The Best Entrepreneurial Lessons From Summer Fridays Founders Marianna Hewitt And Lauren Gores Ireland
Last month, influencers Marianna Hewitt and Lauren Gores Ireland celebrated the fourth anniversary of their beauty brainchild, Summer Fridays. In just a short time, the duo has become nothing short of beauty moguls, creating a cult-favorite brand that’s dominated shelf spaces in national Sephoras to every Instagram shopper’s medicine cabinet.
Summer Fridays launched in 2018 with a single SKU product: The Jet Lag Mask. Despite being told a moisturizing mask wasn’t disruptive enough to start a brand, Hewitt and Ireland skyrocketed the brand to success – becoming the #5 most popular skincare brand in the United States in 2021, according to Tribe Dynamics. Today they have 14 products – from their award-winning Lip Butter Balm to their most recent launch, the Dream Oasis Deep Hydration Serum – and a loyal beauty-loving community of over 500,000 followers. And as if hitting four years and a spot on the Top 10 Skincare Brands list wasn’t enough, they also just surpassed 2 million products sold. With much to celebrate, Hewitt and Ireland reflect on the past four years and the lessons they’ve learned that have propelled them to entrepreneurial success.
Think Big and Plan Big. Don’t just dream big; plan big too. Despite being a two-person team from the start, Ireland and Hewitt thought ahead of the curve, preparing everything from their finances to their operations and packaging for their eventual growth. For example, before launching at Sephora, Hewitt and Ireland used to go to their local Sephora stores and walk up and down the isles, envisioning their brand at the store and what it would look like. “We thought about all of the things we wanted to do and did those things, even before we needed to,” said Hewitt. “We knew that in order to sell in Sephora eventually, we would need to have a pre-designed box to sit on shelves. We didn’t even have to have a box for our e-commerce site, but Sephora was a huge goal. And because we had planned to launch, hopefully, we made a box. Instead of support having to take us on board and having really long lead times to create this product, we already had it and were ahead of the game.”
Your People Are Your Secret Sauce. Investing in your people is pivotal to growth. Summer Fridays first full-time hire was a Social Media Manager, a hire who’s still with them to this day. Being a social-first and digital-first brand, their customers use social media to interact – it’s their modern form of customer service. But once it got to a point where Ireland and Hewitt couldn’t field the extreme amount of the correspondents, they knew that where they needed the most help was where their customers were. “As a company, we’re good at collectively putting aside our egos,” said Ireland, “We know what we’re good at, and we also know what we’re not the best at. That’s allowed us to be open and eager to bring on team members that we believe can do the job better.”
Be Your Own Case Study. Create a product out of a personal need. What’s something you use in your everyday life? Can you make it better? Ireland and Hewitt started summer Fridays in 2018 while Hewitt was traveling non-stop and often suffered from jet lag and could never find a product that made her feel more awake. At the same time, Ireland was newly pregnant and looking for clean but effective skincare products. Out of both of their needs, the cult-favorite, best-selling Jet Lag Mask was born. “I often think of brands like SKIMS,” said Hewitt. “It’s successful because Kim Kardashian loved shapewear, she talked about it every day, and it was so natural to her. Brands need to be true to their founders. Don’t reach for a category that you think is hot or because you see everybody else doing it. Your community and your followers will see right through that.”
Bring In The Experts. When it comes to beauty, education is king. But as a startup brand, clinical trials can be expensive and out of reach. Last year, Summer Fridays launched their “Ask A Derm” series, an Instagram Q&A series where their followers could ask skincare questions, and a certified dermatologist would answer them live on the Summer Fridays Instagram stories. It proved incredibly effective at garnering consumer trust and creating informative content while keeping costs down.
Listen To Your Community. Through Instagram messages and product reviews, the Summer Fridays team uses customer feedback as their #1 resource for growth and improvement. Despite what the co-founders might like, the needs and desires of their community are always the biggest priorities. “We’re not afraid to make consistent changes,” said Ireland. “By investing in those changes, we’re investing in the company’s longevity and our community. For instance, we loved the aluminum packaging our original Lip Butter Bomb came in, but some customers had a negative experience with it. We pivoted as soon as we could – we kept the formula the same but put on an applicator instead. Now it’s a best-selling product for us.” It’s also nominated for two Allure Best of Beauty Beauty awards.
There’s Magic In Not Knowing Everything. The Summer Fridays team’s recipe for success: keep an open mind and always be prepared to evolve. “Sometimes, if you know too much, you become a bit more fearful of taking a risk,” said Ireland, “If you focus too much on our success, it might hurt your ability to remain aware and open to evolving. I think something that’s just been special to our brand from day one; Marianna and I didn’t know too much in the best way. It allowed us to go with our gut.”
Shop Summer Fridays here.