The idea

‘I was traveling a lot for work and was always shoving my toiletries into a little Ziploc bag. I kept seeing water as the first ingredient on all of my products; I did a quick Google search and saw that liquid shampoo was, on average, 80% water. That blew my mind. I started digging into other formulas for conditioner, hair gel and hair masks and realized there was a whole business opportunity there – and what better person to pursue it than me? I have a background in chemical engineering and I'd always been interested in beauty.’ 


‘There are shampoo and conditioner bars on the market, but it was interesting to me that they'd been around for so long and people hadn't adopted them. I saw a real opportunity to serve this group of people who wanted to make more sustainable decisions, but didn't want to compromise on quality, routine, or travel by using bars of product. I went to a lot of stores and bought a lot of products. I interviewed a lot of people, just starting with friends and family. I put up a web page to collect emails and send people surveys – and friends and family sharing them on Facebook was great.’

First batch

‘I tried calling labs and manufacturers to get my products developed and everyone was like, “If it was possible, it would have been done.” So, I literally made it on my bedroom floor. I knew where to get the chemicals because it was the industry I was in. And as long as you'd set up a company name and a bank account, you could get what you needed. I made about 50 different formulas. But when I thought I had my final version, the primary ingredient was discontinued. I had to completely reformulate it – it took me about another year to do so, because I was finally talking to manufacturers.’


‘I decided to start working on my master's and enroll in school again, because I needed to buy myself time, and put my student loans on pause. I won $14,000 from two student competitions, which meant that I could fund my patent filing, my incorporation fees, trademark and buy more products to test. I made it last about a year – I did so much of the work. In 2018, I took some angel investment.’


‘I ordered the type of bags you'd find drugs in, filled them with white powder and handed them out to people. I gave them to as many people as I could and tried to get people to take a survey. I also got a grant to set up at a startup competition in Paris and there was a trade-show exhibit happening at the same time. I got so much feedback on my product: I literally had people washing their hands with it. That helped me to understand how to market it, because I knew how people were describing the product, even just in their hands.’


‘I was visiting New York a lot, crashing on friends' couches and going to networking events. It was very hard to get taken seriously, especially on the phone. Meeting people in person and showing how passionate I was got me in the picture. Our first manufacturer started the process and was, like, “Oh, we can do this much, but then you're going to have to go somewhere else to fill it.” And immediately I was like: oh my gosh, this is so much extra cost that we didn't account for. The manufacturer that we went with after that was able to do everything under one roof. It took another year to get to the formula to where it is today. It didn't cost me anything, but it took lots of my time.’


‘Something that was important to me was to take this product mainstream – I wanted it to be viewed as a high-quality product, comparable to what you get on [beauty website] Sephora. I couldn't afford a bottle of $29 shampoo growing up, but when you break it down by volume and compare it with other shampoos, it actually works out at about $7.25 a bottle. That's priced very competitively for someone to be able to afford to make a more sustainable and healthier decision. I originally had, like, $21 in my head, but after talking to a lot of people and investors, $29 is the price point we landed on.’


‘As well as our website, I launched with Credo Beauty, a clean-beauty retailer that had about eight stores at the time. It was good because I wanted its seal of approval  – it was the leader in clean at the time, so us being in there helped to build the brand. We launched on Sephora in 2021; I did it because I knew that Sephora was working on [its] Clean + Planet Positive program. I choose specific partners that can help build the brand – I don't just try to do a bunch of mom-and-pop shops because it's a lot to manage.’

This article was first published in Courier issue 44, December 2021/January 2022. To purchase the issue or become a subscriber, head to our webshop.

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