When Liz Agresta attended one of the world’s largest beauty trading shows three years ago, she walked in with a dream to see her sustainable self-tanning mousse enter global markets.
Now, Australian Glow is looking to double its 3,000-store global presence and expand its sun care range as it looks to raise $500,000 via equity crowdfunding platform Birchal.
Six years ago Liz Agresta ventured into the world of cosmetics with the goal of launching a sustainable self-tan product that would work on sensitive skin.
An avid self-tanner, she was worn out by adverse reactions from products containing harsh chemicals and took it upon herself to develop a solution with local manufacturers in Melbourne.
Since launching Australian Glow in 2019, the company has generated more than $4 million in revenue and can be found in 15 countries.
Speaking with Business News Australia, Agresta shared how the brand took off overseas after she attended one of the world’s biggest beauty trading shows - Cosmoprof - in Bologna, Italy with only a small suitcase’s worth of her one-hour express self-tanning mousse.
“When we got to Rome, we found out that they were holding up our goods and they weren't going to be released in time for the trade show,” she explained.
“We went to the show with empty display bottles and filled them up with water. That was where we officially launched Australian Glow.”
“[We had a] huge bright pink stand – it was bold compared to everything else that was sleek and black and white. I thought to myself: we either hit the nail on the head here or we've missed the mark.”
As it would turn out, the company hit the bullseye.
“Every single day of that trade show, our stand was completely full the whole day. That’s where people fell in love with it – buyers, big retailers and distributors,” Agresta said.
It particularly caught the eye of Nordic distributor Masq, which agreed to stock Australian Glow in department stores across Sweden, Norway, Finland and Denmark.
From there, the Melbourne-based company would also launch in major US retailer Ulta Beauty and UK cosmetics giant Superdrug, but would quickly pivot its approach as the pandemic hit.
“The week that we launched in those two stores was the week that the pandemic hit. Their doors closed, they shut down and everyone was in lockdown.
“We had to work out a Plan B. With the time difference, we were making phone calls in the middle of the night.”
“I remember thinking 'what a disaster, what else can go wrong here?' But I'm also that type of person that has always been pretty optimistic. These things are out of our control.”
This may not be the worst attitude for a founder to adopt when facing a chaotic situation, especially if you happen to be pregnant as well.
“It was extremely difficult,” Agresta reflected.
“Approaching motherhood was definitely scarier than any aspects of the business. How I've managed to do both? I don't know.”
Australian Glow continued to expand its footprint as it landed deals with retailers domestically and globally such as Priceline, Macy's, Revolve, Douglas, Urban Outfitters and Anthropology. Agresta noted that wholesale accounts for 80 per cent of the company’s revenue, with the remaining 20 per cent stemming from e-commerce.
She also said the company was on the cusp of doubling its store count as it finalised talks with another retailer in the US, where Australian Glow currently makes 75 per cent of its sales.
“We've been in talks with a major US pharmacy - they have 8,000 stores. We've been [talking] with them for quite some time to be in 3,000 of these stores. That would really take things to another level.”
“The future is about being sustainable. I think that's what launched us over [in the US] and what really drove our sales.”
While the company’s self-tanning mousse remains a consumer favourite, the range was expanded to include mousse refill packs, lotions, gels and a facial bronzing face mist. The packaging is made from Ocean Waste Plastic (OWP), in addition to being cruelty-free.
Agresta said that throughout the R&D process it was important to her that the products were as hydrating as possible.
The brand’s staple self-tanning mousse includes ingredients such as green tea extract, hyaluronic acid, cocoa, aloe vera, goji berries, Kakadu plum, and Vitamin A which work together to prevent breakouts and combat ageing.
“Growing up I always felt that I never was educated about what was actually in products - whether it was a foundation or moisturiser,” Agresta explained.
“I was forever trying things, but I always reacted to something.”
While scaling up has brought Australian Glow’s valuation to approximately $15 million, it has also come with some logistical setbacks.
“We've had shipping containers go from $3,000 a month to $20,000 a month. To be honest with you, exporting is not getting any easier,” Agresta said.
“COVID hit in 2020 - it's now 2022. Freight forwarders are not getting any easier to deal with, it really puts a lot of pressure on our margins.
“It's probably been one of the toughest aspects of the business since the get-go and then throwing COVID, it’s been such a costly experience.”
Despite the difficulties, the company is forging ahead with its first equity crowdfunding raise via Birchal to accelerate growth in the US and UK markets, in addition to rolling out an SPF range by the end of the year. While the raise has a minimum target of $200,000, Australian Glow is looking to raise a maximum of $500,000.
The funding will also be used to build out the brand’s return and refill program so that it is available for all products. Bootstrapped until now, Australian Glow has received 400 expressions of interest on the equity crowdfunding site.
“We're growing and we need an injection to take Australian Glow where it needs to be," Agresta said.
“In current times, everyone's under so much pressure. It's really tough at the moment. We're just doing our little bit and trying to make a positive impact.”
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