In the final installment of our interview series connected to representation in the media, we spoke with the founder of tech-focused skincare brand Base+, Yasmin Greenaway.
By Yasmin’s admission, she never meant to start a business. Growing up, skincare was always something she had struggled with, “I have both acne and eczema, and usually trying to fix one of those things will exacerbate the other.” Unable to buy products off the shelf, she started to formulate them herself. When asked to propose a business idea for her master's course at UCL, she realized the potential value for others in what she had created. A survey on Twitter with hundreds of responses in a matter of hours affirmed that the proposed product was filling a gap in the market. Yasmin applied for a certificate in cosmetic science and worked to finalise a formulation, launching a beta product in August 2020.
Yasmin’s goals go beyond the skincare itself. Ultimately she wants to develop technology to help people better understand their skin. The first step was to acquire an app with half a million photos of people’s faces, providing the data to train machine learning models that could diagnose skin conditions from images. The second step was investment from Google’s Black Founders Fund. “I applied to the fund because we are building a global index for people’s skin, and obviously, Google is the world’s largest index.”
Base+ sits within a crowded market in the beauty and skincare industry. Not historically renowned for its diverse or representative campaigns, Yasmin sees the tide shifting. “If we look at the current vibe in beauty, people are challenging the perfect, synthetic aesthetic. Consumers are demanding that they see themselves in ads, which sounds obvious, but it just wasn’t happening.” As Yasmin points out, unrealistic, and unrepresentative campaigns in this space just don’t make sense. “If you’re advertising skin solutions, it makes sense to show people whose skin might not be perfect.” It also makes sense to show people skin types and bodies that look like theirs: “Different genders, ethnicities, races, sizes are all important. People need to see themselves in ads now.” Representative campaigns “genuinely move the needle” because they provide a much “stronger connection with the audience.”
“If we look at the current vibe in beauty, people are challenging the perfect, synthetic aesthetic. Consumers are demanding that they see themselves in ads, which sounds obvious, but it just wasn’t happening.”
For Yasmin, her consumers are key. She still keeps in contact with the first few hundred people who responded to her Twitter poll. “Your real stakeholders are your customers, and they make or break the business.” Her marketing approach reflects this customer-first mindset and an ambition to create a diverse and inclusive community around the product. “Because we have so much data, we can hyper-personalize our marketing content. We look at clusters (aided by machine learning) so we can segment out different demographics and the skin issues most common within those demographics.”
Data is Yasmin’s starting point in developing representative content, helping her to understand objectively how diverse the content she produces is. “You have to measure to be able to make decisions about what you need to do differently or what is going unaddressed.” She also emphasizes the importance of “organizations not assuming that they know everything, it’s about checking in with the community.”
“You have to measure to be able to make decisions about what you need to do differently or what is going unaddressed.”
Moving forward, Yasmin is focusing on the development of the skincare index at Base+ and a new customer interface. Yasmin is also working to maximize her impact within the tech space. “If I see a company that is genuine about the impact they’re seeking to create, I want to elevate their opportunities.” This month she is partnering with Google and Love Circular, to run a Hackathon, encouraging people from underrepresented backgrounds to become involved in tech.
This is one of a series of interviews around representative media run by CreativeX for Black History Month in the UK.
Discover the other interviews in the series here →
Yasmin Greenaway is the Founder of Base Plus, a skincare brand combining data, machine learning and formulation expertise to create personalized skincare. The brand has been featured in Grazia, Glamour and recently Wired. Yasmin received investment this year from Google's Black Founders Fund and is working to improve diversity and inclusion within the beauty industry. Alongside her brand, she works to improve access to the technology space.
Find Yasmin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/yasmingreenaway/
Find Base Plus: https://baseplus.co.uk/