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Brandy Hoffman and Patricia Santos bonded as friends who wanted to change the beauty industry. In 2016, they did just that, launching innovative brand Volition, which relies on customers (you!) to send through ideas for products that goes to a vote.
With their combined experiences working across beauty – specifically, the business of beauty, Brandy Hoffman and Patricia Santos knew that how things were done could be. Well. Better. “We found ourselves fixating on the apparent issues of the ‘normal’ product development within beauty” remembers Hoffman. “We both had agreed that a boardroom of — typically white, male — executives shouldn’t be the only ones making the call of what’s trendy of what consumers want. It was a light bulb moment of, ‘Why don’t we have them tell us what they want?’ We peeled away everything we wanted to change and when we put everything back together, Volition was born.”
According to Santos, having the customer involved earlier on in the process solves two big problems that usually abound with product development: a high rate of product failures, and products that don’t seem that unique, and end up blending in all together. “By allowing women to submit their ideas and then having the community vote on what they want, it avoids both issues,” she says. While many beauty brands have claimed to democratise beauty, for Santos, they take it one step further. “Our definition of true democratisation is that it puts all the power in the consumer from start to finish, and we have build the platform to process this feedback.”
At Volition, they call for customers to send through ideas which gets validated by an internal product development team and a lab before being put up to a vote with other ideas. “It’s a welcomed challenge, and I like to be pushed,” says Hoffman. “The pressure to execute on this is intense. It can sometimes be frustrating because the ideas are so ground-breaking, it can be tough to find the rare ingredients they know work” — and to stabilise them for the product. Case in point: the snow mushroom in the hydrating Snow Mushroom Water Serum had to be very carefully handled to ensure that it had the highest concentration, without affecting texture. Hoffman, who has experience in product development, notes that product development can sometimes take up to two years. “At Volition, we have hacked the process without sacrificing safety and quality so our turnaround is a fraction of the time.”
The customers with the ideas — they call them Innovators at Volition — are involved all the way. If an idea is voted through, the Innovator is sent samples of the formula as it is tested, and all copy, packaging and more aree shared with them. “It’s always our goal to keep the entirety of the process collaborative,” says Hoffman. (And P.S. Hoffman’s favourite product is the Strawberry-C Brightening Serum and Santos loves that Turmeric Brightening Polish.)
Volition’s Strawberry-C Brightening Serum came from the Innovator placing strawberries on her face to brighten, and using apple cider vinegar has long been a home beauty remedy — Volition transforms it for the ACV Resurfacing Pads. “A lot of DIYs and home remedies aren’t stable and at times, can be too acidic or abrasive on skin,” clarifies Hoffman. “Our team and lab network’s expertise ensure that won’t happen witn our formulas.” The Turmeric Brightening Polish was created by an American-Indian woman, Anuradha, who “used and experienced her cultural DIY, and was disappointed to see that the glow also came with stained skin.” explains Hoffman — so the Volition formula performs the same skin brightening exfoliation by extracting the turmeric from the root, eliminating the colour residue.
Likewise, celery juice has been credited by many as a superfood elixir — how do they harness it for the skin? “A lot of good-for-you ingredients beneficially translate from inside out due to their naturally derived vitamins, antioxidants and minerals,” says Santos. For the Celery Green Cream, the Volition team fact checked to ensure that the external benefits matched up with its internal ones.
“Some ideas are ‘too good to be true’ and we could never make them,” says Santos (who gives the example of a machine that can paint your nails without being stickers, or painting on your cuticles). Adds Hoffman: “an idea has to hit those three marks of feasibility, differentiation and safety in order to move forward. We don’t want to create the umpteenth matcha XYZ or watermelon lip balm — there’s so many on the shelves so we don’t need to add another — we want to cut through the noise.”
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