When we say that our retail community here at Opal Avenue is conscious and courageous – we mean it! Independent retail entrepreneurs are passionately dreaming up what’s next and pushing the envelope of what’s possible for their stores. Minimizing carbon footprints, choosing honestly good products, and bravely shifting as the landscape evolves around them daily. Today, we’d like you to meet a pioneer in what’s next in the world of independent retail – Beautyque NYC. The world’s first 3D interactive boutique!
We sat down with Co-founder, Sonia Khemiri, for the scoop!
Beautyque NYC is a virtual retail and shopping experience unlike anything out there today. What inspired you to create such a revolutionary storefront?
I originally envisioned Beautyque to be a physical space in SoHo, NYC where independent brands in beauty and wellness could join together and grow. It would be a place where these indie brands could have their own dedicated shelf space and meet their customers, host events, market their brands, and sell their products. Our role would be to provide them with a unique retail environment where they could build brand awareness and foster engagement with their consumers.
Beautyque was born from the many challenges that independent beauty brand founders face. I am an indie beauty brand founder myself, and I know many other founders struggle with the same challenges that I did — so I decided instead of working solo, I would create a group of like-minded founders and leverage everyone’s strengths by working together. An individual brand wouldn’t have the means nor the capacity to have a store in SoHo and create a unique experience, but as a group, it would be possible. My co-founder Sylvie joined me, and that’s how it all started.
In the spring of 2020, just as we were negotiating the lease for our physical store space in SoHo, the pandemic hit hard. Both being indie brand founders, Sylvie and I put our strengths together to transpose our concept entirely to the digital space and build what we have today. In May of 2020, we created from scratch, with no financial backing, the first 3D virtual retail space for indie brands in the beauty industry!
You offer a place for customers to find community and engage in workshops, tutorials, and more. How have you seen this help your customers gain a deeper connection with the brands they discover at your shop?
We firmly believe that beauty is not only about makeup and skincare. There is French saying — “être bien dans sa peau” — which means “feel good under my skin.” To achieve this, it takes not only physical confidence, but a combination of mental, emotional, and spiritual wellness. We embody this at Beautyque by hosting live events with experts in mental health, fitness and nutrition, sexual wellness, makeup and skincare, and more. By holding these one-of-a-kind workshops, we’re able to educate and inspire our audience, while introducing them to the right brands and products to help them achieve their own definition of beauty. We’ve received countless testimonials from women in our community, saying that our events and tutorials have helped them find products and techniques that really work for them. And they’re fun, too!
When you think about the vision for Beautyque NYC, what gets you most excited?
When I think about Beautyque and what we’ve been able to accomplish in such a short time, I get even more excited and inspired to continue with the vision we’ve created. I originally envisioned a physical retail store, but with Beautyque being totally digital, it opens up a much wider array of possibilities for us.
The most exciting part is how vastly different we are from anything that already exists within the beauty industry. We’re different because we incorporate the capabilities of a marketing agency, an e-commerce website, and a retail store into one cohesive platform. Our brands have access to marketing programs, a 3D storefront/showroom, and e-commerce capabilities all in one space — plus the added value of being part of a community of bold brand founders.
What Beautyque has now is a cutting-edge platform with enormous potential in terms of developing technology, a new business model, and a strong mission. We’re working to take it where it has to be. I envision Beautyque as the next Sephora, farfetch for business in beauty, with great products and authentic values supported by the highest level of technology and a community of brands that not only sell well but perform well together — and that’s pretty exciting!
We love what you stand for: “Curating Brands That Will Make Your Life Better.” How do you decide which products to stock? (what guidelines do you have in place that brands have to measure up to before you’ll stock them?
We’re quite different from a traditional retail store because we don’t select our brands and products according to their existing success — but rather according to the potential success that we can create together. Our main selection criteria include brands with a strong mission, high-quality and effective products, and hardworking, business-minded founders.
We aim to work with brands who share our core values, such as women empowerment, ethical production, sustainable materials, female and minority leadership, and clean ingredients. We curate brands and products that meet these criteria, so that our consumers don’t have to — they know that when they shop at Beautyque, they are supporting women, they are supporting the planet, and they are supporting their own well-being.
Before a brand joins Beautyque, their products are tested personally by our team to ensure that they are both safe and effective. We only put products on our virtual shelves that we truly believe in, and we work with brands who we truly feel deserve recognition in the industry!
With everything that’s transpired for small businesses over the last year, many are ready to step into a new era of retail that is both conscious and courageous. What does this mean for Beautyque NYC and the impact you wish to have?
As an entrepreneur and business owner myself, I’ve experienced the toll that the pandemic has taken on small businesses. Last March, we were planning to open Beautyque as an actual brick-and-mortar store in New York City. We were right in the midst of negotiating our lease when the pandemic hit and changed the entire trajectory of our business. Pivoting to the digital space has definitely allowed us to step into an entirely new era of retail. We were able to create something that had never been created before and expand beyond what we had originally planned and envisioned for Beautyque. But even with these unforeseen changes to our original plan, our mission for the impact we wish to have has always stayed the same — to help indie brands grow and to help women on their self-care journeys. We’re completely redefining beauty retail, and now that we’ve gone virtual, we’re hopeful that our impact will be even greater than we had imagined!
Wow! Sonia, what an incredible leap and pivot! Can you tell us a bit about what’s next for you and the shop?
It’s still in the works, but we are expecting to be leading the way to a shoppable experience in AR/VR and AI by the beginning of 2022. We will have a much more user-friendly experience in regard to the virtual store, with a one-on-one customer experience at the store. And of course, we will continue to add more and more amazing indie brands to our community!
Learn more about Beautyque NYC and connect on social: