Ben Bennett Unveils New Brand Incubator, The Center
Beauty industry veteran Ben Bennett has founded a new company.
Los Angeles-based The Center is a "new type of beauty incubator," Bennett told WWD, under which he will both develop brands and invest in up-and-comers in the beauty and wellness categories. Bennett is known as the cofounder of Hatchbeauty, which under his direction created lines for hairstylist Orlando Pita and makeup artist Kristofer Buckle, as well as private label brands for retailers, including a clean makeup and skin-care line for Walmart called Found.
The Center's business model is split into two functions — brand incubation and brand acceleration under The Center Holdings, the company's investment arm. Thus far, The Center Holdings has invested in four brands — clean makeup brand Kosas, clean fragrance line Ellis Brooklyn, sustainable skin-care brand Circumference, and Five Suns Foods, which sells an Andean plant-based protein called chocho.
Bennett has a team of 13 people, some of whom are executives who worked under him at Hatchbeauty, working at The Center's headquarters at 9200 Sunset in West Hollywood, in an old office space once inhabited by The Estée Lauder Cos. Inc, and plans to add up to 10 employees this year.
"The goal is to not only incubate our own brands, but to take this team's expertise and this platform we are building to provide both growth capital and shared services to a variety of early stage, emerging brands in both beauty and wellness," said Bennett. He declined to disclose terms of the investment deals.
"We're advisers providing capital to young brands and entrepreneurs," said Bennett of the accelerator side of the business, noting that The Center's purpose will be to get involved "depending on what the entrepreneur needs." "Our role is providing a reach into our network of contacts, providing guidance or services that maybe the brand doesn't have."
With the investment arm of the business, Bennett is hoping to help a new generation of entrepreneurs that are launching businesses at a much faster rate than when he founded Hatchbeauty 10 years ago. "Our industry has really turned into fast fashion, with a consumer who is ravenous for newness," said Bennett. "The barrier for entry for brands is incredibly low — I don't know if there's ever been a time where the door has been more open."
A key differentiator from his business model at Hatchbeauty, said Bennett, is that The Center will not focus on creating in-house brands for big-box retailers, such as Walmart's Found. With the brands The Center is incubating — the first is to launch in the next month, though he is tight-lipped on details — Bennett is looking to create mostly personality-driven brands that are able to sell across a variety of channels. "The challenge is different now than it was in 2010 — when I started Hatch, the barrier was higher to launch new brands and gain distribution and now I believe that if a young brand has an authentic voice and positioning and is doing something innovative, there's a competition to be able to distribute that brand."
While many of The Center's lines will be backed by a personality, this doesn't necessarily mean more influencer lines on the market. Bennett said he gravitates "toward people who are real experts in their field and provide expertise and guidance in work they've dedicated their lives to."
Bennett formed Hatchbeauty in 2010 with his former business partner Tracy Holland. In April, Bennett sold his stake in the business to private equity firm Lion Capital, following what was said to be a turbulent time at the company.
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