Launched in 2018, Subtl Beauty is built around the idea of having all your makeup essentials — like concealer, blush, and powder — in one easy-to-use stack, or ‘stak’, as the brand dubs its hero product, rather than carrying around a bulky slew of items. But while the packaging may be understated, the company’s presence in the beauty industry is getting louder by the minute. Rachel Reid spoke with Inside Retail about her longtime love for beauty and building a mak
g a makeup brand through the thick of the pandemic, and gave a sneak peek into upcoming plans for the company. Inside Retail: How did the idea for Subtl Beauty come about and how did you come up with the name for the brand? Rachel Reid: The idea for Subtl was born out of a need for greater flexibility in my beauty routine during a period of frequent travel and the dynamics of a new relationship that had me splitting time between two different homes. Frustrated with the space and time-consuming nature of traditional beauty products, I sought out a portable, compact, and user-friendly solution. Unable to find the perfect fit after searching the internet high and low, I decided to create it myself. The name Subtl (pronounced Subtle) reflects my desire for a makeup routine that is discreet yet impactful. I was fed up with big, loud, oversized packaging concepts that demanded bigger bags and a long application time. I envisioned makeup as a discreet wing-woman, a secret weapon that goes where you go, always available but not demanding excessive time and attention, allowing the wearer to take center stage and become the main character. IR: Prior to launching Subtl Beauty, can you describe your previous work experience and how it may have benefited you in building your current business? RR: My journey into the beauty industry began at the young age of 11 years old, applying labels to skincare tubes, I think I earned 10 cents a label! Though not my ultimate calling, it sparked my passion for beauty. From waiting tables to a career in digital marketing and project management, each experience contributed to my business-building journey. Labeling products helped me understand the unsexy and practical side of running a beauty business, waiting tables instilled patience and customer focus, digital marketing enhanced brand visibility, and project management taught discipline and risk management. IR: What have been the biggest highlights and setbacks you’ve experienced in building the business thus far? RR: While it may seem unconventional as a highlight, a moment of pride for me was when we were finally able to extend health benefits to our small team. It signified substantial support for the dedicated individuals driving my dream. On the flip side, setbacks are always plentiful in startup land! During our second year of business, we navigated through Covid-related challenges; lab shutdowns, stock issues, logistics delays, freight price hikes, you name it! We always say we do our best work when our back is up against a wall and I do think that’s a product of our early years taking place during such an unpredictable time. IR: In December 2023, Subtl Beauty raised $8.4 million in a Series A funding round. With this capital in place, what are some potential areas of expansion for the brand planned? RR: Channel expansion is a primary focus for us. Having experienced success online, we’ve cherished the opportunity to engage with our customers on a 1:1 level. The obvious next step for us now is to bring our brand to where our customers prefer to shop IRL. This is a strategic move that we intend to take our time with to ensure we are providing the best possible experience for our customers. IR: In such a competitive retail market, can you describe Subtl Beauty’s unique points of differentiation? RR: Our unique selling proposition (USP) is elegantly simple, the Subtl Stak stands out as the most portable and convenient makeup solution available in the market today. Whatever you need to take on the go with you for that day for a simple look, you add to your Stak and toss it into your bag. Convenience in beauty is our largest differentiating factor. IR: What are your top priorities and areas of focus for the brand over the next 12 months? RR: Over the next 12 months, our priorities are to round out our team, introduce new sales channels to complement our direct-to-consumer (DTC) experience, and release an array of exciting new products. IR: What is a piece of advice that you wish you would have been able to give to yourself when you were at the beginning of your business journey? RR: Trust your gut.