Small business: Your business online - Natasha Razak

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Natasha Razak, founder of Sample Bar, an online beauty subscription service that launched in October 2012 after six months of business preparation.

Natasha Razak, founder of Sample Bar. Photo / Supplied
Natasha Razak, founder of Sample Bar. Photo / Supplied

Founder Natasha Razak, a Cambridge University graduate and an ex bank finance lawyer, spent over a decade in London before returning to NZ to make a career shift to beauty. Sample Bar is based on a popular and successful US model that Natasha adapted to suit the NZ market. Its members receive a gift box of high-end cosmetic and beauty luxury miniatures delivered to their doorstep every month. If they like any of their products they can purchase the full size version from our online store, or via a counter visit.

Since the launch Sample Bar has introduced members to over 40 brands/products including Dermalogica, Trilogy, Shiseido and Model Co.

Launching Sample Bar

Sample Bar is a very novel concept to the New Zealand market so it wasn't easy to launch something that was unknown and the first of its kind in NZ. From pitching to brands to growing a database, there were so many hurdles that you just can't plan for.

As with a new concept, we tried various initiatives from online advertising, word of mouth recommendations right through to pop up stores to get our name out there. Our customers are modern, fashionable and very online savvy and our strategy really leans towards a heavy digital focus to ensure we are where our members are.

Social media

Social media has been huge for us in terms of attracting subscribers, and from day one it's been an important way of establishing our brand voice. Social media has also been a good way for us to promote our brand partners. Consumers are now very online savvy and our experience tells us that they are continually using social media channels to get "intel" on the best products out there before they commit to a purchase. The beauty about Sample Bar is that we integrate our social media channels with our offline discovery platform so consumers get an integrated one stop shopping experience. PR has also been a significant driver for us in terms of building our profile, generating interest in our service and attracting new subscriptions.

Word of mouth marketing

Our members are our biggest fans and advocates of Sample Bar. We've seen immense growth via word of mouth which indicates the strength of our service.

Our members have a passion for beauty and a budget to spend on products. They are very opinionated and this has quickly translated into our members blogging and posting videos about their monthly Sample Bar kits regularly. We have organically created a very strong and effective peer-peer recommendation channel - you only need to search 'Sample Bar un-boxing' on YouTube to see the amount of chatter that is happening online about us. activity to ensure we are always current. Of course, we always make sure we complement this activity with other on and offline.

Marketing spend

Being a start up, we are very cautious about what avenues get us the best return.

We have been fortunate that the bulk of our growth has been via recommendations from our members both on and offline. This has really helped us forge strong relationships with the brands we work with and is enabling us to embark on some really exciting projects.

Currently we are collaborating with Life Pharmacy on a specially designed Mother's Day Glam Pack which is showcasing a line-up of luxury brands including Lancome, Elizabeth Arden, Clinique and Shiseido.

Putting your own personality into the brand

Authenticity helps with anything you're doing. When you talk with brand partners for example, you need to be able to have real conversations about how discovery works for women, and it's hard to talk about selling products suited to women without being her. For me, it's not so much about representing my personality in the brand, but having a strong understanding of your target market and the challenges they face. Over the years, like many women, I had made expensive beauty purchases which I often found did not work for me, my skin-type or my routine. I started Sample Bar because I understand the frustrations many women experience when selecting beauty products and I wanted to give Kiwi women the opportunity to 'try before you buy'.

How do well established small businesses keep updating their offer without losing current customers? Tell us your stories.

- NZ Herald

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