In conversation with Esther & Stephanie founders of SOAP
Esther Meijer-Litjens and Stephanie Litjens are the founders and faces of the highly successful SOAP. With a clear goal and beautiful and inspiring entrepreneurial story, they have become a phenomenon in the tech beauty industry in 15 years.
They opened the first SOAP treatment store in Amsterdam 15 years ago: the very first city spa in the Netherlands. The SOAP treatment stores can now also be found in The Hague, Rotterdam, Eindhoven, Utrecht and Haarlem. After 15 years, innovation and further development in the beauty tech industry are still the biggest and main drivers for the SOAP Founders.
We had a delight speaking with them.
You are the two brains behind the very successful and multifaceted SOAP, how did it all start?
After many trips to New York in the early 2000’s, we realized that the beauty salon industry could be taken to a much higher level in the Netherlands, that’s when we decided to start SOAP. Here, many beauticians still worked from home, while in New York they had luxurious city spas, nail and beauty salons on every corner of the street where people could easily walk in without an appointment. This was completely unknown in the Netherlands, even though it is a very nice concept for both the client and entrepreneur. We combined these two concepts and opened the first city spa in the Netherlands in the center of Amsterdam. Not only did we decide to open a city spa where clients could walk in without an appointment seven days a week from 9 AM to 9 PM, we also found it very important that the salon would offer accessible prices for high-quality and innovative treatments, and the best beauty products while being served by top-trained specialists.
Could you tell us a little more about SOAP Treatment Store, Doctors At SOAP, and PRESCRIPTION by SOAP?
We started our core business with one SOAP Treatment Store, which consisted of a new beauty salon concept in 2005. After opening the store, we quickly noticed that our concept was a huge success, so we decided to open a second SOAP store in Amsterdam not long after that. Nowadays, we have a total of seven stores in big cities throughout the Netherlands.
Although medical cosmetic treatments were still a bit of a taboo in 2013, we still decided to add Doctors At SOAP to our services. These are cosmetic clinics that provide medical cosmetic treatments that are accessible for everyone with long opening hours, affordable prices, and free consultations. We offer our own no trace face® techniques for the injectable treatments performed by top cosmetic doctors. Clients will never look as if he or she has had a cosmetic treatment. The goal is to make someone look younger, fresh and more rested. Since last year, we are striving to revolutionize the entire beauty industry with PRESCRIPTION. It’s a revolutionary mix & match concept to treat your skin with those active ingredients that will solve any skin concern and will reach any skin goal. Based on a SMART BEAUTY QUIZ, you will get a personalized prescription which ingredients to use and in which dosage. It’s hyperpersonalized beauty based on our knowledge, experience, our enormous amount of data and on science based ingredients and vegan products.
You created SOAP 15 years ago, do you think your newest concept PRESCRIPTION is the biggest challenge you have had so far?
Absolutely! We aim for the world now. What a challenge that is. And how we look forward to this. It’s our mission that every consumer can make smart beauty choices. To use exactly those products that will really work for that skin type and skin condition. No more shop shelf paralyzing but personalized advice with ingredients to mix & match with our vegan cream or vegan cleanser. At a very affordable price.
PRESCRIPTION is also used by the professional skin therapist. They not only use our products but we also share all our business knowledge. We do this completely online with 24/7 access to online education & business support. It’s our mission here to make every beauty salon very smart: in treatments and in business. By this way, the owner is independant and can make a very good living out of the business.
PRESCRIPTION uses artificial intelligence (AI) to create personalized skin treatments, how does it work exactly?
The AI technology is incorporated in the smart beauty quiz with our online smart skin expert Aida and researches the skin goals and skin concerns of the consumer. The client can complete this at home and then receive a personalized treatment plan with advice on which products to use to achieve the desired goals. A part of PRESCRIPTION is also the Smart Salon Quiz, which is taken in the salon itself with the client. This is an intelligent quiz that allows the beautician to get an insight into what facial and ingredients your skin exactly needs within a few minutes. With this AI technology, it is possible for beauty therapists and skin therapists to offer tailor-made treatments to their clients.
PRESCRIPTION treatments can be done at home, how do these differ from the treatments you offer in your stores?
The home products are exactly the same as the salon products. The only difference is the intensity of the active ingredients. The salon products are higher in intensity and can really only be used by educated skin therapists. The home products are also quite high and need to be applied according to your prescription.
What are the problems you noticed in the current beauty industry that made you come up with PRESCRIPTION?
Over the past fifteen years, we came across quite a few aspects in the beauty industry where we thought; this can be done differently and way better. For example, the starting orders for salons are extremely high and you are immediately contractually bound to follow-up orders. It is really expensive for salons to start working with a new supplier and to change supplier due to the fact that they have to buy all the products of a line and follow the associated training. We noticed that because of this, salons continued to offer outdated treatments and could not create personalized services for each client, while the latter has become a serious trend in recent years. With PRESCRIPTION we are trying to overcome this problem and meet these consumer needs by making personalized treatments easily accessible for both the salons and the consumers and by making salons more professional.
How do you plan to revolutionize the beauty industry? And what major shifts do you hope to make with PRESCRIPTION?
We really hope to shift the entire industry towards a more technological future. With PRESCRIPTION we are making beauty salons more professional and are helping the education and onboarding processes for all the beauty therapists around the world. Developing them into true business-oriented salons and offering the clients personalized treatments really is what the future of beauty will look like.
You are two power-women in a field that still caters to women mostly, do you think your shift to beauty technology will influence the general image of beauty salons and of skincare?
That is exactly what drives us! The general image can use an upgrade. This profession is not a hobby. It’s a very serious craft and a great support in people's wellbeing. When you have a healthy skin you feel so much better, so much more self assured. That is what a good beauty salon can provide. Besides that we believe that every beauty salon can be a successful business if you run it smart. We support that every beauty salon owner (indeed mostly women)will also see herself as a serious beauty entrepreneur who not only gives the best hyper personalized treatments but is also a very smart business woman.
What are the goals you want to achieve within the beauty industry; is there an international ambition?
With our 15 years of experience and innovative developments, we want to take the entire worldwide beauty industry to a higher level. We are aiming high and mainly want to focus on the international market and expand with PRESCRIPTION. We are already working hard on this goal. We are currently talking with companies in Germany and even a large innovative beauty-tech company in the United States that we would like to work with.