How Hero Cosmetics Started with 1 SKU and Became the New Face of Acne Care [Case Study]

By Last updated on 14 August 2023

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Learn how Hero Cosmetics scaled their business from one innovative product to an entire product line that is changing the way we think about acne care.

Customer Profile

Ju Rhyu, Dwight Lee, and Andrew Lee launched Hero Cosmetics in 2017 with the vision of revamping the skincare industry and creating “acne care 2.0.” They were the first brand to introduce hydrocolloid acne patches to US consumers at scale and with it a new way of thinking about acne care. As of 2021, Hero has expanded its portfolio to over 27 products, giving consumers new ways to treat troubled skin by using clean, gentle, and effective solutions.

Key metrics

  • 3 US fulfilment centres with ShipBob today: California, Illinois, Pennsylvania
  • 5 fulfilment centres with ShipBob this year: Adding Georgia and Texas
  • 1,479% growth over the last 3 years

About Hero

Thinking back to your last pimple may not be a pleasant memory. The redness, irritation, and uncomfort brought on by a breakout is enough to ruin your day – or even your week.

That’s where Hero Cosmetics enters. Founded by Ju Rhyu and Dwight Lee, Hero aims to provide a solution for acne emergencies and act as a skincare savior.

The idea for Hero was born while Ju was struggling with breakouts herself while in Korea for work. She noticed people wearing small patches to combat breakouts, so she picked up a package and gave them a try. Blown away by its effectiveness and gentle way of treating pimples, she realised the patches could be a good fit for the stagnant American skincare market.

Hero started as a brand with one product: hydrocolloid acne patches. While hydrocolloid bandages were not new to the United States, the idea to use them for acne care was. Ju gave the bandages, previously used as a remedy for other skin wounds, a face lift and introduced them as a beauty product.

As the brand grew, so did their product line and ecommerce and retail footprint. Hero now offers patches, cleansers, toners, moisturizers, body care, and sunscreen, and has filled the white space in the acne after care market, capturing the attention of both consumers and major retailers, such as Target, Anthropologie, Neimann Marcus, and more.

Dwight Lee, co-founder and COO, sat down with us to share Hero’s journey and how they have maneuvered explosive growth by embracing an omnichannel approach.

Switching to ShipBob after being dropped by another 3PL

As told to ShipBob by Dwight Lee, Co-Founder & COO of Hero Cosmetics.

We launched our first product, the Mighty Patch Original, on Amazon in September 2017.

It was a brand new product on the market and we wanted to do some testing to see if it had traction. The marketplace is great for testing; the customers are there, the fulfilment is fast, and the reviews are a goldmine for feedback.

We sold out of our initial inventory very quickly, which blew us away. The desire for this sort of unique and very effective acne treatment seemed pent up. People couldn’t get enough, and frankly we were struggling to keep up with the demand.

We were picked up by our first retailer, Anthropologie, in January of 2018 and then followed by several others shortly after.

It seems crazy to think that we weren’t selling on our own website until July 2018, but it takes a lot of work to lay down that infrastructure. Getting the site up, fulfilment, customer service – it’s a lot of moving pieces and can be quite an upfront investment.

But by this point, we were already developing this very enthusiastic and loyal customer base and we needed a home for them. So we got our Shopify site up and running.

We had been working with a (former) 3PL in California for our B2B business and they had decided they wanted to get into direct-to-consumer fulfilment – we were pretty new to everything, so we thought it was perfect.

What a nightmare. I was following up with them on every other order because we were seeing so many issues – mislabelled packages, incorrect products, late pickups. A lot of customers got free replacements back then. Those were long days.

After about 4 months, the 3PL came to us saying DTC fulfilment was too hard and ended up cutting us off. They gave me one month to find another 3PL. It was mid-October. The holidays were right around the corner. Can you believe that? I was scrambling.

I remembered I had spoken to someone at ShipBob very early on when we were looking for fulfilment partners. I dug up his phone number and called, but had assumed that no one would take us so close to the holidays. The rep, I think Matt was his name, just said, “Yeah, let’s do it!” and we were off to the races.

It took less than 3 days to figure out the ShipBob system and configure our products in the dashboard. We connected to Shopify and I crossed my fingers. Without a hitch, ShipBob started sending out orders. I didn’t have to follow up about any issues. The orders were picked up automatically and customers got their packages. It was seamless.

“We were getting a lot of press at the time of our first holiday season, so it was really important to get those shipments out to customers. After losing our other fulfilment partner, I was backed into a corner, and ShipBob really bailed us out. I felt like I dodged a bullet.”

– Dwight Lee, Co-Founder and COO of Hero Cosmetics 

Shipping from numerous regions of the US to achieve faster deliveries

Back then our products were almost always sent via USPS since they’re small and lightweight. USPS offers the most affordable shipping option but the transit time can be brutal. The thing with acne care is that when you need it, you need it now. It’s important that our products are accessible.

So right from the jump, we opted to get our products into three ShipBob fulfilment centres across the US instead of one. This way, we would be able to decrease shipping times for more customers in different regions of the country.

In the end, I want speed. I want customers to compare our delivery time to Amazon.

Securing nearly 30 retail partnerships and embracing an omnichannel sales approach

Retail is a key distribution channel for us and we always knew it was going to be a big part of the business. Acne doesn’t discriminate, so accessibility, from both distribution and price point perspectives, has been very important to us. We’re also looking at the category completely differently. For decades now, acne has been associated with adolescence and this harsh, scorched-Earth approach to washing your face. But the reality is that you don’t graduate out of acne – it comes and goes throughout your life well into adulthood. If you look at the dearth of acne products that existed before Hero, it’s clear that we’ve all just been ignoring the issue. We’re trying to fix this.

Achieving peace of mind with ShipBob

We move very fast at Hero. We’re a young team and everyone has a “get it done” attitude. For us, one of the biggest benefits of working with ShipBob is that the platform is self-serve.

We can set things up and get going immediately. We can spin up new marketplaces, Shopify stores, and custom integrations without a hitch.

Another important factor is scale. We’ve had many days when our sales will skyrocket because of press or influencers and it’s reassuring to know that orders will all just go out on time. That’s crucial to growth. It allows every team in our company to push the limits.

This year alone we introduced 17 new SKUs. We’re launching them on Target, Ulta, Amazon, and selling them DTC. Each channel has its own complexities so having reliable partners to manage the launches is absolutely key.

“The fact that ShipBob is always scaling and expanding their footprint is very important to me. It’s difficult to scale, but ShipBob has figured it out. They’ve been a great partner in our growth.”

– Dwight Lee, Co-Founder and COO of Hero Cosmetics

What’s next for Hero

We’ll continue to deepen our partnership with existing retailers and of course expand, but with intention and discipline. We’re launching with Ulta this year in a big way. International is on the horizon.

Overall, the goal is to be truly omnichannel. Acne doesn’t discriminate. It impacts people of all ages and walks of life and so it’s important that our products be easily accessible.

Hero’s team at ShipBob

Matt Bradbury

Matt is the Client Acquisition Manager who brought Hero in as a ShipBob merchant.

Evan Hansen

Evan is the Senior Merchant Success Manager that helps support Hero.

Casey Armstrong

Casey is ShipBob’s CMO and Hero’s Executive Sponsor.

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Written By:

Meredith is a Content Marketing Specialist at ShipBob, where she writes articles, eGuides, and other resources to help growing ecommerce businesses master their logistics and fulfillment.

Read all posts written by Meredith Flora