Beauty & Balance

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What do you do when the launch date of your new brand collides with the coronavirus pandemic?
You could make your personal care products free, as one company did.
Henry Davis and Ari Wengroff, cofounders of a new venture-backed brand incubator called Arfa, were slated to launch their first brand on Wednesday, March 18.
As COVID-19 cases continued to grow in the U.S., the duo — Davis is a former Glossier executive, Wengroff previously ran Broadly at Vice — decided to continue with the scheduled launch, but make it appropriate for the rapidly changing and unsettling circumstances.
The brand, called Hiki, is comprised of personal-care products designed to deal with different sweat-related issues. For the time-being, health-care workers and medical professionals can choose two products on Arfa's web site and, save for a $2.50 shipping fee, get them for free.
The average consumer can also get in on the free product action, though they must show proof that they have "shared a message of kindness" on social media and must pay a $5 shipping fee.
"We didn't feel that bringing a commercial launch to market was appropriate ," Davis told WWD.
Davis is the former president and chief operating officer of Glossier. Wengroff is a former media executive — she ran Broadly at Vice before teaming with Davis on Arfa.
Arfa is just the latest brand incubator aimed at creating modernized personal care products. Brandable, which makes feminine care brand Queen V and Love Anybody, and Beach House, which developed Moon oral care, are others like it.
Arfa's point of differentiation is that instead of creating brands backed by one personality, celebrity or influencer, as many brand incubators are doing, it is crowd-sourcing product ideas from a group of consumers known as the "Arfa collective." The group — ages 16 to 65 and spread throughout the country — helps with product conception, development and feedback. For their input, the collective, made up of "hundreds of people" shares 5 percent of the company's profits.
Hiki currently consists of a body-chafing powder, body wipes, and a deodorant in a variety of scents. There is also a travel-size deodorant. When it eventually goes on sale broadly, the brand's prices will range from $14 to $16.50 for full-size products.
Future brands incubated by Arfa will focus on personal-care products that don't necessarily exist yet. "The business models of CPG companies have been the same for 100 years," said Davis. "There's not a place in the aisle for most of what we're developing."
When talking to its collective, "we don't go in with an agenda," said Wengroff. "We're just there to hear and learn."
Davis and Wengroff launched Arfa with backing from venture capital, but declined to say how much was raised.
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