When two Sydney mums had a lightbulb moment creating a safe alternative to eyelash growth serums, they never knew it would turn into a business that would see million dollar projections in their second year, distributors across the world and a foray into the highly competitive and lucrative Chinese market. But that’s exactly what happened for co-founders of Long Lashes, Belinda Robinson and Felecia Tappenden.
After beginning the business in November of 2016, Belinda and Felecia saw immediate success, making an impressive six figures in their first six months, a feat generally unheard of for small businesses. Following steady progress and cementing a strong foothold in Australia, they set their sights on cracking the Chinese market which hasn’t come without its slew of challenges.
“We were initially probably a little naive,” says Felecia. “After our success in Australia, we assumed the level of legal requirements and timeframes in developing consumer trust would be similar in China.” But navigating the Chinese market has proven more complex than its western counterparts, with requirements including expensive compulsory trademarking fees as well as challenges both culturally and linguistically.
To assist them to expedite market entry, Belinda and Felecia engaged with Melbourne based consultancy GMS. GMS’s team specialises in assisting Australian businesses entering the market through social and digital strategy and intelligence. The journey encompassed the founders embarking on a lengthy 15-month process to finalise all the requirements just to enter the market.
“They have been instrumental in helping us get set up with trusted social and purchasing platforms like Xiaohongshu, a social platform incredibly popular with over one million users and Taobao, the purchasing platform,” says Belinda. “I cannot emphasise how important establishing this strategy has been, it’s basically been our gateway into the market as these two platforms are what greatly influence Chinese consumers with their purchases. It has been life-changing for our business,” adds Felecia.
The women also learnt that Chinese customers are incredibly well-researched and are not as quick to jump at trending products.
“They’re a highly educated audience, have a strong grasp of ingredients and so take their time to become familiar with the brand and finally make that purchase,” says Belinda.
“It was definitely an aspect we weren’t expecting. We noticed a stark contrast to Chinese and Australian purchasing behaviours. But it has been well worth it, in that time we have seen consistent growth.” So much so that since entering the Chinese market just four months ago, Long Lashes has seen an increase of 89 per cent revenue and projections leading up to singles day and launch in Little Red books are 280 per cent.
The women also stumbled upon an unexpected bonus, their signature Long Lashes serum has proven to work better on the lashes and brows of those with Asian ethnicity – an aspect that no doubt has helped their quick success. It also certainly doesn’t hurt the rise of A-beauty, aka Australian beauty in international markets. Consumers are loving the ingredients and beauty solutions that Australian-based products offer, making them sought after products as of late.
With Belinda and Felecia accomplishing a trail of success in less than four years, it’s no doubt they have an envious future ahead of them.