The rise of vegan skincare and skincare intellectuals
An interview with Three Ships co-founders Connie Lo and Laura Burget.
Welcome to the DTC Growth show.
Every episode we talk to founders and leaders at some of the most exciting DTC brands in the world. We discuss their vision, how they launched, and how they are growing their brand.
Connie Lo and Laura Burget believe beauty products should be 100% natural and affordable. The rockstar duo co-founded Three Ships almost four years ago. Frustrated by not being to find affordable and clean skincare options, they decided to create their own.
Three Ships represents a line of all-natural certified cruelty-free skincare products. Based out of Toronto, their products will forever be under 40$. But what’s the difference between labeling your brand natural and 100% natural? Laura Burget says there are large “greenwashing” issues within the food space. This is when an organization uses terms like green, sustainable, or natural to promote ideals that are not necessarily true.
Laura explains that there is no singular legal definition for what natural means. Which understandably can lead to a lot of confusion. For them, it’s about framing:
“We believe 100% natural means all of your ingredients are sourced from plants. Every raw material that we use within our skincare products has its derivation from a plant.”
Often, Three Ships products will go through some form of processing. But because their foundation is based on natural ingredients, Three Ships still considers the products to be 100% natural. At the moment, they are in the process of receiving their certification from EWG, a board that protects consumers and helps them feel comfortable about the claims they are making.
The rise of vegan skincare and skincare intellectuals
There is a common misconception that vegan skincare is only for people who also eat vegan. But it’s two very different things. Laura explains the distinction,
“Vegan skincare is much more about being cruelty-free than it is about following a vegan or raw or plant-based lifestyle. Anyone who cares about the well being of animals and doesn't want to see their products being tested on animals should be looking out for vegan or cruelty-free skincare products.”
Vegan skincare has also inspired movements of people called “skincare intellectuals.” These individuals need to know exactly what they are putting on their skin. Intellectuals will go above and beyond to empower themselves with information.
They’ll ask questions like, where is your squalene coming from? And did you know you are getting your Vitamin E from Soybean? To quench the thirst of their audience, they release all this information with their customer base. The days of branding hiding behind crazy labels and packaging are over. It’s about being transparent.
Arriving on the name “Three Ships”
With the rise of this new consumer, the company had to do some serious pivoting. The brand was originally called, “New Body,” but the organization needed a name that represented their values when it comes to formula. They arrived on the idea of Three ships, and the term has quite the history.
Three Ships is based on the mythical discovery of the fountain of youth. While some legends depict enormous fleets searching all at once, the most popular one states that the fountain was found by a fleet of a small fleet of three ships. This fits perfectly with the two founders’ philosophy of “less is more.”
“We use minimal, very simple ingredients. We also believe that you don't need to have a 12 step skincare routine to achieve beautiful results.“
Turning customer feedback into quality products.
Online, Three Ships is an engaged community. The hashtag is used widely and they have a blog promoting female entrepreneurs and offering beauty advice. It turns out, staying connected with their audience was super critical to their growth.
“It's a way that we're able to differentiate ourselves from the larger big multinational consumer brands that really can't form those close relationships with their consumers.”
For Three Ships, this meant opening up a constant line of communication with their audience. Whether that meant through social, where they post polls, questionnaires, and feedback forums. Or through email, where they constantly send quizzes and updates. This open channel is something that the organization does uniquely in the space.
Instead of designing their products for what retailers are after, they strive to make their customers excited about what they are buying. To start this process, they would poll their existing audience asking them things like:
What products are you looking for? What are we missing?
The team gathers all this data and look at what’s currently on the market. Based on feedback and current market positioning, the Three Ships team can make a well-informed decision to manufacture a certain product. After the choice is made, they work with their manufacturer and their chemist, going back and forth on several iterations.
The final step? Pre-productions samples to the organization’s top consumers. This way, the team can have a fleet of actual customers test the products before they’ve gone to market. After they tried the product they fill out an extensive feedback form that gets sent back to the lab.
This draws out the development process, but it ensures products of great quality that work for people. The cofounders go on to say that
“...it also helps on the front end, because when I'm pitching to buyers, being able to tell them we've created this with the end consumer, it’s such a hit. Because the buyers are like, ‘it's clear that you already know this is going to be a successful product.’”
The future of Three Ship
These two co-founders have an intricate story-based on dedication, commitment, and sticking to a vision. They have always been partners, but that didn’t mean there weren’t struggles along the way. Finding investors, advisors, and mentors has been nothing short of a rollercoaster ride.
There’s a ton more that goes into their story that’s not seen on this page. Looking to learn more about the Three Ships Journey?
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