• charlottesbook.com homepage
  • 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
When 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 travel products.

For 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.

Travelbeauty.com 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.”

Ironically, 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.

CEW 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 web-focused business?
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?
RS: We 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?
RS: Our 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.

BI: 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 objective?
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?
AB: Claire 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.

BI: 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.

BI: What 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.


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