Robin Shobin, Founder of Charlotte's Book
Alyssa Barrie, Founder and CEO at Travel Beauty
Travel Beauty homepage
October 28, 2014
Digital Does It: Two New Beauty Sites Target Those In The Know
it seems like any idea one could imagine has already been executed and is up on
the web, it's exciting to find holes that still need to be filled. Two women have created and now occupy what
seems like a surprising void. One
delivers the latest information on everything from services to experts, while
the other introduces us to hard- to-find, highly curated international beauty
Robin Shobin, 37, the idea for charlottesbook.com, an invitation-only directory that highlights top
skin care, anti-aging, nutrition and wellness experts by city, along with an
editorial platform and doctor-vetted information on all of the best
cosmetic procedures and wellness treatments, came
from a personal place - frustration. She
found it hard to trust recommendations regarding the cosmetic, beauty and
wellness arena, especially with regard to experts. “There was no go-to authority on the subject of
aesthetic and wellness treatments that had true editorial integrity,” Robin said, whose site had its soft beta launch in mid-September.
has been gaining beautification status since debuting in 2013. An exclusive online destination, the site’s
goal is to take the guesswork out of creating the ideal beauty regimen by
offering the very best in luxury beauty and grooming products from around the
globe, custom-curated by its panel of industry experts. Alyssa
Barrie, 38, had been taking an
entrepreneurship class at Fordham University, when her final assignment was to
create a new product or service and write a full business plan, for which she
came up empty. “Travel Beauty came out
of the blue from a close friend who expressed her frustration and annoyance at having
to check luggage at the airport and that there was no place to buy travel sized
items from one reliable place, let alone the luxury ones she was accustomed
to,” Alyssa said.“I took the framework
of that idea and built upon it.”
both Robin and Alyssa left impressive, well-paying jobs to follow their passion
for business and the web. Alyssa was at
the The New York Times for eight years
and Robin was a Wall Streeter at J.P Morgan for a decade. Both have taken huge risks, professionally
and economically, betting everything they had on those who love surfing the web. With platforms and long-term goals like these, it’s
easy to see success in their digital future. Others wanting to build similar
sites might need to rethink their game-plan as the competition is beautifully
steep and well groomed.
snagged some one-on-one time with each beauty-focused lady, while
delving into their respective business models.
Beauty Insider: Robin, what made you create a
RS: I wanted to create an easy to navigate online
resource that spoke in a trusted, relatable and discerning voice. As this area of the industry grows at
lightening speed, more and more women are looking for guidance on how to safely
and effectively take advantage of today's amazing technologies.
BI: Why focus on beauty services?
really focus on skin care, anti-aging, aesthetics, nutrition and wellness.
I wanted to focus on treatments and experts for two reasons. The first was to
help with the selection of the right expert and treatment, which is crucial.
The wrong selection can cause serious damage and drain your pocket. The second
was to dive into the world of non-invasives, anti-aging treatments and anti-aging
wellness/nutrition. There's so much to cover as that area is evolving so fast
and it's harder and more confusing to navigate information on treatments than
any other area in beauty.
BI: How long did it take you to go from
concept to conception?
RS: About 18 months. We spent a lot of time
custom-building the site’s architecture.
BI: Who is your core consumer?
core consumer is discerning, selective, educated. They value health, anti-aging
and wellness and won't compromise on the quality of the service to save money.
They can decipher advertising placements easily.
BI: What is your objective?
RS: To create the most trusted resource in
aesthetics and wellness. The create the only place you need to go to find
an aesthetics and wellness expert in your city and learn about the latest
trends and treatments in skincare, anti-aging, and wellness. All of our
treatment write-ups in The Arsenal (where content is found) are vetted by at
least two experts in The Book (the site’s directory of beauty experts).
BI: Do you have a beauty partner in crime?
RS: Rachel Hayes, a veteran in the beauty
industry, oversees all content and works closely with industry leaders and top
writers to report on the latest news and trends in the subjects we cover.
BI: What is your three-year growth plan?
RS: To take Charlotte's Book national and
international and build a premier e-commerce platform dedicated to
selling the products on our Premier Provider network (the experts
listed in The Book). We are working on expanding into London and Miami in the
near term. That is all I can say, given we are in capital raising stages.
BI: What differentiates your site from others?
RS: The Book, which is our directory of experts,
isn't a pay for play model. Cosmetic dermatologists, aestheticians, herbalists,
nutritionists, acupuncturists, etc. can't just call us up and pay to be listed.
The Book is an invitation-only model and we do all the legwork to figure out
who should be in it. In regards to our
editorial content, Charlotte's Pages is updated daily with the latest news and
trends in anti-aging, skin care and wellness. This area of the site has a
broader appeal, making it not just a destination to find experts in their city,
but for women all over the world to read.
BI: What is your marketing strategy to consumers?
RS: The primary goal in our first year is to grow
traffic. We have several key content partnerships in the works that will
broaden our reach. We have also launched
a newsletter program, which includes two e-mail blasts a week, and are building
a social presence on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter. In the first quarter of 2015 we will start
hosting events with Premier Providers in their offices or doing special events
with companies such as Coolsculpting, where Charlotte's Book readers can go to learn
about the latest trends straight from the experts and have personal
consultations.We are talking to key
beauty manufacturers of cosmetic technologies and skin care to create custom native
campaigns, which could include sponsored content, newsletter takeover, social
media engagement and events.
BI: Alyssa, what
made you create a web-focused business?
AB: Prior to
launching Travel Beauty I had worked in the media and advertising industries
for 15 years. They were probably the most exciting and tumultuous time in the
history of these industries, wreaking havoc on their respective business models
as public access to the Internet began to disrupt business as usual. The media
and advertising industries had to adapt to a new fast-paced, ever changing
technological and media landscape that impacted them at a faster rate and more
severely than had been anticipated.
BI: Why focus on
beauty and travel?
AB: In my frequent
travels to Europe, Asia and the Middle East over the years I had always raided
every pharmacy and luxury boutique in search for the best beauty products each
region had to offer.When I returned
home to New York City, I was always struck by the fact that these products were
nowhere to be found. Also, I did not want my frequent travels to stop me from
having my regimen with me at all times.
BI: How long did
it take you to go from concept to conception?
AB: I completed the first iteration of the business
plan during Thanksgiving of 2011. Between working full time at The New York Times, going to business
school, raising a seed round funding and working towards launch it took almost
a year and a half.
Who is your core consumer?
AB: Women, metrosexual and gay men 30+ for whom
beauty and grooming regimen is a top priority. They purchase quality, high-end
products and don't mind paying a premium for them. They have their finger on
the pulse of beauty and grooming - they know about and are in search of new
exciting ingredients and products and travel often and love to discover hidden
beauty gems on their trips.
BI: What is your
AB: To be the premier one-stop-shop and beauty
resource. We offer a balance of the all star products our customers know and
love and then introduce them to their new favorite products they haven't heard
of yet. We also pride ourselves on being
a source of frank, high-quality information not only from our industry experts,
but from the real women beauty-obsessed staff. Though we sell beauty and grooming products,
we strive to address the whole person so we also offer content on travel,
lifestyle and overall wellbeing. There is no topic that we won’t touch. We have
rolled up our sleeves and are eager to get our hands dirty.
BI: Do you have a beauty partner in crime?
McCormack, Travel Beauty's COO, who is an equity partner in the company and
collaborates with me to steer Travel Beauty's overall strategy and direction.
What is your three -year growth plan?
AB: To expand our foothold in the consumer market
across the US, Canada and possibly beyond. We have also entered into
business-to-business channels, including corporate gifting, airlines amenities
kitting, as well as travel and hotel partnerships. Our aim is to grow all of
these business lines.
differentiates your site from others?
AB: Travel Beauty
targets and caters to a select, high-end market segment that it understands
implicitly. It curates the finest product lines, mostly from Europe, Japan and
Israel, hand-selected by its experts. Travel Beauty markets and sells luxury
beauty offerings in travel friendly and full sizes that are currently
unavailable or not easily procurable in the U.S. Travel Beauty’s clients can
create customized travel kits across many different brands. No one else offers
this service. We also offer a concierge service where customers can call in or
email us for product recommendations and guidance. Additionally, Travel Beauty
features a panel of renowned beauty experts that provide professional advice
and tips. We regularly create more quality content than any other beauty
e-commerce site. Content creation is key
in online marketing, and we have focused on this from the start.
BI: What is your
marketing strategy to consumers?
AB: Travel Beauty’s
goal is to create and sustain a personal dialog and eventually a relationship
with our customers. We leverage our branded channels on Facebook, Twitter,
Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube, Google+ and LinkedIn, as well as our blog to
create content (and a community) that matters to our customers. We adapt our
content not only to our audience but to the platform on which we are engaging
with them. For example, we communicate differently to our Instagram audience
then we do with those that have subscribed to our newsletter or even with those
that follow us on twitter. Our goal is
to be there for our customers and readers no matter when, where and on what
device they choose to access us on. From a tactical perspective we also
leverage search engine optimization, paid media, relationship marketing, media
and blog partnerships, business development initiatives, earned media, industry
conferences and currently our Soho pop-up shop to broadcast brand, acquire
customers and drive sales.