Disruption: a break from or shift in the normal course of action or ongoing process. Consider the beauty industry: products are geared so heavily towards women, that it is still considered taboo for men to use them in very many places. Like an exceedingly pink aisle of dolls at your local big-box toy store, these beauty products—especially makeup—are almost exclusively marketed to women. And while their branded images feature almost exclusively women, their entire spectrum of potential customers can be, and very often are, more gender diverse.
Sai Saraswathy Menon is the Co-Founder & CEO of Anoma Cosmetics, a Silicon Valley Founder Institute portfolio company that is disrupting the beauty industry by building a cosmetics brand truly inclusive of everyone.
With few exceptions, limitations societies places on gendered products are entirely false: they are social constructs. So when an industry that particularly focuses on marketing a product to a single gender faces this moment of change, it can disrupt markets in the same way as the adoption of a new technology—especially in the new age of Direct-to-Consumer beauty care.
Yet gendered differences in skincare and beauty products have remained relatively rigid. Men who would use various skincare or beauty products still often neglect them, for as simple an excuse as the product only features women on the branded materials. This is one of several areas where Anoma is disrupting the status quo. CEO Menon explains,
Beauty or makeup has been so gender defined at this point, which is not the case. So a man often finds it really embarrassing to use makeup, like he’s hesitant.
Menon goes on to discuss that even some of her male friends who have said they like makeup, and are interested in using it, avoid doing so because they feel they would be judged for it. Menon continues,
Makeup and skincare should be a process of self-expression and self-care. Anoma is a platform that enables every individual to own their identity. Gone are those days when beauty brands defined standards of beauty.
Self Expression Meets Customization
Though the company has lofty goals, the team also has a laser-focused approach for how they plan to accomplish them. Unlike most beauty brands that tell consumers what and how their products should be used, Anoma focuses on what their customers want. Through a combination of machine learning and data-driven analysis, usage patterns of their customers can yield products consumers want. CEO Menon explains,
Today, consumers decide what is best for them, not vice versa. Anoma embraces every individual's uniqueness and provides a channel to express it. Anoma will provide a direct-to-consumer platform that allows consumers to customize the products as per their desire. Currently, none of the makeup brands offer customization on all their products.
Anoma’s customization-driven approach is just one of the many attributes allowing the company to differentiate and gain an edge in the emerging D2C cosmetics space.
It may come as no surprise for a D2C brand tech CEO that Sai Menon’s own professional and educational background is in software development. The Co-Founder has also spent time working as a business analyst - but even growing up, Menon’s interest in beauty products was strong, grown from simple events like watching her mother put on makeup, then exploring the products herself. Eventually, the ability to combine her tech and business experience with her longtime personal interests in beauty and personal care dawned on her as an opportunity.
Everything came to a head as Menon prepared for her wedding, and found nothing but struggles when trying to find the right makeup for her big day. She says,
I went to several stores and couldn’t find the right color of eye shadow or lipstick. I ended up spending close to $300 for something just close to what I wanted. No more.
For a day that is markedly known to be rich in memories and endless photos, it’s never ideal to just be “close” to perfect on anyone's wedding day. Menon's research also found that most of these cosmetics products are not known to be safe, and are filled with untested chemicals. Further research led her to meeting her co-founder Anjana Raj, who shared similar pain points from the beauty industry. Eventually, this led the two to the launch Anoma, and their first product, Skinsplash.
Checkout Anoma's website to buy SkinSplash today, and stay tuned as the company plans to release additional products both this and next year!
Graduates of the Founder Institute are creating some of the world's fastest growing startups, having raised over $900M in funding, and building products people love across over 185 cities worldwide.
See the most recent news from our Grads at FI.co/news, or learn more about their stories at FI.co/journey.