Internet start-up redefines cosmetics direct selling for a younger, digitally-savvy generation

Internet start-up redefines cosmetics direct selling for a younger, digitally-savvy generation

A new US internet start-up aims to recruit teenage girls and young women as direct sellers of skincare and makeup products.

Willa, which launched this month, aims to capitalize on the digitally-savvy nature of young people, by encouraging them to sell the Willa product line using  social media sites such as Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook. 

The 23-product line ranges in price from US$9.50 for lip gloss to US$26 for “pore perfector” treatment pads. The range is targeted towards younger consumers, featuring products such as acne cleanser, acne spot treatment and oil-free mattifying lotion.

When a teenager or young woman applies online to be a “Willa girl,” she pays $99 for a starter kit that includes products such as sunscreen, face wash, towelettes and lip gloss, as well as access to the app, marketing materials and a personalized website.

Willa girls can use the Willa app, a personalized website, or Tupperware-style parties to sell the products. Reps earn between 10% and 25% commission, depending on how much they sell. When girls contribute a portion of their Willa profits toward a 529 College Savings Account, the company matches contributions by 10%, up to $2,500 annually.

Willa was initially created as an anti sun damage range by former film producer Christy Prunier and her daughter Willa Doss, 15.

To begin with, the Willa product range retailed through outlets such as J-Crew and Target yet out one day, while watching Doss, then 10, talk to her friends about the products, Prunier had what she calls an “a-ha moment.”

“There was something about a girl speaking to another girl that was incredibly powerful,” Prunier told Forbes. “The best ambassadors for these brands are the girls.”

Prunier pulled out of retailers and began developing a direct sales model that Willa. By the end of 2015, the company hopes to build a network of more than 1,000 young sales reps, selling more than US$1 million in products.

Willa has raised “several million dollars” in funding through individual and small institutional investors.