Four years ago I became crazy about Olaplex, the company, the brand and the technology that created a whole new category in the salon hair care business — true reactive hair repair.
My hair has never been dyed or bleached or straightened and it probably never will. But I am obsessed with the Olaplex inventors, Craig Hawker and Eric Pressly. How did they do it? How did they achieve remarkable benefits for stylists and consumers, especially women, for whom it is a real trauma when their hair becomes damaged from years and years of dyeing. How did these two guys do so much good while making boatloads of money for Olaplex.
I want to do that. I want to have that impact.
The boatloads of money would not hurt either.
So I left my job. Started a new company. And we did it. It took two years.
And I am here to tell you exactly how we did it. Step by step.
But first I want to show you a photo. It’s a pallet of material called TeraBond™. We sell it to hair care brands, who add it to their hair dyes and bleaches and it repairs peoples’ hair. This is the first order Actera has ever sold. It is shipping today to a multi-billion dollar professional hair care brand, and in a few weeks it will be in salons across the world in their branded hair repair product. It will be competing with Olaplex.
Today feels like the biggest day in my professional life, and I am almost fifty years old. Two hundred kilograms of stuff on a pallet. That is not very sexy to most people.
But shipping it out gives me goose bumps.
So how did Craig Hawker and Eric Pressly do it? The Olaplex marketing videos show them as Steve Jobs types in their garage in California — the mythic California innovation garage. It must be the warm California breeze, and working at night with just a single lightbulb to light the way, that feeds the inspiration. It was the immaculate conception of Olaplex. Great story. Powerful marketing.
Now I will tell you how Actera did it (and there is no garage in this story):
- I followed the trade journals in my industry (cosmetics) and got really curious whenever I saw rapidly growing new brands like Olaplex. I investigated what they were really doing.
- I tracked down their patents. I read the patent examples again and again.
- I got really knowledgeable about what happens in a salon. How do they dye hair? What does damage look like to a stylist. What does repair look like. I went to salons and spoke with stylists, and read every hair stylist blog I could find.
- I read the legal briefs when Olaplex sued l’Oreal for patent infringement. I learned more about the science of what Olaplex was doing, and what l’Oreal was doing.
- I used key words I learned from that research, and searched Google Patents for older patents. It’s amazing what the scientists in the 50’s and 60’s were doing. They were way ahead of their time.
- With these insights, I developed new chemistries that were outside the Olaplex patents, that I thought might work in similar ways.
- I got lucky, and hired an amazing cosmetic chemist, Lorraine Lampe, who spent a year testing it in our lab, dying and bleaching hair and figuring it all out. And it worked, just as well and sometimes better than Olaplex.
- We got lucky and came into contact with an innovative investment firm, Arcline Investment Management, who was eager to invest in us.
- We got lucky and came into contact with a terrific law firm, Stinsons, who helped us patent our new invention.
- We used LinkedIn to find the key executives at the leading salon hair color brands. We prospected, cold called, sent sales collateral. I asked for meetings.
- They said no. They said Actera could not possibly have a technology as good as Olaplex.
- We did the above again and again. Meetings eventually occurred.
- The brands took samples and they did salon trials. All the stylists were amazed. “As good or better than Olaplex” was the typical feedback.
- Within four months a billion dollar brand decided to launch with it.
- Lorraine and I manufactured the first commercial batches of TeraBond. We did it ourselves, our labor, in our modest facility. We know how to do it ourselves.
- And we packaged it in drums and put it on a pallet!
So what’s the lesson here: deep curiosity; a mission we care about; scientific rigor; careful listening; great people & great partners; don’t take no for an answer.
Now you know why today feels great. We are excited that more and more folks will get the benefit of true salon hair repair.
Did I mention that TeraBond is 100% natural, renewable and safe. It is 2020 after all. Green and clean and healthy is the name of the game for consumers.
And that’s one impact Actera is making that Olaplex is not.