Like many, I learned about beauty products by watching my mum put on makeup. Little dabs of powder, a lick of lipstick and quick, purposeful swipes of black eyeliner followed by black mascara, both staples for many South Asian women like us. And like many, I also eventually morphed into starting my own daily ritual of â€œdab, lick, swipe, swipeâ€ aged 13 before school (ironically, much to the annoyance of said mum).
As it goes though, as an adult, I'm questioning my mum's expertise - my skin tone is slightly different, my hair slightly curlier. I use my touch-screen chapped fingertips to find the answers of course, but I'm wary. Google doesn't know my skin. Neither does Vogue or Marie Claire, my other go-tos for advice. Influencer-of-the-month looks a lot like me (progress!), but is that a #ad and is she just getting #paid? I could ask my best friends of course, but they (thankfully) represent all types of human genes different than mine.
The person that does, however, know not just about skin products, but can compare that to my specific skin, is Gabriella - a freelance beauty therapist and part time nurse, who's been treating me for 9 years. And the person who knows hair is April, a salon owner who after a few cuts and colours, has also built up expertise in the lifelong riddle that is â€œFarrah's hairâ€.
April and Gabriella and other freelance beauticians are also busy, busy people. They have portfolio careers, small businesses or both. Post-pandemic, it took me 4 months to get an appointment with April, and 2 with Gabriella. That's because they're a) experts at what they do; and b) not my mum and therefore not willing to move mountains for me. Who knew?
This is why I am so excited about taking my 15 years of experience in marketing, startups and corporates - and the teenage years before that working with, yes, the one and only Mum The Beauty Expert on her own small business - and taking a bet on social commerce and the opportunity ahead for Expertly, our new, early stage startup. With Expertly, Gabriella and April can showcase their expertise through personalised advice-sharing web pages, and grow their businesses through sales of the products they love and want to shout about.
Expertly and similar models take the propagation of knowledge built on search and social media, and harness it. Consumers like me are craving this, as it gets increasingly difficult to navigate the â€œfake newsâ€ and #ads. Even better, small business owners can enter a playing field formerly occupied by the big brand-building giants that educated my mum (not that I don't miss her cupboard rotation of Clinique, Nivea and good ol' Pond's Cold Cream).
This potential for democratisation of info in the beauty sector is thrilling. These shifts are going head-to-head with not just ecommerce, but journalism and advertising, industries that have defined what beauty means in general. As a marketeer, the campaigns I've grown up with are changing - beauty products are not just for women, girls, or mums - and social commerce elevates this further too.
My mum still puts on makeup every day, even if she's not leaving the house. I do too. It is a part of who we are. Beauty habits are more shareable than memes, and they deserve to be shaped by those who know them best. At minimum, maybe we can prod that along with our startup; and at best, we can change the way people think about beauty for the better.
Chief Marketing Officer