Being an indie beauty brand can be tough. Without the budget of a beauty behemoth, it’s hard to stand out in the saturated beauty market. That’s why Lynn Powers, the co-founder and CEO of Masami Hair Care, created the Conscious Beauty Collective (CBC), which enables small indie beauty brands to have a retail presence to grow consumer engagement and boost their presence, all while sending customers to their DTC sites. The CBC had its first pop-up store in San Francisco this spring and opened its Boston unit on September 1.

The concept has been a game changer for small indie brands who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford a brick-and-mortar retail distribution and the perks that go with a store presence. Lynn launched Masami in February 2020, right before the pandemic hit, so she was well aware of the struggles that can come with running a small brand. “When you’re an entrepreneur, so many times you’re beating your head against the same things,” she said. “When we looked at the stuff that was working, the one thing that stood out head and shoulders above the rest was the brand partnerships we’ve done.”

Since they couldn’t get into salons when they launched, Masami partnered with other clean beauty brands on giveaways, purchase exchanges and Instagram Lives. “That was a really good way for us to grow our audience organically,” Lynn said. “We grew our email list from 2,500 to about 30,000 just through these partnerships.” Wanting to accelerate that, she came up with the CBC. “Because we’re all indie brands, that means none of us have any significant distribution, so it’s difficult to get awareness,” Lynn said. “It’s a lot easier if you can partner together because the strength of the collective is we have 700,000 Instagram followers, instead of my 29,000.”

Lynn considered the first pop-up an experiment and learned a lot from it. “We’ve been able to apply a lot of the insights from San Francisco to this new spot,” Lynn said. “Hopefully, as we do these, they’ll continue to get better and better because we’re learning every time.”

Carefully selected, the new location in Boston is in Natick Mall, with their store across from Nordstrom and Louis Vuitton, and will be open through the end of the year. Though the CBC was offered to stay longer in San Francisco, Lynn learned that operating as a pop for four months is the sweet spot. “Selfishly, this is about the brands—I’m not trying to be a retailer,” she said. “I’m trying to create awareness for the brands, including mine, and so going to a new market where you can make a new splash [is important]. You’ve got new influencers, local media—it’s a better proposition because when you’re somewhere for a while, you start to get diminishing returns.”

Another major takeaway from the first pop-up is that founder engagement is key, beyond having the brands in the store. The CBC is about more than making transactions—the aim is to raise brand awareness, so having engaged founders is crucial, and Lynn sought out founders who understood that. “It’s more about the consumer experience because we’re trying to create a place where people can discover amazing brands that they’ve never heard of before,” Lynn said. “If they walk in and it looks just like Ulta, that’s not a very compelling proposition.”

Currently, 31 brands are participating in the CBC pop-up in Boston, including returning brands such as Buffalo Gal Organic Skincare + Beauty, Elaine Wellness, and H. Honeycup, as well as newcomers such as lipstick brand Swedish Jealousy and Dr. Dana.

“We have a really robust event calendar again; this was a good learning from San Francisco,” Lynn said. “We always have something going on.” That includes regular livestreams on social media, highlighting a particular product with a discount every week, gifting special sample bags, and pop-ups within the pop-up with adjacent brands, such as jewelry designers and aura readers.

For future CBC pop-ups, Lynn will continue to look for high-end malls with heavy foot traffic. Dallas or Houston are strong contenders for the next pop-up in the spring. Eventually, she hopes to scale it even more and potentially have multiple pop-ups at once and to partner with other founders to make that happen. “Working with other founders has been the best part,” Lynn said. “Everyone likes spending time together. It feels fulfilling because it’s really hard being a founder. We’re in such a competitive category; a lot of times you feel like you’re slogging away and it’s nice to have other people who understand that.”