Whenever I tell people about Tiny Hair Workshop the number one question I get asked is "How?" As in, how did you do this? How did you know what to do? There are a lot of details, but I thought I'd condense it so you can get an idea.
1) The Lightbulb Moment
I got the idea to make beauty products because I was annoyed at the lack of great products on the market - particularly products for air drying your hair.
I needed a product that made it so I didn't have to style this crazy mane!
2) Does Anyone Actually Want This Thing?
I started researching all of the air dry products on the market. I looked at the cost, the sizes they were sold in, the branding, and the types of people who would want to purchase those products. At the time, there were only a few air dry products on the market and most were targeted towards "beach hair."
When I started this process there were only a few air-dry products - now there are lots!
3) You Gotta Start Somewhere
I started researching different ingredients that were in these products. Initially, I was planning on calling the line Mane Island. I was thinking of including ingredients that could be sourced from Hawaii.
Jon and I struggled for so long to make this logo work.
Then, for a long time, the company was called Truth Serum. I wasn't able to get trademarks for either of these names...
...and I finally settled on the name Tiny Hair Workshop. It took 3 trademark applications and two years to finally get to that point!
4) Ummm...How Am I Gonna Make This?
I researched different ways of getting hair products made. The two options I saw were Contract Manufacturing and Private Label. Contract Manufacturing is expensive because the lab creates the formula for you. Private Label is much less expensive. These companies have a wide array of product formulations you can choose from and then you can put your own label on the bottle. Private Label is a great way to go in terms of cost, but you have no way of customizing the formula to your specifications.
5) Maybe I Can Make It Myself!
I ended up finding a different option - a natural product formulator in California, Joan Morais Naturals, offered courses on formulating natural, plant-based haircare products. I was hesitant about going this route because the course was $1200 (this is still a fraction of the cost of Contract Manufacturing). I wasn't sure what level of proficiency I could hope to achieve after I finished.
Joan is a wonderful person and talented formulator.
6) Starting A Business Costs Money (and takes up space)
I took the course and purchased everything to start a lab in my apartment. I bought a stainless steel worktable, beakers, a handmixer, and lots of other tools. I wasn't sure if I would be making these products to sell directly from my apartment, so I wanted to set up a professional and sanitary environment.
7) Learning To Do Something New Takes Time
I knew I wanted to create an air dry product, and that was my main focus. I started with a formula from my course for a leave-in conditioner. Over the course of three months, I made that conditioner over and over in small batches, sometimes 5 or 6 times a week, always adjusting certain amounts of the ingredients to try to determine what the effect was of each one. I took copious notes, as well as noting the effects of the product on my hair during different weather patterns.
8) Be Bold and Step Out of Your Box
Eventually, I realized I would have to branch out to other ingredients when I had exhausted my efforts with the initial formula. I stalked cosmetic chemist forums, as well as forums for people with curly hair. The information in these forums gave me a lot of information such as: a lot of curly haired people experience more frizz with products that have humectants or silicones; or using too much essential oils can be irritating to some people's scalps. I also found the wholesale sites I would purchase from to be very helpful. I could just go on the site and type "frizz" into the search bar, and a list of ingredients would come up that help combat frizz. I would purchase these in small amounts and try them in my formulations.
Even this plant based ingredient can be harmful if used incorrectly.
9) Does Anyone Else Like This or Am I The Only One?
When I finally got my formulations to the point where they worked, then I started planning for testers to try them so that I could get a general sense of whether or not I was headed in the right direction. The products didn't need to be perfect - they just needed to be a good representation of what I was trying to achieve. What I consider perfect may not be good at all to someone else, so getting feedback is critical to moving forward. I hand-picked many of my testers from my client base (since I am a hairstylist), as well as friends. These were people who I knew fit my target demographic.
10) Act Like You're a Real Business
I figured I could handle the cost and effort to ship samples to 50 testers. I wanted everything to look nice, as though I was shipping to an actual customer. I had to skimp on some things (waterproof labels were going to cost $200, so those were out), but I was able to source boxes, a stamp with my logo, and pretty shipping filler for reasonable costs. I had to measure my bottles to make sure they would fit the boxes, and measure the stamp so it would look good on the boxes. I also had to figure out the least expensive way to send the products. I found that if I could fit the boxes in a priority mailer that it would be an affordable option, and if I could print my shipping labels from home, I could save even more money. I also had to create a survey for the testers to fill out so that I could compile their valuable feedback.
Shipping boxes, stamped and ready to go!
I can't even tell you how rewarding it was to drop off nearly 50 packages to the post office! Or how wonderful it was to go to bed at a reasonable hour the next day. This is as far as I've gotten with starting a beauty brand, and I hope to share more with you as the journey continues. Do you have any questions for me? Curious about the cost to do all this? About Joan's classes? I'm happy to answer!