She Sold Botox in Beverly Hills. Now She's Changing the Industry's Face

Nicci Levy wanted to create a better experience for women who got medical skincare treatments. Three years later, Alchemy 43 has locations on both coasts.

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She Sold Botox in Beverly Hills. Now She's Changing the Industry's Face
Image credit: Courtesy of Alchemy 43
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This story appears in the September 2019 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Nicci Levy knew that women are willing to pay to look their best. She was a Botox sales rep in Beverly Hills, after all -- and business was booming. But then she spotted a bigger opportunity. “People were spending thousands of dollars on these injections, but the experience was like going to the doctor to get a flu shot,” she says. Levy envisioned a business that would do for Botox what Drybar did for blowouts, creating an experience that customers crave as much as the service they’re paying for. But … how could she build it? It would take her years -- but in 2016, she finally opened the doors to what she calls her “aesthetics bar,” named Alchemy 43, in Beverly Hills. With investor backing, she’s since opened three more Los Angeles locations and one in New York. Here’s how. 

Related: Wellness Brand Moon Juice Has Plenty of Haters -- and Its Founder Is Cool With That

1. Get the right experience. 

Levy wanted to create a luxe, skin-care-focused medical spa, but she wasn’t confident in her level of expertise. “I didn’t have enough tenure in the medical industry,” she says. So to understand the marketplace she was entering, she took gigs with two separate startups in the medical space, learning about regulatory challenges, customer relationships, and common pitfalls. 

 

2. Find a like-minded investor.

She was attempting to break into a capital-intensive industry but didn’t have the money…or any contacts with investors. Then she attended an event for female entrepreneurs in Santa Monica and was inspired by a speech given by Toni Ko, the founder of Nyx Cosmetics, which had sold to L’Oréal for $500 million. “After the event, I sent her a note with a local news article about what I was trying to build, and just asked her to meet,” says Levy. The pair met for breakfast, which eventually led to Levy securing a six-figure investment.

Related: The Heat Is On: How Drybar Continues to Blow Past Its Competition

 

3Target your location.  

Levy knew where her target customer was--in a particular part of Beverly Hills where women go for workout classes and manicures. But there were no available storefronts. So she started walking into businesses and asking the owners if they wanted to move out. “The owner of a hair salon was getting ready to close up shop, so I took over his lease,” she says. The sublet was doubly valuable--instead of locking into a 10-year commitment, she just took over the lease’s remaining two and a half years. 

Related: How Victoria Tsai Turned a Geisha Secret Into a Cosmetics Innovation

 

4. Prove the concept. 

“We had just opened our doors and were all of a sudden running low on capital.” With little advertising budget, she had to rely on grassroots marketing to build her business for nearly a year, until she had proof that people wanted her service and could raise more funds. “It was a tumultuous time, but the predictions we made came true,” she says. Then she showed the results to more investors and raised a $2.5 million investment round led by Forerunner Ventures.

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