Sunscreen and makeup: a game of compromise, imperfection, skin damage and expensive products. 23-year-old Sophia Hutchins, who calls Caitlyn Jenner her “cheerleader,” aims to win that game with Lumasol, the FDA-approved odorless SPF 50+ sunscreen mist engineered to be applied after makeup. With a $3 million seed round from Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund and Greycroft Ventures, she’ll be able to expand her team of 30 employees and bring the product to market in early 2020.
“It’s SPF millennialized,” says Hutchins, surrounded by her three-person media team and director of operations in the Jersey City, New Jersey Forbes office. “We are a health and tech company and [sun protection] is an extraordinarily unaddressed health issue that we’re trying to attack.”
Hutchins, who lives in LA, is a first-time founder but no stranger to cosmetic titans. As a close friend of Caitlyn Jenner, Hutchins witnessed the Olympian-turned activist/socialite’s battle with skin cancer in 2018. And because of her closeness with Caitlyn Jenner, she spends significant time learning from Kylie Jenner and Kim Kardashian, who have built billion-dollar makeup brands Kylie Cosmetics and KKW Beauty from Instagram.
“I have a really good relationship with all of them,” says Hutchins. “What Kylie [Jenner’s] done is amazing. I admire that she’s been able to convert fans, likes and shares into buys—and she works nonstop.”
Hutchins transitioned to a woman as a freshman at Pepperdine University and graduated from the University in 2018 with a degree in economics, with the intention of going into investment banking rather than entrepreneurship. During her senior year, she lamented with her friend, the daughter of Kiehl’s founder, about the impossibility of flawless makeup and sun protection.
From that conversation, she was advised by Nick Drake, CMO of T-Mobile and worked with big three consulting firm to develop a sunscreen product for makeup wearers. Lumasol was born, and with her board of scientific advisors from UCSF, the U.S.-manufactured product was approved by the FDA as an over-the-counter product. The recyclable product will protect from 98% of UV and UB rays and will be sold direct-to-consumer via subscription, according to Hutchins.
“You could compare it to Dollar Shave Club or Harry’s,” says Hutchins. “I know this business is going to be a success.”
For Ian Sigalow, founder of Greycroft Ventures, who has previously led the firm’s investments in Venmo, Braintree and Shipt, he saw the potential for the product from the hundreds of dollars his family of five spends on goopy sunscreen every single year. “There’s an opportunity to do what Juul did for the cigarette category by changing the delivery mechanism and changing the formula somewhat to win really big market share,” says Sigalow, noting that the design firm behind Juul also designed Lumasol, as a conscious effort habituate healthy habits after doing the opposite with the e-cigarette giant.
Lumasol will not be the only ‘mastige’ post-makeup sunscreen spray on the market. Semi-premium sunscreen brand Supergoop retails a SPF 50 setting spray product at $12 per ounce. Coola, Kate Sommerville, Shisheido and Ulta Beauty, among others, offer makeup setting sprays with SPF.
So what compelled Founders Fund send Hutchins a term sheet within an hour of her pitch presentation? “Founders Fund invests in founders, first and foremost. Sophia [Hutchins] was such an incredibly strong person when she came in and pitched us on her vision.” says Cyan Bannister, the partner at Founders Fund who led the round. “She’s identified an underserved market and a product that people would want. The fact is that she can leverage her connections to power the distribution behind the product.”
Lumasol’s packaging is also a huge draw for the investors. The bottle changes color when exposed to UV and UB rays, letting its owner know it’s time for another spritz, and habituating reapplication. Additionally, the product’s design and functionality make it highly ‘grammable—a deliberate strategy for Hutchins’ plan to rely heavily on Instagram influencer marketing, with probable Jenner/Kardashian spots, to market the product.
“There’s obviously precedent with the Jenners in the skincare industry. That was not lost on me when we made the investment,” says Sigalow. “One of our theses around next generation brands is: If you attach an influencer with a huge following to a consumer product, it’s like having your own media channel, so Lumasol’s starting on third base—they’re going to take off.”
In preparation for Lumasol’s Q1 2020 rollout, Hutchins is hiring an “extraordinarily experienced CMO,” adding to the “hundreds” of user tests, and developing her influencer, popup and outdoor event event strategy. “I have a social obligation to give people a product that can seamlessly fit into their lives and also save their lives,” she says.
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