EOS lip balm is the second largest lip balm company in the United States. Seven years ago the company didn’t even exist. How did a startup make such huge strides in a 100-year-old industry that has seen relatively few changes? The company’s founders, Sanjiv Mehra and Jonathan Teller, sat down with Fast Company to tell the story of EOS and their highly effective business strategies.
Only Rely On Yourself to Grow
EOS was able to take on the leaders of lip balm by manufacturing in-house. The only way to scale quickly and compete with Burt’s Bees and Chapstick was to first attend engineering trade shows. Mehra and Teller were looking for engineers who could help them design and create equipment to fully automate their manufacturing process.
They knew if they landed a new large account with Target, they couldn’t leave anything to chance. A third-party manufacturer could drop the ball by requiring more lead time or simply shipping the product out late. As a startup, they knew this wasn’t an option. The first chance is often your only chance with a big account.
Find That One Person Who Understands Your Product
Before you have the opportunity to scale, you have to land the first account. Mehra and Teller knew it would be a challenge, so they brought on a sales representative to join their team. Even so, they were turned away from most stores.
EOS was the first lip balm to be created specifically for women. No one had even considered the market segment could be anything except unisex before, so it was no surprise buyers didn’t know what to make of the product. Mehra said, “There were a lot of male buyers out there who would say that they didn’t understand the product.” https://www.kohls.com/catalog/womens-eos-lip-balm-makeup-health-beauty.jsp?CN=Gender:Womens+Brand:eos+Product:Lip%20Balm+Category:Makeup+Department:Health%20%26%20Beauty
The turning point for EOS was with a Walgreen’s buyer. The buyer understood the product and loved all of the features which had been designed for her. She believed the product was strong enough to break customer’s habitual purchasing of older brands. And she was right.
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