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Beauty company has seen beastly side of business Atlantic Coast Media soared, then fell, but is on the rise again

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Andrew Surwilo, left, and Thomas Shipley, co-founders, Atlantic Coast Media Group.
Andrew Surwilo, left, and Thomas Shipley, co-founders, Atlantic Coast Media Group. - ()

Sometimes it takes a stumble to find the best path back to the top.

Take Atlantic Coast Media Group — a Jersey City-based beauty supply company specializing in making high-end brand products, such as Luminique and Miracle Skin Transformer, for baby boomers.

The company grew 480 percent, to $170 million in annual revenue, from 2007 to 2010.

But by 2011 — the same year it was recognized by Inc. 500 as the 29th fastest-growing consumer products company in the country and NJBIZ as the fastest-growing company in New Jersey — the business was quietly undergoing 18 months of downsizing in an effort to reduce its top line by half.

“One of the things that we did from 2005 to 2010 was we grew everything internally,” co-founder Andrew Surwilo said. “Our fixed overhead became daunting.”

Surwilo and fellow co-founder Thomas Shipley created the business back in 2005 to create, incubate and launch innovative iconic beauty brands with the idea of attracting buyers as the brands matured.

The team focused heavily on its 360-degree direct response marketing approach, believing customers should be able to buy how they want when they want.

Consumers were seeing tightly focused brand impressions just about everywhere they shopped, including home-shopping networks, magazines, commercials, online and in retail stores.

Since those aged 45 to 65 represented a significant demographic at 70 million Americans, it was an audience Atlantic Coast Media Group specifically targeted.

“We identified the aging baby boomer market in skincare as a really hot and interesting industry in that it combined the best of science, technology, marketing and economics,” Surwilo said.

The company's brands even gained popularity with customers in their 20s and men.

But when the company began to lose stamina and decrease in revenue after such explosive growth, Surwilo and Shipley knew they needed to venture off into treacherous territory.

“In 2011, we took a hard look at our business and developed a plan to diversify our channels and products while shrinking the business,” Shipley said. “We kept the core functions that keep us competitive internal, and outsourced all else to dedicated employees.”

Their risk ultimately paid off.

Since 2011, Atlantic Coast Media Group has quickly sprung back to double-digit growth year-over-year in almost every category.

The company's total sales are up from about $100 million in 2012 to nearly $130 million today, having increased in 2013 by 72 percent in retail and 30 percent in international sales.

And in an effort to learn from its mistakes, the company has refocused its marketing approach on social media, online content and retail, rather than expensive radio and television advertising.

“Growth is always good if it's managed properly,” Surwilo said. “Being able to pick off smaller bites and diversify was something we had to do.”

Now in four different countries — the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand — and in some of the top retailers in the world, including Nordstrom, Sephora, and Beauty.com, Atlantic Coast Media Group continues to produce more than 100 different products within its four brands: Hydroxatone, Miracle Skin Transformer, Keranique and Luminique.

“Over our 10-year history, we've sold a billion dollars' worth of products year-to-date,” Surwilo said.

E-mail to: megf@njbiz.com
On Twitter: @megfry3

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