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How Selling to Major Retailers Almost Stalled SkinKick's Growth and Why They're Now a Digital-first Brand


Inventing a new product, getting it into big stores and selling millions of units is the dream for most entrepreneurs. But landing a shelf space does not guarantee success. Matty Schirle, Founder and CEO of SkinKick, a natural skincare brand whose products have amazed all who have seen or used them - customers, journalists and retailers. Unlike most, Schirle was not obsessed with getting on retail shelves at the start - he planned to build awareness and make millions in sales online before approaching retailers. But he was soon approached by Target.


Schirle also talks about the common but serious errors to avoid when going digital-first and why you need a positive approach to failure in business and entrepreneurship. We are sure that you will enjoy his unique and entertaining story.




 

In today’s episode of the Harvest Growth Podcast, we’ll cover:


  • Why it's better to build awareness and demand for your product before selling to major retailers.

  • Why you should put the customers’ needs first in product development and marketing.

  • How to choose the right digital agency for your company without wasting time or money.

  • How failure can provide immense learning and growth opportunities for new entrepreneurs.

  • And so much more!

 

You can listen to the full interview on your desktop or wherever you choose to listen to your podcasts.



Or, click to watch the full video interview here!


 

Visit www.skinkick.com to learn more about their innovative skincare products made with natural formulas for clearing acne, blemishes and breakouts - and to help you fall in love with your skin again.


If you need someone to talk to about your entrepreneurial journey, Matty Schirle is happy to lend his listening ear. You can contact him anytime at matty@skinkick.com.


Do you have a brand that you’d like to launch or grow? Do you want help from a partner that has successfully launched hundreds of brands that now total over $2 billion in revenues? Set up a free consultation with us today!


 

Prefer reading instead of listening? Read the full transcript here!



Jon LaClare [00:00:00]:

Digital first or retail first? Today's guest has done both approaches for his skincare brand and shares experiences that will help you decide what the best path forward is for your business. He has a unique background and shares some entertaining stories as well that you're sure to enjoy.


Announcer [00:00:17]:

Are you looking for new ways to make your sales grow? You've tried other podcasts, but they don't seem to know harvest the growth potential of your product or service as we share stories and strategies that'll make your competitors nervous. Now here's the host of the Harvest Growth podcast, Jon LaClaie.


Jon LaClare [00:00:38]:

Welcome back to the show. Today I'm really excited to be speaking with Matty Shirley. He's the founder and CEO of Skinkick. You can see them at Skinkick.com we're going to dive into exactly what that amazing line of products is. But also, Matty's got a really interesting background story that I want to jump into first. But before I do that, Matty, welcome to the show.


Matty Schirle [00:01:00]:

Thank you very much. Humbled to be here. Looking forward to helping any entrepreneurs today.


Jon LaClare [00:01:08]:

Well, we're so glad to have you. Let's talk about before we jump into the product itself. I think you have such an interesting background. Can you talk about your history before SkinKick?


Matty Schirle [00:01:19]:

Yeah, sure. Well, I started off as an entrepreneur, 6th grade, forcing my mom to put my lawnmower in her trunk. So by that time I was in 9th grade. That's a true story. So literally by 9th grade, I had $3,500 in the bank. So that would be like 18 grand. A 9th grader today. So I was pretty aggressive, pretty intense.


Matty Schirle [00:01:44]:

I loved working and I built this landscape business in high school and then ended up in college, paying for college. I was a super curious kid. So when we went on vacation, I was the kid that asked 5000 questions. And then the parents had to go on vacation after the vacation, so I was one of seven. So ended up at University of Michigan, started in business, but jumped ship and went into chemical engineering because I knew the world was going into high tech and I wanted to be able to answer the questions when I was on the board of directors. So my dream was to be a corporate executive, but I ended up getting that chemical engineering degree and then I worked in Silicon Valley. So as a chemical engineer building computer chips, believe it or not. And I did that as an individual contributor, then became a mid level manager and within, at the ten year anniversary, they offered me the ops manager running a billion dollar factory.


Matty Schirle [00:02:47]:

It was my dream. I loved it. But I turned it down, and I left, and I carried a sales bag. I call it a sales. I started over. I started from scratch. I started as a salesman, and within three years, the company promoted me to vice president of sales, which opened up opportunities. I ended up moving to Japan and working as the highest ranking japanese employee in Kyoto at one of the most successful Kyoto based manufacturers of Silicon Valley equipment.


Matty Schirle [00:03:24]:

So that started my career, and then I was an entrepreneur inside the company. So I did things like reverse triangular merger. Most business people have never heard of that and can't understand what it is. But basically, we cut off a piece of the japanese company, and I've got an american company to invest hundreds of millions. And on first day, we were generating $300 million of revenue for the company. So I did those things multiple times, started companies, and then I realized, hey, I need to get back to my roots. I'm not a corporate guy, even though I was successful, but really, my heart was being an entrepreneur. So I started from scratch and built a skincare company.


Matty Schirle [00:04:10]:

And today it perhaps is one of the most differentiated skincare companies in the market.


Jon LaClare [00:04:17]:

You were in Japan for several years. How long were you there for?


Matty Schirle [00:04:20]:

Well, I lived there with the kids for three years. So turns out my kids are fully fluent. I'm just kind of hanging on with the language. It has to do with age. But I worked for a japanese company for 14 years.


Jon LaClare [00:04:35]:

So, skin kick, let's shift gears a little bit. So this is your background you just shared with us, and then you developed this amazing line of products. Can you tell us about SkinKick? I guess. What is it, and how did you develop this product?


Matty Schirle [00:04:48]:

Yeah, so SkinKick is a natural skincare brand. So SkinKick was, I got into create skincare because I realized there's a huge opportunity what's being offered to people today. So we're problem solvers. I'm a problem solver. So I identified what I believe were the top three problems, and the number one problem is the skincare used today is simply not effective. Every woman in the world wants to look like the ad in the advertisement for skincare. They just want to look better. Men too.


Matty Schirle [00:05:30]:

Now skincare is becoming popular, too. Our confidence is tied to our looks, especially with the advent of the cell phone. So looks are very important. It sets our image. So effectiveness is number one. Number two is the products being offered are extremely complex. They come up to eight steps. I can't imagine doing eight things in the morning to put it on my face.


Matty Schirle [00:06:00]:

But women are willing to do that because they're willing to pay the price to get beautiful, healthy, glowing skin. And then the third thing is, being a chemical engineer, I saw over and over how harsh chemicals and sometimes toxic chemicals can impact the body, especially women at work. And so the products that are on the market aren't necessarily safe for your skin, for your health or the planet. So I showed up to address those three problems, and I did it by bringing, believe it or not, bringing the high technology out of Silicon Valley. And I combined it. I connected with a PhD scientist who, his iq is a couple points over from mine, but he has the knowledge and studied with the med students at UT Southwest. Strong comprehension of the skin cell. So the combination of high tech from Silicon Valley, plus PhD science, and skin cells, plus we both love natural botanicals, so you can build extremely effective, simple, and safe products that are natural.


Matty Schirle [00:07:15]:

And, in fact, we are 99% natural. Does that help?


Jon LaClare [00:07:21]:

Yeah, no, absolutely. And I think the natural side, I talk to a lot of inventors of products that come up with something that's natural, safe, healthy. The hard part is making it now effective as well. Right. So how did you, I guess, cross that bridge and truly innovate this product to make it not only safe, but also to work really well?


Matty Schirle [00:07:44]:

So that's extremely key to skincare. Traditional skincare. Somebody died from cancer. So they say it's the skincare or their hair care. So they google ingredients and they say, oh, green tea. Let's stick some green tea in it. Oh, snail mucin. Let's put snail mucin.


Matty Schirle [00:08:04]:

And just recently, over the last two months, Halloween is coming up. So they're selling this pumpkin products. Skin kicks 100% different. What Dr. Bill Province did is he identified what it takes to keep a skin cell healthy. What does that mean? So we're not identifying the ingredient. What we're doing is identifying what the ingredient has to deliver. So, what vitamins, which nutrients, which omegas are required to keep the skin cell healthy.


Matty Schirle [00:08:35]:

So with that, that creates a specification. And if you're a product designer, you always design to a spec or a specification. So we had the specification of vitamins, nutrients, and omegas that we wanted. We call it vino vitamin nutrient omega skin vino. So once we set the skin vino, we simply googled the world for which ingredient can deliver the highest concentration of skin vino. It was a stroke of brilliance that Dr. Bill came up with this because what it leads to are an ingredient list and essentially becomes a formula that's highly effective. It doesn't have stuff in there that is filling space or not really required.


Matty Schirle [00:09:23]:

Everything has a reason for being in there. So it lends itself to formulas that are extremely effective. So we call it naturally smart formulas. So they're effective not only for acne, problem skin, meaning not only effective for problem skin, but also effective for acne, rosacea, eczema. But at the same time, we can do antiaging or what we call skin renewal. So the fact that we're natural allows us to do acne plus skin renewal at the same time. So we can clear your skin and we can renew your skin at the same time. It's really profound and it's an innovation.


Matty Schirle [00:10:10]:

It's coming into a problem and looking at it 5000 different ways and coming up with a way to solve it. But it's truly a combination of Dr. Bill's skin cell science and then my chemical engineering background brought the acne business model, which is very novel. So that combination and a love and understanding that natural botanicals can be very powerful if you select the right ones and make the right formulas.


Jon LaClare [00:10:44]:

And I love on your website how you really focus on benefits. So we talk a lot on my show and people that have worked with us in the past really know that with marketing, we always teach that it's all about benefits more than features, right? So it's the facts or ingredients that are in a product are important because they deliver the benefits. But what consumers ultimately care about are how you're helping them. I love how you turn that. For us, it's about when we craft videos or marketing campaigns, it's making sure that they're benefit focused. I loved how you talked about the product development being like that as well, where it's focusing on the benefits or what you want it to do first and then going back to find the ingredients, unlike so many others, where it's like you said, they're chasing the trends, right? Green tea is in every skin product right now. It appears natural. Let's jump and put that in our product as well.


Jon LaClare [00:11:34]:

But it's about. Okay, let's find effectiveness first for the end result we're looking for. And as I look at your website, one cool thing that I see on there is a chart that you do and it's really about you've got this simple formula or things to look at. Do I care about breakouts versus backnee or rosacea, cystic acne, antiaging, et cetera, and a simple checklist. Okay, those are the benefits. Which product or which duo package answers those in a super simple way. So I love how you've done that. Again, focused on benefits first, and then I can click and find much more information on how it works, et cetera.


Jon LaClare [00:12:08]:

But focus on what my problems are, maybe as a potential consumer first. So anyways, great example of being effective in your development process.


Matty Schirle [00:12:17]:

Thank you for the feedback. As many entrepreneurs know, we typically don't get feedback until the product sells. So it's nice to hear and thank you for that. Yeah, we put a lot of thought process, but that kind of know how comes from our backgrounds, from building a computer chip, building a product. I literally have experience in every facet of running a business and combining with a PhD scientist, right, that understands and studied skin cells for years. So that combo really sets us up for creating innovations. And innovating in skincare has been a dream. It's just something that I love.


Matty Schirle [00:13:00]:

And when people call me up and say the product work, it just makes me melt.


Jon LaClare [00:13:06]:

Let's shift a little bit from the product now to the business side of the marketing side. I think you've got a really interesting story there as well. So you did an initial launch and had what many would consider a breakout success, getting on Target store shelves, among others, in brick and mortar, and had an opportunity now to relaunch the product. I'd love to talk about your learnings, maybe what you do differently today versus when you first initially launched the product a few years ago.


Matty Schirle [00:13:35]:

Very good question. So we have many lessons, and we don't ever really believe that failures are bad. We believe one, they're not failures until you give up. And failures are actually opportunities, opportunities to learn, opportunities to improve, opportunities to differentiate. So when I look back, we started, and because we're natural, we're very sensitive about our products or our ingredient list, you have to use exactly what we describe. So we have subcontractors that do the manufacturing. And one of the biggest issues we had in the company is that one of my manufacturers, I have two right, to back each other up. It's just the risk management.


Matty Schirle [00:14:26]:

Everybody building a brand should have think about risk management. So always have two suppliers in case there's an earthquake or some kind of catastrophe. This supplier that we had decided to change an ingredient, not change the name of the ingredient used, but the source, they ran out of the natural ingredient and decided to substitute a man made ingredient. Unfortunately, I wasn't informed of this. The way I learned about it is the phone started ringing. Breakout, breakout, breakout. And it was like, the water is bad here. And it took about a month to track down what the root cause was.


Matty Schirle [00:15:18]:

And because I believe in relationships with my suppliers. I had gone in, and it's always the person working on the floor. If you have a good relationship with them, they'll tell you what happened. And so they substituted a man made ingredient. They removed a natural ingredient and put a man made ingredient in. Maybe on most cases that's okay, but this validates why we're natural. So as a chemical engineer, I can guarantee you every single process used to make an ingredient will result in an unwanted byproduct. It's impossible to drive the chemical reactions to 100% conversion.


Matty Schirle [00:16:04]:

So therefore, there's always something that's unknown that comes along with it, and often it's unwanted. It's those unwanted byproducts that aggravate your skin. It's not the molecule that the brand wants in there. It's the unwanted molecule that shows up, and that's what aggravates your skin. So they literally took us down for almost a year. What's the lesson learned? I didn't put the controls in place with the contract with that organization fast enough. Like, I can't do everything at once, but I already knew how to control the supply chain. I just wasn't able to put the controls in place.


Matty Schirle [00:16:47]:

So I've done it millions of times in semiconductor, I wouldn't say millions, but over and over, I put controls in place. If you control the manufacturing process, you can get the result that you want, which in our case is skincare. That's effective, simple, and safe, and then.


Jon LaClare [00:17:08]:

On the marketing side, too. So last time you started going retail first and then digital, this time around, you're flipping the game. So starting with digital and then get into brick and mortar retail as a secondary step, why the change?


Matty Schirle [00:17:21]:

So, here you come, we show up as problem solvers to solve this problem in skincare. But quite frankly, one of my limitations is I'm not a CPG guy, right? I'm not a consumer product brand guy. And what we did was decide to be digital first marketing. So digital first means you're going to sell on the Internet before you go retail. So the goal was to get up to 1 million to 2 million in sales, get the attention of the retailers, and then go digital. What happened to us? Because the products had so much visibility with the retailers, target came knocking on our door and invited us to be part of an accelerator called Target takeoff. The entire SkinKick brand had been designed for Ulta Beauty, not target. So I was like, why would we do this? And then I realized, hey, taking it as an opportunity to learn just because you go to the accelerator, doesn't mean you have to go retail.


Matty Schirle [00:18:32]:

But we went there, spent five weeks with them. It was just an incredible experience, meeting 17 of their executives and learning, teaching me and my team how to do retail. So at the end, it turns out there was ten brands that participated in this accelerator. I think there was 200 that were applied. Skinkick, we learned later, was the only one that was invited because of the white space that we fill being a natural brand that can do acne and anti aging. So at the end, three brands were offered purchase orders, and Skinkick was one of those. So I had a pivot. I had a decision to make and I pivoted, I admit.


Matty Schirle [00:19:16]:

And now I say I'm guilty because I should have stayed in my lane, I should have focused on digital first. And because I was young, in CPG, not experienced, I got literally seduced by the purchase order and the opportunity. And that was a Huge mistake. The reason it's a mistake is if you want to be successful at retail today, you have to be successful at digital. Ulta Beauty asked me every single meeting, where's your TikTok? Where's your TikTok? Where's your TikTok? Right? They know how to sell their products. They know that the TikTok drives the customer into their store. And target was the same. And eventually what we did was we went off shelf and we're still in target, Macy's.


Matty Schirle [00:20:11]:

Com and Amazon.com. So what we're going to do here is other things happened because of COVID We just kind of got piled on and it wasn't a pretty show, but we came down, our sales came down, and we're in this neutral. Even our investor had issues. He actually died of the Pfizer shot. But unfortunately, that's the cards we were dealt. And during the time to find a new investor, we have collected incredible amount of marketing collateral. So we let the collateral speak for itself, we let the customer speak for itself. And now we realized the brand can do many more skincare operations than we ever believed.


Matty Schirle [00:20:59]:

So while things aren't really pretty, if this did not happen, I would not be able to know that we can cure rosacea. 20 of 21 cases we have cured it. Like, it's gone. It doesn't come back for at least twelve months. And then eczema and then scarring. If you look at the website, we can fade some of the worst acne scars. And now we're fading sun damaged scars. We wouldn't have the opportunity to collect that data if we didn't have that snafu.


Matty Schirle [00:21:31]:

So every snafu is an opportunity to improve your product, improve your brand, improve you as a person. I can say I'm a better CPG marketer than I was before, but, yeah, it's all lessons learned.


Jon LaClare [00:21:46]:

Yeah. And unfortunately, sometimes the biggest lessons come through experience. But as you said before, if we don't look at them as failures, but we look at them as learning opportunities, it doesn't become a failure. Right. It's a pivot. And we learn and can turn the business towards growth rather than concerns or issues along the way. I like one thing that you said. I want to emphasize is the on the shelf versus off the shelf and retail.


Jon LaClare [00:22:10]:

Right. So oftentimes we think we're successful just because target or another big retailer says yes and puts the product on the shelf. But as you mentioned, the real goal, all that really matters is how quickly it goes off the shelf, right? Getting people to buy. And there's got to be some vehicle toward awareness to drive awareness. Digital marketing. Digital campaigns are very effective at doing that. Tv still works, right? But whatever makes sense for your individual brand. Making sure that there is a marketing campaign sitting on shelf.


Jon LaClare [00:22:40]:

Unless it's a me too. Right. If you've got something that looks like everything else, but it's a little bit cheaper, but that's not our audience. Right. For true innovators for different products, we've got to get the story out there. And marketing is definitely part of that.


Matty Schirle [00:22:55]:

Agreed. 100%.


Jon LaClare [00:22:57]:

So, Matty, are there any resources that you recommend to our audience? Things that have been helpful for you and your journey?


Matty Schirle [00:23:04]:

Well, probably the biggest thing I can share is if you're going digital, which you need to be digital first, is don't believe there's one agency that can do all of your digital. That's a myth. Typically these people start an agency because they were good at something. Whether it be email marketing or Instagram or Facebook or TikTok, they were good at something and then they expanded and put their wings out. I'm sure there's exceptions out there and there's agencies that can deliver everything. But my experience has been you're better off finding who's good at each core. Competence, engaging with them. When you're 100 million dollar brand, I'm telling you, the agency that you can afford will be 100 million dollar agency that you can pay them 100 million a year.


Matty Schirle [00:23:59]:

But when you're a startup, you have to be scrappy. So find the person who's great. Person or company that's great. At TikTok, find the ones that are great at Facebook, the ones that great at Instagram, the guy that's been at Google all his life, the email marketer, that's all they do is email marketing. And that has been one of the keys for us in digital as we're relaunching. So I would offer that as the most important resource.


Jon LaClare [00:24:29]:

Yeah, and I agree with that. So I own an agency. I can speak to that, where we focus on video marketing on Facebook and Instagram, and we dabble in other things and we add them to the mix. But having that core competency gives you a place where you're an expert. And then we bring in, when we've got our clients, like, for example, Amazon, we've got a partner that handles that side of. It's because that's all that he does. He lives and breathes it all day long, and other vendors or other partners for other avenues. And I think what often happens that it's a good thing to give caution to our listeners is sometimes you think the bigger the agency is.


Jon LaClare [00:25:05]:

Right. The small guys will take kind of anything and say they can do it. Right. But finding that expert, as you mentioned, is so important. And every agency is typically or most agencies are good at something, very good at something. But the big agencies, it feels like they should be. They've got teams that do TikTok, that do email, that do everything else. The problem is, when you've got that team, you don't have anybody that really owns it or that cares about your brand like you do.


Jon LaClare [00:25:28]:

Right. It becomes very transactional. So the bigger agencies, I would say, in my mind, oftentimes spread too thin. So they do everything, but they're not going to have the passion to make sure that whatever they do is that's driving results. Right. When you have a couple of agencies doing a couple of different things for you, they're going to truly focus on your success. So I think it's a good point. Was there anything, Matty, that I didn't ask that you think could be helpful for our audience?


Matty Schirle [00:25:56]:

Oh, I would say it's critical to be mission focused. So skin kick is extremely mission focused. So it may sound trike. I mean, the young girl who said, look, this is self esteem in a bottle, right? I've never had clear skin or confidence. With my clear skin or confidence, I went and won the lead role in the school of play. You need to call this self esteem in a bottle. Well, all my life, I've been all about children and women. So children that are abused and women that have been abused or now I'm getting into trafficked.


Matty Schirle [00:26:39]:

So I went with our self esteem in a bottle. I went and identified a woman that had been abused as a child and got healed, and then a woman who'd been trafficked. And I asked each of them separately, of course. What would your life look like if you had a little bit more self esteem? It's a bold question, but I was comfortable with who they were and they had been on the path to healing. So they were very healthy adults. And both of them said the same thing. Look, if I had more self esteem as a kid, right, I could have stopped it earlier. And the one that was trafficked said, you know what? I made bad decisions because I was depressed.


Matty Schirle [00:27:24]:

The same thing. Talking about confidence. So my vision and the vision of skin kick is clear. Skin leaves the confidence. Literally. There's a direct correlation. I feel better when my skin. When I had a breakout with acne, I couldn't go into ulta Beauty.


Matty Schirle [00:27:41]:

No way. How's the CEO from this company going to be there? So clear skin leads to confidence. Confidence leads to better decisions. Better decisions lead to harmony. A world with harmony. One with more love and less hate. And that is what we're about. The timing can't be any better to bring a product in that can bring more love to this world.


Jon LaClare [00:28:06]:

Please check out the website. If nothing else, even if it isn't a fit for you or a member of your family, it's a great website. And as I mentioned before, Matty does a great job of getting the benefits onto the site as opposed to features or in addition to the features, right? But that initial focus on benefit. So you'll get some learnings. It's always great to check out what when other people do or other businesses are doing good work. Check it out, you can learn for it, from it and apply to your own business. I want to mention one more THIng. I love that you brought up the self esteem issue.


Jon LaClare [00:28:37]:

And I think, especially with women and with kids, I've got four kids of my own. Obviously, I don't care as much about my appearance as others might, but I look at my wife and my daughters especially, and kids, that the visual outside appearance is such an important part. I just have to bring a quick story. A couple of weeks ago, my wife told me I had a piece of Kleenex on my face or whatever, and I don't know from whatever, a little speck or whatever it was. And like 2 hours later she's like, you still have that? I'm like, I wash my hands in our bathroom. I brush my teeth, but I don't really look in the mirror, right? I don't care. But my kids spend so much time looking in the mirror. My wife does, of course, putting on makeup, et cetera.


Jon LaClare [00:29:19]:

And it's different. The outward appearance is such a part or can be such a part of our self esteem. Maybe it should be more for mine, as I mentioned. But what a beautiful goal of a company of increasing self esteem. There's Other things that can be done internallY, too, right? But helping to improve the way you feel about your outside appearance is a wonderful thing. You're given to the world. So thank you, MADDIE.


Matty Schirle [00:29:40]:

I appreciate that very much. When I get that phone call, and it comes almost every day now that, hey, you changed my life. That's where I hit that bell or whatever you got. I know I've done my job right. You've impacted my life. I feel good in my skin. I mean, those are words that Just make my day. That's what I live for.


Matty Schirle [00:30:07]:

So let's change this world together. I appreciate you having me on. Really look forward to working with harvest growth. If there's any entrepreneur or any business person that needs support, feedback, a vote of confidence, please call me. I'm very accessible, 24 x seven, quite frankly, and I want to lift others up. I want to lift everybody up. We can do this.


Jon LaClare [00:30:34]:

Well, that's very clear in the way you run your business and sharing your time with us today. So thanks again, Matty. Really appreciate it, everybody.


Matty Schirle [00:30:40]:

Have a good day. All right. Bye bye.


Jon LaClare [00:30:42]:

For the listeners, be sure to go to skink.com to learn more. And be sure to check out harvestgrowth.com to see other episodes we've recorded. But if you'd like to take a shortcut and learn the process that we've used to successfully and profitably launch hundreds of campaigns since 2007, download our secret sauce product marketing campaign cheat sheet@harvestgrowthsecretsauce.com or you can set up an appointment right from our website to speak directly with a member, the Harvest growth team in a free, one on one consultation.

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