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Everything You Need to Know About Indie Beauty Expo

Alexis Krauss

A few months back I had the pleasure of meeting Jillian Wright co-Founder of Indie Beauty Expo (iBE), the largest professionally-curated exhibition of independent beauty brands. Jillian and her team have grown iBE into a bi-coastal event that showcases the best of independent beauty with a special focus on companies committed to formulating with safe and sustainable ingredients. Jillian has worked closely with Jeannie Jarnot of Beauty Heroes to ensure that all clean and green beauty brands are easily identifiable and that none of the nasty ingredients listed here are included in their formulations. iBE is taking place in May in LA and in NYC in August. Learn more about attending here. Xoxo Alexis

For our followers who don't know, tell us a bit about how iBE is different from other conventional beauty shows?   

iBE is differentiated in three ways--all of which are designed to make iBE the most well-targeted and efficient platform to discover and experience the best indie brands:

First, instead of trying to do all of “beauty” or all of “natural” products, we are laser-focused on a specific type of company--independent ones--that offer products in a three specific and contiguous categories: beauty, wellness and lifestyle. This makes it a lot easier for brands, buyers, press and consumers to know what they can expect at our event. In that regard, we are super-targeted. You can access the best, all under one roof, in one day. The key advantage of iBE from a buyer standpoint is around choice and efficiency. iBE’s selection is large enough to provide plenty of choice and room for discovery, but manageable enough so that they can cover it in one day.  

Second, we are also one of a very few true multichannel events in that we bring brands, buyers, press and consumers into the same event. While trade and consumer events are held on separate days and have a different agenda and tempo, there is a clear sense of continuity. We think this is key. As an indie brand, it is essential to leverage all channels to build your brand. Consumer advocacy, in particular, is crucial, as indie consumers tend to be highly involved and vocal, and their support can definitely put a brand on the buyer and press radar. By bringing all the key audiences to our exhibitors, we enable them to maximize the opportunities they can generate by exhibiting at iBE.

Third, since we are not solely an “expo company,” we challenge all conventional rules around a show and take a more personalized approach in everything we do. For example, iBE brings our event to major markets where there is a ready and massive concentration of buyers, press and consumers. We want to make it easy for people to discover indie brands. We also spend a lot of time picking the right venues--this is key for us. As any retailer will tell you, how you present your collection makes a huge difference as to how your audience perceives and values your offering. That is why we avoid big “white-box” convention centers and instead pick venues that are historical, naturally beautiful and with an aesthetic that is simple, elegant and authentic.

Do you find that most of the independent beauty brands you work with are prioritizing sustainability and formulating with safer ingredients?

Absolutely.  Take this amazing new cosmetic line launching at iBE LA, A Pinch of Colour.  Linda Treska, an 18 year veteran in the beauty industry and CEO of Vincent Longo, and teacher at FIT, has developed waterless color cosmetics and packaging.  This is the first of it’s kind.  She is taking sustainability one step further. Loli Beauty, also exhibiting in LA, is a monthly subscription DIY box that sources all of her ingredients from sustainable vendors and her ingredients are organic and natural. Jasmina Aganovic, founder of Mother Dirt  who received her degree in chemical and biological engineering from MIT features “good” bacteria and teaches consumers not to be afraid of being “dirty” by educating them on beneficial bacteria which will positively affects our ecosystem. Ashley Prange of Au Naturale Cosmetics is taking her message to Congress through a petition for safer ingredients.  You can sign it here.  INUF Skincare exhibiting in LA and NY, from Hong Kong uses recycled, repurposed and compostable materials in their packaging and all their formulas are green and sustainable.  And finally, Anju Rupal,  founder Abhati is launching a product line that will help educate girls globally. She might be speaking at iBE.  You can see her TEDx here.

Independent brands have a voice and are exercising their freedom to help better the world in their own way whether is is through sustainability, clean ingredients, helping others and changing laws through congress.  

Tell us about some of your favorite trends in clean and/or green beauty right now.

We see a lot of brands using unique ingredients such as cedar nut oil (Lyeska), and in Lalun Naturals, coconut crystals and coconut vinegar in her toners. There are brands that offer products that are skin issue specific for example, Native Atlas has a muscle rub which was inspired by her husband’s native Ghana where she sources her Shea Butter and Emmaus who has a three step solution to hyperkeratosis and rough body skin.  We are also seeing collaborations between brands like Java Skincare and Fit Glow Beauty.

Why should real women who aren't buyers attend iBE? Talk us through what a consumer can expect at iBE LA.

Consumers are very important to indie brands.  We want the public to learn about independent beauty, lifestyle and wellness brands and their commitment to bringing better beauty to every household.  They will be able to meet the founders, learn about their products and their missions which will hopefully bring enlightenment to their personal care routines.  Not only will they be able to shop the brands on sight, we are also offering speakers, demos, panels and workshops including in the entry price, which we lowered from last year.  This year general entry is $30 and VIP (you get a stellar gift bag is $99)  We want consumers to feel a connection to indie beauty brands, learn and take away something real.   We want everyone to have a fantastic time but leave feeling enlightened and that they have learned something to enrich their lives.

In your opinion what are the biggest challenges independent beauty companies face and what is iBE doing to help them overcome those challenges?

It is one thing to have a nice idea and launch a brand.  It is another thing to promote it successfully and execute distribution.  The business landscape has changed dramatically with social media and the competition is fierce.  This is a process that has to be thought through with conviction and seriousness.  If you build it, they will come doesn’t work anymore.  You have to think through why you are doing it and how you are going to distribute your brand.  Where do you fit in?  What is your mission?  Who is your audience?     We are here to help the brands with that entire process from execution, to marketing and distribution through our resources.  So for the brands, we are offering them support from a business standpoint to get their ideas and passion to market.  Distribution is very important to an indie brand and we want to connect buyers with brands so they can successfully bring their products to more people.