Leila Kashani did not have the Covid-19 shutdown in mind when she founded Alleyoop Inc.
But her beauty and body products company, which launched less than a year ago with an eye toward cutting expense, clutter and bulging purses, seems to have what the moment requires.
By providing efficient, multifunctional and often refillable products for busy women (read: all women), West Hollywood-based Alleyoop has tapped into a clean-living zeitgeist that has gripped consumers since shelter-at-home became a necessary lifestyle.
The company has seen 400% growth for its ecommerce business for the period from January through April. It also saw 42% month-over-month revenue growth from January through March and 15% week-over-week revenue growth following the mid-March Covid-19 shutdown.
Since its launch in August 2019, Alleyoop has been on an upward trajectory, racking up beauty awards from fashion magazines Elle and Allure. The company was also included in Real Simple’s 2020 Smart Beauty Awards.
While Alleyoop’s body products are sold in brick-and-mortar stores including Ulta, Urban Outfitters and Aerie, the company’s makeup line already had an online-only sales model that made it a perfect fit for Covid-19’s order-in culture.
Kashani said the urge to clean out and clean up has increased along with social distancing.
“One thing all of us are doing in our lives is decluttering,” Kashani said. “We are cleaning out our closets, cleaning out our vanities.”
“Our products are really an opportunity to encourage you to look at what you are not using,” she added. “I’ll have one brush that has all four brushes inside instead of the 12 you had collecting dust.”
In fact, one of the most popular Alleyoop products has been its Multi-Tasker 4-in-1 makeup brush, which has sold out twice. Another of Alleyoop’s vegan, cruelty-free and paraben-free products is Slow Your Roll, a deodorant that also “naturally slows hair growth” according to the label.
The Alleyoop company has its roots in a 2015 enterprise by Kashani, a native Angeleno and UC San Diego grad who began her career in brand development and marketing.
That career included a stint with MGA Entertainment Inc., a Chatsworth-based consumer entertainment products company that manufactures licensed toys and games, dolls, consumer electronics, home decor, stationary and sporting goods. MGA brands include Little Tikes, Lalaloopsy, Bratz, and Moxie Girlz.
MGA also produced a children’s series for Netflix called “Project Mc2” about four girls solving scientific problems, “making scientific tech cool,” Kashani said. “There was a character who loved to use chemistry to create makeup products. I learned a lot from that,” she added with a laugh.
After MGA, Kashani co-founded Sphynx, a company that produced the Sphynx Portable Razor, a shave-on-the-go gadget that includes a water spritzer and allowed touch-ups without having to be near a bathroom. Through a business connection, the product was picked up by retailer Ulta Beauty Inc.
The popularity of the Sphynx led Kashani to build a beauty brand to address women’s on-the-go needs.
“I thought there was a lack of innovation about today’s woman,” she said. “Why are we looking at reformulating (a product) when we can improve it?”
Sphynx also created the online focus group needed to figure out those needs. Kashani emailed 10,000 Sphynx customers a questionnaire asking them to identify “pain points” that limited efficiency in their beauty product purchases and usage.
“In 48 hours, I got 2,600 people to respond,” Kashani said. “Obviously, I couldn’t manage 2,600 people. After I was done doing cartwheels of excitement, I realized I had to figure out how to communicate with them.”
Kashani sent out a second survey to narrow the group to those who appeared to fit the target demographic and evidenced a strong interest in providing valuable feedback on a consistent basis.
Through that survey, Kashani narrowed the base to about 200 “co-creators” who communicate through a Slack channel. Before launching Alleyoop, “I spent nine months narrowing 40 products to the top 16 products that we have in our line today,” she said.
One of the most important findings was that most women were purchasing makeup kits with up to 12 colors of eyeshadow or lipstick, only to discover that they were using only one or two of the shades.
Combining the limited palette with multiuse products resulted in a four-color pencil that includes eyeliner, brow/eye highlighter, brow pencil and a neutral lip shade, as well as lip and face color trio “stackers” that come in three different shade assortments.
The company has stayed out of trying to produce foundation makeup to match women’s highly individualistic skin tones. However Kashani said market research suggests women of all skin tones tend to gravitate toward similar “go-to” shades of lipstick, eyeshadow, eye liner and other products.
Jane Wurwand, co-founder of Carson-based skin care company Dermalogica Inc., said Alleyoop products are ideally designed for Covid-19 and beyond.
“I’ve always believed, and I think this way for Dermalogica too, that products need to have more than one function,” Wurwand said.
She said the taste for multiuse products of all kinds has been heightened by Covid-19 concerns.
“I think we are all very aware, especially after all this, that we are creating way too much waste,” Wurwand said. “The new prestige, if you want, is going to be sustainable packaging that is highly minimalist.”
Kashani said Alleyoop does not market to the fashionista who must try the latest neon glitter nail polish or canary yellow eyeshadow. However, she said, Alleyoop’s products have a “niftiness factor” that appeals to the trendsetters.
“They’ll lean into us because there’s a form of brush that looks like nothing they’ve ever seen before, or a lipstick that is so cute and elegant that you want to carry it with you,” Kashani said. “There’s a little note inside our contour set that makes you feel good every day. We are trying to use positive reinforcement to make it fun.”