FREDERICTON- A cosmetics company out of Fredericton has its sights on global markets, and some recent advertising in world-leading fashion and beauty magazines like British Vogue seems to be helping with that.
Upfront Cosmetics offers a line of shampoo and conditioner bars free of sulfates, parabens, and synthetic fragrances.
The company started about two years ago by Alica Sharpe, who started making a wide variety of cosmetic products under the name “Handmade by Alicia.” But after attending the University of New Brunswick’s Summer Institute, she decided it was time to do a full rebrand with a focus specifically on hair products.
“The main value proposition that we do have is that we’re one of the only companies in North America that are offering a shampoo bar that is free from sulfates, parabens, and synthetic fragrances,” says Sharpe. “Those are things that are increasingly important to a lot of consumers.”
Sharpe started making hair products when her son what a baby. She didn’t like what was in most baby shampoos on the market so she decided to make her own.
“I couldn’t find products that I felt safe using on him … baby shampoo has some pretty nasty ingredients in it. As a young family trying to be conscious about how much plastic we were using, the shampoo bars were just a good fit.”
The name ‘UpFront Cosmetics’ came from Sharpe’s desire to ditch common buzzwords that are used in the beauty industry like “natural” and “non-toxic.” Often, the companies using these words don’t follow through on their promises.
“That’s probably my biggest pet peeve in the natural care industry, the word ‘natural.’ There are absolutely zero regulations on the word ‘natural.’ Everything at some point has some sort of natural constitute to it. People get away with saying things are natural and people have come to just believe that term as a trust worth term. We want to remove those barriers,” she says.
“I really wanted to do something different and I wanted to be transparent about what we use and how we’re doing that. We’re just transparent, honest and open all around the board about our company and our products. I really couldn’t find that from another company.”
Upfront Cosmetics currently shares manufacturing space with fellow Fredericton personal-care company, Educated Beards. The company just recently hired an office manager, and are hoping to hire 2 to 3 other people in about 6 months. These positions will be in sales and manufacturing roles.
“The ball is really rolling so we’re expecting and seeing some really rapid growth right now,” says Sharpe.
Upfront products are currently in 14 different retail stores in New Brunswick. They are also carried in two Ontario stores and one in Alberta. Sharpe says she aims for ‘mom and pop’ pharmacies and stores that like local products.
“At some point, I’d love to be in all of the Shoppers Drugmarts,” she says. “But for now we’re trying to target other local businesses like us.”
Shape says about 90 per cent of her online orders come from the United States, she credits that to the recent publicity she received by participating in a paid advertorial for Britsh Vogue. Upfront Cosmetics was hand-selected by British Vogue to participate in a list of beauty and wellness products. The magazine learned of the company through shea butter supplier, Baraka Shea Butter.
“This supplier had researched me and wanted to feature me on their page,” says Sharpe. “From that, British Vogue found me as well as Vanity Fair.”
Though the publications hand-selects the companies to invite to participate in the list, the companies themselves pay if they wish to accept. But for Sharpe, it’s been money well spent.
“The biggest value is being able to get my name out to a whole new market that may [not have] found out about me without exposure like that,” she says.
As a result of the Vogue piece, Sharpe says a PR and distribution agency from Los Angeles reached out to her. Though things are still being finalized, working with such an agency would help Upfront Cosmetics get into bigger retailers like Sephora and Ulta. She was also contacted by a subscription box service in U.K. and will be featured in their upcoming Mother’s Day box. The company has also been invited to exhibit in the Indie Beauty Expos in London, Berlin, New York and Los Angeles.
Sharpe says Upfront will be appearing on advertorial lists in Cosmopolitan, Conde Naste Traveler, Tatler, and Best Health Magazine in the coming months.
“It was really exciting to have the other Conde Naste magazine pick me up, but it was even more exciting when other magazines were like, ‘hey, we’d love to feature you too,” she says.
Over the next year, the company will focus on growing it’s retail partners and expanding into the United States.
“We’d like to secure at least six retailers per province and we’re planning on attending the New York Now and the Atlanta Home & Gift Show, so we’re hoping to really expand into the states.”