BEC + AVA - ULTRA VIOLETTE
When a new brand launches and sells out of its entire line in 24 hours, regardless of the product category, you take notice. When a new brand gets stocked by online beauty giant Adore Beauty within a few months of launch and becomes their number one selling sunscreen brand within a matter of days (outselling multi-national beauty brands) you really start to take notice. And when this new brand announces their launch into beauty behemoth SEPHORA Australia at the tender age of just 1 year old, it's clear this brand means business. AND - when you were lucky enough to have worked (in a previous life) with the two co-founders of said brand, you comment ridiculously excitedly on all their social posts, give them a moment to catch their breath....and then, of course, ring them up to pick their brains on all things beauty, bags and of course their new baby the brilliant beauty bombshell launching in SEPHORA Australia this month, ULTRA VIOLETTE.
So, Ava + Bec what is in your bag right now?
Ava: Which bag? Ha! I have a million on the go at once but my main bag is pretty lo-fi. Lucy Folk sunnies, Supreme Screen, about three packets of gum, Visine eye drops the allergy ones, about 10 lipsticks in varying pink shades - from fluro to nude, AirPods, eyeliner and usually a few credit cards (I don’t have a wallet).
Monica: Oh watch this space – I’ll fix that for you!
Bec: My office: laptop, phone, AirPods, Gentle Monster sunglasses, Bailey Nelson reading glasses (I’m going blind), 5 NARS lipsticks (all roughly the same shade!!) and Ultra Violette Sheen Screen SPF30 in peach.
Bec's Ultra Violette sunscreen alongside her VESTIRSI ERIN bag
Number one beauty tip?
Ava: Take care of your skin and invest in a quality routine - this will mean something different to everyone. It makes my beauty routine faster and means I’m always confident enough to walk out of the house without makeup. This, of course, includes daily SPF use.
Bec: wear sunscreen every day - of course! And always go to bed with clean skin.
Number 1 beauty product you buy over and over again?
Ava: Kevyn Aucoin Volume Mascara, Mambo eyeliner by NARS and now the Charlotte Tilbury Hollywood Flawless Filter - that stuff is amazing and is now all I wear in terms of foundation (see above point about taking care of your skin!).
Bec: Lancome Hypnose mascara, other than being the perfect formula for my lashes, when I worked at L’Oreal I met their “Brush Master” in Paris who creates all the brushes for Lancome mascaras and I think of his amazing workshop of brushes often when I use this product.
Why is Ultra Violette different to every other sunscreen on the market?
Bec: Ultra Violette was created by two girls that really understand beauty and how a sunscreen needs to work seamlessly in with everything else going onto your face. It has to be a product you love so much you will wear it every day so needs to stand up to a more rigorous skincare standard than other sunscreens on the market.
Ava: We also wanted to make SPF fun and relatable - which it hadn't been historically. This ethos flows through everything from our packaging, tone of voice and campaigns.
The Ultra Violette line up at launch
You refer to Ultra Violette products as "skinscreen" but what exactly is “skinscreen”?
Bec: A skinscreen is our name for what makes Ultra Violette special… she is part skincare and sunscreen. A perfect combo of the two!
So often, founders create a product to solve a problem. When you came up with the concept of “skinscreen” were you solving a problem for yourselves?
Bec: we were absolutely solving a problem when we created Ultra Violette but not just for Ava and I. I think Australian women, in particular, are pretty savvy when it comes to understanding that sun damage is the #1 cause of premature ageing but there are very limited options of a daily SPF that you actually want to wear or is from a brand you like and can relate to. So we created Ultra Violette to solve this problem.
Ava: yeh definitely, I’m lazy and always time-poor in the mornings (getting out of bed is a struggle) so anything that’s going to combine a few steps works for me!
Who is Violette? Ava, is she you?!
Ava: Lol. Yes and no. I mean I think we are still yet to define who she is, I haven’t done a good enough job of letting her shine through - but that will come. She definitely shares some characteristics of mine, that’s for sure.
Ava, How do you get into the voice of Violette when writing your marketing materials or social captions? Frank Body co-founder Jess Hatzis says she likes to listen to certain music to get into the voice of Frank. Do you draw on inspiration from anywhere?
Ava: I think that Violette is probably still a little too close to me for me to have to transition into her, maybe when she’s a little more defined.
Tell me about your colour choices for Ultra Violette. Was it difficult to settle on your brand colours and why did you steer away from the pastel pink so many beauty brands tend to use?
Ava: I think that “glossier” pink was just not going to work for us. Although pretty (and very of the moment), it was too soft and not bold enough. We knew we needed to launch with a bang - with impact. And also, blue and yellow are the colours often associated with sunscreens so we wanted to play on that in our own way - enter the use of Yves Klein Blue. The neon/pastels were input from our amazing designer - they were reflecting the bright zincs our parents would smear on our faces when we were young (those of you who are old enough will appreciate this).
Besides an excellent high performing product, when it comes to logo, tone of voice, brand colours and packaging what is the most important factor in building a strong brand that will stand out and catch the eyes (and hearts) of consumers who see thousands of brands each day?
Ava: look I think it’s really a combination of all of the above and I think there’s also a really intangible thing, it’s not luck, maybe it’s timing?
They say don’t go into business with friends. You two had already worked together before going into business with each other, so there was less risk. Would you consider yourself friends or just close colleagues and what is your opinion on working with friends?
Ava: Oh, we’re definitely really good friends - I adore Bec, she is honestly one of my favourite people. Bec was coming to my birthday events long before we launched Ultra Violette but as she says, we don’t run in the same circles and our weekends really never overlap unless we plan them to. I’d be kinda scared to work with a friend who had similar strengths to mine, I think that’s where it can get tricky and grey. For us, we have very clear roles and responsibilities so there’s not too much overlap although we do make big decisions together, of course.
Bec: I would definitely consider Ava a close friend... She is clever and funny, and I could never have launched Ultra Violette without her by my side. However, we aren’t in each other’s immediate social circles which I think is good so we get a break from each other as it is a pretty intense experience launching and working on a brand with someone else. Plus she is one of the only people that can drink Champagne at a pace I’m happy to keep up with. That helps!
Ultra Violette co-founders Ava Matthews + Bec Jefferd
Each month we see new beauty brands popping up, often created by quite young enthusiastic entrepreneurs. Bec, do you think you could have achieved what you’ve achieved so far with Ultra Violette 20 years ago? And what is the most valuable thing the past 20 years in FMGC, retail, beauty and product development has taught you, that you’ve bought to Ultra Violette?
Bec: Mon, is this your way of asking the ‘over 40’ question? If so I’m totally cool with that! There is no way I could have created UV 20 years ago. Back then I was enthusiastic about climbing the corporate ladder. However that did give me plenty of great experience working in some fantastic companies (BP and L’Oreal) and most importantly in some amazing teams. It taught me that the people you surround yourself with are as important as the work you’re actually doing. We have a network of incredible people, mostly women, that Ava and I have collected over the years that support us in the growth of UV from legal, to forecasting, to design and VM. We are lucky to have these wonderful people in our circle and that takes time (ok many years) to curate.
You are both working in (and on) the business daily but also have busy personal lives. Bec you’re a mum of two young boys, Ava, you’re flat out planning a wedding. So between a rapidly growing online business (we all know e-commerce never sleeps) and your personal lives, there’s a lot going on. How do you “switch off” and relax at night, which is obviously very important to help manage stress and positive mental health?
Ava: Eeeek… It’s hard. I am very reluctant to give my time to things/people that don’t serve me so I won’t commit to something unless I want to do it - I am quite selfish like that. This means my weeknights are pretty free and spent usually with my partner watching The Sopranos. If I have a week where I have to be places during the week, I do tend to freak out a bit and get anxious. I can be a bit of a homebody. Bec and I truly believe that our mental/physical health should be almost treated as its own job - it’s a priority - so I also make sure I work out 4 times a week and try and get as much sleep as I can. I am horrid with less than 8 hours.
Bec: This is such an important question!! I choose to pace myself by being aware of my personal energy reserves and focusing on them at least once a day and not always at night. Being your own boss means you can take a pilates class at 10am, or go for breakfast with my little boys, sometimes it’s as simple as turning in early and reading a great book. So I don’t think there is one answer, and it is important you find what works for you and dedicate some time to it every single day. This is a marathon not a sprint, and we need to look after ourselves.
Ultra Violette SPF 50 Supreme Screen
What does success mean to you both, and what needs to happen in the next 12 months for you to consider the year a success?
Ava: I think Bec and I are both similar in that it takes a lot for us to feel that we’ve succeeded at something. Bec is better than I am at being able to stop and reflect and say “oh look what we’ve done in X or Y” and I’m a bit like "yeh yeh, whatever." It is important to celebrate along the way, but it’s hard! To be honest, I’m not really sure what other things (aside from pure revenue goals) will make me feel like a success. International expansion in the next year would be great - and not only that but a strong launch in that country would probably do it for me.
Bec: I am a type-A person so there are many things on the list of what needs to happen for me to feel like we have succeeded in the next week, let alone the next 12 months! Ava and I gave ourselves a revenue milestone that if we achieve by January 24th, 2020 (our 1 year anniversary of launching UV) we are going to reward ourselves. We did hit that milestone, so had a beautiful dinner with our partners to share in that achievement. So we are super energised for the next 12 months! We will have targets for sales, new product development launches, key hires, and increased distribution. We don’t like to do things by halves so all will be on the cards for 2021.
What’s next for Ultra Violette? And will you ever expand into other categories beyond Sun protection?
Ava: Lots in the NPD pipeline and then fingers crossed we go international!
Where will Ultra Violette be in 10 years?
Bec: We talk about the global beauty industry a lot… the French seem to have a natural ability to deliver incredible fragrance brands, the Koreans are pretty good at skincare, and the Americans are great at colour cosmetics. We think the Aussies deserve to be global leaders at sunscreen, and more specifically skin-screen. In 10 years, I hope Ultra Violette has paved the way and is solving this problem of finding a great daily SPF for many women around the world.
What was the best piece of advice you received at the beginning of this journey?
Ava: Don’t waste time learning a whole new skillset when you can outsource it - spend the time on the things you’re good at, and things only you can do. Eg. don’t spend months learning how to code when you can pay someone to do it in an hour. Be resourceful with your time, you’ll need it!
Bec: Play to your strengths which we are lucky are very complimentary so we are sticking to this playbook for now.
What is one piece of advice you received at the beginning of this journey, that you wish you followed but didn’t?
Ava: Proofread everything.
Bec: There are lots of pieces of advice that we received and haven’t done yet but have plans to do at some stage, for example it's important to me that we invest in articulating our shared values and what we intend to take into UV together. We are about to get started on this work but haven’t had the time yet.
The best seller - Ultra Violette's SPF 50 Queen Screen
What would your advice be for young women wanting to create a brand (not necessarily in beauty) but in any relatively saturated, competitive market?
Ava: Stress-test your idea - with multiple people. Different opinions are a good thing - build the feedback into your idea. Find a business partner you could trust with your life because it can be a lonely/ harder venture by yourself.
Bec: Spend the time upfront on identifying what problem your brand will solve, and really dig into how this will play out into a commercially viable brand. When we started planning UV we gave ourselves 6 months to complete a business plan before we did any product or brand development. We still look back at this plan as it gave us a fantastic foundation.
If you could go back to 21-year-old selves, what advice would you give yourselves?
Ava: Eat the fucking doughnut and chill the fuck out.
Bec: Listen to your gut, and enjoy the ride. Life isn’t meant to be a straight line, there will be twists and turns that lead you to where you are meant to be.
There you have it, ladies. We hope you enjoyed meeting Bec, Ava and Ultra Violette. As beloved beauty editor extraordinaire Leigh Campbell said: “I’ve personally trialled all of the products and am happy to say I think an iconic Aussie beauty brand may have just been born” and I couldn't agree more.
You can shop Ultra Violette here
Till next time,
PS - For any questions or to suggest our next IN HER BAG guest please comment below!