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Katie Sturino's Megababe Brand Turns to Brick-and-Mortar

The founder behind The 12ish Style blog is growing her body-positive, direct-to-consumer beauty brand, having inked her first retail partnership with Ulta and J Crew.
Megababe founder Katie Sturino | Source: Courtesy
  • Tamison O'Connor

NEW YORK, United States — Style blogger-turned-beauty entrepreneur Katie Sturino was tired of using men's products to combat her thigh chafe. After doing some research, she discovered there was nothing that catered specifically to her needs or was free from chemicals and additives.

Frustrated by the lack of product choices, Megababe was born as an innovative personal care brand that aims to tackle women's body discomfort issues such as thigh chafe and boob sweat, which have long been ignored by the beauty and personal care space.

Megababe launched with two products: Thigh Rescue, $14, an anti-chafe stick for anyone without a thigh gap, and Bust Dust, $16, a spray to tackle boob sweat. Both products are "clean" — free from aluminium, parabens, talc and phthalates — and the small-sized, retro-style packaging makes for a purse-friendly purchase.

Source: @Megababe

More and more fashion and lifestyle bloggers are capitalising on their influence with product lines. But instead of offering clothing or makeup, Sturino founded Megababe as a body-positive beauty line that caters to many discomfort issues that tend to be more common among plus-sized women.

The launch follows the success of her blog and accompanying Instagram account, The 12ish Style, which documents her experience as being a size "12ish girl living in a size 2 world." Three years on from launching, she's amassed over 145k followers on Instagram, up 120 percent since the beginning of 2018.

"When I started 12ish Style, I was like, 'Man, am I the only girl who has a tough time shopping? Is this just me?'" she says. "What I learned after [joining] Instagram is that there are so many women out there who feel alone in their sizing because of the way they were marketed to."

When Thigh Rescue launched online last summer, it sold out within one week. "We were sold out for most of the summer, from June to August," she recalls. "And we didn't place small orders. We really bought into it. It was hard because we had so many women that had heard about us and wanted the product but couldn't get it." Similarly, Bust Dust sold out on pre-order. (Sturino declined to give figures for the business.)

One year on, Megababe is expanding its reach with brick-and-mortar partnerships. Up until now, the brand has been available exclusively direct-to-consumer via its e-commerce site. This month, however, Megababe products will be available in all 1,100 Ulta stores across the US, as well as online.

We get labelled as niche a lot, but we're very far from niche. These problems are not niche problems.

The decision to partner with Ulta, the largest beauty-specialist retailer in the US, was a simple one. Accessibility and convenience were primary drivers. "I wanted to make sure as many women as possible can get access to these items pretty quickly," explains Sturino, "to be able to run in somewhere and pick this up, not have to wait for their online shipment to come." Other retail partners on the horizon include QVC and J. Crew.

Megababe's product line is also growing. This month Sturino will be adding a third item to the range, a Rosy Pits deodorant, while two more products — a Melasma Blocker, which treats hyper-pigmentation on the face or body, and Megafresh Wipes, flushable, biodegradable feminine hygiene wipes — are currently in development.

In a saturated beauty market, Sturino found a white space — but it wasn't without challenges. Some were sceptical whether there would be a demand for her products. "Speaking with different business people for advice, the thing we kept hearing over and over is this is not a product people would need, that this was not something that was going to be very interesting to retailers," she says.

Source: @Megababe

Additionally, Sturino wanted to make everything in the US and insisted that her products were clean and free from additives. But finding factory partners that were willing to work with her wasn't easy. "Factories want to pull up products that they already make, that's easy for them do. They don't want to reformulate a whole thing to pick out the things you don't want in there," she explains.

"It was a challenge [to convince factories to work with us]. And I would say it's still a challenge. It's a fairly male dominated field and many of the factories we are working with are dismissive of our brand. They're used to producing 750,000 units at a time and we're smaller than that, so our quantities and our product are a little out of the box for them."

Next on the agenda is launching Megaman, to cater to the underserved men within this space. "I get a lot of emails and DMs from women whose husbands have stolen their Megababe and are using it. I aim to serve men eventually, a little bit better than we've been served."

Her priority, Sturino says, will always be focused on solution-oriented products that aren't easily available. "We get labelled as niche a lot, but we're very far from niche. These problems are not niche problems [and we are] trying to get solutions to women for things that aren't being addressed."

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