Muenster One cream, many variants: With their start, two women want to assert themselves against competition from cosmetic companies. To do this, they are looking for new ways of product and sales – including digital live shopping.
The idea could have ended with a simple final grade: For a university seminar in Münster, Kathrin Fesenmeyer and Alica Klemm developed a new brand of natural cosmetics where customers combine the desired active ingredients themselves. But after the semester ended, the two marketing students at the time realized the idea was too good to shelve. “On the one hand, we felt an inherent enthusiasm,” says Fesenmeyer, “on the other hand, we also received good feedback from fellow students and professors.”
The female students became founders: they gradually refined the idea, talked to chemists, looked for suppliers and developed the brand “Herbsom”, a mixture of the English terms for herb (herb) and anthos (flower). They have been selling the product since last December: Users can choose up to four active ingredients that are particularly important to them – for example against swelling, dry skin or acne. A jar of the cream is then sent along with small ampoules, which can then be mixed together at home. “More than 500 combinations are possible,” says Klemm.
With their still small start-up, the two women from Münster are now involved in big business: in Germany alone, natural cosmetics worth almost 1.5 billion euros were sold last year. Interest in products that do not contain plasticizers or petroleum-based substances is constantly increasing. But the competition is also fierce: pharmacy chains have developed their own brands, global cosmetics groups such as L’Oréal and Henkel have developed their own product lines. There are also start-ups like Plantbase from Hanover, which also use natural cosmetics to attract customers.
The makers of Herbsom are therefore trying to find their own way. This includes focusing on the product: you rely on the do-it-yourself effect. Customers choose the exact ingredients themselves and then mix them themselves. “You can decide for yourself which active ingredients you want,” says Klemm. In the future, in addition to the day cream, there will be other customizable products. A questionnaire on the website of the Münster-based start-up helps to find out which active ingredients are best suited to the skin or skin problems.
Much of the sales are currently also done through the company’s website. There are also two local stores that stock Herbsom products. However, sales need to pick up speed even further in the future. The challenge for the new start-up: How do you manage to stand out among the many different brands? Therefore, the start-up is working on its own brand in order to stand out from the competition. Channels like Instagram should help get noticed as a natural cosmetics manufacturer.
In addition, the two founders, who are currently supported by two employees, work with so-called micro-influencers: These are social media personalities who have often built a small but loyal fan base with a top thematic profile. “They still have a very close bond with their fans,” says Klemm. And Herbsom is experimenting with unusual channels: On August 8, the start-up invites you to a “live shopping event”. Fesenmeyer and Klemm present their products in a video stream on social networks – there they can be purchased directly by viewers with the click of a mouse. A kind of self-created home shopping channel in which other Münster startups also appear.
The founders are currently funded by ongoing sales, but a round of funding with private investors could help growth in the future. The Herbsom team has also benefited from several support offers. For example, Fesenmeyer and Klemm participated in an acceleration program of the “Reach Euregio Start-up Center” created by the University of Münster. At an early stage, the two marketing experts also received a start-up grant from the North Rhine-Westphalia Ministry of Finance, which covered living costs for a year. “That gave us a big push,” Fesenmeyer recalls, “when we have the funding, then we also have to start implementing it.”