The Trendsetters: The creatives behind the buzziest consumer trends
Founder, Shani Darden Skin Care
Shani Darden has loved skin care since she was a child.
Darden’s enthusiasm for skin care has since earned her a reputation as the aesthetician to the stars, which, in turn, led her to create her now 9-year-old namesake brand. The brand’s product catalog, which was initially composed of a single retinol product, now includes an oil-free moisturizer, a sculpting wand, a cleanser and a lactic acid serum.
In August 2020, Darden’s brand secured its first retail partnership with Sephora, where it’s now selling online and in-store. After launching at Sephora, the line sold out in just over a month, and its hero product, Retinol Reform, garnered a waitlist of over 5,000 people. Seeing high demand during the pandemic, the brand has achieved impressive sales and growth. Darden appointed a new CEO in September; Benefits Cosmetics, Urban Decay and Drunk Elephant alum Tim Warner will lead the company toward its goal of global retail expansion.
How do you set Shani Darden Skincare apart from other brands in the industry?
“I’ve been told that I have a unique product development process. I like to test new formulas on a select group of my studio clients early in the development phase.
As an esthetician, I’m very close to their skin and have been with some for over 10 years, so I can really judge the effect a new product has on their skin. A lot of other brands use outside panels or focus groups, but you really have to trust that these people are sticking to the regimen to see the true performance of the product. I know it’s not a typical practice, but it’s something I did with my first product and will continue to do even as I scale, in order to get the most honest feedback as I can.”
What strategic business moves have you made that worked to the brand’s advantage this year?
“I’ve spent a lot of time focused on product development, something I’m so passionate about. I spend countless months and even years perfecting each formulation to ensure the products are the very best. I have a lot of exciting newness coming soon, and I’m proud of the progress we’ve made.”
When developing products and gadgets, do you take trends into consideration?
“I’m always keeping an eye on trends, just to be aware of what’s happening. My motto has always been, “Less is more.” It’s essential to make sure you’re using the right products for your skin type, and not just using what someone else is using because it’s cool or trendy. Using efficacious products that are right for your skin type will yield the best results, and you don’t need to use a million products to achieve your best skin. I find a lot of my inspiration in the treatment room while I’m giving facials or when I’m talking to my clients. If I don’t have a product or know of a great product to solve a specific problem, that’s usually when I know I need to develop it.”
What were some of the challenges you’ve faced as a founder of color, and how did you overcome those obstacles?
“Being a Black female founder in L.A. has been a totally different experience for me than being Black in a small town in upstate New York. In L.A., it’s much more diverse, so the conversation is rarely around race. I was fortunate enough to be able to build my brand without many obstacles resulting from my race.
However, I’m hoping that seeing Black women build brands will help push all the statistics in the other direction. I’m hoping that any success that comes my way will help pave a way for other Black female founders to get the attention they deserve from banks, investors and retailers. These partnerships are so critical to the success of a small business, and that’s really where we need to equalize the playing field.”
How are you setting Shani Darden up for success in 2023?
“We’re focused on supporting our retail partner Sephora with a growing field team. Customers are loving shopping in-store again, and we’ve seen our investment in the field team already pay off. I wish I could see every client, but it’s just impossible. So it’s important to me to find sales team members that can share my expertise. I’ve [also] been exploring innovations in at-home treatments and the hydration space. Next year has some really exciting newness, and I can’t wait to share more.”
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