Laurence Newman will never forget the phone call that changed his life.
Together with co-founder Andrew Showman, he launched the eCommerce beauty business CurrentBody in 2009 and has grown it into a £86m turnover business.
The quality of their products has been at the heart of their success but appearing in series three of the smash Netflix series Emily in Paris, starring Lily Collins, took the company to a whole new level.
“I got a phone call from somebody who was at the launch of Emily in Paris in Paris who said ‘oh my God, Emily is standing with your LED mask on in the opening scene of series three,” recalled Newman.
“People thought we paid (for it) but we didn’t. You couldn’t put a price on that brand positioning. It didn’t cost a penny.”
Make-up artists had been using the CurrentBody’s LED masks on the set of Emily in Paris but Newman said its appearance on the show was a complete shock.
The media explosion was instant. The headline in Grazia magazine was emphatic: ‘The mask from Emily in Paris that everyone is talking about.’
However the roots of CurrentBody’s success run deeper than a fleeting appearance at the start of a Netflix show.
Earlier this year CurrentBody won the Judges’ Award for International Success at the Northern Tech Awards before walking away with the big prize – the Overall Judges’ Award.
Recalling the company’s launch in 2009, Newman said: “We weren’t trying to fix a problem per se but my background was in professional devices and I also owned my own clinics.
“I thought at the time that the types of technology used in clinics in medical settings would eventually be miniaturized for use safely and effectively at home.
“There weren’t any products of that type in 2009. As we’ve seen over the last four or five years it’s become the fastest growing part or category of beauty.
“CurrentBody is the global leader in home use beauty devices. They are the miniaturized version of the technology you would typically have if you went to a beauty salon or clinic.”
The company’s typical customers will spend more than £200, with around 70 per cent of their business now coming from overseas.
“The eCommerce aspect hasn’t changed,” he said. “It’s all about driving traffic and increasing conversion. I don’t suppose that ever changes but what does change is the channels and how people find the product.
“The one thing we’ve done well, and been consistent with over the years, is to develop a level of PR, what I’d call ‘top of the funnel marketing’ which is driving traffic for products that people didn’t know they wanted in the first place.
“Brand comes second. The first job is product and finding something that people actually want and making sure that it’s a brand that people want to aspire to buy.”
In 2021 CurrentBody sold a stake in the business to eCommerce investor eComplete for £50m.
eComplete was founded a year earlier by former THG execs Paul Gedman and Andy Duckworth and Newman was speaking at eComplete’s recent eCommerce meet-up at KPMG’s Manchester offices.
Newman said: “We’ve raised money three times now for CurrentBody and there’s always been different suitors for different periods of the company’s growth. eComplete was right at that particular time.
“What eComplete did is bring an entrepreneurial side to private equity where they understood about beauty and the importance of our average order value and being profitable from order one.
“They backed management which I think is one of the most important traits of private equity.”
The entrepreneur said the other significant development for CurrentBody was the decision to start making their own products in 2018.
“It was working with third party brands that made us realise how important it was to have our own brand,’ he said.
“You then have control over everything that you’re doing. Margin increased significantly and made the company far more valuable because there’s a brand that we built.”
Newman identified several core strands to CurrentBody’s success.
“I talk to my staff and it always starts with product, then finding the right channel to sell it and understanding the customer and who’s going to buy it,” he said.” As long as you stick to quite simple principles then I don’t think you can go too far wrong.”
And of course … being featured in a Netflix blockbuster doesn’t do any harm either.