As silk scientists we knew we could do better.
Based on 20 years of experience, and backed by the scientific literature, we knew silk (once free of sericin and other impurities) is remarkably biocompatible. So we set to work purifying silk and reverting natural fiber into a liquid silk protein.
Silk is one of nature’s wonders. It is a molecule capable of self-assembly into a beautiful and strong fiber. When activated in liquid form, it is also capable of stabilizing the skin and active ingredients incorporated into it. As a result, silk eliminates whole classes of chemicals that the skin care industry has come to rely on. By using silk instead, we could create powerful anti-aging skincare while minimizing the total number of ingredients in our formulations, avoiding all synthetic fillers and harsh, harmful preservatives.
Our commitment to silk and to minimal ingredients, though, demanded that we formulate all of our own skincare products. (Such expertise is not readily found in our industry.) Then, because our ingredients and formulations were so unique, we also had to take on the challenges of manufacturing, too.
Two years, $5M in research and development (R&D), and six U.S. patents later, the result is the pride of our company—a boutique line of 11 luxury anti-aging skincare products branded under our company’s name, Silk Therapeutics.
And yet we knew there was more we needed to do. We knew price remained a considerable barrier to access.
We’ve thought long and hard about how to make the benefits of our clean, silk-based skincare more widely available. But for our small, research-intensive company, fulfilling this part of our mission had been harder than we thought. The costs to transform silk fiber to liquid silk are considerable. In fact, the costs to produce liquid silk prices it higher than gold, platinum and most other rare Earth materials. Add to this the costs of the time-intensive R&D process required to optimize product stability, preservative systems, feel and performance.
And then there were our scruples: we refused to lower costs by lowering our standards or to compromise our commitment to clean, minimal ingredient formations.
So we got to thinking.
For every product we make, our R&D team frequently make 10 to 20 different formulas. We extensively test each one—not just for performance, but for safety and quality. And then after all that work, we pick just one to move on to manufacturing. This decision is almost always based on the need and fit of the product for our spa-grade line.
But our scientists have lab notebooks filled with tested formulas that they’ve sunk months into. A good number of these are extraordinary—true innovation in skincare. In fact, some of these our scientists have come to think of like their “babies.” When they were not chosen, they were crestfallen.
Which leads us to LabGrab.
About 4 months ago, my long-time scientific partner and Silk Therapeutics co-founder, Beck Lacouture and I were discussing our strategic plan. We were talking about accessibility when Rachel Dow, our General Manager walked by, noting that the team just finished making and testing a batch of hydrating serums that were great, but that didn’t have a place in our boutique line. She mused: wouldn’t it be great if we could just “grab them from the lab” and, in exchange for feedback, offer them as a LIMITED EDITION, priced more accessibly while supplies last?
More brainstorming commenced.
We realized our lab frequently downshifted. There were gaps in our R&D and production schedule, most often when we are waiting on test results on other products in the early stages of our R&D pipeline. Why not use these moments to turn out limited production runs of these already tested, amazing formulations? We could get them quickly into customer’s hands, inviting their feedback and inviting them to influence what we develop and make next.
To further control costs, we decided, we’d focus on what goes into the products, and less on how we package them.
Dylan Haas, one of our scientists, suggested we use our internal formulation number as the product name, and to simply describe the intended purpose of the product on the label. I wanted to give the inventor credit, too, and so the team decided to include the formulator’s initials on the box.
We pulled in our creative partners at Girvin, who helped us design straightforward, cost-effective packaging, a logo and a website. For boxes, we asked Boutwell, Owens & Co., Inc., our partner and fellow Massachusetts-based company, to come up with a design that protects the bottles with a single, simple, recyclable carton. And in lieu of a big promotions budget, we embraced the opportunity for an exciting new partnership, and opted for more organic, community-based model, one that would help us disseminate news of product releases over social media and (eventually) through an affiliates program.
And so LabGrab™ was born—a program where we offer, when we can, limited editions of some seriously innovative skincare, and where skincare is made and developed in partnership with a community of skincare aficionados.
I’m so pleased to tell you about this new program, and to have you come take a seat at our innovation table. Launching March 9th.
Greg Altman, PhD, CEO, Co-Founder