Democratising beauty: Tech startup Mayku wants to support ‘massive flourishing’ of indie cosmetic creators

By Kacey Culliney contact

- Last updated on GMT

Mayku's vacuum forming unit 'FormBox' enables users to design and manufacture molds, packaging and finished products across a range of industries, including beauty and cosmetics (Image: Mayku)
Mayku's vacuum forming unit 'FormBox' enables users to design and manufacture molds, packaging and finished products across a range of industries, including beauty and cosmetics (Image: Mayku)

Related tags: COVID-19, beauty packaging, Indie beauty, cosmetic molds, Design, Supply chain, transparency, Independent beauty brands

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has inspired a wave of cosmetic creators eager to develop and refine product concepts at-home, and design and engineer specialist Mayku wants to support this growth with its desktop vacuum former.

Founded in 2016 with the ambition of creating the ‘world’s first desktop factory’, UK-based Mayku was in the midst of designing a second-generation version of its vacuum forming technology FormBox​ unit. The portable, industrial-grade machine fitted on a desk and enabled users to make a range of prototypes, molds and packaging on a small scale for a fraction of the cost compared to large-scale production. The unit could be used to make cosmetic and beauty molds and packaging, as well as engineering prototypes and patisserie and chocolate molds either digitally designed or formed using physical objects or sculpting.

Mayku’s second-generation model was due to come to market in April 2021 and would offer users a more powerful unit for higher production yield capacity.

COVID-19 has disrupted traditional beauty and spurred creation

Speaking to CosmeticsDesign-Europe, co-founder of Mayku Benjamin Redford said the company already had more than 6,000 users worldwide, with a “really quite varied”​ customer base.

Beyond major names like NASA, Rolls-Royce and Bentley using the desktop FormBox for R&D purposes, Redford said there was a raft of independent makers running small-scale production lines from their own homes or workspaces.

The Mayku FormBox machine is portable and can fit on a desk (Image: Mayku)
The Mayku FormBox machine is portable and can fit on a desk (Image: Mayku)

“We put the machine on Kickstarter at the beginning thinking that we might sell 50 to these small businesses and indie makers that you find on sites like Etsy (…) and we sold 1,600 in a month. So, we were suddenly like ‘oh, here we are – we’re onto something’.”

Beauty and cosmetic makers made up about one-third of Mayku’s users, Redford said; split between indie brands using the FormBox for actual production and larger companies using it for prototyping and product development processes.

“When we started, we didn’t necessarily think it would be soap bombs and cosmetics, but it turns out it was quite a bit part of our segment early on.”

And Redford said COVID-19 had bolstered interest from this category even further.

“Let’s be honest, with the sort of disruption and destruction COVID has created, we’ve seen a lot more inspirational stories and a lot more people exploring this space and coming into it with stuff we hadn’t really anticipated.”

According to a Mayku survey conducted across the UK in July, almost 1 in 4 (23%) of hobbyists in beauty and wellbeing had been motivated to create their own business in beauty or cosmetics during COVID-19.

COVID-19 had also created difficulties in global supply chains, he said, including for beauty and cosmetics, prompting increased interest in bringing processes in-house.

“People are wanting to bring stuff down to a local level so they can be more robust in the future. That’s a space we’re particularly interested in – how do we distribute this model rather than it being centralised to a factory which can be vulnerable.”

A ‘massive flourishing’ of independent, environmentally aware companies

Redford said it was likely the effects of COVID-19 would continue to be seen across a range of manufacturing industries, including beauty.

“If our predictions are correct (…) I think we’ll see a massive flourishing of more independent, more environmentally aware, more transparent companies bursting out of the seams from the surplus of time that people might have had from being on furlough and wanting to follow their own passions.”

During COVID-19 lockdowns, Redford said there had certainly been more time for hobbies, with many hobbyists starting to look at how to upscale what they do and turn it into “the next big thing”.

“I think the term ‘hobbyist’ can be a masquerade of ‘this is what I want to do for real’ but they want to play around and get really good at it first. I would actually equate hobbyists as the future independent businesses,” ​he said.

On the indie beauty side, he said COVID-19 would create a “huge swathe of companies coming out of the woodwork to cater for more niche tastes” ​and Mayku’s FormBox technology enabled these brands to be completely transparent about how their products were made – something consumers were increasingly looking for.

“Having a lot of honesty about what’s going into products rings true to the indie maker and the person setting up their business with an eye on transparency,”​ he said.

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