When owners of cosmetic manufacturing startup FairyGene first set up shop in Newtown in 2017, they had no idea a global pandemic would nearly derail their efforts before they were able to pour their first batch of customized body creams.
Fortunately, FairyGene’s co-owner and CEO, Yong Liu, has a 20-year background in pharmaceutical chemistry, and he and his team were able to quickly pivot to produce hand sanitizer, helping to buoy FairyGene through the height of the pandemic.
“Our company doesn’t have a long history; we just established (the company) four years ago, almost at the end of 2018,” Liu said, noting the process began a year earlier with the purchase of mixing and testing equipment. “But as soon as we started working with customers in 2020, COVID hit. In the first half of 2020, we had no business.”
“So we had to make hand sanitizer” which FairyGene donated to local churches, hospitals and local community groups, Liu added. “The first half of the year was very, very hard. But after that it has been good and customers have started to come back.”
FairyGene’s business as a manufacturer of skincare and cosmetics for private-label companies has since stabilized and its customer base is increasing, Liu said, which better positions FairyGene for future expansion within its new home in Bristol Township.
And by bringing core services in-house — such as research and development, manufacturing, bottling and quality control — FairyGene is able to offer its clients aggressive pricing and end-to-end support. In fact, earlier this year, FairyGene’s business boomed to the point where it had some issues filling all orders. It’s that continued growth that led Liu and his team to now think about expanding even more.
Liu has not settled on a possible location for a second FairyGene expansion.
Liu said having business dictate expansion “is a pleasant problem to have,” but said FairyGene will be practical in its approach to expanding. For now, he is looking to improve on its processes and efficiency.
In other words, Liu wants to focus on helping single entrepreneurs realize their dream while FairyGene simultaneously sets its sights on becoming the premier batch cosmetic manufacturer for the biggest brands.
“We are delighted about our grown,” Liu said. “We have an excellent quality-control lab, as some clients have their own formulas and we can add and remove ingredients at their request.
“Our vision is to provide contract manufacturing for all the big cosmetic labels.”
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State loans help FairyGene expand from Newtown to Bristol Township
Liu, co-owner Angie Li and FairyGene President Qinzhen Li in 2018 established a 5,000-square-foot operation on Friends Lane in Newtown Township, but outgrew that location. To secure the funding to purchase its present location at 2 Pearl Buck Court in Bristol Township, FairyGene’s leadership relied on bank loans and financial assistance from the state.
“We felt the facility in Newton was too small and figured we would need a much bigger facility,” Liu said. “In the beginning, we just wanted to buy (the location in Bristol), but we didn’t have enough cash. So we took out a loan and received help from the state which offered us access to some programs, and we bought this location in 2021.”
FairyGene has grown its business from three workers to its current roster of 30 full-time employees.
Last week, state Department of Community and Economic Development Acting Secretary Neil Weaver visited FairyGene to tour the facilities and talk up the benefits of the various state plans that are available to businesses such as FairyGene.
FairyGene received a combined $450,000 through the Neighborhood Assistance Program, the Keystone Innovation Zone program and the Pennsylvania Minority Business Development Authority.
Of that sum, in 2021 FairyGene received a $100,000 loan to finance working capital to jumpstart its skincare manufacturing. FairyGene also used the loan to secure inventories, workforce development, employee salaries and benefits.
“The Wolf Administration has been unwavering in its support of Pennsylvania manufacturers, and it’s wonderful to see the positive impacts our investments have on companies and their communities,” Weaver said. “From disinfectant wipes to cosmetics, a wide variety of products are manufactured here in Bucks County. It’s very encouraging to see these businesses continue to grow and succeed.”
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Redevelopment Authority of the County of Bucks executive director Jeff Darwak said, “The prosperity of our local businesses is vital to maintaining a healthy economy in our corner of the state,” and that the impact on the community immeasurable.
Liu and his team are now thinking of expanding once more.
“We want to grow the company more and more and improve upon our systems and equipment,” Liu said. “This place is already starting to look small.”
The future of FairyGene
In the meantime, Liu has positioned FairyGene to help other cosmetic entrepreneurs realize their own dreams of creating a cosmetic brand.
FairyGene, as a wholesale turnkey operation, offers its clients a full suite of cosmetic products, along with providing full-scale marketing and packaging. All a client has to do is then sell their unique product, Liu said.
FairyGene focuses on three core products: skin care, hair care and body care, and aims its research and development resources at conjuring enhancements in the areas of moisturizing, anti-aging, skin lightening and hair growth. FairyGene does not commercially produce nor sell its own products.
In effect, a client contacts FairyGene wishing to create a product that achieves a distinct end, such as 100% all-natural products with unique, client-specified ingredients.
At that point, Liu said, FairyGene will embark on a series of sample runs and quality control checks before delivering a working sample to the client. That working sample may also include labeling, packaging and marketing materials.
Lastly, the client agrees to the final product, makes the bulk purchase — 2,000 units is the minimum quantity of any product that FairyGene can produce per client — and is a step closer to becoming the next Estée Lauder.
After all, it is the vision of FairyGene’s founders to become the wholesale manufacturer for the biggest cosmetic companies.
“For anyone who has a dream of having their own cosmetic brand, right now is a very good opportunity and our platform will help you,” Liu said, citing the expansion of online sales and FairyGene’s ability to interact with Asian markets. “Maybe you only spend a few thousand dollars. So here, you come to us and we will help you.
“From here, you can begin to realize your dream.”