Founder Patrick Boateng II on the benefits of bundling and how budgeting enhances creativity.
Patrick Boateng II was working in mainland China as a U.S. diplomat when he had his aha moment. Stress, combined with extreme air and water pollution, wreaked havoc on his once perfect skin, and his quest for an effective skincare routine led to the realization that there were no products in the market for men of color. In 2018, he founded mens’ skincare brand Ceylon, named for the hero ingredient in its cleanser, toner and moisturizer: antioxidant-rich Black Tea from Sri Lanka. As the company kicks into hyper-growth mode, Patrick shares some of his operational struggles–and wins– as well as what inspires him creatively.
What was your experience with fulfillment prior to MasonHub?
“From DTC to wholesale to gifting, I did it all. Early on, every company starts with that. It gives you a chance to get that 1:1 feel with customers and it feels good to handle the product and ship it. You get your hands dirty because every retailer has their own methods for fulfillment.”
In Beauty, appearances often extend to packaging. What’s your approach to pack-outs?
“We’ve found that it’s a big expense for us, and it goes straight to the recycling bin. So our packaging is very ordinary, which lets the experience stand out more. We are going to be judged more on the results after the customer uses the product.”
What’s the best part about being able to hand off fulfillment?
“We are working on international expansion this year– Tokyo, Singapore, Israel, Hong Kong–and we have to go there to reach new audiences. Now we can leave for a few weeks and not have to worry about operations. We also do international fulfillment from MasonHub and coordinate inbounds and outbounds from our factories in Asia.”
Which value-added services have helped you the most?
“Subscriptions are really doing well, both our regular post-paid and pre-paid subscriptions that increase savings. And we are leaning into bundling so customers can create their own routines. Maybe they use our three main products, or they have four steps because they add the razor bump gel. It’s about increasing the convenience factor and increasing AOVs and margins and still delivering a high level of service without it costing more to ship four separate things.”
What skills have you developed since founding the brand?
“I studied international relations and urban planning, but I would consider this like going to business school. My background helped me craft a brand that looks great, but everything else I had to learn by doing. Most of my time now is spent on finance management and logistics.
You get very scared at beginning when you think about money, but I love budgeting because that budget is what allows you to be creative. How rare can we go with ingredients? What is the cost you can endure per liter of a fragrance oil? That is really where I understand that the unit economics allow you to create something no one has ever smelled.”
What draws you to collaborate with other publications and creatives?
“We like finding out how to they talk to audiences we want to connect with. With PAX Monographs, an architectural publication founded by people I went to school with, we’re burnishing our design credentials and they are helping us show up in a new exciting way. Find Peace. Keep Peace. supports mental health awareness and has given us new attention in a local community. And working with the POC queer magazine Brunch Club we have seen an uptick in engagement. We are always trying to find ongoing innovation, support stories that deserve to be told, engage in new ways and make it fun.”
What’s next for the brand?
“We are launching four more products next year in the fragrance and body care categories.”