create our own business. We scraped together $4,000 and started by making our own handmade formulations in my apartment kitchen. Our goal was to solve the problems we faced as consumers and create the most effective and affordable natural skincare products available. This is why every Three Ships product is made with 100% natural ingredients and is certified cruelty-free. It’s why nothing goes to market unless it has been scientifically proven to work. And it’s why all of our products will forever be under $40 USD. You can read more about our formulation philosophy here. Since launch, we are now carried in +400 retailers across North America, and have a full product assortment of 16 SKUs.
2. Why did you rebrand NIU BODY with Three Ships Beauty? What does Three Ships mean?
A whole lot of thought and attention went into rebranding from our previous brand NIU BODY to Three Ships. Although we built an amazing brand with NIU BODY, there are some important reasons that led to our decision to change the name. The key one is that we needed a brand name we can have full ownership over, both from a trademark and a consumer clarity perspective. Over time, we had heard that some consumers were confusing NIU BODY with brands spelled similarly, finding NIU BODY difficult to pronounce, or thinking NIU BODY was a body care company. That, together with not having legal access to the trademark for NIU BODY, led to this important decision.
This change has also further fuelled our focus on transparency and direct messaging. When we started NIU BODY, we assumed our target audience would be young (like we were), particularly given the affordable price point. With that in mind, we developed a brand that was young and cheeky. What we have learned over the past 3 years, is that the majority of our customers are actually slightly older and prefer more direct and transparent messaging. As a result, we’re adjusting our brand messaging to emphasize transparency and ingredient education, and pairing it with more natural looking (yet still vibrant!) packaging design. The name Three Ships™ for us is significant. We stumbled upon the story of the Fountain of Youth, and immediately fell in love with its parallel to our brand ethos. For thousands of years, there have been tales of adventurers going to great lengths to find the mystical Fountain of Youth. Some legends even suggest that it was discovered by a very small fleet of three ships. While we know this to be a myth, great discoveries can still be made with limited resources. We embrace this less is more mindset and use this philosophy to chart our course as a company. We believe you don’t need a long list of unnecessary ingredients in your skincare products, and you don’t need a 12 step skincare routine to achieve beautiful results.
3. How do you see your company fitting into the global cosmetic industry? Do you have plans to go global?
We definitely have international expansion in our long-term plans! The need for more affordable and trustworthy clean skincare is not only limited to North America. We are so excited to spread the Three Ships love around the world.
4. What are the challenges for a start-up in Canada? What kind of support should there be in Canada for Cosmetic Startups?
The main challenge of having a start-up in Canada is access to capital. In the US, we have found that there are far more options for private funding and founders there are encouraged to seek external capital. In Canada, the options are much more limited. There are fewer private angel networks, less family offices and fewer venture capital funds.
It would be wonderful to have more resources available about capital and fundraising for Canadian startups of all kinds, not just in the beauty industry.
5. How important is research and statistics to your company? Do you have a particular industry source you like?
Research and statistics is very important for us, especially when it comes to our product formulations. In the case of formulating we rely on research studies (both in vivo and in vitro) from our raw ingredient suppliers. These studies determine the efficacy of products which is an area that we care deeply about.
We also rely on some third part companies for general industry statistics. For example. CrunchBase is a resource that we rely on for fundraising trends within the beauty and DTC spaces. This allows us to have a pulse on the deals that are going on right now so that we can make the best decisions about how to capitalize our business. Beauty Independent and 2PM are two of our top picks for mailing lists to be a part of. They’re great at sharing industry research/analysis specific to the beauty space as well.
6. Any advice to startups with the process of rebranding?
Absolutely. Our first critical piece of advice is to clearly define why you are rebranding. Not liking your current packaging is not a sufficient reason for yourself or for your customers. It’s extremely important to explain to your current customers why you are rebranding, and bring them along the journey so they feel heard and included. Second, have a clear idea of what you want the new brand to look/feel/sound like. We established a brand persona (we named her Emily!), and used this persona as a gut check as we worked through all the visual elements of the rebranding. It’s also important to ensure you can trademark your new name, if that is part of your rebrand. Finally, and most importantly, have a detailed communication launch strategy. We established a communication plan for three months out, one month out, and a two-week daily plan leading up to our launch date. This included what we would say, and the visuals, across all channels like email, social media, and communications to stakeholders like investors and retail partners.
7. How important are startups to the Cosmetic industry?
Startups are crucial to the cosmetic industry, as they push established larger brands to constantly innovate and keep a closer relationship with the consumer. Consumers have a voice that deserves to be heard, and it’s often times the smaller indie brands that nurture an authentic connection with their customer.
Three Ship Founders Laura Burget and Connie Lo.
Shop for Ship Three Products at Shop Hali
Canadian Cosmetic Cluster Team
Uniting Canadian Cosmetics and Bringing it to the World