Putting More “Care” in “Skincare”
In college, Aoxue wasn’t all that bothered about her skincare routine. That is, until a friend of hers faced a terrifying diagnosis: skin cancer in her early 20s. Fortunately, Aoxue’s friend beat the disease, but seeing her challenges inspired Aoxue to dig deeper into skin cancer prevention. She began researching, and what she discovered was an industry with splashy marketing but outdated formulas.
That was in 2018, and in the years since, July Sky has gone through many of the ups and downs that come with launching a small startup. Aoxue says she was surprised to learn that creating an ideal sunscreen wasn’t as cut and dried as she thought it would be.
“Something that not a lot of people know about sunscreen,” she says, “is that it's the hardest skincare product to formulate. It requires a lot of years of experience, it requires expertise, and knowing how the ingredients mix to make a really effective sunscreen that's also easy to use.”
Entering the Manufacturing Arena
The difficulty Aoxue uncovered in creating a sunscreen formula that met her high expectations could have derailed her plans entirely. But every time she heard “No” or “Impossible” from a potential manufacturer, she simply pressed on.
She finally found a manufacturer in the San Francisco Bay Area up to the challenge and navigated the compromises and collaboration required to reach the finished product. It took years of testing, but it was critical to Aoxue that they get it right.
As of now, that means focusing on one product Aoxue calls their “hero product” — an SPF 30 mineral sunscreen with added vitamin C for brightening benefits called C-Shells. She says, “What I love about it is just that it’s simple. It’s not fussy.”
Aoxue credits the success of July Sky on her focus on quality and her decision to zero in on a singular product, which now has a devoted and growing following. For Aoxue, the real reward is in making sunscreen usage an accessible and enjoyable part of a daily skincare routine.
What’s in a Name? A Major Headache
Like all small businesses, Aoxue had a few hiccups early on. One of the biggest hurdles happened in the first year of business when the founder of a larger beauty brand ordered the product. Flattered, Aoxue initially saw this as a show of support. But a short time later, the other brand launched its own sun protection product, using the same name and similar packaging. Aoxue felt her hands were tied, as she hadn’t registered a trademark on her brand.
Aoxue made the decision to rename and rebrand the product to the current name, July Sky, and she credits this as an important growing pain from which she hopes other business owners can learn.
Learn more about registering a trademark for your business name, logo, or brand with Incfile.
Aoxue’s Top Business Tips
Growing a skincare business with a single product — especially one as nuanced and complex as sun protection — is no easy feat, but Aoxue learned many valuable lessons throughout her journey that she wants to share with other founders.
So what are her best business tips?
Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Due to her independent and strong-willed nature, Aoxue initially felt like she could do it all herself. But that often came at the expense of her own well-being and that of her business. She’s changed her tune over the years and now understands the value of a strong support network.
Take risks and maintain momentum.
Early on, Aoxue was committed to selling her product online only, direct to consumers. She was hesitant about expanding into retail locations but soon realized customers needed to touch and feel the product before purchasing. Now, July Sky is sold in over 40 locations and counting.
Aoxue knows it seems daunting to start a business, but she says the key is taking small, attainable steps — even if it’s a doodle or a potential name. Put something down on paper, and go from there.
What’s Next for Aoxue and July Sky?
Aoxue is still maintaining focus on making her hero product a beloved bestseller for skincare enthusiasts. But she also understands that her journey will take her down new roads, and she’s ready to explore them. Here’s what she says lies just over the horizon:
Aoxue doesn’t mind when others say she’s moving slowly. Any future product launch will be just as intentional and thoughtful as C-Shells was, and she’s fine giving new products the time and care they deserve.
Expand the product line.
Though she’s not in a rush, Aoxue knows that July Sky will need to broaden its horizons to gain new customers and satisfy existing ones, saying, “How can we meet our customers where they’re at?” She’s considering a lip suncare product, among others.
Collaborate with brands.
As of now, July Sky is carried in over 40 retail locations in 30 cities, including her home base of San Francisco. But now, Aoxue is looking at growing her brand partnerships to get the product wider exposure. “It’s something I’m really excited about,” she says, “how we can collaborate with other brands.”
Why Aoxue Chose Incfile
When Aoxue started, she wasn’t an expert on business formation…and she didn’t want to be. From the beginning, she wanted to prioritize her product, and that included hours of hard work with manufacturers and designers. It didn’t leave a lot of room for business planning and incorporation.
“I wanted to be an expert in my product and my customers,” she says. “Incfile was incredible in that it took care of the things I wasn’t an expert in.”
Aoxue says using Incfile allowed her to let the experts handle all the paperwork and hassle of forming the business, so she could focus on what was most critical to her — creating a compelling product.
Aoxue’s Top 3 Business Tools
Sun protection is a literal lifesaver. But it doesn’t have to be a hassle. It doesn’t have to be expensive. And it doesn’t have to be unpleasant to use. Aoxue Tang is tackling the myths around suncare head-on, and she’s ready to give her customers a brighter — safer — future in the sun.