Starting Your Own Business: frank

Chances are you’ve seen frank body scrub  in your social media feed. The brand has over half a million Instagram followers and there are more than 50,000 customer posts for #thefrankeffect, mainly of half-naked women covered in coffee scrub.

Started by young women, for young women, we caught up with the brand’s co-founder Bree Johnson to get her insights on starting a booming business from scratch.

How did you come up with the idea for frank?

My partner Steve runs a café in Melbourne, and two ladies asked for his old coffee grinds. This isn’t uncommon, as lots of people use them for a garden. But they wanted to use it as a body scrub and told him it was a treatment for cellulite and stretch marks.

We found there was some merit to what they were saying, but the problem was they were using old coffee not fresh coffee. We ground some coffee and tried it, and straight away my skin felt smooth so we knew there was potential for it.

Erika Geraerts, Jess Hatzsis and I were already running our own content marketing agency, Willow and Blake, and we’d already been doing online marketing for a number of brands for a few years so knew the potential to market this product via social media.


Pic: Bree, Erika and Jess. Source: Supplied. 

So how did you get it off the ground?

The three of us, along with Steve and another friend, Alex, took a while to find the right manufacturer. The product is not quite wet and not quite dry, so it was tricky but we ended up finding one here in Melbourne.

We looked at getting it made offshore but couldn’t get the standard right. This way, we can visit, do product testing and product control.

Alex and Steve handle the logistical things like production and web development, and the girls do the marketing.

How did you come up with the name?

We wanted a name that was different to the feminine names out there for body products, and frank has the double entendre also meaning honesty.

Personifying the brand came from that. We started writing all our messaging from his perspective, which gave us a point of difference and room to talk to customers as a person.

You’ve got half a million Instagram followers, how did you build that following?

The main thing that’s helped us build it quickly is our customers. We’ve been able to create this community of followers happy to share their experiences. There are over 50,000 Instagram posts with #thefrankeffect of people using the product, so it’s a snowball effect.

If you see a model or celebrity you assume they’ve been paid for a post, but with friends, you know it’s real and they’re doing it because they love the product.

Frank is such a fun character, and people want to be involved in that. We started with an aggressive social media campaign posting six times a day, and now it’s four times, spread across Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter.

It’s about creating a community and posting content that’s different, own-able and has a solid tone of voice. It’s not all about selling, it’s about making customers laugh, smile, and have something to feel part of.


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Pic: The five directors. Source: Supplied. 

What are your sales figures like?

We paid back our startup capital in full within seven days and now we’re selling one scrub every 50 seconds.

What are some of your challenges?

The biggest challenge for us was growing so quickly. We thought this was going to be a side project when we started. We didn’t have the foresight to plan ahead for such a rapid expansion.

For the first year, we were playing catch up trying to fulfil orders, rather than looking at how to expand. Now we’ve got that in place we have the luxury to be able to sit back and be considered and look towards the future.

What’s it like working with a group of your friends, and your partner?

It’s really good because we’re very honest with each other. Erika, Jess and I have worked together for a few years now. We’re very open, we don’t fight and we always try to have verbal conversations.

Tone can sometimes be misinterpreted via email, so for big decisions, we all try to be in the same room and nut it out as a team and remember we’re on the same side.

What’s next for frank?

We’re releasing two new products in the next month. Next year, we’ll be moving away from just a body scrub into other body products, like a body balm.

Johnson’s Top Tips:


1. Intention is great but action is what matters. It’s all very well to talk about creating a business but you have to take the plunge and do it.

2. Always think different. Don’t copy what others are doing. Have your own voice and brand. So, think about why you’re doing it and who your audience is.

3. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you’re busy. We talk about ‘bottlenecking’, when you’re so busy that you’re actually inhibiting growth. That’s when it’s time to think about outsourcing or take on more staff.