Sea cucumbers instead of Botox

At all times, people dream of prolonging youth and supporting natural beauty. Olga Trofimova, creator of the first Far Eastern cosmetic brand Pentakan, shared the story of her Holoturia-based product line. The tissues of these marine animals are saturated with most valuable trace elements. Due to their extraordinary healing properties, they have been dubbed “sea ginseng.”

How it all began: first steps towards success

Olga Trofimova has been working in marketing and PR for over 12 years. She first had the idea of ​​creating a new cosmetic line while she was on maternity leave. Most drugs she had previously used for skin problems were contraindicated to future mothers. Olga learned about trepang-based products, Russian scientists’ innovative development, from her parents who worked at the Far Eastern Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Trepang extract contains a whole range of biologically active substances that help with skin problems: carotenoids, neutral lipids, phospholipids, vitamin E, saturated and unsaturated fatty acids, amino acids and ceramides.

A team of scientists at the Far East Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences has long been interested in the sea cucumbers’ amazing ability to regenerate. Even cut into two pieces, they become fully restored within a short period of time. This “immortality phenomenon” inspired the beginning of the innovative cosmetics development. Their extensive research, a lot of experiments and discoveries have finally led them to create Pentakan cream, which won the Gold Medal at the 8th International Innovation Forum in Moscow in 2008. But it was only produced in small experimental batches then.

Olga Trofimova met with developers to discuss opportunities for entering mass market with the product. This resulted in establishing the Primkosmetika company in late 2015. Olga and her colleagues decided to choose a contract manufacturing model, with products made by order using an independent manufacturer’s facilities. The company does not have to purchase its own equipment; it provides main ingredients such as sea cucumber extract, packaging and labels, and receives the finished product.

From development stage to business activities

The stage from the product development to entering the market took several years and involved various research and testing methods. It took almost a year to launch production, which was started in 2016 with the use of the company’s own finances. The first stage required investing some RUR 700K ($11K); the investments paid off a year after manufacturing the initial batch of the product. During 2018, revenues doubled as compared to 2017. In addition, the company expanded its product line to four Pentakan products: cream, balm, moisturizer, and shampoo.

Today, the company manufactures about 1,000 product items per month. The average retail price of the popular Pentakan cream is RUR 550 ($8.8). The company’s skin care products are sold by a pharmacy chain in the Primorye Territory, with distributors in Moscow, Novosibirsk, Volgograd, and Khabarovsk. In early 2019, the company launched its own online shop, with both Russian and foreign customers purchasing its products.

Most customers choose Pentakan to solve skin problems and make it healthy and smooth. Regular use of products containing sea cucumber extract helps treat dermatitis, acne and other issues, and provides an anti-age effect on the skin.

Russian scientists remain global leaders in the research of marine bottom-dwelling invertebrate animals. Olga’s team includes biotechnologists from the Far Eastern Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, who had developed the unique extract. The company uses outsourcing for its accounting and manufacturing activities; it also engages freelancers for promotion, design, advertisement campaigns, and other current tasks.         

Sales and promotion

The company placed its bets on referral marketing, which has proven to be a good decision. Company employees asked their first customers to do reviews on the products and recommend them to their friends if they liked them. They also sent the products to beauty bloggers. Clients are currently leaving their reviews on Pentakan at their own initiative. Word-of-mouth marketing has improved brand awareness and proved to be much less expensive than traditional advertisement. The company also uses social media marketing.

Plans call for diversifying sales channels and entering other regions of Russia and exporting products abroad. To that end, the company is working on certification and is making changes to the package. It is possible that in the near future, trepan-based products will enter the global market and the Far Eastern brand Pentakan will compete with world famous beauty brands.

By Christina Firsova

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