FutureDerm’s scientific beauty blog started out as a hobby of Nicki Zevola, a medical student tired of all the marketing hype she read in beauty blogs. Five years and 200,000 unique views later, FutureDerm has turned into a full-time business that has just launched its first product. Nicki sits down to discuss the philosophy behind FutureDerm, their successful first product launch, and some of her many sources of inspiration.
Describe FutureDerm in one sentence.
We view beauty from a scientific perspective.
How do you do that?
Our goal is to break down the science behind beauty products for the public. We provide well-researched, detailed articles written with a clear, unique perspective that helps people lead their best lives.
I’ve always been interested in the science behind skin-care solutions. There are a lot of beauty websites that are based on press releases, but at FutureDerm we take the approach of, “if a scientist looked at this press release, what would they say?”
Can you talk a little about your first product and how it came to be?
Over the years we’ve had 20,000 interactions with our readers. They tell us what they like, what they don’t and what they want that’s not yet available. We began to see the holes in the marketplace, so it was only natural that we filled them ourselves.
Our first product is Time-Release Retinol 0.5. It’s a lightweight retinol treatment that utilizes microencapsulated retinol to fight fine lines and wrinkles and smooth mottled or rough skin. It lasts for 8 hours on the skin, working for longer while remaining gentle to the skin. There’s nothing else like it on the market.
When we came to AlphaLab, our goals were to Increase our website traffic and to release a product and show sales traction. AlphaLab has been integral in helping us to reach both of our objectives. We’ve more than doubled our traffic and our first product has been a huge success. In less than two months, we’ve already broken even.
Do you anticipate any challenges or pushback as a trusted, third-party skin care product reviewer who now is selling products of their own?
No, because our products are different from what is currently being offered on the market. But our belief is that if there is another awesome retinoid treatment, we’ll tell our readers about it and say “this is awesome too”. I think it would be a conflict of interest if we had introduced products to the market and then stopped practicing what we preach, but we didn’t. We have remained true to our mission of viewing beauty and beauty products from a scientific perspective.
What’s your background?
I have degrees in Biological Sciences and Physics and was in my third year in the BS/MD program at Pitt, studying to be a dermatologist in medical school, when I won Pitt’s Big Idea competition. My plan had been to first become a dermatologist and afterwards launch my own product, but since this microencapsulated retinol-based solution hadn’t been released to the market, I figured I’d try it now. After all, this is what I really wanted to do anyway!
What can we expect from FutureDerm at Demo Day?
We’re going to talk about our sales numbers, traction, and our funding needs. Our strategic goals are to make ourselves better than our competitors in the online space. We also have our second product in the works, a CE serum that we hope to release soon.
Who do you look up to in the entrepreneurial world?
Oh, wow. Can I keep it to like 10? I read a lot of Jim Rohn. He says that you’re not the success that you want, you’re the success that you become. You don’t work on your job, you work on yourself.
And there’s Estee Lauder and Elizabeth Arden, of course.
In Pittsburgh, Adam from Insurance Zebra has helped me with how to present myself to investors. Don Charlton from The Resumator, [AlphaLab Director] Jim Jen, [AlphaLab Program Manager] Mike Woycheck. Pittsburgh in general has been very supportive to us a startup. Plus, there’s the low cost of living and easy access to Universities for advice and interns.
If you could give a piece of advice to entrepreneurs just starting out, what would it be?
Cash and content are kings! You have to try and balance the two at all times and make sure of that, from day one.
I don’t know how anyone survives without a stream of income. Do consulting work, get income!
In terms of content, you should have the mindset of “if this is the only post that someone ever reads on your blog, would you come back?” and if that answer is “no” or “I’m not sure”, do it again. Finally, don’t be afraid to try things!
Where can we find out more about FutureDerm?