When Australian model Elle Macpherson founded ingestible beauty company WelleCo in 2014, she essentially created an entirely new category. Now, as the beauty-from-within movement gathers momentum, the company stands to benefit from its position as a pioneer.
"We see a huge tailwind from a macro trend standpoint globally, but specifically in some big strategic markets like the United States and parts of Europe like Germany," CEO Leighton Richards tells The CEO Magazine.
With the ingestible beauty market not yet dominated by any player, he sees great potential for the WelleCo brand.
"We would love to see us leading the forefront in those major markets," he says. "We are already in global markets, but to go much bigger in the big markets would be one of our goals."
The company has been a predominantly direct-to-consumer business because ingestible beauty has traditionally been positioned somewhere between the beauty and vitamin categories, making it trickier to market. But now, with the business at the scaling up stage, Richards is looking to take it back into physical stores.
In fact, scaling up may be putting it mildly. WelleCo is in the midst of a growth surge, with over 200 percent growth in Australia and 400 percent in the US. In the second quarter of 2023, WelleCo boosted its new customers by over 1,000 percent.
We see our business really expanding in major retail across the world, and we’re very focused on that.
Behind this upswing is an effective content plan by LA digital agency d.Luxury, which has worked with WelleCo for the last three years. In that time, d.Luxury has significantly reshaped WelleCo’s global e-commerce strategy, and in the last three months alone delivered a 1,000 percent escalation in new customers off the back of a viral marketing campaign.
The choice of an international agency was intentional, as many Australian brands struggle to crack the US market. With d.Luxury and fellow partner Thrive PR + Communications in its corner, WelleCo now counts the US as its biggest market.
Although COVID-19 forced the closure of WelleCo’s New York and Perth stores, Richards says there’s been a pivot back towards bricks-and-mortar and omnichannel retailing.
"We see our business really expanding in major retail across the world, and we’re very focused on that," he says.
Richards took the company’s helm during the pandemic, a tricky time to assume control of any business. On top of the challenges of getting to know the team remotely and protecting their wellbeing during the difficult period, Richards had to deal with supply chain issues that were starting to unravel. As an Australian-born business that contract-manufactures in the country, WelleCo saw shipping costs soar during the pandemic.
Although it would have been easy to compromise on ingredients, it would have gone against WelleCo’s core value of quality – particularly important in the ingestible beauty category where trust is paramount.
"When those price increases were coming through, we resisted as much as we could to not pass those prices on to consumers," he shares.
But despite the difficulties, WelleCo still managed to launch a number of new products during the pandemic, an achievement made possible by a formidable team dynamic and strong alignment at the board level.
It’s a big part of the reason Richards has stayed on board after initially joining as a consultant.
Harmony at the top
"I have a really unique situation where I have a relationship with my chairman and the board, which is normal, but then I also have a relationship with Elle, the founder, who had the vision for the brand," he says. "She’s been incredibly trusting of me running the business, but I lean on her for the vision."
That combination has been valuable to Richards.
"The three-way approach has been honestly something that’s kept me at WelleCo, because it’s hard to find that type of dynamic, and when you find that it’s very valuable," he says.
I love seeing the thousands of testimonials we get from customers where our products have actually had a profound impact on their lives.
The purpose behind the business enhances the appeal for Richards.
"The company is in the good-for-you category, and that has a real purpose that we love," he reveals. "I love seeing the thousands of testimonials we get from customers where our products have actually had a profound impact on their lives, whether that’s just general wellness, they’ve overcome an ailment or they just feel a whole new sense of energy and vitality.
"It’s wonderful when we create products that do that for people."