How These Former ColourPop Employees Started Their Own Brand
A version of this story first appeared on Forbes.com
Experimenting with hair is more popular than ever before. Celebrities change up their hair as often as they change their clothes, donning extensions, colorful wigs, and dyed hair all the time, and many fans are eager to do the same and play around with different hairstyles. Finding affordable and good-looking extensions and wigs, however, is a tricky business. Wigs can be hundreds of dollars, and cheaper products are often made with cheap-looking synthetic hair, making it difficult for the everyday consumer to find quality products.
Enter: Insert Name Here, the new brand that is ready to make your dreams of achieving an Ariana Grande-status ponytail or mermaid length hair a reality! To learn more about the brand and how Insert Name Here hopes to make fun hair extensions accessible for all, we spoke with co-founders Kevin Gould, Sharon Pak, and Jordynn Wynn.
Keep reading to find out how Sharon and Jordynn knew it was the right time to leave their old positions at ColourPop, the importance of social media marketing today, and the key pieces of advice they have for fellow entrepreneurial spirits.
SIMPLY: How did your experiences at ColourPop prepare you for launching your own business?
JORDYNN WYNN: We had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be a part of ColourPop from concept to launch. As the first two employees of the brand, we did a bit of everything in the beginning, from product development and social/influencer marketing to customer service and uploading products onto the site. We’ve also seen a lot of other brands “born” under the Seed Beauty umbrella, which has helped us understand what it takes to build and launch a successful brand.
Through ColourPop’s near-weekly launches, we learned the importance of a cross-functional team, vertical integration, and the “dos and don’ts” of social media. And that was in addition to working directly with the co-founders of ColourPop, John and Laura Nelson—undoubtedly two of the most inspirational and accomplished brand developers in the beauty space today.
SIMPLY: When did you know it was the right time to set out on your own and launch Insert Name Here and what advice do you have for individuals who are thinking about taking the plunge into entrepreneurship?
JW: It’s a difficult question because the truth is, I didn’t know it was the right time. For me, there was never this moment where it seemed “right” to leave a great job and take a big risk in launching a new brand. I suspect every young entrepreneur struggles through countervailing emotions and periods of doubt as they set out on their own. I guess my first piece of advice would be, if you have an idea and a team that you believe in, don’t let those moments of doubt deter you.
SHARON PAK: I on the other hand was itching to channel my energy into something new. I’ve always wanted to have a business of my own, and I was ready for it. Jordynn and I would always play around with the idea of starting a business together—from wacky ideas like interior design to skincare. We had proven over and over that we were great work partners but also great friends outside of the workplace. It was a such a unique relationship that we knew we couldn’t do it without one another.
In our case, teaming up with an amazing group of people with complementary backgrounds and talents was instrumental in envisioning this idea as a brand. From our experience at ColourPop, Jordynn and I felt comfortable with the process of launching new products, particularly with our background in creative and strategic marketing strategies and in building a community with our consumers.
It was kind of serendipitous that we met up with Kevin Gould, our co-founder, at the time that we did. We shared with him our idea and he was really very encouraging that we were ready to take this on and make the jump. We had been at ColourPop for about 5 years and were pretty comfortable with the process of launching new products. Pairing our backgrounds with Kevin's, we really felt that we had the complimenting skill sets and backgrounds to cover the brand building process in a very 360 way.
A few more thoughts for those who are considering taking the plunge into entrepreneurship:
KEVIN GOULD: Make sure you are ready to accept the risk. Most startups fail; there is no guarantee that it will work out. Despite the alluring appearance of entrepreneurship nowadays, especially through the lens of social media, in reality, it involves what can seem like endless ups and downs and requires incredible professional and personal sacrifices. You really have to ask yourself, “Why are you doing this?”
S: Understand that entrepreneurship is not a 9-to-5 role. You can’t leave work back at the office. To be successful, especially in the first few years, entrepreneurship requires a 24/7 commitment. So much for work-life balance, right?
J: It’s worth repeating: pick the right partners. You can mitigate the stresses of building a new brand by surrounding yourself with people who have the expertise and experience to get the brand off the ground. And just as important as having a team with complementary skill sets, open communication and an encouraging work environment is absolutely vital to the long-term viability of a brand.
SIMPLY: How did you research materials and figure out what consumers wanted that would set Insert me Here apart?
One of the main problems we saw when researching the hair space, was the extreme variation in quality and price point. It was very difficult to find high quality pieces at accessible price points. A lot of wigs and ponytails are hundreds, in some cases thousands, of dollars. On the other end of the spectrum, the pieces that were affordable were very low quality. They were made of plastic, smelled terrible, and you could not style them. One wig we purchased for research purposes was modeled after the Kim Kardashian silver hair with dark roots and the roots were literally drawn on with a marker.
Based on our market research we knew people wanted to experiment with wigs/extensions but didn’t feel confident in the quality or reliability of the available brands.
All of our wigs are ready to wear with pre-plucked natural hairlines. For our synthetic pieces we work only with high end, special fibers that, though a bit more expensive, are the closest thing to natural hair. They are extremely soft, lightweight, and can be heat styled up to 400 degrees.
For our Remy Human Hair pieces, quality again was a major factor. There is a lot that goes into getting the right hair. Many hair companies actually include animal hair or synthetic fibers in the extensions that they claim are 100% Human Hair. Seemingly small factors, such as the direction of the hair follicles, make a huge difference in the quality and longevity of your human hair pieces.
Based on a recent customer survey, we found that 65% of our customers have never purchased wigs/extensions before.
SIMPLY: What was the startup process like? Was there anything about starting a business that really surprised you?
KG: The barrier to entry to start a brand is lower than ever. However, because of this, the market is extremely saturated which makes growing a brand much more difficult than it has been over the past 3-5 years. Getting initial traction on social media and peaking influencer interest in a world where consumers and influencers are getting bombarded with new brands on the daily can be tricky.
Where a lot of brands get stuck and can really get into trouble is managing growth. We hit a seven figure annual run rate in less than four months and very quickly had to organize around supply chain and strategic planning to make sure the infrastructure is in place to manage the growth that we expect over the next year.
SIMPLY: How does social media play a role in marketing the brand?
Social media plays a major role in the brand. Given our collective past experience there was no doubt our brand would be digitally native. We believe in the power or social listening, and social media and influencer marketing. Genuine, organic relationships are more important than ever. Also, creating branding that has a real, relatable personality—or a “soul” as we call it in office—is an important factor in setting yourself apart and engaging consumers.
SIMPLY: What do you envision for the future of Insert Name Here?
Over the course of the next year we will be focusing on laying the foundation. The benefit of being self-funded is that we have full autonomy to focus on our vision for the brand. We want to continue building out the vision of where we see hair going in the consumer space and make sure we are delivering the products and the trends that our customer is looking for. One of our main focuses will of course be brand awareness, community growth, and building out an amazing customer experience and journey for our new and returning users.