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Serving the Niche

In the U.S., cultures come together to create a diverse and unique society, creating niche markets for the beauty-minded, and brands use these niches to expand a market base or create an entirely new one.

The Activate Beauty brand tapped into a hair care market that was tied to a Hispanic population increase within the U.S. The brand’s founders each have varying Hispanic backgrounds—including Puerto Rican, Cuban, Colombian and Mexican.

“The inspiration was to serve the Latino market,” said Jacqueline Dascal Chariff, president and CEO. “There was nothing out there specific to our needs.” In 1999, she founded Sistemas de Belleza in Colombia, which represents professional hair care and beauty brands such as JOICO, Tigi, Farouk Bio-Silk and Sally Hansen. The company provides a range of market identification and promotional service to ensure international sales growth and maximum profits. With a background in the professional hair care market, Chariff saw an opportunity. Appreciating the difficulty of thick, dry hair firsthand, her marketing background compelled her to bring Activate to market.

The line has distribution stateside both at mass-market retail stores and beauty chains, such as Ulta. “Ulta is a competitive situation, a destination,” said Chariff. Other distribution outlets include a deal with Target, where the line will be tested in four markets. Distribution is complemented by e-commerce, but not dominated by it. “Our major focus is not for consumers to buy online, but it fills in the blanks,” said Chariff.

The line will be headed to Latin America and the Caribbean, but as a salon line. “If the line isn’t done locally, it just can’t compete at the mass-market level there,” said Chariff.

Activate Beauty is formulated with natural ingredients from sea and earth, but doesn’t make an organic claim. Instead, the focus is on the fragrance, a key selling point in the retail environment. “Fragrance is something that is key to anything we buy. We wanted the products to be fresh, fruity and clean smelling,” said Chariff. “We didn’t want an overpowering fragrance.” Additionally, the packaging is clean and visually appealing, due in part to its simplicity.

The future of the brand includes expanding the product offerings. “Down the road, I think there will be opportunities in bath and body, perhaps even a fragrance,” said Chariff. In the end, the brand will continue to focus on its niche. “The trends are niche markets. You can’t compete without a niche,” said Chariff. “Activate Beauty was to achieve a hair care brand and make the statement that it’s more of a lifestyle brand.”