How Kopari is shaping the future of beauty trends with organic coconut oil
Editors Note: The adventure sports industry is perhaps the most educated when it comes to knowing what’s in the products we are using everyday. It’s no surprise that many companies making sunscreens, food, juices, and other consumable products are hip to this trend and are elevating the transparency and quality of their offering to meet these needs.
Today we examine the power of an emerging category for adventure sports and surf lifestyle: the beauty market. We’ve seen the category surface at the latest round of endemic tradeshows, with Agenda Show creating an entire section that caters to this world. Similar to how Sun Bum and other aspirational companies in our space are speaking to the surf lifestyle, Kopari has created a line of natural skin care that appeals to women—remember, females are half the population, have strong buying power, and arguably enjoy the beach lifestyle as much as any other target audience.
WHO – KOPARI BEAUTY Founders Kiana Cabell, Bryce Goldman and James Brennan
WHERE – San Diego, California
WHEN – Launched January 2016
WHY – An opportunity to leverage the rise of organic and natural elements within beauty trends, and the crossover into the surf market and beyond.
Kiana Cabell seems to almost float out of her chair as she shares the story behind the past several years of her life. Her face is permanently lit with a smile, and the light, bubbly aura she exudes is contagious.
She is sitting at her home in a beautiful San Diego neighborhood, just steps to the ocean, and it’s clear that a combination of purpose, dedication, and pure passion has led her to this moment in her career.
Her company Kopari, which she co-founded with serial entrepreneur James Brennan (co-founder of Suja Juice) and Bryce Goldman, has been rising over the past year since its launch. The line of organic coconut oil beauty products officially launched in January 2016, and are already carried in Free People’s beauty section. The brand also recently signed with major retailer Sephora— the line is now available at Sephora.com and will be in stores nationwide by Spring 2017.
But that hasn’t changed much about what motivates Cabell daily. That's clear as she speaks eloquently about brand creation, from disciplined product development, the extensive sourcing process, and partnering with non-profits like Waves 4 Water—all of which have shaped Kopari’s mission.
Cabell, whose father is professional surfer Joey Cabell, is no stranger to the beach. Growing up on Oahu, she spent countless hours with her father on their catamaran. It was then that her love for coconut oil began. Using coconut oil is "the native way" in Hawaii, and less of a trend, as Cabell explains it.
Fast forward to her young professional life, attending the National Gourmet Institute in New York City in 2013, Cabell naturally made the jump from the food industry to the beauty industry with an aha moment: ” When I was in school for cooking I saw this boom in coconut oil and people’s awareness toward this trend. When I experimented with cooking at home, I was constantly going from the kitchen to the bathroom with my creations because a lot of the natural ingredients I was using served a dual purpose as beauty products.”
Today, she has refined this process, making frequent visits to the local lab where Kopari’s line is tested and developed. Cabell says she is constantly ensuring that the organic coconut oils, scrubs, and lotions are the perfect texture and smell, and work exactly how she envisioned them.
Part of that process was the exhaustive search for sourcing the most natural ingredients: "We vetted 15 different oils," she admits, but at the end of the day, they chose the Philippines for its strong government regulations for organic agriculture, explains Cabell. The coconut oil found in her products are pure virgin, essentially “food grade" (although they are manufactured in a lab, so can't be labeled as such), and come from small sustainable family farms.
This transparency, coupled with Kopari's strong direct to consumer presence through it's own commerce and social media channels, has accelerated the small company's growth. We drilled down into Kopari's strategy, to hear best practices and how those could be applied to the surf industry.
How did Kopari evolve from your at-home experiments to a full-fledged business idea?
KC: I'm a major foodie, and when I went into school, I knew I wanted to create a product—I just thought it would be more along the lines of a food product. That's when I had an aha moment and realized 'wow, there's nothing along these lines in the beauty space,’ and I set out to create what is now Kopari.
I teamed up with my two partners: James Brennan, a serial entrepreneur who founded Suja Juice, and my other partner, Bryce Goldman. He comes from the beauty space, and owns third generation beauty supply stores throughout Southern California. The three of us teamed up quickly and launched Kopari. It's changed a lot over that short period of time in terms of where we thought we were headed.
Why did you see an opportunity in this market?
We've created a new niche and market place for it. I don't think there is a lot of coconut oil brands out there in the market, especially in the prestige world. It's approachable luxury, not a super high price point, and our primary model is direct to consumer so we are able to keep the price down in order to pass the savings on to the consumer and make it more affordable.
What does Kopari bring to this category that other organic / natural products don't?
All of our coconut oil is sourced from the Philippines and we use 100% organic coconut oil. The quality is super creamy and sweet, and really melts onto your skin very nicely, where other oils I found to be kind of gritty and smelled not as sweet.
Each of the products in the launch line are multi-taskers, and they seem to resonate really well with the consumer. We find that if they are going to spend $45, it helps to know they aren't just getting a singular product but something they can use on their face, their hair, etc.
The overall concept of the line is creating products that utilize coconut oil and also enhance those benefits in other areas. We are coming up with a bunch of out of the box products that really lend themselves well to coconut oil's natural benefits down the line.
How do you listen to consumer demand and adjust your products to meet that need?
Right now we have that direct relationship with our customers which is really nice. They communicate with us on a daily basis because you don't have that middle man, so we are able to learn so much and gather so much data.
But quite a number of people are constantly asking us, where can I go to try the products? That's the one thing when you are direct to consumer— they can't try them. They want to go into the store and still have that experience.
What demographic do you target?
Mainly Millenials. We have our brand voice, and with that we speak the most to one girl, who is about 23. But as far as our overall demographic, we reach people from 16 to 50. We do some online marketing on Facebook which tends to skew older, while the Instagram demo is younger, and then Snapchat is even younger.
Which regions are the products performing best in?
New York, California, Texas and Chicago. It's interesting. You would think it would be more coastal, but it ends up evening itself out.
Are there any areas you will target once you start looking at more physical locations?
We are carried in some Hawaii stores. I think as we expand, because we are still so small, we will keep our focus in Hawaii and California. It really makes sense, so we can continue to educate.
Do you think beauty products in general lend themselves better to that physical retail experience?
Speaking for myself, I discover products in store and will go online to buy them over and over again. I see that with our customers, where they heard about it from a friend, or they see Desi Perkins, who is a big beauty YouTuber, got the product and is blogging about it. It gives it that credibility.
You need that credibility somewhere, and I think a store validates that. But we have such good branding and we are investing in it, so people can get that experience even though they can't touch the product.
What does Kopari's future growth strategy look like in terms of marketing and go-to market?
Currently we do a lot of online marketing and that's doing really well for us. As far as driving traffic to stores, we are planning to do a lot of in-store education, but something different and out of the box. Geo targeting to drive people into stores is what we are looking into.
We do some influencer stuff, too. We are planning a more organic influencer approach. I'm working on doing a surf campaign with some girls at the moment. I think our brand lends itself to lifestyle mixed with beauty. We want to feature girls who are empowering, like athletes.
We also have about 12 people who are full time on our team right now, but are probably going to hire more soon. With online you can scale so quickly, but once you are in store you need to hire teams to go out and educate.
What type of natural crossover do you see into other product categories like hair care or sunscreen?
Initially I was looking to do hair care. My partners come from that side, so they were leaning towards that. I started working with the formulators and the chemist, but it proved harder than we thought. I am all about balance. So we tabled it until we can come up with something that both performs and still preserves the natural elements of the brand.
Sunscreen is something we are looking into. I think the branding and the product lend itself well to it. Coconut oil has a natural SPF. But sunscreen is considered an OTC drug so it's quite the process. I think eventually down the road that might be something we want to do.
What about other markets outside of mainstream beauty, like surf retailers in particular?
I do see a lot of opportunity there because it ties into my background with the product, branding and just who we are. Obviously, brands that offer sunscreen and that type of product make sense. We do have that beachy lifestyle vibe and you can see it right away with the packaging. Plus, the products make sense for the beach lifestyle.
It's all about the retail stores that are curating the right brands. Picking the right mix of products that make it easy for people to walk in and get it quickly and easily. People aren't going in to these stores for beauty specifically so it really has to pop and stand out on the shelf, and it has to make sense to that type of consumer who is more into the lifestyle and wants somewhat of an impulse buy. I do think there is definitely opportunity there.