Thursday, June 30, 2011

Thin Gloss Weight Loss Claims And Shark Tank

Into The Shark Tank

How many of you have ever watched "Shark Tank"?

People are introduced to a group of investors to pitch their story and to showoff their latest idea for something they have a belief and passion for. They are given approximately 5 minutes to sell them on the idea and for a specific dollar amount needed by the business owner, one or more of the sharks gain an equity percentage into the company. They will either love your company and may even fight with other sharks to gain a percentage by upping the offer or they will chew you up and spit you out.

This is one of my favorite shows on Friday nights. The amount of information one can learn and take away from the show is incredible. I personally have learned a great deal when it comes to investors and what they can and will do for you, but also to tread very carefully on how and when an investor should be approached. Do it in the wrong time and you can be toast. Or it can help you decide if an investor is necessary or the right course of action.

This past Friday night in particular, would prove to be a very relevant show for me. Shark Tank featured a gal in my industry that was looking for investment capital to stay afloat. Now I was truly intrigued!

Thin Gloss And Weight Loss

The product was called "Thin Gloss" for weight loss. This is a cosmetic to be sure, so naturally I watched with intent to see how the sharks would respond to not only something within the cosmetic industry, but a cosmetic with a claim of helping the user to lose weight.

"Oh no" I instantly thought, this was not going to be good. Knowing what I know in my industry as it relates to cosmetics, this weight loss claim was over the top even for the weight loss industry.

April Morris, the cute as a button creator, made her pitch to them, presenting "before and after" photos of women who have lost weight and explained how the product works. Unfortunately, she spent considerable time sharing her personal goal to earn more than a million dollars in the coming year, which is great for staying motivated, but at the same time, it may not be the right reason or practical to invent a product with claims, such as it will suppress the appetite. Facts and studies should have been her primary focus.

Thin Gloss which contains Hoodia, is the herb she has chosen for weight loss due to it's purported benefit of fooling the brain into thinking the stomach is full. She also claims she lost weight herself using her Thin Gloss product. Her earnings in the previous year were $26,000.00, but wants to leap to her whopping million dollar dream with only $18,000.00 so far in sales in the current year. She was needing $80,000.00 for a 20% stake in her company. I wondered would the team of sharks be duped by this intriguing product?

Shark Attack

Well the sharks were true to form, and they didn't create their wealth because they were ignorant. Kevin Harrington, the infomercial king, immediately addressed the weight loss claims, stating the FDA is clear on this and inquired if she has performed the clinical studies to prove her claims. She stated she had not, but an FDA attorney advised her she was okay and how she can present it. In looking at her presentation, it is clear she was ill advised or did not take heed as to his advice....I am betting on the latter. When pressed further she continued to defer to her FDA attorney, which meant she did not have or know the answers and tried without success, to spin away from the actual science or facts. Blood was in the water and the sharks were circling appeared there was no hope.

They also inquired about her future sales and how she thought she would attain the million dollar sales she was shooting for. She told tales of India distributors wanting her products, and was ambiguous on others that were willing to promote her products. Despite her efforts to make her claims and the direction she was going with overseas distributors, the sharks were skeptical and viewed it as a way for her to get around the weight loss claims since they are not as stringent in some overseas nations. But with that, they actually were very accommodating to try and educate her on how this industry actually works and what she would be facing. They even went as far as to warn her about doing business with overseas distributors and of those that will gladly take her money and pretend to call themselves distributors, all at her expense with really no promise of actual contractual sales. I have learned over the years, choose incorrectly, and this would be the true dream killer and the demise of a business, ending deep in debt.

One of the sharks also addressed her in practical terms of earnings, and stated to go from the sales she currently held to a million dollars in a year, was not feasible, and for that he was "out". The others of course, after much challenge to her weight loss claims and pointing out repeatedly the problems with her far out claims of weight loss, all stated they were "out". The legality of the claims and how ugly the FDA can be if claims are not proven with the proper clinical trials, would put them in some serious hot water once the company became large enough for them to notice. And April Morris did nothing to alleviate their concerns through providing the direction she was going to take the company.

I was so happy to see the savvy behavior of the sharks that I have come to admire and enjoy learning from. I shouldn't have doubted for a minute they would be fully aware as I watched each one of them come up with the smart questions, even though I waited and watched with bated breath.

You can watch episode 5 of Season 2, week 4, of Shark Tank with her featured products by Clicking Here

UPDATE 02/13/12: Video has since been removed from the ABC site. You will now be viewing this on HULU. The instructions below remain the same to get to her portion of the interview.

Instructions for watching her clip: Once the page opens, you'll have to sit through the first set of commercials, then once the status bar comes up for the opening of the show you will see white segment dots on the status bar. Click on the 3rd one from the left start spot of the video. You'll then have to endure another set of commercials, but then her entire segment will play out without further commercial interruptions. Unfortunately you cannot bypass these ads.

What's Next For April Morris

I was so excited for April initially, to see a fellow entrepreneur have her few moments in the limelight, especially an entrepreneur in the cosmetic industry....and of course I was ready to take notes. Although, her excitement was apparent, it was a disappointment to see she was clearly ill prepared, and it appeared she believes whatever anyone who is out to make a buck off of her, will feed her, and this will be to her detriment. She also is not well versed on FDA regulations or FTC regulations. Along with the FDA, the FTC would actually be the entity that would be the harshest on her company, imposing significant penalties and fines, even to the point of banning her products or shutting her down. As the sharks stated at the end of the segment, "she is currently flying under the radar, but once she comes up above it, BOOM, foot comes down and big trouble."

I was so hoping she would heed their advice, because I really liked her, and in my opinion, the time, money, and mistakes they just saved her, was worth more than a million dollars. I am also about pursuing one's dream, but it must be done with a smart outlook and a savvy consciousness of what you are really offering to customers, including promises made.

On The Path Of Success Or Failure

Time will tell on this one.....She has definitely created a curiosity of something different and perhaps innovative in the minds eye of the media, but the science does not back the claims being made. In doing further research of Thin Gloss, I located the website, and sadly April did not heed their advice because though the show just recently aired, it apparently was taped 2 years before. She is still purporting weight loss with her lip gloss showing before and after images and a video where she continues to imply the lip gloss will suppress the appetite by inhaling the aroma and offer healing vibrational energy by applying to the lips, including testimonials from customers. The only thing I did see change is her purchase price.

She also goes on to state in her Frequently Asked Questions, that her products are being manufactured in an FDA certified facility which in theory is why her products are safe.

I don't wish to be callous here, but I wished April had done her research and focused her attention on how our industry operates rather than simply focusing on her personal goal of making a million dollars in a year, otherwise she would not be making such statements in violation of FDA Law or she would not be being duped by those that wish to only take her money. I admire her vision, but not at the expense of touting falsehoods and preying on women's need and desires to lose weight....this type of marketing can be at the expense of her credibility. In fact, the website promotes more like the infomercial brands.

To be clear, FDA does NOT certify cosmetic manufacturers for any product they create. Also by making this statement, it implies the FDA endorses the company and the products they make. This is a huge no-no with the FDA and they can send a cease and desist letter on this statement alone. The manufacturer of her lip gloss maybe FDA registered as we are, but certainly not certified. FDA only certifies medical devices and facilities performing state of the art operations in medical care such as an FDA certified mammogram facility.

Thin Gloss has the typical FDA disclaimer at the bottom, however, the FTC cares little for these and does not remove the liability from the company if they decide to make an example of them.

ABC Eye Witness News did a story on her products, click here for the article and video, giving an overview of Thin Gloss and other lip gloss products making weight loss claims. So it would seem, though the media is giving these products some attention, it is more about finding out the science behind the claim. Furthermore, Thin Gloss apparently is not so new or innovative since others are also out there making same claims.....color me surprised.

Damage Control

Since the airing of the show, April has made a YouTube video about the show, further reinforcing her products are made in a facility that is FDA certified for safety, and has also gone on FaceBook and in her video, trying to explain, the reason for the need of the investors money was so she could do the clinical studies to prove her claims. Unfortunately, again this is not what she stated. She made it clear, she needed the money to stay afloat, stating at her opener "I have invested everything I have and I am running out of money." However for the sake of argument, if it were for the studies, she again, did not make this clear, nor did she do her homework. Clinical studies can reach into the hundreds of thousands of dollars range.....but based on her expression when this was pointed out to her on the need for clinical studies, she seemed genuinely surprised by this tidbit of info.

She describes independent studies of her own with family, friends and others and their successes, but these are not controlled studies and only serve at best to make sure of any reactions to the products, or to see if they like the product. Their results to weight loss claims cannot be scientifically supported and bias can be a factor. Any scientific study, if done, would then carry her lip gloss into the drug category, hence why it costs a small fortune to prove such claims.

It would be prudent for her to cease her claims until such time as she performs the clinical trials, but I don't believe for a single second this is her main is more about sales as it is clearly defined in her representation of her products and her motivational story.

Why The Interest On My Part

What and how she presents her products to date, can affect me and my company as a whole, as well as other Indie manufacturers. The reality of what Thin Gloss offers to women goes beyond the scope of practicality. It also creates a huge liability for her as a company if the FTC should take notice, especially if the growth of sales is due to weight loss promises.

Not only that, but with new legislation on the books for the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2010 being reintroduced, and the EWG and Campaign for Safe Cosmetics honing in on cosmetic companies making certain claims or not doing the proper pre market testing or transparency of ingredients, it is her actions with her lip gloss that brings only further ammunition and scrutinizing to the forefront of these entities complaints.

Most companies large and small go out of their way to safety test and challenge test the products they sell. But unfortunately, there are a small number that want to make a fast buck and will purchase their products from commercialized mass production outfits offering cheap products based on volume buying. Whereby, slapping their label on it without any of the investment of sweat and tears that goes into making a superior product. Apparently Thin Gloss is just another one of those. This is not the rule generally within Indie companies, but it is hurtful to our motivation and endeavors for keeping our industry safe and to protect consumers with plain and simple science and facts within the beauty industry.

I personally have invested much money, sweat and many tears into formulating my mineral cosmetics...I have done extensive research and development, been involved at a legislative level with other industry leaders and have provided through ongoing education the clarity and updates when made available, how and why our industry is ever changing.....including updated science and information on cosmetic and skincare ingredients as a whole. And when I see those that step into my market with little facts or knowledge, and they make claims that will shed doubt on the industry as a whole, it really frustrates me since my company's future is at stake depending on legislation. Money can be the means to an end, but it should never be the motivating factor, only the reward that comes from placing customers in high regard, not treating them like mindless lemmings which will fall for the next gimmick to hit the shelves.

These people only make our lives tougher and our fight that much harder to keep legislation from crossing the line of over regulation and suppression of the entrepreneurial expression, regulation that will not bring about safer products, but will quash the endeavors of those that believe in safe, natural industry products, including April Morris' Thin Gloss.

The saving grace for Thin Gloss, is because it is being commercially mass produced they are certainly using historically safe cosmetic ingredients, based on what I could attain on the ingredients. But with April Morris as the face for the company, the misinformation she is spreading is a detriment to the industry as a whole. Her media attention is also not keeping her under the radar, making her fair game for media and other scientific bodies to challenge and criticize her unproven weight loss claims, and I am sure she, along with others, are being watched by the NGO watchdog groups.

The FTC Is Clear

Making weight loss claims is a huge legal liability for companies and requires big bucks to prove such claims. Independent studies or historical facts mean nothing to the FTC, even with ingredients, as I have stated in past articles, ingredients, though purported for healing and curative benefits, unless the product containing "said" ingredients is tested clinically, cannot bear these claims due to efficacy and changed chemistry of the formulated ingredients.

They will fine, penalize, even remove products from market and shut you down if they receive complaints in large numbers. This is part of the problem though, since FTC admits, it does not have the resources to actively enforce all of those that step over the line unless they do reach a sales volume that can make penalties substantial. They do provide education for consumers and hope they will take the information to heart to keep from being duped by those that want nothing more than to empty your wallet.

Provided below are links to information to help understand and protect yourself from bogus claims that suck many of us into trying:

FTC Weight Loss Marketing Claims And How They Do That

Bogus Weight Loss Detection Guide

FTC Takes Legal Action On Those That Make Weight Loss Claims

Hoodia Manufacturer Comes Under FTC Charge

These examples are why Kevin Harrington of Shark Tank tried so emphatically to get his point across to April Morris of what she was facing with her claims. And as it goes to the money issue, the FTC, not the FDA, is now requiring for those that make weight loss claims to be supported with not one, but two studies performed by different researchers to see if the study will duplicate with another peer review.

Hoodia for one, must be ingested, not smeared on the lips or inhaled to provide the suppressant effect Thin Gloss purports. So unless you are eating the lip gloss in large amounts, this pitch of weight loss is bogus and will not do anything since it also cannot be absorbed through the skin, similar to those purporting bogus weight loss patches. The only exception to possibly curbing the appetite may be due to you not wanting your lip color to come off, but that's about it for this lip gloss.

Final Thoughts

I admire April Morris and her stoic behavior while maintaining a smile as the sharks shut her down. Personally, I probably would have become a pile of goo under the same onslaught. Also, it is not my intention to be hurtful, and if she reads this at some point, I hope she will view this as an attempt to pass along information so as to clarify much of what she thinks to be true and valid, is in fact, completely false and just plain wrong. She must see the legal side of the situation, and I certainly realize the challenges in her life she has faced contribute to her story.

Many of us share similar stories....but reality must play a larger role here and I believe she is choosing to ignore it, or it is for lack of funds, lacks the know-how, or she simply doesn't want to spend the time and energy. My only wish for her, is that she goes beyond being a motivational speaker and enthusiast and really hunkers down and researches our industry, and becomes involved in the real issues our industry faces in the future. Finding a mentor for her and her business would be money well spent and to also get involved with others that are closely involved with the legislative process the beauty industry faces today.

But perhaps it is not her purpose to change her tactics since to remove the weight loss claims.....well essentially it then becomes just another nice lip gloss doesn't it? .....and isn't this purported benefit what makes Thin Gloss unique?...... with some great skin softening ingredients I might add. The addition of cinnamon for the lip plumping action could prove to be an irritant for some, so make sure you identify what is in the product for allergen possibilities since she also does not disclose her essential oil and fragrance blends .....and mystery is never a good thing, especially under the argument for new legislation in this area, of which I do concur.

I am a proponent to ingredient transparency because I believe it is crucial and imperative for customer trust, and something I personally strive for, always.

Cheers and have a Happy 4th Of July.....celebrating our Independence Day.

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  1. I just watched this episode and was wondering what happened with April's product. Thanks for this post. It was very interesting to read!

  2. On her latest YouTube video, someone posted a comment asking about her product and her only response was, "I am no longer selling my product".