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Successful businesses often solve problems. Creating new products is part of the equation, but reaching a group of people that don't see themselves reflected in the marketplace can be just as important.
That reminder shined through during a recent conversation with Sheena Lister and Megan Andrews, the cofounders of gender inclusive haircare brand Barb.
After years of buying short hair products that were geared toward men, they created a brand for all people who have hair above the chin line.
“We’re creating products and community that are designed for people who express themselves through their short hair,” Lister said.
That group has been typically underrepresented in this facet of the beauty industry.
Now, they're Barbs.
Here’s a look at how the San Francisco-based startup's journey so far:
Lister and Andrews have each had short hair for more than 15 years.
“Throughout our short hair journey we’ve been buying products that are marketed and made for men,” Lister said. “...We thought, imagined and hypothesized that there are lots of people like us that would appreciate a different type of product.”
In working to solve for their own needs, they also set out to provide products for a group that is underserved in the market, while also providing opportunity for that group to see themselves reflected in the media that is a big part of the beauty industry.
The brand is focusing on women, nonbinary and trans people. As they build, the cofounders are aiming to create a lifestyle brand for all people with short haircuts.
Launched in June 2021, the brand has a single SKU: A soft clay pomade. It’s a medium hold, natural finish pomade that is designed to be soft on the hands, rather than sticky. The cruelty-free product is made to work on its own, or with other products.
Barb cofounders Sheena Lister and Megan Andrews. (Courtesy photo)
In developing products and bringing them to market, the cofounders are considering and involving their community.
This is evident in elements of the pomade, such as its gender-neutral fragrance. Equally, marketing materials and Instagram photos show women and non-binary proudly rocking short hair.
“All of these things are designed so people can identify with our brand without feeling like they’re fitting into a binary or box,” Andrews said.
It’s the identity of the business, and led the cofounders to deem this community Barbs. As Lister explained it, Barb could be a noun, or an action. It’s also a mindset reflected in people moving through the world and living their “true, authentic selves,” Lister said.
And the Barbs aren't only represented in the consumer base. The people who style their hair are BarbTenders, while those who carry the products are BarbTailers. After all, they have an important place in the industry, and the cofounders say they have been overlooked, as well.
Lister and Andrews want Barbs to be involved at every step of the way, providing input and pointing out new opportunities. That ideal is set to be put into practice with a new program the brand is launching in June. Called BaRb & D, it will bring together 16 stylists and barbers to help develop three new products. The partners will be compensated, and credited across the products and marketing materials for their role in developing them.
Growing the business
When it comes to selling the product, Barb is taking a multifaceted approach. A big portion of the business is direct-to-consumer through their website (thebarbshop.com), and they’ve primarily found marketing success through Instagram.
Through wholesale, Barb has also entered more than 40 barbershops and salons. A partnership with Urban Outfitters is extending a presence through the retailer's digital channels.
It has led to a 26% month-over-month growth rate. And the seeds of loyalty are being planted. Since launching with an initial cohort wholesale partners, they’ve seen a 100% repurchase rate.
They're getting mentorship and support along the way. Lister and Andrews are part of the latest cohort of XRC Labs, an accelerator focused on retail tech and consumer goods. They’ll be pitching on Thursday, May 19, at the program’s demo day at New York’s Webster Hall.
Going forward, the cofounders are working to develop more products, with the aim of rolling out those identified in the BaRb & D program in the first quarter of 2023. With more SKUs, they see potential to enter larger big-box retailers, where many digitally-native beauty startups are now finding success.
They want to create a space for all, and that means there's plenty of room to bring others in who weren't necessarily considered in the original plan. Initially, they set out to reach 25-49 year-olds. But a recent consumer survey showed interest from a wider range, as respondents were aged 18 to 73.
It reflected the potential to reach people in those groups who are underserved in beauty. For instance, women in their 50s and 60s opt for short hair, but typically don’t have products designed for them.
Lister and Andrews are ready to welcome them as the Stately Barbs.
“The community has already been there,” Andrews said of people with short hair. “We’ve been around for a long time, but we’re giving people a name and a home.”
Trending in Brand News
On the Move has leadership and promotion news from Pacsun, Calvin Klein and CVS Health.
This week, one of the world’s largest consumer goods companies hires a new CEO, while a luxury ecommerce platform taps a successor to its founder. Plus, we’ve got news on top leadership hires and promotions at Pacsun, West Elm and Calvin Klein Americas.
Unilever appoints CEO
Hein Schumacher. (Courtesy photo)
Hein Schumacher will be the next CEO of Unilever, effective July 1. Schumacher comes to the maker of Dove, Hellmann’s and Ben & Jerry’s from Royal FrieslandCampina, where he is credited with leading turnaround efforts at the $11 billion business.
Succeeding the retiring Alan Jope, Schumacher will assume the top job at Unilever as it appears to be on the precipice of change following the appointment of activist investor Nelson Peltz to the board in May.
“The Board looks forward to Hein realising the full potential of Unilever as a winning business which delivers long-term growth and value for all its stakeholders,” said Unilever Chairman Nils Andersen, in a statement.
Brie Olson named co-CEO in Pacsun shakeup
Brie Olson. (Courtesy photo)
Brie Olson was promoted to co-CEO of Pacsun from the role of president. Olson will serve alongside co-CEO Mike Relich. With the move, Alfred Chang will transition to the CEO role at clothing brand Fear of God, which is a Pacsun brand partner. As president, Olson oversaw Pacsun’s AI and metaverse initiative, led a variety of brand partnerships and introduced a gender neutral collection.
The RealReal hires Wainwright's successor
John E. Koryl is joining The RealReal as CEO. Koryl is stepping in to lead the luxury ecommerce platform after founder Julie Wainwright stepped down in June. He comes to the company from the digital arm of Canadian Tire Corporation, and also previously played a key digital transformation leadership role while serving as president of stores and online Neiman Marcus.
West Elm taps Ralph Lauren Home lead as president
Day Korbluth. (Courtesy photo)
Day Kornbluth was named president of West Elm. Kornbluth comes to the Williams Sonoma-owned sustainable home retailer from Ralph Lauren Home, where she served as president. The company credited her track record of growing home furnishing brands with a focus on product and digital innovation. The move follows former West Elm president Alex Bellos' appointment as CEO at Food52 earlier this year.
Vera Bradley shakes up leadership
The travel and accessories retailer Vera Bradley announced a leadership shakeup that resulted in the following:
President Daren Hull, Chief Creative Officer Beatrice Mac Cabe and Chief Revenue Officer Mary Beth Trypus all saw their roles eliminated, and will be leaving the company.
The company will also add the position of SVP of merchandising and design, and is actively conducting a search.
Alison Hiatt joined Vera Bradley as chief marketing officer to oversee digital marketing, customer data and ecommerce. Hiatt brings experience from the food company Salt and Straw.
Pura Vida, which is owned by Vera Bradley, will see co-presidents Griffin Thall and Paul Goodman leave the company. With this, Vera Bradley will acquire a 25% interest in Pura Vida from Thall and Goodman for $10 million, effective January 30.
Vera Bradley said it is making these changes to "drive cost savings, add more focus on marketing and merchandising, and position the Company to deliver steady top- and bottom-line growth."
Master P named chairman of Launch Cart
Percy "Master P" Miller. (Courtesy photo)
Percy “Master P” Miller was appointed chairman of the board at Launch Cart, an ecommerce platform that bills itself as an alternative to Shopify. Alongside a rap career that yielded 90s hits with his label No Limit Records, Miller brings a track record as an entrepreneur in food and entertainment. “With his entrepreneurial spirit and deep understanding of the power of business, our partnership will make it easier for aspiring entrepreneurs to realize their dreams of starting an online business, building a brand, and generating income,” said cofounder Bernt Ullmann.
Kohler to lead Calvin Klein Americas
Donald Kohler. (Courtesy photo)
Donald Kohler was named president of Calvin Klein Americas by parent company PVH Corp. Kohler brings experience from a 15-year career in retail from Burberry, Salvatore Ferragamo and Diesel. The company said his expertise includes direct-to-consumer, third-party driven business models and ecommerce. The new comes on the heels of the appointment of Inditex executive Eva Serrano as global brand president at Calvin Klein.
Skims appoints chief commercial officer
Robert Norton is joining Skims as chief commercial officer, and will lead international expansion. Norton joins the Kim Kardashian-founded shapewear brand from Moncler, where he served as president of the Americas. Over a two-decade career, he also previously served as CEO of the Americas for Roberto Cavalli and was an executive at Ralph Lauren.
“I have been a fan of Robert’s for several years and believe him to be a rare, creatively minded executive who knows how to build both a brand and a business,” said Jens Grede, cofounder and CEO of Skims, in a statement. “We are excited to have Robert on the team as we continue the evolution of SKIMS into a global retail brand.”
CVS Health creates chief product officer role
CVS Health announced a pair of appointments:
- David Joyner will join the company as EVP and president of pharmacy services, which serves employers, health plans and government. Joyner previously worked with CVS Health, and has 34 years of experience.
- Amy Bricker was named EVP and chief product officer for the consumer. She assumes the newly-created role to head consumer products and innovation after serving as president of Express Scripts.