Interview with Aaron Chatterley: Behind the scenes of Indu Beauty
Empowering Teens and breaking beauty norms with Aaron Chatterley, indu.
We talk with Aaron Chatterley, co-founder of the newly launched teen-focused beauty brand, indu. Aaron’s journey through the world of e-commerce and beauty retail has been marked by success, and his latest venture is poised to make a significant impact.
Before we jump into indu, could you share a bit about your background?
My journey began in the ’90s, where I cut my teeth in web development. A major milestone in my career was co-founding the online beauty retailer Feelunique, which we later sold to Sephora. When I sold my remaining shares in Feelunique in 2021, it was a business with 2.5 million active customers and a vast portfolio of cosmetic and fragrance products. This deal also helped bolster Sephora’s presence in the UK – they recently opened a store in Westfields, London and have a 2nd store opening on November 15th in Stratford, East London.
Since then, I’ve been hard at work developing indu, a teen makeup and skincare brand, which we proudly launched this September.
And you’ve worked with co-founders on this venture right?
Yes. Richard Schiessel, my co-founder at Feelunique was the first to join me. And then Reena Hammer, the former Managing Director at Urban Retreat, joined as the 3rd co-founder. Together we bring a wealth of industry knowledge and retail experience to the table. Building a dedicated team of experts was a crucial part of our journey. People are at the core of what we do.
We’d love to hear more about the backstory of indu. Where did the idea originate and how did it evolve?
The idea for indu came out of a conversation with my twin teenage daughters, Frankie and India. They shared their struggles with finding suitable beauty products made just for them.
The fashion industry does a great job designing age-appropriate, fun, and safe clothing for teenagers. However, the world of beauty products tells a different story. Teens are bombarded with images of unattainable beauty standards on social media, while the products on the shelves don’t match their age or cater to their skin’s needs. As a parent, it’s concerning, almost exploitative. Social media adds to these unique challenges, impacting their self-esteem and self-image, and that really was a major driving force for us.
On the high street and on social media, most beauty products in their price range are aimed at the 25-and-above consumer, completely missing the mark when it comes to teenagers’ unique needs.
So, our first hurdle was creating something that resonated as authentic to teenagers themselves. What we, as parents – a different generation really find “cool” doesn’t always align with their perspective.
The next challenge was designing products explicitly for teenage skin. Most offerings on the market are not suitable for this age group and made for much older audiences, but teenage skin is entirely different. During these years, their skin is at its healthiest, packed with collagen and elasticity, though also susceptible to environmental and hormonal stressors.
Our mission with indu was to build a brand from the ground up, with a laser focus on teenagers at every step. When it came to product design, we wanted to offer shades, textures, fragrances, and coverage that resonated with them. indu was meticulously designed from the ground up for teenagers, and that’s at the heart of everything we do.
So, how have you maintained that authentic teenage “voice” within indu all this time?
Right from the start we knew we needed to engage with our audience in a way that truly resonated with them. We were fortunate to partner with a research agency called Kids Know Best, specialising in connecting with teens on their favourite platforms, creating a sort of digital haven for us. This became the space where we could ask questions, run polls, and have meaningful conversations. It was like having a direct hotline to the teenage world, all within a safe and familiar online environment.
We really committed to understanding their needs with thorough research. We conducted a three-month-long survey involving 2,000 teenagers. And we didn’t limit ourselves to beauty-centric questions; we asked them about their music tastes, preferred fashion brands, and even their favourite scents. Then, we took all this data and teamed up with The Yard, our creative and branding agency so that group of teens and their feedback played a pivotal role in shaping our brand identity.
We then presented three or four different branding concepts back to them. At the same time, we thought we knew which one was going to be the ‘winner’ but what was surprising was that despite our expertise in the beauty industry, we thought we had their preferences figured out, but we had it wrong! They took us in an entirely different direction. This experience marked the first of many eye-openers for us over the last two years.
What we learned is that our notion of what’s ‘cool’ as adults doesn’t always align with what teenagers find cool. This ‘trend’ extended to every aspect of building indu; fragrance, texture, colour – even the words we used. So, we put together a committee which has 160 members and growing, and they’ve been part of the journey since month three. We’d come up with ideas we believed were golden, only for them to give us a reality check and say, “Nah, that’s just ‘cheese.'” Regardless of our experience, we needed their insights to ensure we stayed in sync with teenagers.
The committee are an integral part of this journey. We firmly believe that the only way to craft an authentic brand is by working together with our audience. And so far, it’s proving to be a winning strategy.
How will you maintain this relevance as your audience matures?
Our intention is to remain a demographic brand rather than a generational brand – the de facto teen brand. I don’t believe that’s been done before. Our challenge is to stay current in terms of fashion, colours, textures, and more – again, this is something the fashion industry does really well and I believe we can do it here with teenage beauty. We’ve assembled a growing team of teenage ambassadors and committee members to help us stay relevant.
You mentioned the importance of the team; could you elaborate on this?
As a founder, I’m aware of my weaknesses… I’m not great at finance, detail or admin for example, but I’ve got a lot of good people around me that are great at those things. I also believe in building strong and lasting relationships. People buy from people, and it’s so important to leave a positive impression with every interaction, whether it’s with a supplier, an interviewee, or someone you’re selling to. We had this same philosophy building Feelunique – we wanted to be “nice to do business with”. And as a result, we’ve built some amazing friendships and relationships out of that. I think the need for positive human connections remains stronger than ever.
“We wanted to be nice to do business with. And as a result, we’ve built some amazing friendships and relationships out of that.”
Any key challenges or concerns that keep you awake at night?
What keeps me up at night? Well, firstly, it’s the question of whether our teenage audience will genuinely embrace our products. While we’ve invested heavily in research and we’ve created a quality product, but only time will tell if the quality and authenticity we’ve strived for resonate.
Another significant load is that this time around, we’ve raised funding of nearly £4m. As someone who has not been through the whole funding cycle before, that feels like a huge responsibility. A substantial portion of it comes from private individuals, and being entrusted with other people’s money is a weighty responsibility that I don’t take lightly.
With the pop-up event in Covent Garden last week, it’s clear you’re making strides beyond digital. Will indu continue to focus on being a D2C or are there plans to expand into physical retail spaces?
The pop-up event in Covent Garden was an exciting step for us. While we are currently a D2C brand we believe it is critical to provide physical retail experiences for our audience. We’re in discussions with potential retail partners here in the UK and have international interest too.
Our goal is to provide teenagers with easy access to our products in the way that suits them best, whether it’s online or in a physical store. We’re continually evaluating the best strategies to reach our market and evolve as we need to.
👏🏼 From Team TRB, best of luck to Aaron, Reema and the indu team and thanks for the great interview! 👏🏼
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