This story oginally appeared in Women's Wear Daily (subscription required).
When Amy Errett, founder and chief executive officer of Madison Reed, founded her business in 2013, color was her sole focus—permanent color, semi-permanent color and root touch-up powder.
This summer, Errett is expanding her range to include Vitalize, a line of styling products, as well as delivering a high-lift blonde product that she insists doesn’t harm hair.
Two styling products, Tame and Style, are launching online at madison-reed.com this month, while three additional stockkeeping units—Tousle, Curl and Amplify—will launch in August. All are infused with mongongo and maraculja oils and are paraben-, sulfate- and gluten-free and designed to prolong the life of color and each retail for $19.99. Tame is intended to add smoothing protection and shine to hair, while Style is designed to repair and protect hair while giving a light hold. Tousle is the brand’s version of a surf spray; Curl is intended to define and revive curls, and Amplify is designed to boost volume.
“Color is still the core of our business, but we want to bring our ‘better for you’ product philosophy to more categories,” said Errett, who sells color for $24.95 a box, or $19.95 with the Continuous Color Plan, an autobuy plan. “Our color products are formulated without harsh chemicals or parabens, and so are our new items.”
Also this month, the company is releasing three new ammonia-free blonde high-lift shades, which combine lift and toning in one product. “We spent a year developing three shades—ash blonde, golden blonde and natural blonde,” Errett said. Because they’re ammonia-free, however, they won’t turn someone with very dark hair into a natural-looking blonde—“they’re primarily for women who are already that shade, but their roots are growing out dark,” she said. “The formula will lift three levels [of color.]”
Madison Reed is backed by Norwest Venture Partners, True Ventures and venture capital firm Maveron and has raised $15 million to date. Errett founded Madison Reed after leaving her role as general partner.
“This is my fourth company,” noted Errett. “I was a venture capitalist and looked at how big sectors hadn’t been disrupted. I realized quickly that there hadn’t been innovation in the home hair-coloring area. More than 100 million women in the U.S. color their hair at home, and I couldn’t believe the alternatives of drugstores were so bad—horrible smell, bad directions, etc. I also started thinking about what’s in the hair color. My goal was to reinvent the experience so that the color didn’t smell bad and the box was beautiful—I wanted it to be an affordable luxury at home.”
Errett also put pros on the case for her customer call line and online customer care center: they are staffed entirely with licensed cosmetologists. As well, how-to videos are abundant on the company’s Web site and a detailed online questionnaire guides customers to their best matches, with a gentle suggestion if a customer chooses a color unlikely to show up well on their hair, based on the questionnaire answers. In fact, the high-lift blonde shades cannot be ordered without a complimentary consultation with one of the brand’s cosmetologists. “Everyone’s hair is different, and we want to make sure that people are getting what they want,” Errett said. “A lot of women buy a bunch of things that don’t work. No one’s asking you prescriptively what’s going on with your hair. We are, and we’re getting really specific.”
Errett also made sure that all of the content, especially the videos, were optimized for smartphones. “We found that 75 percent of our customers are using smartphones to access the site,” Errett said. “As a result, everything we do renders well on smartphones and tablets. It’s critical to reach consumers where they are.” Videos are voice-controlled, so that consumers don’t have to touch tablets or smartphones while their hair color is processing, she added. It’s a strategy that seems to be paying off: in the first quarter of 2015, the average order value of a mobile purchase was 25 percent higher that other digital channels, and continues growing about 30 percent a month with new users, she said.
Right now, the company is only shipping in North America, although Errett said she hopes to expand outside the area going forward.