Doce Beleza: A Garage Startup that Capitalizes on the Quest for Beauty

Brazil is known for producing some of the most beautiful women in the world. And while much of this can be attributed to the natural biological characteristics of the population, no Brazilian lady will tell you that looking good doesn’t come at a cost. Brazilian women spend 11 times more of their annual income on beauty products than their British counterparts, and the country’s cosmetics market is worth an estimated US$43 billion, rendering it the third largest in the world.

Brazilian e-commerce platform Doce Beleza is one of the many companies capitalizing on the Brazilian population’s quest for beauty.

Doce Beleza is an online marketplace that offers a wide range of cosmetic and beauty products. Its greatest strength resides in the arena of hair care, the most important category within the Brazilian market of beauty and personal care products. The estimated worth of the hair care industry in the nation was reported at US$7.9 billion in 2011.

Husband-and-wife team Carlos Vistra and Adriana Tetilla founded Doce Beleza in 2007, initially working out of Vistra’s father’s garage. Since that time, the company has expanded and evolved. It grew 55% over the last year and now brings in roughly R$12 million (US$ 5.9 million) a year.

Vistra, who now acts as the CEO of Doce Beleza, gave us the inside scoop on the company.

Emily Stewart: Can you explain a bit about your evolution and the strategies you’ve employed to grow and remain relevant as well as your niche in the Brazilian e-commerce industry?

Carlos Vistra: Doce Beleza has grown steadily and now holds second place in the Brazilian online beauty market, having achieved that leadership of the sector for a while now. The company was created with our own capital, in the style of a garage startup. During the company’s early years, we reinvested almost all the profits generated in the operation. Our customers present a high level of fidelity and therefore high rates of repurchase. This is a consequence of our careful customer service policy, transparency and great products. Another important factor is the result of the relationship we keep with our public using social media. We seek to share our main concept and slogan, the pleasure of feeling good, with our customers and friends via social networks.

ES: How many users do you have? How many transactions are made per month? How does Doce Beleza break down in terms of numbers?

CV: For now, we are focused on the segment of hair cosmetics, working with high quality products that are usually used in salons but that can also be used by the final consumer. That means that our customers in any city in Brazil have access to the best cosmetic products and get a result that is equal to what they would have in the best hair salons.

Right now, we have 163,000 clients and average 6,000 transactions per month. We received 16 million page views in 2011 and 3.5 million visitors. Currently, we work with 26 brands.

ES: Can you tell me the profile of your users? How does your business model work? Who are your competitors, and what other platforms are comparable to yours?

CV: That depends of the type of product that we sell, but something around 90% of our consumers are women. Men are usually looking for shampoos, conditioners and finishers, gel and ointment.

The business model is the resale of international brands via e-commerce. The divulgation of the site, products and promotions is done through sponsored links on Google, Bing, Yahoo and social networks.

Our main competitor is Sacks (now Sephora), but they are more focused on makeup and perfume. Our direct competitor is Beleza na Web. Our platform is comparative, in terms of technology and resources, to e-Platform and Ikeda.

While the Doce Beleza team hasn’t ruled out the possibility of expanding farther into South America, it recognizes that it still has many gains to make in the national market, which is where it has set its sights for the time being. Vistra hopes to conquer the Brazilian market by expanding the platform, gathering new resources, improving customer experience, offering more brand options and increasing ad funding.

Doce Beleza is a prime example of a company that is banking on the size and opportunity of the Brazilian market for its success. It has benefitted not only from Brazil’s growing e-commerce market but also from the increased buying power of the country’s population. As Brazil’s economic growth slows, will it have to look beyond the country’s borders? Only time will tell.