If you had asked Jana Bobosikova what she thought she was going to be after college, she would have answered an Economist/Multidisciplinary Academic and CEO/Entrepreneur. 

Fast forward a few years and her career has taken her through the ins and outs of running and growing consumer brands, working with primary biotech research and scaling brands with a focus on beauty. Originally from Prague and having lived in Germany, Israel, UK and Canada before rooting EPIC HQ in Santa Monica, Jana studied Theology, Business and Economics and ended up working with brands such as Sephora and Seed or BREAD. 

Having developed a deep understanding of end-to-end operations, value chain, performance metrics, and cash-flow requirements in the beauty and wellness sectors, Jana launched EPIC Brands in 2019 and in two short years has operated brands with revenue from $0 to $30M+ in annual sales in 18 months or less.

EPIC Brands isn't just any operator; they focus on innovation-centric, future category-leading beauty brands with a focus on commercializing life sciences at the intersection of technology and sustainability into easy to love products in personal care, consumer health and beauty. 

Operator is a big word. Can you break down what your company does for beauty brands? What does your typical day look like at EPIC Brands?

We start with a Growth Assessment, aka Module 0 - where we analyze every aspect of the business from cost of goods at each SKU level, their unique supply chain and how it affects profitability/cash flow requirements at scale and D2C vs retailer vs international revenue. We look at innovation opportunities and the marketplace, identifying category leadership carve-out, SKU-line up, target costs, working capital needs, target customers (B2B, D2C and international) creating a very detailed business plan - which gets approved by the CEO and/or investors after which we then execute the business plan as the brand's operating partner on a daily basis. 

In order to run these end-to-end operations, finding the right partners must be critical. Who are your most important partners and, having gone through the ups and downs of working with so many, what are important things to look for when selecting them?

Due to the inherent interdependencies of supply chain and sales, every EPIC partner is a critical partner. We evaluate all partners on: 

  • Capabilities
  • Innovation
  • Cost
  • Flexibility
  • Stage-fit to each brand (e.g. category leading vendor may not be the best fit if requiring 6 digit MOQs and/or lead times that prevent nimbleness to the growth rate of a brand or if the requested payment terms are not suitable). 

An often overlooked variable of consumer and non-biotech brands is a vendor's ability to support various compliance frameworks internationally or being aware of US-based claims - this is where partners like Covalo can be massively accelerative in engaging with brands and vendors early on.

What are the most important retail channels you're seeing today, and how do you think things will evolve in the future?

EPIC's core thesis is building brands with multi-platform revenue and an operating framework that unlocks profitability when doing so. No one individual sales channel alone - however strong - can make a brand EPIC. 

What we are excited about right now at EPIC is technology unlocking new business models by improving full channel attribution through smart packaging and other connected solutions. 

We expect product discovery to continue decentralizing across more platforms, although brand purchases may aggregate in retailer platforms, Web3 experiences and D2C.

Do you have any tips for pitching to a big retailer?

Know your audience, know their current assortment and succinctly outline how your brand, with its unique properties, will bring incremental customer/spend through the retailer's door. Be fluent in speaking to the commercial aspects - what does success look like in sales per period, what is the margin, percentage of marketing spent on both sides, how are returns handled, who funds freight, etc. 

A large part of operations consists of predicting demand and ensuring this can be met with the right production plan. Do you have any tips for predicting demand and how to react if demand changes significantly from these forecasts?

The access to debt finance (shout-out to Settle, Clearco) has been a tremendous off-setting power in helping navigate extened lead times and demand plans during the Covid era. We at EPIC embrace data, technology and excellent working relationships with all vendors to get EPIC Brands across fluctuating demand. 

You have a lot of biotech beauty brands as clients. Given the longer innovation cycles and technical requirements in these products, can you share product development challenges you faced and tips for other beauty entrepreneurs?

Definitely speed! The scientific process in developing products is critically fundamental and sometimes cannot be rushed. What we see as a challenge however is when this process gets transposed on the entire operating culture and timeline of the consumer business. Time really is money and the market receipt of a product launch does not obey scientific data - so getting to market as quickly as possible and supporting scientific teams with clear milestones of 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0 type strategies for their consumer commercialization so that they can develop technology and launch quickly, is key. 

How would you summarize your tips on running a beauty business?

  1. Know your why and for whom you're doing this: Which/whose problem are you solving other than your own?
  2. Know your numbers: costs, sales, burn, margin
  3. Hire people that can keep track of process and performance - hire for excellence and vision alignment (80%) category experience (20%)
  4. Build for the future: have  apoint of view on what that is and innovate with that in mind
  5. Be dependable: the founder/CEO culture seeps through every brand into the product and customer experience. Let everyone know you and your organization care

You've had the chance to use Covalo for a little while now - could you expand on how you use it and how it helps you?

Currently, we utilize Covalo for comparative ingredient search, claim search, compliance cross-check and lite discovery. We look forward to being able to utilize Covalo as a formula builder and a live working-project tool as the capabilities of Covalo expand.

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