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I have suffered from occasional acne for most of my adolescent life. It was not only painful physically, but also emotionally. My peers regularly threw names like “crater face” and “pizza face” at me. “Go wash your face” was another favorite phrase one of the boys in my class would shout. I was humiliated. I felt ugly. I stopped looking in the mirror. My self-esteem was in the toilet.
“So many of us suffer from acne, and the impact on our confidence can be devastating,” says Neel Patel, founder of Après Pacific. “I started Après Pacific to provide access to Indian skincare secrets and Ayurvedic remedies so we can all feel confident in clear, comfortable skin.”
According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, acne is the most common skin condition in the US. It usually starts during puberty and can occur at any stage of life. It affects up to 50 million Americans annual. Acne can take a significant toll on our emotional health. Study after study shows the damage acne can have, including increased anxiety, depression, and feeling isolated and alone. And especially for teenage girls, acne can cause severe stress, making them feel less attractive and causing low self-esteem. For me, once the acne cleared up, the dark spots left behind served as a constant reminder of the pain acne continued to cause.
Enter Apres Pacific. Its hero product, the Pacific Glow Clay Mask, is supercharged with turmeric, alma berry, aloe vera and lemon peel extract. It uses only 100% natural, vegan ingredients that are safe even for sensitive skin. This amazing mask not only fights acne, but also tackles the stubborn dark spots and hyperpigmentation that plague so many brown and black consumers.
Image credit: Apres Pacific
Patel chose the name Après Pacific as a nod to the Pacific regions of the world where Ayurvedic remedies have been around for over 5,000 years. He wanted to develop a modern brand with a fun, fresh and calming atmosphere. “Most importantly, I wanted the brand to be inspired by and include all the Indian skincare remedies my mom made from scratch in our kitchen when I was suffering from acne.”
As Patel builds his skincare brand, here are three lessons he learned along the way:
Taking the risk
Since he can remember, Patel has always been willing to take the risk. When he was 9 years old, he and his mother left India to start a new life in Canada. Although he spoke no English, he supported his mother in making the move to better opportunities. After settling in their small Canadian town, his mother started her own Indian catering service. “I knew my mother’s talents and what she was capable of,” he says. “I forced her to take the risk and start the service. It gave me first-hand insight into running a business.”
After starting a career in investment banking, Patel risked everything and ran away. “People thought I was crazy to walk away from this lucrative career,” Patel says. “But I wasn’t willing to put in 12-15 hours a day for a big paycheck in exchange for my happiness. Doing research and moving company logos from one part of the deck to another wasn’t how I wanted to live my life. know many who enjoyed working in the industry, and I wanted to build something for myself.”
The idea of building Après Pacific came to him in September 2020. Inspired by his own battle with acne and what he saw adult friends experience with their skin, he started looking for manufacturers. He worked closely with a chemist to finalize the hero product, eventually launching in April 2021. “Now some of my former colleagues who thought I was crazy for taking this risk are seeing how the brand has evolved quickly and gained a lot of traction,” says Patel. “They want to know how I did it.”
Be open about your mistakes and adapt quickly
Although Patel had a strong financial background, he had never started an e-commerce brand before. He went out of his way to talk to as many founders as possible to try and avoid their mistakes. “Mistakes cannot be avoided, they will always happen,” Patel says. “The most important thing is to be open about your mistakes, learn quickly and adapt.”
Patel shares that one of his biggest mistakes was hiring an established, well-known marketing agency to run paid ads for the brand. He found that the agency didn’t spend as much time on its brand as it should because it didn’t earn as much commission from smaller brands that don’t spend as much. “I learned that lesson the hard way after spending a lot of money on the agency and seeing no results,” Patel says. “We eventually parted ways with the agency and hired two media buyers who have devoted their time entirely to Après Pacific. Once we changed direction, we saw incredible results.”
Remember that every dollar counts
As a self-funded, bootstrapped founder, Patel is always focused on making sure every dollar counts. “We come up with unique ways to stand out and succeed in the market, while on a budget,” he explains. “Every dollar should have a return on investment. It can be scary and painful when you make mistakes, and when you’re short on money, you stay sharp.”
With limited resources, Patel comes with a strong sense of focus and he is smart about where he invests. While Après Pacific could sit in a number of retailers and broaden distribution, he wants to focus on continuing to build brand awareness before the brand is spread too thin. While looking to connect with investors and begin the fundraising journey, he is committed to building a skincare brand that continues to honor and embrace its South Asian roots.
Recently, Patel has started to see brands appearing similar to Après Pacific’s vision. “They may have the money. But what’s more important is to have a community that loves your product and naturally becomes advocates for the brand — that’s not something you can easily replicate,” Patel says. “This is not a two-year plan for us; we are in this for the long term. Slow and steady wins the race.”