“Deciem is named after decima, which means 10 in Latin, because everyone was telling our brilliant founder, Brandon Truaxe, that he couldn’t do 10 things at once – so he wanted to do exactly that,” explains co-CEO Nicola Kilner.
Indeed, he did: this fast-growing Toronto-based company currently holds 10 beauty brands, creating a sharp edge on an industry dominated by a handful of major umbrella brands. Its edge is such that the company, just four years young, did $20 million in sales its first year alone. Nicola believes the growing giant is light years ahead in the beauty universe, in front of all the household names, thanks to its umbrella approach and commitment to research and development.
The vertical integration of Deciem adds new meaning to the term ‘creative control’: as a start-up, the co-founders believe that no single brand can justify in-house laboratory, technology, creative, manufacturing, marketing, sales and distribution divisions. As such, by huddling 10 brands under a big umbrella, Deciem also has control over certain processes that rivals of similar size wouldn’t be able to keep an eye on.
“As a start-up, your size is held against you because you can’t afford your own manufacturing. You also can’t keep the brightest scientists or most creative designers in the world if they are only ever working one brand – the best people seek new challenges. It’s a lot easier to understand financially too, as each brand pays for 10 per cent of the company and it means you can do more for each one.”
Nicola also says the collaboration of staff across several different divisions at Deciem is the company’s “catalyst for creation”.
And while the brand is super smart about catching the customer’s eye through stand-out marketing: “Our newest store in Mexico City reads ‘important door this way’ next to the front door, our Kensington Market store says ‘please place graffiti here’ in the same spot, and we’re even cheekier in our hometown, Toronto, making our store sign ‘Not Bay’ because it’s right next to the Bay Street Subway Station sign.”
Not only that, but no liberties are taken when it comes to their core offering.
“Most beauty brands take, on average, seven years to get a product to market, whereas we take around 12 months, and can get a product out in three if we need to,” Nicola explains. “If you think about your mobile phone from seven years ago, it’s very outdated, but it’s less transparent in beauty because it’s difficult to actually see.”
And while they’re always confident in their product, Deciem doesn’t believe in promoting the proven, or over-testing the already tried and tested.
“If an ingredient’s efficacy has been proven time and again, we won’t go to town in the innovation lab. If 100 per cent pure rosehip oil is the best solution, we will package it just as that, without any fillers. Similarly, if someone shopping for retinoid can already write home about its benefits, we aren’t going to spend all our pennies convincing them through marketing.”
And that’s exactly why people keep coming back to Deciem (and how they managed to turn over that $20 million in their first year).
“Brand loyalty in the beauty industry is at zero because companies keep over-promising and under-delivering,” Nicola argues.
With products at a staggeringly reasonable price (NB: $14.90 for cold-pressed argan oil skincare), Deciem has a monopoly on affordable, effective beauty. It’s all part of their no-bull brand identity.
“If a product sells for $10, the average in the industry means it probably costs $1 to make, but out of that $1 about 80c has gone into the packaging, which means allocating only 20c to the actual ingredients. So rather than spend $1, we spend $1.50, which isn’t a huge deal more, but it means we can still spend the same 80c on the packaging, then 70c on the ingredients.
“That small sacrifice we make means we can spend 350 per cent more on ingredients and technology than our competition. That’s true value. We’re in the functional beauty space, not lifestyle, and for us to build a strong brand, the most important thing is we keep delivering on our promises.”