Dear Maelove Family,
I hope you're having a wonderful holiday season and getting ready to welcome in 2019!
Here at Maelove, 2018 was a super eventful year with many exciting turns and events. So, instead of just sending you a perfunctory thank you message, I wanted to take a moment to share an end-of-year progress update with you – how we started, challenges we have faced, and what’s in store for 2019.
It was a year ago when my boyfriend (and now husband!) and I spent the entire week of Christmas drafting hundreds of cold outreach emails to beauty influencers and writers.
This was an exciting, but also scary period because after years of planning and dreaming, it was finally time to launch Maelove. I had known there are myriads of beauty brands out there, but I had underestimated just how hard it would be to get noticed in an extremely crowded market.
A mentor in the beauty industry had once cautioned me that he wouldn't dare launch a beauty brand with less than $2 million in marketing budget. I thought that sounded ridiculous, but I was beginning to understand why he might have said that.
Out of more than 600 emails we sent, we received fewer than 30 replies. And most replies usually went something like “thank you for the offer to try your product, but we’ll let you know if we’re interested”.
Thankfully, a few amazing women eventually decided to give us a try, offering us their feedback and a mention on their platform. As sales gradually ramped up, we also started to notice our customers sharing Maelove with friends and family.
In the early weeks of our launch, there were times when we received a mere handful of orders a day. When sales started picking up I was ecstatic, but new obstacles began to emerge.
As you have noticed, we've been out-of-stock often this year. When we were planning to launch Maelove, a crucial point for success depended on creating good working relationships with top-tier cosmetic labs.
In the beauty industry, cosmetic labs take on the manufacturing process on behalf of brands (batch producing formulas, filling bottles, applying seals, assembling cartons, performing quality inspection, etc), so it goes without saying that partnering with top quality labs who know what they're doing is critical.
With thousands of brands out there, the best labs can pick and choose their customers. I learned that there is one key thing these labs look for: steady and growing sales that will result in large, recurring purchase orders.
As a new brand, just getting my foot in the door with these labs was an odyssey in itself, but staying in their good grace required that I had to show rising sales numbers every month.
The labs we partner with were skeptical that a web-based business with no celebrity backing or massive marketing budget could maintain momentum. They had seen so many brands come and go, they had become jaded.
In order to prove to the labs that Maelove has the staying power, I decided to keep accepting pre-orders during our out-of-stock periods. There was no better way to prove customer interest than showing receipts for prepaid orders. The labs were surprised and impressed.
In the early days, I would have to call and email at least a half-dozen times to receive a response, but nowadays they call me right back. During the November re-stock, they even moved us up on their development queue, ahead of a major luxury brand. Had they not done this for us, we'd only just now be getting The Glow Maker and The Night Renewer back in stock.
Today, our labs are totally onboard with our vision and are excited to work with us to fast-track our upcoming product launches.
I want to give a special thank you to those who took a chance and placed your pre-orders, and for patiently waiting to receive your products. Thank you!
What's Ahead in 2019
More Great Products
We have several new formulas launching in 2019 – a refreshing face wash, a shaving cream for sensitive skin (great for all body parts), a niacinamide serum that’s great for improving the texture of your skin, a super gentle yet potent retinol cream, as well as other exciting products like sheet masks.
I was also introduced to a world-class source for luxury oils, and I couldn't pass on the opportunity to work with them. I'm really excited to bring you single-ingredient pure oils that can be readily incorporated into your skincare routine. In early 2019, we will launch first with a wild harvested Marula oil in limited quantity.
The Sun Protector will be back in stock around April. The zinc we use can be hard to source at times, and I sincerely apologize for the delay. I made the decision to not substitute this ingredient source, even if the wait time is extended, because it’s vital to the product.
I also want to find a way to get your orders to you faster. We began exploring a bi-coastal warehousing option with fulfillment facilities on each coast. This will allow us to ship to you within three days or less, while still providing free shipping. I hope to implement this by late 2019.
We’re also looking into adding Fedex and UPS as carrier options for domestic orders.
Additional Distribution Channels
As you know, we sell only through our website because this allows us to take maximum advantage of new technologies that boost efficiency.
Simply put, by streamlining our processes, we can do more with less. Because our own costs are lower, we can lower our prices for you.
Earlier this year we were approached by a large cosmetics retailer. This is usually a dream-come-true moment for any young brand, but we eventually decided to postpone the discussion with them. In order to support their margins, we'd have to raise our prices significantly, and I was adamantly against that.
I believe that the world doesn't need another $100 serum. There are already many great products available at high prices. What I want to do is make great products more accessible.
We’ll continue selling only online until we build up enough bargaining power with national retailers, so we can make a deal that works for everyone – most importantly, to customers like you.
I, however, would love to work with other women and family owned businesses such as estheticians and spas. We're working on a small business partnership program to launch sometime in 2019.
We often get asked about a subscription service. However, there are two reasons why we have not considered this:
(a) I personally find myself annoyed by brands that make it a nightmare to cancel subscriptions, which makes me dislike the whole concept of subscription in general, and
(b) operating a subscription service is logistically quite burdensome. This feels like unnecessary complexity at this stage when I’d much rather be 100% focused on our products and customer service.
On the other hand, a subscription service allows us to reduce costs in a few major ways:
(a) more predictability in production scheduling - we're able to have a better idea on how many products are needed and when, and
(b) better schedule management - since shipping dates are known in advance, we can pack up your orders ahead of time when we have slower days, and
(c) savings in shipping costs – another benefit of knowing shipping dates in advance is that we can use a less expensive shipping option and still get orders to you on time.
If these cost savings promise to be significant, I'll consider implementing a subscription program where the cost savings are passed to you.
We hope to start international shipping in the latter half of 2019. Most likely, we'll start with Australia, Canada, and the UK. Then we hope to expand to Europe, Asia, South America, and the Middle East.
We're trying to find a solution that makes the following possible:
(a) economical enough so that we can charge less than $10 for international shipping, and
(b) have an accurate tracking system with a high delivery rate, and
(c) all duties/tariff fees covered by us so that our customers aren’t burdened with it.
Thank you to all our friends overseas who are patiently waiting for Maelove to ship outside of the U.S.
We’ll continue to listen attentively to your feedback on your likes, dislikes and product requests. We might not be able to reply to every individual feedback, but I assure you that we pay attention to everything you tell us.
Thank you for your love and support in 2018. I want to wish you and all your loved ones a Happy New Year!
With love and gratitude,
Jackie Kim, CEO