In light of International Women’s Day, BLM met with Farah Naz – CEO of EX1 Cosmetics – to discuss the challenges she faced raising investment to grow her business.
Can you tell readers about your business?
Despite being a billion-dollar industry, I could never find foundations that matched my skin tone as they were always too orange or too pink. Being a biochemist, I decided to rethink the science of pigments and created ground-breaking foundations which were designed to look like skin.
We became a red-carpet favourite pretty quickly and the products have been used by everyone form Adele, Britney Spears, Kim Kardashian, and most recently by Rami Malek as he collected his Oscar last week.
2018 was a great year for us as we started retailing with the Walgreens-Boots Alliance, were nominated as Best New Brand by British Vogue among a slew of other awards, and according to MyMarketInsight, EX1 was the 4th most talked about foundation in the UK for 2018.
This year, we’ve had a sell-out launch across the GCC and will be rolling out with a big US retailer in late spring.
How have you found the process of raising investment?
The first round is always the toughest. It’s hard to raise money on an idea alone and you’re basically selling your vision. Having an authentic story behind the brand made the process a lot easier.
We had a friends and family round, and a seed round which totalled around £350K. This allowed us to go to production, make our first couple of hires and appoint a PR agency.
We ended up getting a lot of traction which enabled us to raise another two rounds, bringing us to around £5m. This allowed us to increase our product offering as well as our distribution channels to support much larger retail partners.
Investing in beauty has continue to defy gravity. However, cosmetics in general very much remain a bricks and mortar purchase with 94% of products being purchased in store. It’s important to find an investor base who understands the industry landscape.
What needs to be done to ensure more venture funding is going to females and minorities?
Less than 1% of VC funding globally goes to women of colour. Investors need to change their culture and start taking note of the phenomenal, unexploited potential of investing in diversity.