Insert name here, a vegan synthetic hair extensions startup, has grown 500% since launch
When Sharon Pak and Jordynn Wynn got started Insert name here (INH) in 2019, they were betting on celebrity looks on Instagram, starting with Kylie Jenner’s colorful wig spin, to Hayley Bieber’s extra-long locks, and of course, Ariana Grande’s tall pony.
âHis ponytail is what put us on the map,â says Pak.
The Los Angeles-based company sells clip-on wigs, extensions, bangs and updos, but its line of clip-on ponytails is its best-seller, with more than 350,000 sales since its launch.
As the pandemic pushed the global wigs and hair extensions market down 16% in 2021, INH did not feel the frizz.
In its first year of operation, INH achieved a turnover of 3 million dollars, then in 2020 a net turnover of 17 million dollars. After debuting at Ulta in August, the co-founders expect more than $ 20 million net for 2021, and up to 30% growth next year with the expansion of retail.
âThey contacted us because they were impressed with the voice of our brand and our community,â says Pak. “They loved our hairpieces and with their onsite salons and attention to styling tools, this was the perfect solution.”
Along with a limited edition run at Urban Outfitters and Revolve, startup DTC will have its first extensive brick-and-mortar presence at Ulta. âWe expect Ultra sales to represent very significant seven-digit revenue in 2022,â Pak said. âWith the convenient design and displays, Ulta customers can make color matching decisions in person. ”
âThe biggest barrier is the perfect shade,â Wynn adds, referring to converting new customers online. A single INH product can come in 31 colors, ranging from Black Licorice to Brown Boba Balls and Honey Blonde Teddy Grahams. INH sought to crack the code for live color matching, after improving its e-commerce experience with live chat, interactive quizzes, and uploading Instagram photos. It also tests live trading. âIt’s like the QVC style, live shopping on our website,â says Wynn. “It took off in Asia but did not really materialize in the United States”
âWe used to focus on Insta villains with Kylie Jenner-style color transformations, but now … effortless beauty is all the rage and people want natural looks, even when it comes to their hair extensions. ”
Pak and Wynn are no strangers to the color category. The Forbes Under 30 alumni met at Pepperdine University, then worked together at ColourPop Cosmetics. At the time, ColourPop’s parent company, Seed Beauty, was also the manufacturer behind Kylie Jenner’s Kylie Cosmetics and Kim Kardashian’s KKW Beauty. The duo had all the cosmetic undertones at their fingertips, but easy-to-use, quality hair extensions always seemed out of reach.
âWe noticed a hole in the market,â says Wyn. “If we can’t find these DIY hair products so deep in the beauty space, then this must be a problem everyone is having.”
For many, traditional extensions can also be a real headache. Besides costing hundreds of dollars, they can be difficult to apply. Clips that attach to the hair can take a heavy toll on the head over time.
Pak and Wynn began to develop a new approach to clip-on hair, focusing not only on easy application, but engagement as well. âGirls don’t talk about hair and some are ashamed to wear hair extensions,â says Pak. “It inspired us to launch a brand where we can have a hyper-engaged community.” The co-founders, now both 30, self-funded the launch with $ 250,000 each, taking out additional loans along the way.
They teamed up with a third co-founder, Kevin Gould, at Kombo Ventures. Having previously invested in BeautyCon and Glamnetic Lashes, he brought his beauty e-commerce expertise to the INH table. Another key to success has been the hiring of Shauna Lee, a sought-after specialist in synthetic hair, as head of product development. âWe turned to the best product developer in this space who understood the Korean wig market which is known for the best synthetic and human hair options,â Wynn said. INH hair is made from lightweight vegan fibers. The pre-styled pieces can be worn without the help of a professional stylist.
Despite global demand, the growth path has not always been smooth and smooth for INH, especially with established competitors like Handsome friend and new players like Transparent glow. Plus, from iOS updates impacting Facebook ads to the changing influencer marketing landscape, the team strives to stay the top priority for women.
In its first year, INH was aimed at women in their early twenties, but it has since moved into the 25-35 age bracket. âMoms have quickly become our fastest growing demographic, they don’t have time to have fun when they have a new baby,â says Wynn.
She adds that the pandemic has also reduced the need for exaggerated looks. “The first year it was about long and dramatic looks, then in the middle of last year people were looking for shorter, everyday styles.”
Leveraging their active social media community and customer data has helped them react nimbly to changing preferences and sustaining growth rates. The customer survey led to the Jordynn, a mid-length pony with soft curls, which is currently her best-selling product. âShay Mitchell, a new mom, was the inspiration for this style,â says Pak.
âWe used to focus on Insta villains with Kylie Jenner-style color transformations, but now our key demo is The Everyday Girl,â says Wynn. âEffortless beauty is essential and people want a natural look, even when it comes to their hair extensions. ”