By now you’ve probably seen it: A chic blue tube, maybe held near an airplane window or laid flat on a granite countertop, flooding your Instagram feed. You’ve spotted posts about it by Kim Kardashian, Jessica Alba, celebrity hairstylist Jen Atkin, bloggers, beauty editors, and megafans. That’s right, the Jet Leg Mask by Summer Fridays ($48) has everyone talking.
But what we should be talking about is the founding duo behind it, Marianna Hewitt and Lauren Gores Ireland, and the genius business plan that enabled them to turn a beauty startup into an instant viral hit—with just a single product to its name.
That product—a hydrating mask that doesn’t need to be washed off—came out of years of development by the friends and social influencers, who both worked in journalism before starting their respective lifestyle blogs, sharing reviews of their favorite beauty products with a growing audience. After testing countless cosmetics and reading their followers' in-depth comments, Hewitt and Gores Ireland felt like they understood exactly what they—and their readers—liked and disliked in a beauty product. The perfect launching pad for a brand.
“We wanted to create something that really spoke to the people who we knew—and us,” says Gores Ireland. “Yes, women who suffer from jet lag after traveling, but also women with busy lifestyles—parents, those with hectic jobs, and women who are doing a lot all the time.”
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Thus began Summer Fridays, which launched in March, founded by Hewitt and Gores Ireland—a bold move in the time of brand-influencer collaborations, ones that have a short or limited-edition run and whose products are developed by an established beauty line. Hewitt and Gores Ireland? They wanted to do the work. And they wanted it to be done their way.
“As bloggers and influencers, we’ve worked with many brands over the years. And we love that aspect. But we didn’t want to do a collaboration because we didn’t want to adapt to a particular style or brand. We own the company, and we wanted it to be everything we envisioned,” says Hewitt.
They took two years to develop the formula for the Jet Lag Mask, which features good-for-your-skin ingredients, including Vitamin C to even texture and sodium hyaluronate to boost moisture. (They emphasize that Hewitt has extra sensitive skin and Gores Ireland was pregnant while developing the formula, so it’s great for pretty much every type of skin type—sans parabens and sulfates.)
Instead of launching with a full range of products, Hewitt and Gores Ireland decided to introduce just one great formula and build on that. They knew the project would require time and patience, foreign languages in the fast-paced world of social media. “Running a skincare business is not instant. We had to be a little more patient,” laughs Hewitt, noting the unexpected practical considerations—like figuring out how to package the mask in the aluminum tube without it affecting the formula—that postponed their launch date.
Once the product was fully baked, the two business women applied an Instagram-first approach to marketing (and with no trace of millennial pink). Translation? They released the product and created brand awareness first and foremost through the app, relying on the platform to drive back to their website. And while other beauty brands in this day and age have been catapulted to notoriety thanks to Instagram—think Herbivore, Morphe brushes, and Makeup Geek Cosmetics—Summer Fridays differentiated itself by planning an entire social media campaign around a single, solid product. It's a strategy that many would deem risky, given that traditional sales logic would suggest more products means an increased likelihood of a sale. But Gores Ireland and Hewitt hedged their bets on their one, standout mask.
And the success has been striking. With a combined Instagram follower count of 860,000 and with support from friends and celebs alike—including Kardashian, Alba, and Atkin—the mask has been a commercial hit among direct sales on summerfridays.com, as well as with online launch partner Sephora.
While exact sales figures aren’t available, WWD reports that the mask is outselling major brands like La Mer, The Ordinary, and Sunday Riley, as well as similar masks from SK-II, Glamglow, and Dr. Jart online. In fact, Sephora.com increased its initial production run order six times and, in, two weeks, the mask became its best-selling skincare product. (It’ll hit Sephora store shelves in August.)
"Similar to other social media stars who have launched successful brands with a few products, Summer Fridays not only successfully launched a high-quality product, but did so by taking a social media-led marketing approach," Artemis Patrick, chief merchandising officer for Sephora, told us. "We’re excited by the brand’s ability to quickly generate a cult following with a single product.”
While the two have yet to reveal what new products and masks are coming down the pike, the second will launch in the fall, with more to follow quarterly. But they emphasize that the skincare line is there to “add to your routine,” not replace it.
“We just wanted to make really good skincare. It’s why we spent years working closely with our labs, creating everything in the formula from scratch,” says Gores Ireland. “We wanted to have longevity. This isn’t about doing something ‘trendy’ in 2018.”