According to Sara Happ, “the world doesn’t need more lip stuff. It needs the right stuff.” A former reporter for ESPN, the entrepreneur experienced dry, chapped lips during winter months, leading her to create her namesake brand’s first product, The Lip Scrub, by mixing sugar and essential oils. She launched the first-to-mass lip exfoliator in 2005, and since then, has expanded the brand’s lip offerings, which is now sold in 400 stores nationwide, and distributed in 20 countries. After 13 years on the market, the brand is gearing up to have its biggest year yet thanks in part to its newly appointed President, Peggy Fry, a seasoned tech executive with a background in digital marketing. A unique hire, Peggy has already utilized her tech experiences to relaunch with a new look and feel, as well upgraded data capture and customer re-targeting technology. Peggy has also implemented the use of Smart Label technology, enabling consumers to interact with the Sara Happ brand during purchase via in-store displays by tapping their smartphones. Here, CEW Beauty Insider sat down with Peggy and Sara to learn more about the exciting new steps the indie brand is taking across multiple verticals to grow the brand.

CEW Beauty Insider: Why did you see the need to relaunch the Sara Happ website? Are any other tech/digital changes on the horizon for the brand?

Peggy Fry: We relaunched the site so that we could move to a new platform (Shopify) to take advantage of the incredible e-commerce and marketing tools that many other platforms don’t offer. I’m a big believer in testing and using data, so we are currently trying things like Smart Labels as a way to connect with consumers in the store, and Facebook Messenger Bots to reach Gen Z and Millennials. We want to make it easier for Gen Zs to shop, connect, manage their orders and communicate with the brand.

CEW Beauty Insider: Why did you decide to start implementing Smart Label technology?

PF: Smart Labels are another way for us to communicate directly with the consumers. We are able to reach out and speak to them via video from Sara about things such as how to use our products and why lip scrubbing is so important — all through their phones. It’s been a great way to educate the consumer when we aren’t physically there. It’s also a great way to begin relationships with consumers who we otherwise may never know. We are in the very early stages of the roll out, so we don’t have any stats to provide yet, but our retailers are eagerly placing them in store and excited to have them as another touch point for consumers.

CEW Beauty Insider: Tell us about your marketing/communication plans.
Sara Haap: We have such amazing support from press — it’s really how my brand launched in 2005 (People magazine wrote about an A-list celebrity buying my products and my site crashed the next day from so many orders!). So, PR and keeping editors up to date on our latest launches is always going to be important for us. We’ve ramped up our social media efforts recently and are partnering with other incredible brands like Kopari and Borghese to reach a wider beauty-loving audience. We are also focusing more and more on digital marketing through retargeting and are testing new platforms and technologies (mentioned above and some fun secret platforms that are under wraps for now!). We started on QVC last year and that’s been huge for us because there’s nothing like being able to show a live before and after to get consumers excited about the immediate results of our brand. We took inspiration from that and we are bringing a similar experience to consumers in person through eventing and PAs. The goal is to make lip facials and lip care an everyday part of everyone’s routine.

CEW Beauty Insider: Why did the brand start branching into other lip categories and are there plans to introduce new categories?

SH: I focus on doing one thing perfectly – and that’s lips! When I was out at events, scrubbing lips in person, everyone would ask me the same questions: Why doesn’t my lip gloss stay on? Why do I have these lip wrinkles? Why are my lips thinning? So, I decided to branch into other treatment and color lip products to answer every single one of these issues. I made a gloss that stays put all day, a plumper, and primer that fills in lip wrinkles, painlessly plumps lips, and helps color adhere. I have more questions to get through, so our goal is to keep making products to solve them all.

CEW Beauty Insider: What are some best sellers?

SH: Our Lip Slip is our #1 best seller and has been since launch. It sells at about a one to one ratio with our Lip Scrubs no matter how many flavors of scrub we have available at any given time. We have our original Lip Slip in a jar and then made a Lip Slip Tube that’s a slightly glossier formula, but easy to toss in your purse or back pocket for on the go. We have also seen major growth in our Dream Slip since it launched in January – it’s a night cream for your lips and was made to answer customer demand for a nighttime version of the Lip Slip without shine. We always get a big spike when we sell a Limited-Edition Lip Scrub like our Coconut and our Sprinkles Red Velvet, but the classic Brown Sugar (one of the first Sara made in her kitchen) continues to reign.

CEW Beauty Insider: Are there any future distribution and expansion plans?

PF: Growth will come from new products new markets and distribution, our own direct to consumer business. We are currently sold in the US, Canada, and Japan within retailers such as Anthropologie, Bluemercury and Birchbox. We have lots of interest from distributors and various retailers across the world and are exploring our options for growth.

CEW Beauty Insider: Who is funding/investing in the brand?

PF: We’re privately owned. The brand has operated profitably since its inception. That said, we’ve had a lot of inbound interest from investors. As a small brand, we realize that if we want to grow rapidly we need to take on financing. We’re exploring options right now and are excited about some of the investors we’re in conversations with.