When SWAKE Cosmetics was founded earlier this year, founder and CEO Vanessa Sachs had a specific consumer in mind – “the lifelete.” Defined on SWAKE’s website as an “always-on achiever who feels the pressure to look good regardless of their environment,” the lifelete is who inspired Sachs to create a cosmetics company built with sweat in mind.
SWAKE’s name is a combination of the beginning letters of sweat and makeup. Sachs, who is currently pursuing a master’s degree in consumer analytics at the University of Georgia, first came up with the concept for SWAKE when her family moved to Naples, Florida. The hot weather in the city caused her makeup to sweat off.
After researching the cosmetics market for products similar to her concept, Sachs found a gap in the availability of makeup meant to endure sweat while also protecting the skin. She said Clinique previously attempted a sweat-proof foundation, but discontinued the product after a few months.
With $250 Sachs received for graduating last fall, she hired a cosmetic chemist from the freelancing site Upwork to begin brainstorming foundation formulas. A former employee of L’Oréal, the cosmetic chemist aided Sachs in developing and revising a mock formula over the course of a month.
Sachs said formula research focused on discovering the compounds in makeup that make it sweat-proof, the ingredients that care for your skin throughout wear and ingredients that make a product smell good.
“A building has its foundations,” Sachs said. “I’m going to start the company with the foundation … You can use waterproof mascara and it’ll hold up. You can use a good primer, you can use a good blush, but if you don’t have a sweat-proof foundation, then you’re going to leak onto your clothes.”
With her company plan and formula, Sachs entered the UGA Idea Accelerator, a competition providing students starting or expanding a business the chance to win a financial award. Participants receive feedback from mentors and investors before pitching their idea to a panel of judges. Sachs won $2,500 for SWAKE on Feb. 17, allowing her to begin planning the creation of her product with suppliers.
Georgia Anne Moore, the co-founder and owner of Grace and James Kids, served as a judge on the panel for the competition. Moore said she voted in favor of SWAKE because of the appeal of makeup that provides sun protection, skin nutrients and lasts all day.
“I loved her enthusiasm,” Moore said. “From the second she took to the stage, I could tell she really believed in herself and her product. I always think about who a company is going to sell to and their customers’ characteristics. I could tell that Vanessa knew her customer well and that she had identified a real problem that she could help fix with her product.”
SWAKE’s products, which include six shades of a sweat-proof foundation, are currently on pre-order and set to officially launch on April 15. Sachs said she has an ongoing crowdfunding campaign posted on Indiegogo to raise money to expand her company.
“It’s really me,” Sachs said. “I’m the marketer. I do all of our social media. I probably put in 40 hours, if not more, a week. It’s just something I love to do, so I don’t mind being in charge.”
Another important factor to Sachs was making SWAKE’s products gender-inclusive. Her next steps include expanding the line to a hair gel, a post-sweat moisturizer, a primer and a lip balm.
“I felt like there’s just no cosmetic out there that’s for everyone,” Sachs said. “I just want everyone to feel like SWAKE is for them. I would love to make these cosmetics that I’ve always wanted and never had.”
Sanam Patel, a senior biology major at UGA, is Sachs’ roommate. Patel said she remembers Sachs frequently practicing her speech for the Idea Accelerator competition when Sachs first began developing the brand.
“I think she really enjoyed practicing with people and getting feedback constantly because she is definitely a perfectionist,” Patel said. “She was not going to stop until she got it right. I think the day before, she probably pitched to us five or ten times just that day. I think that is honestly one of the very determining factors in her success is just the drive she has to get what she wants.”
Patel said she tested different versions and formulas of SWAKE’s foundation to provide Sachs with feedback in anticipation of the company’s first launch. After wearing the foundation all day outside, Patel said she returned home to find her foundation still intact. As someone who struggles with acne, Patel also said she was shocked to see her skin did not break out from the product.
“To watch how SWAKE grows as she grows with how much effort she puts in, to see it yield a reward to me really solidifies the idea,” Patel said. “I think the most defining feature of success is hard work … She works harder than anybody I know, so to see that come to fruition I think is really cool.”