How Two Entrepreneurial Men Are Tackling Skincare For Active Women
Mickael Bensadoun and Michael Azoulay knew they wanted to start a business together, but it wasn’t until a few years ago that they honed in on exactly what shape that entrepreneurial partnership would take place in. With the wellness market exploding the two Israel-based entrepreneurs were confounded by the fact that no skincare brand was going after women who workout in a meaningful and effective way – they sought to change that and last year launched FRÉ. Their skincare brand quickly developed a very loyal following of fitness influencers (just take a peak at their Instagram…) thanks to a trio of effective, fast-absorbing products that feel fantastic on all skin types. Their initial launch includes an ultra-light SPF30 moisturizer, a hydrating facial cleanser, and an anti-aging serum, all of which you can wear no matter how drenched in sweat you get.
We spoke with the two entrepreneurs to find out more about how they went from concept to launch.
FRÉ can seem on the surface like somewhat of a departure for you. Can you backtrack and tell us a little bit about how your career got started and your ambitions early on?
We have very complementary professional backgrounds. Before launching FRE, Michael was a business entrepreneur and executive in the retail luxury sector and Mickael was a social entrepreneur and executive in the philanthropic sector. Both of us immigrated to Israel as young adults and dreamt of positively contributing to Israel and to the world. Israel is the start-up nation with exceptional entrepreneurial energies and high-tech skills. Creating big things to serve good causes have always been a common dream.
What made you think that FRE would be a viable business?
The skincare industry is a huge market but it’s a red ocean with numerous similar brands competing on the same segments. We thought that if we can answer untapped skincare needs with a disruptive business model, luxury natural skincare of excellent quality and yet with an affordable fair price, it could be a promising blue ocean. We are the first skincare brand who specializes in treating the skin of women who work out, with formulas specially formulated for skin that sweats. And we do that with vegan skincare based on Argan. For every skincare set sold, we are proud to plant an Argan tree.
What were some of the hardest things about starting FRÉ and how did you work to overcome those struggles?
The most important struggle was not to let self-doubt and doubt of family members impact our drive. “But, you never created a skincare company? Why hasn’t anybody dont that before you if it’s such a good idea? It’s so complicated to create a new brand from scratch” and so on, so forth. By definition, when you innovate, you take risk and do something that has not been done before – you should not let anybody impact your gut feelings and determination..
The second challenge was to canalize our ideas and dreams to start lean and mean. We had ideas for hundreds of amazing skincare products we wanted to start with, many social causes we wanted to support from day one but at some point, we understood we needed to start with a realistic plan and that’s what we did.
It’s very important to understand better your strengths and weaknesses, what you know and what you don’t know, and always being open to getting precious advice from friends and professionals to help overcome the struggles.
Social media and working with influencers seems to be a key part of your brand. Can you tell us about how you initially marketed the brand and what platforms have been helpful in spreading the word?
We strongly believe in spreading the word about FRÉ in an authentic way, thanks to a community of incredible fitness professionals and influencers who really love FRÉ. You can do that only if you have high-quality products because influencers will almost never share a product they don’t really love. And this is just magical how word of mouth works to create a genuine community of early-adopters. Instagram is platform we love to work with and it fits our brand values.
It’s not always easy to work with partners. Were there ever disagreements along the way and if so how did you go about solving them?
Of course we sometimes have disagreements, but discussing and expressing things helps us move forward. We have different personalities but understand each other and respect our different psychological needs. Once you understand that and try to communicate in a way that is good for both partners, it works. We have learnt to genuinely share our feelings and convictions and this always help us take decisions we both love. When you create a start-up there a lot of uncertainties and a lot of questions you cannot answer upfront. Two things have helped us the most: listen to our intuitions and trying things if one of us has a strong feeling and getting advice of people we trust when we are not sure.
Most challenging part of running the company?
We currently live in Israel with our families and our core market is the US. Social media and new technologies make it possible to do that but at the early stage, it is a challenge because we don’t have a local US team yet and there is a limit to the number of trips we can do. However, we are amazed with the quality of the relationships that have blossomed from online and through Skype.
How is your day-to-day life different since starting FRÉ?
Well, FRÉ is with us almost all the time, nights and days… although we work on having a balanced life and know that it may be counter-productive and not healthy to be totally dedicated, all the time. We are totally free in the way we manage our times and energies and this is something we love.
Networking and mentorships are a huge part of most people’s success stories. Can you tell us about how each played a role in your career?
Our careers up to now have partly been the results of the unbelievable and unexpected encounters we made so far. We will always be grateful for what our Israeli mentors gave us and taught us as young immigrants. Great friendships and encounters made us grow, be confident and dare. FRÉ was also born thanks to our encounter and friendship. So, yes, meet, learn, connect and don’t be afraid to team up to fulfill big dreams you cannot realize on your own.
If you could go back in time and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?
MA: Persistence and determination are key for the success of my entrepreneurial projects. Never forget that when everything is so instant and fast.
MB: Take full leadership on your own life with no limits whatsoever and listen carefully to what your intuitions tell you.