There are a few truths that businesswoman and entrepreneur, Lufilufi Rasmussen, understands clearly about business.
The first is that branding is everything. She also knows that you never give up on a good thing.
As the owner of Misiluki Day spa, Mrs. Rasmussen has been busy in the last 18 months with launching her luxury skin care range, Misiluki Skin Care on a global stage after carefully constructing the brand identity over 10 years.
Following her success in the last nine years of running two cafes and a beauty spa, this ambitious entrepreneur is looking beyond the reef in fulfilling a personal dream. That was to create her own skin care range as well as presenting to the world the first prestige skin care line from Samoa.
While that may seem daunting, one specific quality about Mrs. Rasmussen that sets her apart from the competition is her relentless drive to break through to those global markets, particularly the U.S. market, which she set her sights on following a gut feeling and some careful research.
The global skin care market is estimated to be worth around US$382 billion (T$916billion) and within that market is a niche that is showing faster growth rate than that of the overall market which is the rising demand for natural and organic products within the U.S.
Having the audacity to claim a piece of that American beauty pie is where we meet Mrs. Rasmussen after a string of launches in New Zealand, Australia and Japan.
“When people were steering me to stay within this region like N.Z. and Australia, I realised that regardless, you’re actually still spending the same amount of money and effort with those markets,” she said. “And yet there was little return compared with the U.S. market. We’ve spent the same time, effort and money into it as the markets in Oceania but yet we’ve gained so much from it.”
Following her gut feeling and bucking the norms, she turned her focus to the U.S.
“I always knew it was the U.S. market that I needed to hit. The people that I talked to in N.Z. and Australia were not forthcoming with information,” she said.
“When we came back from the U.S. in July where we were showcasing our product at a tradeshow, I met people in the industry there who shared information instantly to the same questions I put to those in N.Z. and Australia.”
Part of the marketing appeal about Misiluki to U.S. buyers is its uniqueness of being an indigenous innovation that encapsulates a place in the Pacific that intrigues them.
“Our pitch is that we are a natural organic skincare from the heart of Samoa,” she said. “From all our research and everything that seems to be what really resonates with them, which is good for us because we are all about Samoa and it’s about trying to convey what our culture and our country is about. They are curious about us and they love it because we are very authentic.”
There’s nothing makeshift in Mrs. Rasmussens’s approach to creating a product that can compete at the global level. And while some have sped to the finish line in creating a brand deck for their product, she has painstakingly taken her time to ensure that her product and brand is watertight.
“We have sent out our branding to 20 retailers in the U.S. and five of them have come back to us straight away. So we have now sent them samples and if they like us then they’ll want to meet us,” she said.
“The majority of what we have spent has been on branding. Branding is really important, it doesn’t matter what it is – it comes down to that. There is a lot of depth to our brand which I think is missing a lot in other products, and that’s what’s been the most work for us is trying to figure out what we are all about and then how can we get people to connect with that.”
“People just can’t comprehend that and I’m doing things differently because, why would you want to do something when you know what the outcome is going to be?”
“At the end of the day someone else has done it before. It’s not about trying to recreate the wheel, it’s about learning from others who have been there and have been successful and it’s about collaboration because no one can do it on their own.”
When fielding questions about the risks in making a high end product with a premium price tag, Mrs. Rasmussen’s answer is simple.
“We have to stop underselling ourselves. You have to look the whole chain from the consumer right down to the farmer.”
“I always remember Adi Tafuna’i of W.I.B.D.I. saying to me that you’ve got to look after the farmer so I always take that on board.”
Mrs. Ramussen’s bright eyes and contagious hearty laughter make her seem youthful and fun loving.
But when it comes to business, this fierce creative director is uncompromising.
“I’m not an expert at skincare so I have to look for ways, you can research so much but then you have to start bringing in the experts,” she said.
“But even then, because it’s your brand, you got to be able to question everything and push the boundaries with them. I do that with the bio chemists, especially when they tell me I can’t do something but I’ll push it till they do it and they’ve discovered that it can be done,” she laughs.
“It’s the same with my brand designers, it has to be exactly what I envision otherwise I’m not being true to my brand.”
The future is bright for Misiluki Skin Care and this ambitious beauty power continues to slay her way into unchartered waters knowing that while she dare goes where no Samoan has gone before, her success means much more than individual achievement – she wants to take Samoa with her.
“What I’ve realized is that we can’t do anything on our own and we need to collaborate with people from all sectors,” she said.
“I have been fortunate enough to have government funding with grants to assist in my product development so I feel as if I have the weight of Samoa on my shoulders. I feel that I have to justify everything that I do and that’s something that keeps me going.”