Beauty E-Tailer 100 mL Hopes Its Travel-Size Beauty Products Take Off
E-tailer 100 mL wants to make it easier for travelers to retain their beauty regimens, no matter where they are.
Targeting people on the go, it’s assembled an assortment of travel-size or Transportation Security Administration (TSA)-friendly 100-ml. products from 18 brands across skincare, body care, personal care and wellness. Among the brands are Aesop, Alder New York, Crown Affair, Everyday Humans and Salt + Stone. There are no full-size products available at 100 mL.
“For me, it’s really important to keep a routine while I’m traveling,” says 100 mL founder Kate Cervini, who currently manages a project management and consulting business after working in the fashion department at the now-defunct Condé Nast men’s magazine Details. “I thought it was crazy that there was not one curated space for people to shop for travel-size products. So, I decided to take matters into my own hands.”
While travel-focused e-tailers are a rarity in beauty, they’re not completely absent from the online landscape. Travel Beauty and Arrive Well market to travelers and offer portions of their respective selections in sizes acceptable to the TSA. All Travel Sizes and Minimus are e-tailers specializing in selling mini toiletries, and retailers like Walmart, Target and Sephora have extensive repertoires of travel-size beauty merchandise.
Customers can shop 100 mL for individual products or curated pouches featuring ready-made product routines for time-crunched jet-setters. Six pouches are available for sale on the website—Airplane Mode, Frequent Flyer, Minimalist, Nomad, Detox and Mile High Club—covering everything from hydrating skincare essentials to haircare that can stand up to hard water in hotels. Pouches are priced between $60 and $150 and generally house four to five products. Customers can create their own curated pouch, too, and a free pouch is shipped with orders of at least four products.
Cervini says, “This is an answer for people who want to have that streamlined experience of just getting to their destination. They can come to us and just place an order for the products they want and ship it to their hotel for convenience.”
100 mL shoppers are able to send deliveries to hotels, a point of distinction for 100 mL, although the option doesn’t currently command substantial demand on the site, says Cervini. For now, most customers are receiving deliveries at their homes.
A lifelong travel enthusiast, Cervini conceptualized 100 mL in October 2021 as tourism was starting to rebound after the pandemic. In November 2022, the site launched to friends and family, a move that Cervini says was helpful in testing its initial messaging. Today, 100 mL is up and running, but it won’t officially launch to the public until this holiday season.
100 mL is breaking into the e-tail scene at a time when travel is rising. According to business intelligence company Morning Consult, intent to travel abroad is trending up this year, and workers are interesting in increasing “bleisure” travel or travel that blends business and leisure activities. Data from the United States Bureau of Transportation Statistics shows that U.S. airlines carried 853 million passengers in 2022 versus 658 million in 2021.
To construct 100 mL’s assortment, Cervini prioritized clean beauty brands with products benefitting different skin types in a variety of climates. Of course, the brands must have 100-ml. sizes to pass muster. “More and more brands are starting to create smaller travel sizes now,” says Cervini. “It’s also a great way for customers to trial your brand and therefore to build loyalty.”
As summer approaches, 100 mL’s sales are ticking up. Customers are gravitating toward DIY pouches and the Frequent Flyer pouch, which is priced at $140 and contains Superegg’s Gentle Elements Cleansing Foam, Alder New York’s Balancing Serum, Margin’s The Active Moisturizer and Grown Alchemist’s Body Cleanser. The Detox pouch, which retails for $108 and contains Grown Alchemist’s Detox Shampoo and Conditioner, Crown Affair’s Hair Oil and Dry Shampoo and a scrunchie, is another hit as is the recently introduced sexual wellness-inspired Mile High Club pouch. Customers are scooping up single items from brands like Marvis, Maude, Superegg, Alder New York and Furtuna Skin as well.
Besides a few “small checks” Cervini says she’s received from friends and family, 100 mL has been bootstrapped. The business is gearing up for a pre-seed raise that would be allocated to securing a European distribution center and ramping up paid marketing efforts. All orders presently ship out of California.
100 mL has relied so far on organic marketing tactics such as gifting, giveaways and hotel partnerships to grow its reach. Later this month, the e-tailer will unveil a partnership with Brooklyn’s Wythe Hotel. The upscale boutique hotel will promote 100 mL in its email communications and gift guests products from the site. Looking forward, Cervini is aiming to nail down spa partnerships in big cities like New York, Los Angeles and Miami.
“It’s about partnering with people and companies that have communities that we really want to tap into,” says Cervini, adding, “We want to enter the paid world, but we also know that that’s a slow burn. Just because you are doing paid doesn’t mean your sales will skyrocket tomorrow. It’s about building the community and that’s a slow process.”
Besides lifting 100 mL’s awareness, Cervini is focused on studying customer behavior and navigating the ins and outs of direct-to-consumer distribution. “DTC is definitely the hardest thing I’ve probably ever done in my entire career,” she says. “I think it’s really important to have conversations with brands and retailers to see what they’ve learned and what’s worked and hasn’t worked for them in the past.”
A subscription service and ambassador program are on 100 mL’s to-do list, and Cervini plans to invest in influencer marketing in the future as its budget allows. Meanwhile, she’s expanding 100 mL’s assortment. She’s vetting brands to enlarge its haircare repertoire and expects to bring in men’s grooming products such as razors and saving cream. Ceremonia, Augustinus Bader, Sunday Riley and Tata Harper are on Cervini’s brand wish list for 100 mL, but she’s in no rush to explode its collection.
She says, “I want to make sure we have enough marketing dollars behind us so we can really push out these brands.”