By Cindy Vanegas
Got something to hide? So did Flori Roberts whose bout with skin cancer left an unsightly scar on her nose. Her solution? Creating a cover-up so strong, that it is now used to cover acne, tattoos, redness, birthmarks, varicose veins and scarring. That solution evolved into a successful company.
Founded in 1999, Smart Cover today is a successful cosmetics company with 25 items in its line. It has since become the official camouflage make-up for the Buffalo Bills Cheerleaders and Cleveland Cavalier Girls. While testing and manufacturing is done off-site domestically, all day-to-day operations, marketing and fulfillment are handled from the company’s Shrewsbury, NJ headquarters by a staff of 7, including Doug Roberts, Flori’s son, and his wife Nancy.
Smart Cover is the third of Flori’s cosmetics businesses. While running her second company, Flori said she learned how to overcome the challenges of finding the right sales channels and then used those experiences in perfecting the Smart Cover sales mix and pitch.
“When we did contemplate going to the department stores, they were negative about carrying our line in their beauty department,” Roberts said. “We were trying to get into Nordstrom (JWN). It was all women buyers. I went in without pantyhose and right in front of them I covered the veins and spots on my legs.”
Flori’s product never got onto the counters at Nordstrom. But, the experience taught her to look beyond traditional sales outlets, like pharmacies and department stores.
With Smart Cover, Flori took the “backdoor marketing” approach and enlisted dermatologists, plastic surgeons, make-up artists, along with the Internet and television, all of which, according to Roberts, have been instrumental in Smart Cover’s success.
How do you decide where to sell your product?
Flori: The department store route was a difficult one. They demand too much support in advertising. We decided to go directly to the consumer by approaching Home Shopping Network. Now we are very dedicated to online selling. We stopped selling through the Home Shopping Network and now have a two-minute direct response commercial. We felt that we needed to do something else to market our company and have more control of the distribution in the business and we wanted to bring traffic to the Web site. We launched [it] in 2000 and have since revamped it. The Internet gives us personalization and creates a very direct connection. Plus we can answer all of our customers’ questions on one page.
How has the economic climate impacted business?
Flori: In a cost-conscious economy we are holding up beautifully. At $29.25 for a ten-piece starter kit, we are a better option than costly procedures to remove tattoos or rectify scarring. Once we have a customer and they love our product, they are really a customer for life.
Have sales declined?
Flori: We saw a big jump in sales from 2007 to 2008 and now are steady. We tried incentives, such as free gifts, but because we are not a costly product we have been able to hold our own.
Who is your customer?
Flori: I like to say “everybody has something to hide.” We have a good pulse of what women and men want. We find that tattoos have become increasingly important because a number of companies, like Burger King, Victoria’s Secret and Starwood Hotels, don’t hire people with visible tattoos.
What’s next down your product pipeline?
Flori: We try to stay true to our product. We are working now with Rosacea which is very common in men. And, we are trying to come up with an anti-redness product.
What has been your biggest mistake?
Flori: There was a point when we were working on selling our products at pharmacies because we felt the nature of the line really lent itself to selling in these mass units. We started using representatives who were not the best and I think we left the idea of selling at the drugstore chains too early. Maybe we should have spent more time in development. We have not completely given up on this idea and may try it again.
She had something to hide and she turned the solution into an American - dream story. Nordstrom didn’t bite – so she found back-door ways to market to the masses. Here’s her story.