Bears with Benefits: Millions in Sales with Bright Little Bears

Lena Hien and Laurence Saunier were looking for innovative, feminine supplements that also live up to the “natural beauty” trend in the cosmetics industry. And when the search turned out to be futile, they started their own company: Bears with Benefits. The colorful little bears are a dietary supplement with natural ingredients, and the “beauty product for beauty from within” is now generating sales in the millions for its founders.

Munich Startup: Who are you and what is Bears with Benefits? Please introduce yourselves!

Bears with Benefits: We are Lena Hien (32) and Laurence Saunier (44) and ran a communications agency together for nearly ten years. That’s how we know that we work together well as a team.

Before founding Bears with Benefits, Laurence got her MSc at the London School of Economics and then worked for Unilever and L’Oréal in marketing for several years before finally setting up the agency together with Lena. Lena got right on board with the advertising agency after studying Public Relations at the University of Westminster and set up the digital side of things. 

Together, we had already implemented quite a lot of product development at the agency for FMCG customers (= fast moving consumer goods, such as food, note from editor) and decided to take the next step and develop our own product. What prompted that was that we, probably much like many other women in Germany, were rushing back and forth between the office, daycare and the yoga studio while trying to eat a balanced diet and grocery shop accordingly to cook with fresh ingredients. As a result, we kept looking more and more tired, our hair was a mess and our guilty conscience just kept making us feel worse.

It all began with these little bears…

We wanted to find a way to easily integrate a good and healthy approach to life into our daily routines without any additional stress. We also noticed that the dietary supplements that were available didn’t seem to be in line with the times. It starts with unnecessary, artificial additives and an outdated masculine-rational product presentation that reminds you more of bitter medicine than the positive beauty routine that we were actually looking for.

That was how Bears with Benefits came to be: A beauty product that you won’t forget, but instead look forward to taking. With natural ingredients, vegan where possible, available with or without sugar and without artificial additives or allergens.

Instantly in the best seller category on Amazon

Munich Startup: What problem does your startup solve?

Bears with Benefits: We offer a new generation of dietary supplements in the form of tasty gummi bears. They contain highly concentrated beauty vitamin complexes, which we developed together with pharmacists and nutritional physicians for natural beauty from within. Our first product, the “Ah-mazing Hair Vitamins” for healthy hair, skin and nails instantly made it into the best seller category on Amazon. That was quickly followed by our being listed with Douglas across Germany. 

Munich Startup: But that’s nothing out of the box!

Bears with Benefits: It is true that the market for dietary supplements is big. But other products often have much lower dosages or contain artificial colorings, parting agents or filling agents, all of which we do without. Moreover, how the competition presents itself on the market most often insinuates that: You’re sick, you have deficiencies, you need to optimize something. Dietary supplements are often so outdated, bleak, masculine and rational. That excludes large portions of the relevant target group, such as young, feminine millennials. With the trend towards natural beauty, they are looking for beauty products that they can use to support specific beauty needs from within. We now offer nine of our own formulations for just that.

It was tough getting our foot in the door in the beginning…

Munich Startup: What have been your three biggest challenges so far?

Bears with Benefits: An initial challenge was finding the right partners. We’re marketing experts and strong in execution, but also wanted to have a top-notch product that meets the highest standards of quality from an R&D perspective from the very beginning as well. We wanted to stand apart from the conventional “standard” by offering a very unique and highly potent formulation and exceptional packaging – clean, vegan and sustainable. As a startup, getting our foot in the door and making ourselves heard without the relevant quantities and history was not easy. Now we manufacture in Germany with a fantastic team of pharmacists and nutritional physicians.

Now there are nine different “recipes” for the beauty bears.

… Bears with Benefits is now present everywhere in the relevant market

Another challenge was and certainly still is Corona, even though we as a beauty or health product luckily do not belong to one of the troubled sectors. Fortunately, we are very widely distributed. Customers like dm and Rossmann didn’t require any stores to close and continued to order from us. On top of that, our products work really well online. That’s why we were luckily able to offset the temporary closure of brick-and-mortar Douglas stores very well.

And of course it’s also served us well that we as a company without external investors have a very lean set up without any unnecessarily large items of expenditure. That means we’re very flexible and were able to adjust to working from home without any problems.

Munich Startup: How is business going? 

Bears with Benefits: We were lucky enough to have our bears placed on the market very quickly. Now we’re widely distributed in the entire German speaking region and listed by Rossmann, dm, Douglas, QVC, Flaconi, Bipa and Marionnaud. In total, we generated seven-digit net intercompany sales last year and sold significantly more than 100,000 products. Sales are expected to more than double in 2020, despite Corona. We launched our online shop in February, which is growing rapidly and making a relevant contribution to sales. But we were profitable from the very beginning – even though that’s something investors don’t really like to hear. 

Profitable since the beginning

Munich Startup: What do you think about Munich as a startup location?

Bears with Benefits: Munich is Germany’s secret startup capital, due among other things to its excellent universities and high quality of living.

Munich Startup: Tea or coffee?

Bears with Benefits: Definitely coffee.