By Cat Chen, Founder & CEO of Skylar
Putting on perfume has been a part of my daily morning routine since I was a teenager – it made me feel more put together and ready to take on the day. When my daughter Anne was four months old, I noticed she was allergic to my fragrance. She wasn’t alone, as 15% of people are allergic to fragrance, and I couldn’t find a hypoallergenic fragrance option. That was when I first started learning about the fragrance industry. The first question I had was, “what is in my fragrance?” That question turned out to be much harder to answer than I thought. The fragrance industry is unregulated, and tons of harmful chemicals are commonly used, including phthalates which are hormone disruptors and currently banned in Europe. When I asked the women around me about their fragrance, I heard a lot of desires that were not being met by the marketplace – women were looking for safer, lighter fragrances and a more convenient, less ‘salesy’ shopping experience. With the insights and support of the women around me (who turned out to be future Skylar customers), I launched Skylar.
Skylar is a beauty brand, and our mission is to make every woman beautiful in her body, every day. We started our journey in clean fragrance with a hypoallergenic and cruelty-free collection of women’s perfumes. In April 2017, we began selling our fragrances directly to customers on our website skylar.com, because I wanted to be very hands-on when it came to serving our customers and listening to their feedback. The feedback was very positive from the beginning, and before I knew it, we were struggling to stay in stock. I bootstrapped Skylar for over a year, and that was a scary and lonely period, but also a fun and extremely rewarding learning experience. I was storing inventory in my garage, packing boxes on my dining room table, and driving to the post office every day to drop off orders. During that time, I learned a lot about our customers and I was also inspired by them. I heard many customers’ stories on how they discovered Skylar and why they use Skylar. One particular customer told me that as a cancer patient going through chemotherapy, she began paying a lot more attention to everything she put on her body. That’s how she found Skylar, and welcoming back this part of her daily routine helped her feel a little more like herself again. Stories like these are my motivation to keep building more great products and reaching more women.
To help scale our growth and realize more of the things our customers were asking for, we brought in our first external funding at the end of 2017. Since then, we’ve hired a small team of 6 women, launched 14 new SKUs including candles and travel-sized perfumes, crowdsourced a scent, created a co-branded charitable candle with Sprinkles Cupcakes, and grew our business 1,000% year over year. Our customers care about making a positive impact, and together we donated to several non-profit organizations we believe in, including Step Up, the National Forest Foundation, and the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. With each milestone our community asked for more - more products, more access, more positive impact, more support. And with each request we received from our community and with each incredible story we heard from our customers, our team grew hungrier and more determined to continue pursuing this journey and growing this brand further - to make Skylar accessible to even more women across the world.
Against this backdrop, I’m excited to share with you the news that Skylar has raised $8 million to fuel our next chapter of growth. This brings our total funding to date to $11 million. This round of fundraising was led by Beth Ferreira at FirstMark Capital, who as the former COO of Fab and executive at Etsy comes with extensive operational experience and network. Other investors who participated in this round include Kara Nortman at Upfront Ventures, Amplify LA, Gingerbread Capital, Brian Lee (The Honest Company and LegalZoom founder), Karen Katz (former CEO of Neiman Marcus), Jeff Kearl (Stance Socks founder and CEO), and Jake Kassan (Mvmt Watches founder and CEO). 2019 is going to be an exciting year for Skylar, and we’re excited to create more products, expand our distribution, and reach more women who are interested in clean beauty.
A brand is bigger than the products it sells, it’s what you stand for. At Skylar, we stand with women – by creating high-quality products for women, empowering women in the workplace, and giving back to women in need. I am truly grateful for you - our amazing customers, community, team, and investors. Skylar is only possible because of your support. Together we can affect change in a dirty industry and present a cleaner option for women everywhere. The Sky’s the limit, and this is just the beginning. Thank you for being a part of the movement.