Our Startup of the Week is Rheya Beauty, a digital startup that aims to disrupt the makeup industry as we know it by providing makeup and cosmetic products personalized for the 21st-century woman.
The idea behind Rheya Beauty was developed by Junyi Wu and Sahar Rohani as part of the LavaLab incubator project in the fall of 2018. Rohani recounts her experience of the problem, “Essentially, I am always busy with everything in school, extra-curricular activities. I always find myself running out of makeup. In high school and my freshman year, I had more time to run errands, but as I entered into my sophomore year, found that I genuinely did not have time to keep buying makeup”
The pair also want to focus on sustainability. “Junyi and I are really interested in using this project to give back to the environment. The makeup industry is massive, yet there has been zero effort to make it more sustainable in terms of the packaging and product which we at Rheya do by making the plastic containers and equipment long-lasting.”
“Our target market is Gen-Z College Women. We also target working moms who have to juggle taking care of their kids and advancing their career. We recognize and admire these amazing people and we wish to provide them with the better, affordable, and personalized cosmetics so they can focus on making themselves successful,” Rohani explains.
Rohani and Wu estimate the cosmetics industry to be worth 500 billion dollars today with the potential to grow to 700 billion over the next few years. “It’s definitely a hot topic with products like Kylie cosmetics and makeup artists on Youtube. People literally make a living putting on makeup so it’s much more ingrained in our society nowadays and deserves our attention
Wu added “Beauty is important but we want to pay more attention to mascara. In terms of mascara, the immediate market is 10 billion. That is not to say we are only focused on mascara. If we show traction, we plan to take refillable products to a broader view.”
Rohani and Wu are current students at USC with Wu majoring in Business Administration and Rohani majoring in Computational Neuroscience. Other members of the team include Aidan Maddox, majoring in USC Iovine and Young Academy, Ali Malamud and Emily Lu, majoring in Media Arts and Practice, Praneeth Batte and Leigh Rubin, majoring in Computer Science, and Glory Kanes, majoring in Computer Science and Business Administration.
Rohani’s role is being the visionary. “I’ve had experience using makeup as a consumer since I was 14. I’ve been exposed to this world at a very young age, yet few questions have been asked on how to improve the industry. In Lavalab, I was given the platform to address these flaws.” Wu adds “Sahar is the product vision. It was her idea, and her vision on how to revamp her experience.”
Meanwhile, Wu’s contribution lies in operations and marketing strategy. “I’ve previously worked in beauty and marketing at Johnson & Johnson on the Neutrogena and Clean & Clear businesses. I’ve been getting myself involved in the world of beauty by trying out the product, interviewing potential customers. So from my end, that brings out an unbiased point of view.” Wu’s partner, Rohani agrees with this. “Junyi is extremely proactive and hands-on. He handles all the operation and administrative side: setting up interviews with potential customers, setting up meetings, doing a ton of research.”
Rohani explained how the product works, “On our website, there are a series of simple steps. First, you pick your case which comes in a range of different colors. Then you pick your brush. We’ll let you know which brush is healthier for your eyelash. Next, you pick your mascara formula whether that be lengthening, volumizing, curling etc. Then you pick your time. If you wear mascara a lot, I would recommend you refill your pots and cartridges every two months. So there are four options and once you click okay then you never have to think about it again.”
In terms of how the product stands out compared to other products, Wu explains the brand’s competitive advantage, “When we researched people’s habits, a lot of them switch products because they like the brush on one mascara or the ingredients of another. So this personalization is one thing that is not currently offered in the standard beauty industry.”
For Rheya Beauty, the potential for growth is huge. Rohani explains, “We’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback from customers, angel investors, venture capitalists and there’s a lot of hype in our company because we are entering a niche market with a simple solution.”
Wu talks about the current plans for the business. “When we launch in the market soon, the business will be all online. We are currently in talks with different kinds of manufacturers on the molds for production, mascara formula. For future products, we want to involve the consumer and so, if there’s interest in refillable mascara there’s a customer base we can listen to and crowdsource other products”
On the basis of money, Wu and Rohani are entertaining a lot of possible sources “We have invested a lot of our own personal savings. We’ve raised an initial investment from an angel investor, and have recently expanded our pre-seed financing round to $150,000. We have just begun our search to raise the remaining amount. Based on the angel investors were dealing with, and our soft launch.
Sahar Rohani Junyi Wu