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Case Study: The Keys to Manufacturing Success

Mac Smith
  • Starting from scratch in the beauty industry can be difficult, so finding smart, capable partners is one of the best ways to succeed. And contract manufacturers can make great beauty partners.
  • Find the right partners by networking with industry professionals whose opinion and knowledge you trust and value. And don’t be afraid to run contract manufacturers through their paces before making a commitment.
  • Be prepared to make changes, however, in case your contract manufacturer no longer becomes a viable option. Continue networking and learning, and plan for contingencies.

As the founder and owner of skin care brand Brazilian Peel, there are many decisions I need to make to ensure the success of the brand and the products. And one of the most important is my decision about what contract manufacturer to work with. Beauty brands that work with contract manufacturers definitely develop a partnership with their manufacturer, meaning sharing goals, challenges, opportunities, solutions and more, and consequently, choosing the right contract manufacturer is essential.

There are three requirements for being my contract manufacturer: I believe you can make what is needed, you come recommended by someone I trust, and you are easy to work with. The success of Brazilian Peel and the growth of its parent company Advanced Home Actives are based on this model. Developing and deploying new products takes great partners with strong and comprehensive trade relationships, and building and nurturing trade relationships leads to the successful design and delivery of innovative products.

In starting out, the dynamics of new product development are exciting, but the complexity can be daunting for a small company or brand. Meanwhile, most contract manufacturers survive on the volume of large beauty brands. This work drives the formalized disciplines of good manufacturing practices, but can also lead to a loss of flexibility and creativity when bringing on new products.

But what if you are starting from scratch? How does an entrepreneur find the right people to help build an emerging brand, providing the network of resources to launch a brand and keep it on retail shelves? How do you leverage the infrastructure and experience of contract manufacturers to keep overhead low while growing a brand from the ground up? The following is the story of how Brazilian Peel did it, learning lessons and solving challenges along the way.

Getting Your Feet Wet

Brazilian Peel started with a skin care product, an at-home glycolic acid peel, and found the way to commercial success. Developed after my hairstylist had a bad experience at the dermatologist’s office—irritation and redness following an incorrectly neutralized glycolic peel—I worked to create a self-neutralizing glycolic peel technology that didn’t need the second step. After developing a prototype that worked in the lab, it was time to look into scaling up for commercial exposure and release.

However, my collaborators and I didn’t know anybody in the beauty industry. In an attempt to gain greater knowledge and access to this arena, I joined the local chapter of the Society of Cosmetic Chemists (SCC) and met some well-established ingredient suppliers who referred me to experienced chemists, one of whom was a Fellow in the SCC. I also met a seasoned marketing and branding expert who gave me a crash course in the economics of different beauty marketing channels. I came to respect and trust them, their experience and their knowledge, and they helped lead me to the next level in the development of what would become Advanced Home Actives.

Making a Match

After two years of developing and clinically testing the technology behind Brazilian Peel, a specialized packaging solution was needed for the product. My branding partner found a company with an ideal solution to this problem, and, after approaching it with a proposal to license the packaging components, we ended up with a full turnkey contract manufacturing deal. It had extra capacity, was a medical device manufacturer and was interested in load-leveling its extra capacity. Essentially, it was a perfect fit. Medical device manufacturing required very strict quality controls, validation protocols and lot traceability. The company also had the distribution and warehousing capabilities necessary for fulfilling orders for our products.

The icing on the cake was its ability to fill the specialized dual-dispensing packaging Brazilian Peel required, and as an added bonus, it provided leveraged purchasing power for ingredients, secondary packaging and shipping. This contract manufacturer delivered world-class elements of every manufacturing operation, from engineering, purchasing, scheduling, maintenance, quality control and assurance and shipping. All three of my criteria for working with a contract company had been met.

It was a match made in heaven that lasted two years until the manufacturer was acquired by a major multinational firm that had recognized the value of the organization. Thus, Brazilian Peel and Advanced Home Actives had to find a new partner.

Switching Gears

Through relationships with supply chain team members, we found a new contract manufacturer—220 Laboratories in Riverside, California—almost immediately, and within three months, had quotes for manufacturing our existing products based on detailed specifications of the formulas Advanced Home Actives owned, including two OTC acne drug products.

However, the transition to this new company was more challenging than the original start-up because we had developed a viable and growing business with major trading partners in the prestige beauty industry. Brazilian Peel had launched in Sephora, and gained attention and earned awards, meaning we weren’t in the same boat as we were before. This new business partnership, again, was developed through the relationship of a branding colleague, so a connection was established. But the transfer to the new operation had to be seamless to prevent a gap in the supply chain to our customers, and there were also additional wrinkles to consider. For example, Brazilian Peel was featured on talk shows The Dr. Oz Show and The Doctors on the same day during this transition phase.

Advanced Home Actives specified and built our own package tooling and filling equipment, so we controlled the key specialized manufacturing steps, provided detailed and disciplined training to the staff of the new company, and furnished comprehensive product and process specifications. We also had to purchase and transfer raw materials and other inventory elements from the previous manufacturer to the new contract operation at 220 Laboratories, ensuring quality and shelf life certifications were intact.

In support of this move, I relocated from our corporate offices in Florida to California to oversee all aspects of the exercise. Through a lot of work, coordination and collaboration between us and members of the old contract manufacturer and the new contract manufacturer, the equipment started up in two weeks. Also, to ensure smooth sailing, we purchased and transferred additional material inventory to 220 Laboratories to cover the six-month period before we commissioned new tooling.

Steps Forward

To date, the move has been successful, but not without issues. Starting up the new client-owned manufacturing equipment had the typical learning curve associated with this type of commercial process. We also, unfortunately, were not able to capture some of the unquantifiable expertise from the previous operation that surfaced as quality and efficiency issues in the start-up at the new facility. Being at the new facility as the brand representative with a significant history of experience of new product and process start-ups was critical to minimizing the impact of these issues. But the relationships between the key personnel at the old and new manufacturers really helped troubleshoot the problems, making the transition as painless as possible.

As our new contract manufacturer, 220 Laboratories also has additional capabilities we are leveraging. A well-established beauty formulator, it has experience in specific ingredients and benchmark products in the prestige beauty market, and we are partnering to develop new products efficiently and quickly. 220 Laboratories also brings new supply partners to the table and has connections with potential new customer accounts and distribution channels. I have come to know, respect and like the operations and overall management team there, and together we have a commitment to continue to deliver high-quality beauty products as we grow the business and the brand.

Overall, Brazilian Peel’s success has been about developing strong relationships built on trust, dedication, determination and best practices in the industry. And these principles, as well as the ability to be flexible and hard-working, has served Brazilian Peel and Advanced Home Actives well, and will continue to in the future.

As a chemical engineer, Mac Smith has spent three decades solving problems put before him across multiple industries for international corporations. From space shuttles to capacitors, batteries to contact lenses, he employed his expertise to arrive at countless solutions. His combination of rigorous conceptual thinking and formal engineering training allows him to think outside the box, question the rules and develop innovative products. In creating a two-step glycolic peel, he examined parallel problems in a conceptual way to extrapolate a solution, and utilizing his understanding of how the body neutralizes stomach acid without causing imbalance, he developed Brazilian Peel, a single-step version of a professional skin care treatment for at-home use. Learn more at

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