How MALIN + GOETZ went from independent retailer to international beauty brand

In the beginning
In 2004, small, family-owned, independent beauty businesses seemed like a thing of the past, as large brands were buying them up left, right and center. But that didn’t mean there wasn’t a demand for them. With my (Matthew) past career in the beauty industry and Andrew Goetz’s business acumen, we decided to take the entrepreneurial plunge and leverage our collective know-how at a time when there was a void for an authentic voice again in niche luxury beauty. Since then, MALIN + GOETZ has transformed from a small Chelsea apothecary to an international beauty brand.

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Taking the leap
Most independent retailers can probably relate to this. When Andrew and I came up with the idea for MALIN + GOETZ, the first thing we did was turn to the people we trusted the most: our families. If they supported the idea, we’d know we were onto something. When Andrew mentioned the idea to his family, a group of successful entrepreneurs, their answer was matter of fact: “Why haven’t you done this earlier?”

My family was also incredibly supportive, but the reaction came with with a list of questions and recommendations: “Have you thought everything through? Did you save enough money? Are you sure this is what you want to do?” Seeing these varied responses was all the more encouraging. It was exactly what we had expected and we had planned accordingly. Plus, we both had the support of our families, which meant we were on the right track.

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Finding our niche
We’re constantly told that the key to starting a successful business is to find a niche. For my entire adult life, I have suffered from rosacea, eczema, seborrhea, and fragrance allergies. As a beauty professional, using and trying products, there was a void for effective formulas that position themselves to be gentle and non-irritating to serious sensitivities. Knowing the industry and after some preliminary research, it was evident that this was a market that had yet to be adequately filled. I feel that this philosophy is applicable to most new companies – find what you’re knowledgeable in and then figure out how to apply it in an original way. If you can do that, you’re well on your way to positioning your business.

That said, it’s not just about the product. While our formulas focus on effective, easy to use skin care for sensitive skin, brand aesthetic also plays a big part in our philosophy. Our modern packaging design is rooted in traditional chemist labels and honest, user friendly apothecary-style aesthetics. It is fresh and understandable, and should always elevate the design quotient in your bathroom and home while integrating seamlessly to any personal home design choices. Long story short, we’ve found that the best products are the ones that tell a story. You want to make an emotional connection with your customers too.

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Choosing the right location
We got really lucky with our first Manhattan location. The shop was located in Chelsea, in our co-op building, a floor beneath our apartment. Being located so close to our shop made it easy for us to adapt as things changed and being positioned right in our neighborhood gave us a strong sense of community. Plus, Chelsea is a vibrant and diverse downtown community of young, affluent tastemakers, so we were in the ideal spot to attract the clients we were hoping would embrace our brand.

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But location isn’t everything. Just like our packaging design, the look of the shop was extremely important to us and our clientele. Once you step inside the store, it’s easy to tell that merchandising is king. We have five categories of products to represent: face, body, hair, fragrance, and candles. We want the stores to be beautiful and design each individually to complement their markets and neighborhoods. And, they should be easy to navigate and understandable to shop. So, we think a lot about where each product lives and how it relates to the rest of the store. When merchandising your shop, remember: everything inch of your store should be optimized for selling, but without sacrificing the aesthetic.

Growing the business and expanding abroad
After 12 years spent building our brand domestically, we recently expanded our operations to the UK. This was one of the hardest things we’ve done, and we learned some incredibly humbling lessons along the way. The first is to be respectful of the country’s culture and to see ourselves as the outsider. The mindset and culture of the UK is dramatically different from the US, and, we are guests there, offering our unique US brand, in their home. We manage every day respectfully of these wonderful differences and embrace them to succeed.

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Meanwhile, the details of “setting up shop” are not pretty. As Americans, we understand our own rules and regulations which are not the same as in London. There are different kinds of bureaucracy and costs that we are still learning to navigate. Not so fun, but the end result is worth it. The key to success here is to be patient, stay focussed and find good people to help you understand the nuances

Staying competitive
The bigger we get, the more critical it becomes to have strong and integrated omnichannel technology. We operate retail from a brick and mortar chain of shops and online e-commerce websites, in addition to a diverse wholesale and manufacturing business. So, POS and eCom, inventory, CRM/Loyalty—these are critical tools and solutions that we cannot live without. If you want your business to grow, you need the right tools to do it.

At the end of the day, the key to growth is about staying focused and directed. It is so easy to be distracted or veer off course. There is a lot of appealing “noise” to lead any business in a poor direction, but if you stick to your plan, you’ll be better for it.

Matthew Malin

Matthew Malin

Matthew began his career in beauty as a cosmetic buyer at the privately owned Barneys New York. He was part of a team that found and developed exclusive niche brands. After launching many successful brands at Barneys, he accepted an opportunity to oversee the global distribution and sales for the family owned Kiehl’s. When Kiehl’s was sold to L’Oreal, Matthew accepted a position with Prada to develop their beauty division and manage the Helmut Lang Parfums division. As someone who suffers from skin conditions such as Eczema and Rosacea, he began to identify specific voids that existed in the skincare market, and two years later Matthew and Andrew began developing the business