MEET THE BEAUTY ENTRENEUR.
With ten years of experience providing business and software programs to direct sales firms, Harold Zimmerman turned his expertise in the arena of multi-level marketing to beauty. In 2008, he launched Votre Vu, a direct sales skin care brand that offers botanically-infused upscale products at accessible prices. All cosmetics are formulated at a laboratory in France and sold in the U.S. via representatives present in all 50 states. So far, Harold’s strategy is proving successful. In its first year, Votre Vu rang up $5 million in sales and is on track to reach $10 million this year—all during a recession.
I understand that Votre Vu is your first venture in the beauty industry. How did you come to create the company?
Ten years ago, I co-founded Next Wave Logistics, the leading provider of business and software solutions for direct selling firms. While working with numerous companies in the industry, I began to ponder what I would do if I were to create a premier direct sales company that tore down traditional sales barriers, offered a superlative product, and developed a “lovemark” brand that delivers beyond customer expectations. I then honed in on a unique and unfulfilled market niche: upscale French skin care at affordable pricing. From there, I brought together a team to research the best labs in France and selected one with 80 years’ experience in handcrafted, botanically based skin care. Voila! Votre Vu was born.
Can you tell us a bit about your French lab partner?
The laboratory we use is privately owned by a family of skin care artisans who have been handcrafting award-winning formulas (those garnering VictoiresBeauté, European beauty awards) for three generations. Up until now, they provided their custom-blended formulas for private label only to upscale destination spas, dermatologists, and plastic surgeons in Europe and Asia. We have brought those formulas to America exclusively under the Votre Vu label as well as developed several formulas with our lab partner that are unique to Votre Vu. We take pride in the fact that our lab blends our formulas in small batches with tight product controls—not in a factory. Also, they do not test on animals.
Why did you choose a direct marketing model to sell Votre Vu?
For ten years, I had been studying and consulting for the direct sales industry—a highly successful, $30 billion industry. By taking our product into the direct sales channel, we don’t really have to compete for space on store shelves and we can make purchasing our products more experiential through sampling via personal connections with our Brand Ambassadors as well as specialty events. Plus, we break down traditional barriers of geography. In essence, we bring “the store” to the consumer in a very personal way, and the response has been overwhelming. Then, as a by-product of this approach, we offer an incredible opportunity for our Brand Ambassadors to create supplementary income and even full-time careers. In today’s economy especially, people are seeking a way to take control of their financial situations—and Votre Vu gives them that option.
The retail space of today’s skin care market is absolutely flooded and confusing for the consumer. It is an absolute fact that the companies that have the larger budgets for whiz-bang marketing and advertising seem to get more of the market share—but they may not necessarily have the better product. We wanted a way to cut out the two or three layers of “bloat” in traditional retail channels to bring high-quality products to consumers at an affordable price—and direct sales was the answer.
What is your product range like? Do you have a specialty? Are there any star products?
We offer products that are naturally and botanically based, crafted to be highly effective while promoting healthy skin that ages well gracefully. We specialize in skin care—including products for the face, such as milk and gel cleansers, sèrums, crèmes, eye treatments, masques, and lip balms, as well as products for the body, such as a scrub, soufflé, hand crème, bust balm, slimming gelée, and dry oils. Some of our products are uniquely French, such as our Portrait Collar Restorative Neck Crème, Amour D’Ore all-natural dry oil spray of 11 essential oils, and À Votre Santè all-natural half-toner, half-serum. We recently added a French men’s line, have several French organic products, and also feature two benefit beverages. We have many star products, but I’ll name just a few: 1) Les Sorbet, our frozen anti-aging serum packed with 40% marine elastin and collagen. Les Sorbet ships direct to customers’ homes on dry ice; 2) Duette, which features a hand crème in the tube and lip balm in the attached cap. This unique packaged, highly “giftable” item is our second best seller and recently sold out on QVC in less than 30 seconds; 3) Tragic Magic, a rescue crème that was developed by our lab for a spa that needed a crème to treat skin that had reacted to a treatment, such as a chemical peel. Customers tell us this crème works wonderfully on highly reactive skin, as well as patchy dry spots and rashes.
What do you believe women are looking for in their skincare products?
Women look for effective products that are custom-blended with premium, naturally based ingredients. More than ever, women—and men—want to know what’s in the products they are putting on their bodies. We select our botanicals and other natural ingredients from the areas where they grow most robust and effective. Our yams are from Japan, algae from the Mediterranean, and botanicals from the lush countryside of France. Our clients appreciate that we are a full-disclosure company, providing a full list of ingredients online for each of our products, because we believe in their quality and efficacy. We also stand behind our line with a 45-day money-back guarantee.
Also, in today’s economy, women are more selective about their skin care, and appreciate that Votre Vu offers a luxury line at not-so-luxurious prices. The Votre Vu line sells for about one-third of comparable French skin care lines at upscale retailers, and can be purchased at an even greater discount (an added 30-50% off) through our customer loyalty program for Personal Shoppers. I believe the convenience factor of ordering online bodes well in our culture’s “busyness.”
Are there any new product developments on the horizon that you would like to share with our readers?
We are launching five new products in 2010, including: Oh Lighten Up!, a whitening crème for age and sun spots; SpecialEyes, an eye treatment to reduce puffiness and dark circles; Nouveau Glow, a delicious fruit acid peel for resurfacing the complexion; and our upcoming TrèsMagnifeet exfoliant and crème for healthy feet, which also works wonderfully for scrubbing elbows and knees and moisturizing weary necks and shoulders.
What is your best selling item? Why do you think it resonates with your customers?
Our top-selling product is SnapDragon, which received the Redbook MVP award this spring. Customers love our all-natural beauty benefit beverage because it doesn’t add preservatives or sugars yet is delicious and nutritious. SnapDragon features ingredients that feed healthy skin, hair and nails, including mango, pomegranate, and acai berry juices, three antioxidant teas, collagen, seven essential daily vitamins, and beneficial botanicals such as ginkgo biloba, baobab fiber, and aloe vera. We continually receive fabulous feedback from women, men and children about SnapDragon’s effect on their digestive system, energy, and skin. SnapDragon and our newer benefit beverage, Ten Gauge Health and Energy Slam, are Vu’s only products that are blended here in the U.S. rather than in France.