If you own a phone or computer, there’s a good chance you’re already familiar with #thefrankeffect. If you’re new to the campaign: It’s essentially a beauty-based movement featuring bikini-clad women getting down and dirty—with exfoliating coffee scrubs, that is! How did this cheeky social media campaign come to be, you ask? It all began when a few branding experts and a cafe owner joined forces to explore the untapped potential of coffee as part of a daily beauty regimen. Together they created frank body, a range of coffee-based skin care products accompanied by what can only be described as killer branding.
Just two years later, #thefrankeffect has seemingly reached every 16- to 24-year-old with an Instagram account. The company now makes four different kinds of coffee-based scrubs—in its original scent, coconut, peppermint and cacao—and reportedly sells one scrub every 40 seconds. We recently sat down with the creators of frank body in their ultra-chic Melbourne office to talk beauty, branding and office decor—over coffee, of course. Get ‘the scoop’ below!
Take us back to the beginning. When and how did frank body start?
It all began with a series of events in 2013. Jess Hatzis, Erika Geraerts and Bree Johnson—co-owners of the communications agency Willow & Blake—had been developing brands and social media strategies for several years when they were struck with the urge to create their own brand. Steve Rowley, who owns a few cafes in Melbourne, had a customer who continued to ask for leftover coffee grinds. Steve grew curious and eventually asked what the grinds were for. As it turned out, the customer was using them as a body exfoliant.
After some research, the team—which also includes Alex Boffa—came to find that topically applied coffee was attributed to relieving many skin ailments. And although there were a lot of DIY recipes for coffee scrubs online, no one seemed to be selling coffee scrubs as products. Thus, the original coffee scrub was born. In the early days, we had a team of about 20 helping to make the product by hand. After business began picking up, we realized we needed a full-time manufacturing group, so we hired a team in Melbourne. frank body now offers an extended range of coffee-based products for both the face and body, all of which are made in Melbourne. We have 15 staff members working out of our headquarters, plus extended teams in the United States and United Kingdom.
Give us a tour of the frank body product lineup. What can we find in your collection? What’s the most popular item?
We now have four coffee scrubs—in our original scent, coconut, peppermint and cacao—that are all made from a blend of fresh Robusta coffee beans, minerals and essential oils. They help to treat stretch marks, scars, eczema and other pesky skin conditions. Our patent-pending body balm hydrates and nourishes skin; its blend of Coffea arabica seed oil, beeswax, coconut oil, grapeseed oil and sweet almond oil continues to treat problem areas long after you’ve exfoliated.
We recently launched our range of caffeinated face products, which includes a creamy face cleanser, creamy face scrub and everyday face moisturizer. Each face product starts with a signature coffee base and is then specifically formulated to rejuvenate and hydrate delicate facial skin while targeting breakouts, dryness, fine lines and other skin conditions.
Our original coffee scrub is the around-the-world favorite—there’s one being sold every 40 seconds.
We’re in love with the industrial-chic vibe of the frank body office! What inspired the look?
The building is in a gentrified industrial area, so it made sense to carry that theme over into our office. We like to use lots of raw natural materials in our office, too—and we know lots of talented furniture makers who have built most of the stuff in our office by hand. We filled the space with plants because we’re obsessed with them.
What does a typical day in the life of the frank body team look like? How does everyone attend to their varying tasks in a cohesive way?
Puppies. Cake. Coffee. It took a while to work out the best processes for our growing business. We try to maintain a good online system and then organize weekly catch-ups with the whole team. Chatting face to face about issues is the most efficient way to solve them. Email is evil.
What are each of your top three beauty products that you can’t live without?
Jess: Concealer, mascara and frank’s soon-to-launch product.
Erika: frank body’s secret new face product, NARS Laguna Bronzing Powder, toothpaste.
Why coffee? What made this ingredient a perfect fit for your products? What might we not know about coffee as a beauty essential?
We love coffee. And many people don’t know what happens when caffeine is applied topically on the skin! It naturally stimulates blood flow, which helps to reduce the appearance of cellulite, stretch marks, psoriasis, eczema and more. When it’s roasted and ground, it becomes a natural exfoliant—perfect for buffing away dry, dead skin cells and encouraging skin rejuvenation. Coffee is also bursting with antioxidants, which target damaging free radicals (a key culprit of many problematic skin conditions!). And since it has the same pH as skin, it won’t strip your skin of natural oils or cause dryness.
What kinds of coffees are used in frank body products?
We’re always looking for new and interesting ways to use coffee in our products. At the moment, we use freshly roasted and ground Robusta coffee, Coffea arabica seed oil, green coffee bean extract, fresh green coffee. All of these ingredients were carefully chosen because of their ability to fight free radicals and stimulate blood flow. Full of caffeine, antioxidants and amino acids, these ingredients help treat all those previously mentioned pesky skin conditions.
How do you each deal with running multiple businesses?
Jess: With a lot of coffee, wine and running.
Erika: You just deal. Sometimes this means ranting, sometimes it means raging—but most of the time, it means working with good people and knowing that you’re doing good (whether it’s on a small scale or a large scale). Over the years we’ve all learned the importance of having time for ourselves, for our relationships and for our own learning. Lastly, we know that we can’t do everything, so we find the best people to work with.
Bree: Coffee. Lots of coffee. And lists. Lots of lists.
Can you tell us more about #thefrankeffect? How did this movement enrich the frank body community?
Our entire business was built upon #thefrankeffect. We saw a new way to utilize social media (particularly Instagram) and better reach 16- to 24-year-olds. At Willow & Blake, we’ve been developing social strategy for brands for years. We knew the importance of customer-generated content, and we focused on encouraging this kind of content with frank. So many beauty brands operate from a very distant position; they’re removed from reality and their customers. We didn’t want frank body to be another one of those brands. Instead, frank would be fun and cheeky. He would take risks. He’d get people talking, and he’d start a mini-movement of babes ‘getting dirty’ and showing off their skin care routine to the world. This is what we call #thefrankeffect.
What product should people who are new to frank body try first?
Right where we started. It all began with our very first product: the original coffee scrub.
What’s the very first thing you each do when you wake up in the morning?
Other than getting out of bed and putting on clothes, it’s often one of four things: looking at the person next to us, looking at our phones, drinking coffee or exercising.
Imagine you’ve just reached a major milestone in the frank body office. What might a team celebration look like?
Someone yells out from across the room, and we all look up from our computers like deer in headlights. Sometimes we find Champagne. Those are good days.
Photography by Brooke Holm