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Not long ago, skin-care options for teens were limited to the traditional players in the market. In November 2019, beauty industry veterans Alison Haljun and Christin Powell set out to change that with the launch of Gen Z-focused skin-care brand Kinship. On this week’s Glossy Beauty Podcast, the co-founders shared the brand’s founding story, as well as their approaches to distribution, marketing and learning from a younger audience.
With colorful branding and a focus on sustainability and meeting clean ingredients standards, Kinship was founded by Haljun, its president, and Powell, its CEO, after they had struggled to find products for their own kids. Since its launch, the brand has entered Credo Beauty and Ulta Beauty, and collaborated with top Gen-Z skinfluencer Hyram Yarbro.
The co-founders’ strategy in running the brand is based on their years of beauty industry experience. Powell co-founded original clean brand Juice Beauty, and Haljun is a Benefit Cosmetics alum, plus they sought out input from young consumers and investors. The brand consults with a Gen-Z focus group called its “Kin Circle” for everything from packaging design to product testing, and its first investor was only 18 years old.
Below are some highlights of the conversation:
On founding a Gen-Z brand:
Powell: “A lot of people told us not to do Gen Z. They thought it was crazy, because, ‘Oh, Gen Z is fickle, and they know they don’t know what they want… It’s very transient.’ We had a lot of naysayers, but we felt so strongly that this generation is really an activist generation, and we wanted to embrace that energy that they have to change the world.
They really want that authenticity, that truthfulness, that transparency around ingredients. They almost expect a sort of activism, because they’ve seen a lot of brands that have not been truthful and have not been transparent.”
On receiving investment from ‘Gen-Z whisperer’ Tiffany Zhong:
Haljun: “We took her to lunch and thought maybe she would give us a little bit of advice. And we told her what we were doing, what we were building. And about 15 minutes into that lunch date, she said, ‘I’m going to be your first investor.’
[Our] jaws dropped, and we were like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is real. We are doing this. We are actually taking money from an 18-year-old, and we’re opening up an account. This is happening.’ That was such a turning point for us. Because it was kind of flipping things on its head. There’s talk about the older generation investing in the young generation, but this was literally the young generation investing in us and believing in us.”
On going beyond DTC to retailers:
Haljun: “We’ve always, from day one, believed in a really strong omnichannel business.
The key with Ulta was that they had such leadership with Gen Z. That is really where the Gen Z customer is. And the other massive piece for us with Ulta was their real emphasis and investment, with respect to the conscious beauty pillar of their business.”
On the ideal price point for Gen Z:
Powell: “One of the risks we took in the beginning with creating Kinship was to make our price point really accessible. It’s one of the reasons why Credo and Ulta saw Kinship as a filling of whitespace. You have a lot of clean brands out there that are saying they’re clean and clinical, and they’re wonderful brands, but they’re not accessible to most Gen Zers today.”