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Playing the Game Better With Drew Stevens of Margin Skincare




"You're never going to please everyone" is a phrase that set Drew Stevens, founder of the skincare brand Margin, free. In the era of amplified social judgment, and hundreds of new competitors popping up every week, it is more important now than ever to understand what you're in it for, and if that reason is guided by passion, like it is for Drew, then the only way forward is up. Backed by the creative minds of Benjamin Edgar, Chris Black, Ben Sehl (KOTN) and Sam Jayne, Drew has assembled the creative avengers to release what is currently one of the most exciting science-first, aesthetically beautiful skincare brands on the market.

We spoke to Drew about his learnings as an entrepreneur, his tips for assembling a great team and how he deals with the competition; good and bad. Scroll down to read!



 

Hey Drew, for those who aren't too familiar with you and Margin, can you tell us how it came together?


Hey guys! My name is Drew Stevens and I'm the founder of Margin. I've always been really into skincare, and prior to starting Margin had the chance to spend a lot of time with with the founders of bootstrapped and venture backed businesses both inside and outside the beauty industry through my work in private equity. I was lucky enough to get to know some of the best skin scientists in the world, and in getting to know them had the chance to share (and confirm) a set of beauty industry observations that I thought left a gap serving me effectively and honouring my interest in skin.. Ultimately, Margin was launched as a way for my to offer myself and my peers a skin solution that incorporated  best-in-class-ingredients, logic-driven formulations, and product design that I could be confident using and displaying in my home.


The whole process started in 2020 and from there, we’ve put together a great team and had a lot of fun working on what is now Margin (which we launched in 2022).



With all of the R&D and trials to get the product to be what you envisioned it to be, how do you know when it's finally right?


It's really hard to figure out when it's right. I think a lot of it has to come down to me being really proud of the product. If I can stand behind it, and I really love it, and we put it out in the world and it bricks, I'm fine with that because this was me and the team's decision. I don't think I would sleep well at night if we conceded based on a product to try and make everyone happy and didn't put out what we loved the most.


Realistically, you're not going to make everyone happy. If you go to a major beauty website and look at their top trending products, what you'll find is that for virtually every product in the world that's ever been released, reviews are normally distributed on both ends. You'll have 20% of people that say that they are absolutely obsessed, you'll have a bunch of people in the middle saying it's pretty good and then you'll have 20% to 30% of the audience saying "I wouldn't put this on my worst enemy", and yet it's a best selling product.


At the end of the day, there is no such thing as universally loved anything, so I just try and put out what we really like and if it works, great.



You have some pretty established names on your board/co-founder table. What was your process to getting in touch with them and getting them on board?

From a cold calling perspective, you'd be surprised at how easy it is to get in touch with people. Social media has totally changed that over the years. If you have a tweet that bangs and somebody replies to it and they're an interesting person, boom, be in their DMs immediately. Same with Instagram and then if you're doing something interesting, offer somebody a little bit of value and something tangible they can act on.


Meeting Chris the first time, I had never interacted with him, not on a social platform, nothing before. I knew who he was and I thought he'd be an interesting partner in a venture like this.

It was literally me just sending him an email and saying, "This is what I do now. This is what's interesting about what I do now. This is an insight that I think I have that I think would be compelling and I'd love to know your take on it because I think of you as x, y, and z".


The biggest thing though is just come to them with a good idea. I came to him with "Here's my insight about skincare and here's what I think we can do about it. Tell me I'm crazy". It wasn't just like, "hey, bro, skincare is really hot right now. Want to do something?" because that's not really actionable and that's not like a nutritious little bite for them or a hook in the water that they may find interesting.



You've mastered skincare and the art of networking. What is on your list of things to master in 2024?


I'm really trying to master my energy output in the most efficient way. My default is to try and move 30 footballs an inch up the field every day and then at the end of the week, I look back and the 30 footballs have only moved a few inches and that's not really that noticeable of an improvement. I think the right way to work is actually for me to run one football ten yards down the field for like a half day, run another one five yards down the field for a part of the day, and, be very focused on trying to really make progress on a few tasks in a given time period versus trying to do so many tasks at once.


That's very difficult, as I'm sure many people reading can relate to this when you're running your own thing or have a side project that you're working on too. It becomes easy to feel busy and tired and feel like you spent energy, but not really have a lot to show for it. So this is what I'm trying to focus on and master in 2024.



The beauty industry, like many others, has a ton of players that seem to care more about making a quick buck than an impactful product. What do you think about those types of brands?

This is very true. The reason I'm doing this is because I care about products so much and I want the product to be the best it can be. I have a visceral reaction to the idea that someone would try and enter the market with a product that's trendy but potentially ineffective or harmful, but I also know that the answer isn't just for me to go around and say "hey,, that's not OK." There's a game being played, right? We're on this giant field and the way for me to make a point is to just eat their lunch, right? The way to do it is to play the game better than them.

If in five years or ten years or twenty years, we've played the game better, then we will be rewarded for that and if we didn't play the game well or the game changed on us and people actually didn't care what they put on their skin then, you know what, I wasn't playing the right game and I lost. However, I can lose feeling good, right? This is my passion, but at the end of the day, I try to remember that there's an element of sports or gamesmanship to this and any other business as an entrepreneur, and just focus on what I can do to play the game better.


I think that's a healthier attitude and so when I hear about competitors like that, it's like, okay, great, you're playing the game well right now. Let me see if I can't outscore you.



 

Make sure to check out Margin and keep it locked to Pier Five for more founder interviews just like this!

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