Touchland's founder was always going to succeed.
Up until the pandemic, hand sanitizer wasn't necessarily a part of everybody's lives. Sure, most of us knew that we should carry it around, but it wasn't top of mind or something we thought to show off. Then, 2020 happened.
Hand sanitizer sold out left and right. We all started using whatever became available and, more likely than not, the formulas wreaked of alcohol and dried up the skin on our hands. Only a handful of brands got it right — and Touchland reigned supreme.
Founder Andrea Lisbona knew exactly what she was doing as she strategized and navigated the sky-rocketing demands. Before the hand sanitizer brand launched in Spain, the country was hit with the swine flu — a training drill, per se, for the global phenomenon that was to blow up 11 years later.
"I didn't want [Touchland] to be remembered as a swine flu solution or as something that capitalized on it," she tells InStyle. "We postponed the launch, which ended up playing well because most of the companies that jumped on the wave ended up building factories, and when the swine flu declined they had to close."
COVID-19 was different, of course. By then, Touchland was being distributed in 1,300 stores in the U.S., with big-name retailers such as Urban Outfitters. The brand was already successful, but its careful strategy set it apart from other brands that exhausted inventory or pumped out poorer quality products. Instead, Touchland limited how many sanitizers people could buy to prevent unauthorized and up-priced resale, and to manage inventory, they had pre-order campaign with a wait times of eight weeks. Customers knew they'd have to wait but were willing to in order to receive a quality product, and they were okay with it.
In August 2021, Lisbona relaunched the brand. "It was during a moment where the category was decreasing by six percent and retailers, the moment they heard the word 'hand sanitizer,' would close the door in your face," she shares. "It was a moment for us to prove we're not just a hand sanitizer, we're a beauty brand that happens to sell hand sanitizer."
Here, Lisbona shares why she focused on disrupting the category, how she successfully brought her brand to the U.S., the moment she felt the brand had made it, her best piece of advice to aspiring entrepreneurs, and more.
What inspired you to launch Touchland?
I was raised in an entrepreneurial family. My father is a very hardworking man who built his company from zero to a pretty large one. But, when the crisis in Europe came, we lost everything. I saw what it meant to be an entrepreneur: starting from nothing, building everything, and then starting back from square one.
I was always really passionate about entrepreneurs such as Steve Jobs and companies like Dyson and Nespresso — innovators and visionaries that took categories that were already in the market and they just made things easier, faster, and more user-friendly. I wanted to inspire generations to come, and I'm a beauty junkie. So, as a beauty junkie, I felt as if skincare evolved from something that you have to do into something people got excited about. And I wondered why personal care had never been as exciting.
Our goal was to beautify personal care and create products that are as exciting as skincare and beauty through personal care journeys. We started with hand sanitizer because out of all the products of personal care, I truly believe that that this was in everyone's bag. No one had thought to make something that didn't apply like ketchup, smell like tequila, and was sticky. So, that's how it all started.
How did Touchland evolve?
Our journey is not the common one. We started in 2010 distributing hand sanitizers and did that for over four years. It enabled us to talk to many heavy hand sanitizers users, such as nurses, and listen to all their feedback. I was like, "we need to create something people are excited about." We were in Spain, and a lot of international distributors came to us and said they wanted to distribute our products. We were like, "no, no, that's not our products — we simply distribute them. You can go directly to the brand." But they didn't want that, they said they wanted our branding. So, in 2014, we launched our first series of products. We launched in Europe, and in 2016 we had seen the product was successful, so we spent two years developing our products to launch in the US. We finally did in 2018 with a Kickstarter campaign — it was fully funded in 24 hours. 50% of those backers in the starter were in the U.S., so we knew we had done the right thing to move the brand and launch here.
When did you first feel that Touchland had really made it?
With the Kickstarter campaign. When we did it and started seeing how people were obsessed with our product. When we started shipping the packages of Kickstarter, people were like, "I've never waited so long for anything in my life. I have never been as obsessed. I bought all of the colors and scents." I think at that moment I understood that the way the US market perceived the brand was so much different than Europe.
I remember when Rosie Huntington-Whitley shared her flight essentials for Fashion week and I was like, "Is that Touchland?" And then KathleenLights — I'm like, "Is she really holding Touchland instead of her iPhone?" But also micro-influencers! When I see people creating videos matching their Touchland to their outfits it's the most rewarding thing. You can love your baby as much as you want, but when people are as obsessed as you, that's when you say, "We've built something that made it into people's life — I think that's a dream."
That being said, as an entrepreneur, you never operate thinking you've made it. The moment you feel complacent and as if you've reached the top, that's when you start dying. I don't ever think I will have the feeling that we've made it because I always feel like I can do more, we can get better, we can go farther.
Scent is such a big part of Touchland's identity. Tell me about its scent evolution.
The first approach of Touchland was very skincare-focused — it was about the formulation, the softness, being fast-absorbing. But we understood that people wanted more. So, in 2019 we partnered with Givaudan Perfume House. I feel like a lot of people say, "When you spray Touchland, it takes you places." They are the experts, and we love to be surrounded by people that are masters in what they do. The scents have heart notes, base notes, top notes. And [Givaudan] help us create scents that don't overlap with what we already have — when you launch so many, you need to make sure that each one has its own personality and mood.
What's been the most challenging part of having your own brand?
From the beginning, the biggest challenge has always been keeping up with the demand. Everyone thinks it's so cool to have 56,000 people waitlist — but it is not. These are people who wanted to buy your product, who were excited, and who couldn't buy it. You can have the best marketing campaigns, the best everything, but if you don't have product to sell, nothing makes sense. So for us, it has always been about building a supply chain that can keep up with the demand. How we've done that is by dedicating resources [to it], having contingency plans, and making sure that we don't have situations where we are left with without product.
What's your best piece of advice to aspiring beauty bosses?
I think the most important thing is to find a reason why. If you're not fully devoted to your vision — you're going to go through so many obstacles that your body won't be able to endure it anymore. It's challenging. You have to be obsessed with what you do because that's the only way to be honest. There have been so many times that my family has asked me if all the anxiety, tears, and sweat is worth it and I say yes, that I'd do it all over again. We're in 4,000 retailers and are expanding into other countries — things happen if you work hard.
Below, discover some of our favorite Touchland products.
Touchland Rose Water Glow Mist
To shop: $16; touchland.com
Beyond just being a hand sanitizer, this mist is an anti-aging product, too. "It's been a game changer and proves that what we are truly disrupting the skincare industry," Lisbona says of this pick. It's formulated to rejuvenate, purify, and detoxify the skin while fighting against visible signs of aging and restoring the skin's glow. "We even clinically tested Glow Mist, and found that 97% of users said that Glow Mist made their skin appear healthier, smoother, and firmer after continued use," she previously told InStyle.
Smiley x Touchland Mango Passion Power Mist
To shop: $10; touchland.com
Touchland's newest release is a collaboration with Smiley, and it's one Lisbona is particularly proud of. "When we partner with a brand, it has to meet both our DNAs," she begins. "Smiley started by creating newspapers that share good news. They've been defining optimism and have this energy about celebrating the good things in life — canceling the bad noises. So, this partnership is very special." It smells like a refreshing burst of mango, peaches, and strawberries.
Touchland Beach Coco Power Mist
To shop: $10; touchland.com
Close your eyes and imagine yourself on a dream beach vacation — that's what this hand sanitizer's scent inspires. "We had to develop this scent for over two years, which is two times, three times more than the others," says Lisbona. Touchland got it just right. While spritzing, you'll smell pineapple, coconut water, and creamy vanilla. Upon further inspection, you may also make out the subtleties of Lily of the Valley, sparkling grapefruit, sandalwood, magnolia, and cedarwood. "It's a happy scent," Lisbona concludes.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Beauty Boss profiles the brains behind the brands making waves in the beauty industry. From the ideas that first inspire brands to how best-selling hair, makeup, and skincare products are made, find out how these leaders get it done.
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Read the original article on InStyle.