Imagine being approached by buyers from Sephora just months after launching your first brand. That’s what happened to REFY, the sellout beauty business co-founded in 2020 by influencer Jess Hunt and Shrine CEO Jenna Meek.
REFY emerged onto the makeup scene with a trio of eyebrow products – a gel, pomade and pencil – promising customers the ability to replicate Hunt’s signature slicked, fluffy brow style. It quickly sold out. Then in 2021, the makeup line expanded into cream bronzers, highlighters, blushers and beauty tools.
Product innovation has been key to REFY’s success, says Hunt. “We don’t want to bring anything to market that doesn’t solve a problem for our audience,”she said. So far, this strategy has paid off. Its brow collection reportedly sold out within minutes after it launched, and later sold over 100,000 units in six weeks. Hunt had predicted the stock would last until May 2021.
But back to Sephora. Just over a year after launching, the brand is now stocked by the beauty giant in the US and Canada, Selfridges and Net-a-Porter in the UK, and Brown Thomas in Ireland. However, direct-to-consumer sales remain the biggest revenue stream of REFY’s business.
Charlotte Geoghegan, Senior Marketing Manager at REFY, noted the brand’s innovation helped fill a gap in the market as did its ethos to create simple, usable and wearable products.
“I often was asked about my brow routine and there were so many steps I thought there had to be a better solution to achieve a fuller brow that had staying power, and the rest is history,” said Hunt. A quick scroll through #featherbrows (27 million views) or #fluffybrows (60 million views) on TikTok surfaces a sea of people using multiple products and techniques to achieve a brushed-up, bold brow look. Tutorials range from complicated to comedic. REFY offers a simplified three-step process.
Geoghegan believes Hunt’s position as co-founder helped pique interest in the brand (Hunt has 1.7 million Instagram followers), highlighting “her brows are what she’s known for.” Her signature look is dewy, highlighted skin, feathered brows and a defined, glossy lip – which fans can now recreate using REFY products.
REFY’s brow collection remains its hero product but its face collection (including bronzer, cream blush, highlighter and a brush) as well as a newly launched lip line aren’t far behind. Instagram is the brand’s primary key channel but Hunt shares, “TikTok is really becoming a huge platform for us to reach a wider audience in an engaging and entertaining way.” Its also focusing on video content to educate customers on how to properly use the “innovative” products, and share a mix of in-house and creator-led content.
According to Geoghegan, the brand works with influencers in the US and UK – the two regions it is actively driving growth in – focusing on gifting to nano, micro and macro creators. “We’re relying on how good the product is to get that content,” Geoghegan says, adding creators are keen to work with the brand on a gifting basis. UK-based TikTokers Elise, Robyn and Leila Nikea, have all showcased gifted REFY products on their channels.
#REFYBeauty has over 19 million views on the platform and #REFYBrows has over 14 million – shoutouts from model Bella Hadid in a TikTok vlog and US TikToker Avani, who has over 40 million followers, have played a role in this.
Like its competitor VIEVE – the makeup brand co-founded by fellow influencer Jamie Genevieve – REFY is also investing in pop-up stores to build and maintain long-term relationships with its customers. It opened the doors to its first physical store in Mayfair in November 2021, and plans to open more this year and into 2023.
“Ecommerce has made shopping so much easier but I think [retail] will continue to be a key part of the customer experience to offer these experiential moments so they can feel a part of the brand and we can foster a deeper relationship with them,” Hunt said.
Beauty brands need to offer something fresh and new to captivate audiences. For REFY, its core values of simplicity and authenticity impact everything it does (as seen through its minimalist and sleek packaging and campaigns, fitting with TikTok’s thriving “clean girl” trend). It strives to identify consumers’ pain points and solve these with new products.
Hunt left us with this nugget of wisdom: “The beauty market is saturated with products, but simplifying, elevating or improving the process to achieve amazing results will always help cut through to noise.”
She adds: “It’s our dedication to doing this with all [of] our products that has helped us become a cult brand.”
By Caroline Edwards, staff writer at CORQ. Picture credit: Jess Hunt via Instagram