FARMASI: Atypical International Expansion

Farmasi’s Successful Push West to North America.

Farmasi is a start-up like no other in the North American direct selling market. When it launched its U.S. beauty and skincare business in January 2019, it brought with it a 70-year-old international legacy.

Their roots run deep—first as a pharmaceutical manufacturer and retail distributor, then later as the maker and retail distributor of beauty products—and their success stretched beyond their home in Istanbul, Turkey, into neighboring European countries.

By 2010, competition for SKU placements on store shelves had them rethinking retail. Soon they took their established beauty brand direct to the consumer.

Starting at home in Turkey and later converting from retail in numerous countries, Farmasi transformed itself into a direct selling success story whose sales doubled year-over-year between 2012-2016.

Rare is the circumstance that such a company as Farmasi would be considered a start-up, but indeed it is, now that their growth has pushed west to North America—representing an atypical international direct selling expansion.

“We are one of the few companies in U.S. direct sales that is not actually American based. We were founded in another country and brought our business here and became very, very successful,” describes Sinan Tuna, CEO of North America.

Preparation and Readiness

Brothers, Sinan Tuna and Emre Tuna, educated and living abroad for years, head up Farmasi’s global expansion, which started in the U.S. and has planned launches into Canada and Mexico later this year.

Like their father and grandfather before them, preparation and readiness mark their journey so far. An intense, 18-month focus on infrastructure, IT, software, and global supply chain pre-dated any talk of global market targets.

“We needed to be sure our factories were enough to supply all the countries…that our team was very strong—strong people with a global perspective that have lived in different countries,” says Sinan.

With existing markets scattered across Europe and Euro Russian countries, Farmasi could have further saturated those areas. But, Sinan says, “Every country means more problems and time to spend fixing everything.”

“Countries like the U.S., Germany, E.U. countries and probably Japan are much easier to expand our business because the rules are simple. The rules are there. The legislation is there. The regulation is there. Everything is written. You know, if you go by the book—which we always go by the book—then it’s easy,” states Sinan.

So Farmasi set its sights on big markets with even bigger potential and impact. They wanted to parlay language and cultural familiarity into an optimal global launch. Emre Tuna, vice president of CIS, E.U. and North America, had lived and worked in the U.S. too. Everything added up to a U.S. launch.

Since 2019, Farmasi has signed on more than 500,000 in the U.S. They ship 300,000 orders per month and report monthly sales reaching $10 million. They quickly adapted to the changes brought on by COVID by optimizing e-commerce and offering distributors a social outlet. And they’ve been known to fashion new warehouses in just weeks in order to answer customer demand. A $26 million headquarters and distribution campus in Miami, Florida, to be complete in late 2021, should solve that issue indefinitely.

“It’s going to make us completely ready for the next five years in America. The new distribution center will be large enough for $1 billion in U.S. sales only and be able to ship all product to the USA and Canada,” says Sinan.

As for meeting product demands, Farmasi’s choice of Miami as its North American headquarters allows for direct shipping from its 2.5 million square foot manufacturing campus called FarmaCity in Istanbul. It is comprised of seven factories that create make-up, skincare, fragrance and homecare products, as well as packaging.

“Our manufacturing plant is probably our number one strength. We are a baby company in America—a start-up—at the same time, we have a long legacy. Our manufacturing is ready to supply an amount four times more than what we are shipping now. We can easily grow around four times without huge investment in FarmaCity. That could put us in the top ten in the world in direct sales,” details Sinan.

Currently, Farmasi is active in 26 countries, sells products in 125 countries, and has more than 4 million distributors worldwide. They’ve been named the fastest-growing brand based in Europe, as well as the third fastest growing direct selling company in the world.

How Farmasi plans to reach that top ten pinnacle depends on giving consumers more of what they want and that will include launching new, premium skincare and make-up lines in the future. “Very high-quality packaging and very high-quality formulas are our focus for North America,” explains Sinan.

Coming products in the wellness and weight management space will solidify their North American success and facilitate coming expansion into Asia. “We need to make sure we are settled here and have an amazing system. Then it will be much easier for us to expand in the world,” he says.

To that end, construction of a wellness and weight management factory is underway at FarmaCity, with projected completion this year.