Please accept my sincere apologies for my infrequent posting of late…it has been really busy for me…but I hope to get back on track!
It is my pleasure to be continue my MYOB series by introducing you to Tosin Otubanjo the co-founder of the beauty distribution company B-Avanté .
Tosin was the guest speaker at my last Keziah CONNECTIONS event in May and she shared the insights, experiences and expertise she has garnered since launching her business in 2009, which was gratefully received by all who attended!
I was keen to share some of her knowledge with you, my readers and followers and I am sure you will be just as inspired and encouraged as the guests at the event were!
BPL: Hi Tosin, thanks again for your time. Please describe your business.
TO: B-Avanté is a fun and quirky e-tailer, and the exclusive distributor of ME! Bath in the UK, selling ice cream and cocktail flavoured spa products for use by Spas/Salons, hotels and retailers/e-tailers.
Our strapline is “Supporting and growing your beauty business” and this is the ethos of what we do. We work with our key target market, independent beauty salons, by helping them differentiate their business from the competition, giving them marketing advice and generally providing support to help them grow their business as ME! Bath stockists.
We have recently launched The ME! Bath Spa Social, specifically for mobile therapists and consumers who are looking to indulge in a luxurious at home spa experience.It doesn’t matter the occasion – birthdays, hen nights, teen/tween parties, baby/bridal showers, girl’s night in or just because…. ME! Bath can help you create the most indulgent spa experience ever.
The ME! Bath Range
The ME! Bath product range consists of bath bombs, lotions, scrubs, pumice stones and masks with a combination of flavours which are all used to build up a delicious ice cream sundae spa experience.
BPL: What inspired you to start your business?
TO: Four reasons really. A desire for myself and my sisters to escape the humdrum life of working 9-5 in financial services in the City, a desire to build up a strong stable of beauty brands which are exclusive to us and not already available in the UK, seeing our husbands run successful businesses and thinking we could emulate that and finally a desire to leave a legacy of a strong business for our children which we would not be able to achieve by working for an employer.
BPL: Why did you decide to go into distribution -it is an area of the beauty business that is not often thought about by beauty start-ups?
TO: To be honest we looked at our skill sets and felt that we had the pre-requisite skills to run any business in the beauty field. One of us was skilled in finance, the other in marketing and the third had fantastic product knowledge of the beauty market.
But we felt that manufacturing would be an expensive and time consuming venture and we were not prepared to undertake all those associated costs. So we thought we would become distributors but in order to establish a competitive advantage our key criteria for our stable of brands is that the products we would distribute would be exclusively available to us in the UK.
Also with an already established successful product we could leverage on the existing brand values and goodwill, and not have to start off from a standing position. ME! Bath had successful press, including a feature in Oprah’s O Magazine and on the Doctors show, was endorsed by celebrities including The Hilton Girls, Hayden Panettiere, Nicole Ritchie etc and had been featured at the Oscars. We thought that it was a fantastic pedigree.
BPL: What was one of the biggest challenges you have overcome since starting your business?
TO: Learning about internet marketing. Even though my background is in marketing, it was in the traditional marketing practice i.e. press, direct mail, brochures, advertising etc. Internet marketing is a whole different ball game…and I love learning new things every day!! From Twitter to Facebook to Pinterest, and then learning about consumer behaviour on the internet, and specifically their behaviour on our specific website and how to capture their interest and attention. Facebook marketing, Display marketing, Remarketing, Google adwords, SEO, the power of video – it literally is endless. The changes going on are so exciting it’s like going back to school and learning new skills. It is rejuvenating but it is not just about learning these new skills but also taking the time to apply these newly acquired skills has enabled our business to grow in leaps and bounds.
BPL: You co-founded the business with your sisters. How did you decide on the roles and responsibilities you each hold?
TO: Purely based on our skill sets. It was as simple as that. We all selected the tasks that we were best at. It was fairly obvious early one that some of us were better at certain things than others. One of my sister’s, Tomi, is extremely creative, pushes the boundaries, she doesn’t recognise any limitations and she is fantastic at blue sky thinking and thinking outside the box. My other sister, Ola, is more grounded, logical and methodical and likes to break things down very simply which is great because she can empathise and walk in the shoes of our target market and give us a sense check of what we are doing. So she is better at creating presentations and thinking processes through from conception to execution. My skills were purely on marketing – writing briefs, copy, design and the marketing of the business. But there is something to be said about running a business with sisters because we have been through some highs and lows and I don’t think we would’ve survived if we weren’t sisters! We are also blessed because all our husbands run their own successful businesses so we learnt a great deal from them and their experiences.
What has been the company’s biggest success?
Two things, through a process of trial and error and a great deal of effort and funds, we were able to identify and hone down our core target market to such an extent that it has enabled us to put all our efforts on targeting, identifying and servicing this core target market. I will explain. These products are universally used and our target audience is so wide – they can be used in independent spas, spa chains, hotel spas, hotel rooms, independent retail outlets, e-tailers and multiples. So in the beginning we had a scatter gun approach targeting all these markets. We definitely had our eureka moment when we realised that our core market are local, small, independent spas who want to differentiate their business from the competition and once we identified this it all fell into place.
Once we identified these goldmines in our business, we looked at mining the nuggets. We identified the ones who were very proactive, who are extremely active in social marketing, who change their promotions regularly and therefore buy more products, who invest in training their staff, and are happy and very keen to be involved in a partnership with us. These are our VIP clients that we treat very well and have a close relationship with. It has taken us about 3 years to find this out but now we are in an extremely strong position to leverage this and now we can identify immediately whether an establishment will fit our values or not.
What does the future hold for B-Avanté?
For ME! Bath we are looking at expansion into other markets… in particular Africa. The European spa market is mature and saturated and we are having to spend a lot of money to have share of voice and there is a lot of discounting in the industry which is difficult for us as importers. In Africa there is a burgeoning spa market but again for us tieing down that exclusivity deal will be key.
For B-Avanté we have not given up on the dream of distributing a stable of brands. The difference now is that we have an established track record and are now in a position to look at other brands we can represent in the UK. We are extremely grateful to ME! Bath for taking a chance on us when we had no track record in this industry!
Then do join me at the June Keziah CONNECTIONS event taking place on the 25th at the Sterling Bar in the City of London!
Meet the award winning founder of Premae Skincare, Clare Ekula who will share her business successes, struggles and triumphs with the guests.