Now, more than ever, people are looking for all-natural hair products that actually work – and keep working. Lynn Power and James Hammett are the hard-working founders behind Masami. Listen to see how the industry is changing, and how they’ve adapted in the process.
James Hammett: [00:00:00] Each product that I discovered that I sold there was specified in marketing terms for thin air, fine hair, thick hair, coarse hair, wavy hair, curly hair, so many different shampoos and conditioners for so many different types and so many different issues.
Sam: [00:00:38] Which one of us doesn’t want awesome hair all the more so when we no longer take it for granted as we get older? Today, we’re chatting with Lynn Power and James Hammett, co-founders of Masami. Lynn is a long time ad agency executive with a love for beauty brands, and she worked advertising several iconic brands. James is a twenty five plus year beauty guru and perfectionist. In 2010, James decided to do something to help models with constantly damaged hair. And since then, he’s perfected breakthrough formulations that are the botanically hydrating Masami products. Their goal is nothing short of women with healthy and invincibly beautiful hair. James and Lynn, welcome to Ideamix radio.
Lynn Power: [00:01:24] Thank you. And I love the intro.
James Hammett: [00:01:26] Thanks for having me.
Sam: [00:01:27] Absolutely. So healthy hair is a staple that’s integral to maintaining use and appearance. And the evidence is clear, right? The desire for healthy hair has driven the hair care market to 92 billion dollars and growing in 2020. You started Masami in early 2019. Tell us about how the products are different from other natural hair care brands.
James Hammett: [00:01:54] So the journey through hair care is not in the west but the north, the United States specifically has been tough and has been extremely competitive. And there have been so many brands throughout the years that are on the market that have ingredients in them that aren’t clean, vegan, cruelty free, sulfate, paraben, phthalate free. And I’m sure a lot of people don’t even know what phthalates are. But that’s another journey. And I watched the changes that have happened between professional brands, the salon world, which are massive markets, the US and the consumer brands and the growth and the shifting. And in the early 2000s, sulfates and parabens were becoming a no-no. I saw brands in the later 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 developing brands that were coming out with liquidy sulfate, paraben-free brands and products. And also each product that I discovered out there was specified in marketing terms for thin hair, fine hair, thick hair, coarse hair, wavy hair, curly hair, so many different shampoos and conditioners for so many different hair types and so many different issues. So obviously the brands broke out and the competition was fierce for years and those in those categories. But I realized over time that those products and those ingredients, a lot of them still contained phthalates or contained sulfates or parabens, and strikingly, their quality and performance was lacking when it came to regular use. So I wanted to create formulas that gave you long-lasting performance in each of the products. But I wanted you to have value, richness, nutritional ingredients that come together to give, to provide, to shine and performance and softness for hair, which was truly lacking across the board in just a few products.
Sam: [00:04:01] Lynn maybe you want to take this one. How did you both come together to start Masami?
Lynn Power: [00:04:05] Yeah, that’s that’s a good one. So James had been working away, toiling away really for about ten years on the formulations. And he had approached my husband, who he was working with at the time, and had said, hey, you know, I’ve been working on this kind of side project for a really long time with these haircare formulations. And I think they’re just about done. But I’m not not clear what to do next. And my husband is not a beauty guy at all. So he basically said, you know, why don’t you talk to Lynn? And he introduced us. My husband does not have a good track record of introducing me to people. So I’m thinking I’m thinking to myself, well, I pretty much had to fire everyone he’s recommended to me over the years. But anyway, so I’m thinking to myself, OK, this guy’s worked on this for ten years and he’s either incredibly passionate and a genius because he’s perfected this or he’s crazy. There’s kind of no in between because who does that?
Sam: [00:05:17] Who totally has to be like a totally bimodal outcome.
Lynn Power: [00:05:20] He was basically doing it on his own using his discretionary income. And so by the time we met and I’m thinking to myself, OK, which is it going to be? Obviously, I decided he’s a genius because I’m working with him. But I tried the products and I was like, damn, like he really figured it out and it’s really hard to do. And I’ve worked on hair care a bunch in my career and I know how hard it is. And so that was when we came together. And really my husband and I were so passionate about it as well, because I really felt like he had cracked this clean beauty meets performance world and hair care that we decided to become the investors and then me being really the partner, James’s partner, and taking the brand to market. So it’s our baby now. We’re like fully and we’re like family now, too.
James Hammett: [00:06:27] Yeah, absolutely. We are like family.
Sam: [00:06:31] That’s fabulous.
James Hammett: [00:06:31] We are family. Yes. It’s a relationship that’s quite powerful, I think.
Lynn Power: [00:06:38] He really makes it work because when you have the right partner, and I tell this to a lot of founders that I’m counseling or advising, don’t find a clone of yourself. You don’t need that. You’re only going to end up tripping over each other and arguing about stuff. It’s way better to find somebody who’s got complementary skill sets and can do stuff that you can’t do and has superpowers that you don’t have and vice versa.
Sam: [00:07:01] That’s such good advice. In my case, I definitely learned that the hard way. I also think, after your husband listens to this podcast, you’re officially not allowed to say that everybody other than James that he’s introduced you to has been a dud.
Lynn Power: [00:07:19] It’s literally been sort of a debate we’ve had over the last, he’ll have this person that he thinks is great and we both worked in advertising. So it’s a very small world. So he would inevitably go, hey, this guy’s looking for work or whatever, and you want to meet him. And it’s my own fault because I would then hire the person, but inevitably they wouldn’t work out. But James – Not only did he break the exception that disproves the rule – and in spades because it’s not just like, oh, it’s fine. It kind of worked. But no, we get on, like, a house on fire. Who knew?
James Hammett: [00:08:11] No, no, no. Who did? No. I mean, I think it was just something that was meant to be in terms of energy, of coming together, to be able to bring this to bring this to you and to everybody, the consumer.
Sam: [00:08:26] So despite the current recession, haircare is one of the rare categories that’s actually remained stable and in some areas even increasing. You launched not long before the pandemic got underway. Tell us a little bit about how that’s been for the business.
Lynn Power: [00:08:44] Well, it definitely was, like everyone else, unpredictable and unexpected I mean, we were at New York Fashion Week in February in very small rooms that were actually oversold. We had a problem with one of the fashion shows because it was oversold and at capacity. They wouldn’t let more people in. And people are jam-packed next to each other. And just a few weeks later, you know, everything went on lockdown. So we’re very heavily digitally oriented anyway. But we had been talking to some salons back in February because it’s our belief that for a beauty business, especially, people want to touch, feel, smell, experience the products. And when COVID hit the salons kind of went on pause, some of them permanently, unfortunately, and others have picked back up. So we basically just focused on our content, on our customers, on growing through social media and building advocacy. And then as things started to open up again in the last couple of months, we were lucky to re-engage and get some of those salon deals back. And we’re now in all of the Spoke and Weals salons nationwide. They’re awesome. And we are launching a dream dry next month as well.
Sam [00:10:08] Amazing Spoke and Weal, just explain that a little bit.
Lynn Power: [00:10:11] Ah so Spoke and Weal is a salon that’s about six years old and they do precision color and are really known for dry cut, dry cutting your hair. But their expertise is really amazing. Like and they’re there in L.A. is where they were founded. But they’re in L.A., Palo Alto, San Francisco, Chicago, Boston, Nashville. And they have two salons in New York.
Sam: [00:10:41] Got it.
James Hammett: [00:10:41] We started doing education with them virtually and – just to chime in with Lynn on COVID and how it’s affected us – it’s affected Lynn and I in a very positive way because it’s just brought out the much more of the caring and the humanity, but also the direction of creating videos and partnerships with other like-minded brands in order to bring to the surface hair care tips that are clean and beauty at home and how you can take care of yourself and how you can do better for yourself at home. Check out the ingredients in your shampoo that you’re using in your shower. Look at the lipstick that you’ve been wearing for 10 years and see if she has some phthalates in it, you know, so it’s this whole thing about what we can do for people to make them feel better.
Sam: [00:11:28] Yeah, totally such a necessity these days, right?
Lynn Power: [00:11:31] Yeah, and James just touched on something that’s a huge thing for us, which I’m a huge believer in and we’re doing a lot more of moving forward, which is partnerships. One of the things that covid did was it brought out this desire to help other small businesses in a more sort of overt way. And we created a bunch of partnerships with other indie brands. And that’s been fantastic because we’ve really been able to help each other, not just in advice and kind of referring each other to various platforms or whatever, but it’s also in our marketing. You know, we’ve written blog posts with different brands. We’ve done videos, we’ve done promotions, giveaways. We’ll do a gift with purchases, all sorts of stuff. And that’s been awesome.
James Hammett: [00:12:20] And also our gift guides. I mean, Lynn has found over, I don’t know, twenty, thirty, twenty five to thirty gift guides that we’ve been partnering with over the last seven months.
Lynn Power: [00:12:38] Yeah.
Sam: [00:12:40] Fabulous. So Frederic Fekkai is somebody whose opinion I respect tremendously, and he’s a close friend and he’s been on our podcast, he built his brand during the 90s, sold it back a few years ago to continue to grow it. And one of the things he and I have chatted about in the past is how the haircare market has radically changed in the last kind of 10, 15 years. And the same rules just don’t apply. You’re both veterans of the industry from complementary areas and skill sets. Are there things from your past experience that you both had to unlearn or consciously not do in building Masami?
James Hammett: [00:13:25] Oh, definitely. I would say years of experience, of working as a producer, casting director and also I was the guy that used to go into all the salons at with marketing and R&D and sit with them with models, and we would decide whether Naomi would go blond or not, and we would decide whether a girl would go from black all the way up to a nice caramel color. And we would sit there and we would make sure that the girl’s tensile strength of her hair could manage that or not. My point is that working in the industry hands-on with hairstylists across the board on shoots, off shoots, in salons, and in our own R&D laboratories, both in the companies that I’ve worked for and in their secondary outplaced labs, it’s been very interesting to see how… Dove was a leader in the consumer side of going more clean, so the consumer began to see that focus in the late in the 2000s. Now, I think I’ve learned a lot in the sense that from that going forward, I always wanted to move away and was very frustrated in that from the 90s to the 2000s to 2012/13 with the product lines that were out there that were not shifting, that were not moving forward technologically with that were not becoming that were not becoming more clean with the types of ingredients that they were putting in them and the amounts of the ingredients that they’re putting in them. So I became more aware of this by working with so much talent and seeing that. So to that point, I found that I had to focus more on what I wanted the consumer to have, which was the ability to make a choice between a high performing product that gave you natural ingredients versus one that still had a lot of other ingredients in it that are not so good for you or brands that have a combination of both. So that’s what I watched and that’s what I focused on.
And I had to gear away from all of the syntheticsism that was in the business and I mean the synthetic ingredients in brands that were both that were temporary, that were for one or two day fixes, and then you had to use it again. But I believe highly in the fact that your hair is real and it’s a fiber. And to fill that fiber with moisture is key and hydration is the number one lacking ingredient in everybody’s hair, everyone’s hair, especially now. Look at our ecosystem. Look at what we do every single day of the week, which is use styling products, heat products, etc. We’re in the sun. We’re in the chlorine, we color, we highlight, we straighten, and we relax. So I really thought over the years about how to become cleaner. That’s really how I’ve taken it. And it’s moved my mind away from what was what was really, really not good for you. Ingredients and hair color and hair care products.
Sam: [00:16:36] Totally makes sense.
James Hammett: [00:16:37] It’s a huge challenge today because we are in a market that is getting cleaner and there’s huge, huge growth potential, massive growth potential, I believe. And getting the word out organically to the consumer is key. But once you try Masami, you don’t want to go back.
Sam: [00:16:55] I can’t wait to try it.
James Hammett: [00:16:57] Thank you. You know, I admire Frederic Fekkai tremendously and intimately worked with him and his color teams for years, actually, in the 90s. So it’s wonderful to see his progression and see him buying back his brand.
Sam: [00:17:20] Absolutely. So maybe you can speak to this Lynn. What do you feel has been your most effective method of selling and growing the business? Is having products in salons versus selling direct-to-consumer is still a significant distinction? You guys have done both, right?
Lynn Power: [00:17:39] James kind of said it – When people try the product, they love it. So I would say it’s hard to be a beauty brand that’s a pure DTC only and you don’t have that ability to experience. So for us, we always wanted to build that in from the get go. And we have not just Spoke and Weal and Dream Drive, we’ve got a couple other retail partners. And but I would say the most effective thing for us is to get people to try the product, get them to try it and get them to understand it, try it and understand why it’s low foaming, why it’s thick and hydrating. And then usually that does the trick.
James Hammett: [00:18:27] And then why is it sometimes you get you’re always actually sometimes you get this, which is when you’re using a product, a shampoo conditioner can be anything and your hair is used to that product. When you start using Masami, which provides you with such beautiful hydration and a fresh powder form, you end up getting this manageability and hydration. And that wasn’t there before. But it takes a few times to use it sometimes, depending upon what you’ve got going on with your hair before your hair becomes, before your hair adapts to the cleanliness of this product of Masami. Do you understand what I mean? Is the same with skin, with your regimens that you use. It’s the same when you bring in another ingredient or another product that is cleaned into your into your skin care regimen.
Sam: [00:19:16] Look, absolutely. I think part of the education process here is that we’ve all been conditioned to sort of expect foaming to equal clean and efficacy right and and understanding that actually isn’t that. And all it’s doing is drying your hair is sort of a very key behavioral change. How do you both allocate responsibilities between you and if there are other kinds of key members of your team?
Lynn Power: [00:19:48] It’s actually not that hard because James is a producer by background. So he’s just naturally really good at doing a lot of the sourcing stuff for us in terms of finding the right bottles, the right closures. And by the way, that is not easy. And it’s becoming increasingly harder with COVID because the supply chain has become a challenge.
James Hammett: [00:20:11] It’s broken.
Lynn Power: [00:20:12] But James is really good at that. He’s very savvy at figuring out who the right partners are and who the right vendors are. And that’s a very important skill and time consuming skill, certainly. So he takes a lead on that. And he also does another incredibly important thing for us, which is our innovation and our R&D, which is not my strength. So I love his process because what he does, we’re working on our next three products now, like he will dig deep into those categories, do a whole assessment of the products on the market. He’ll dissect them. He’ll have many people try them. I’ve been trying hair mass for months now until we, like, perfected and then he’ll be able to brief the chemist on exactly what he wants based on a lot of feedback from a lot of different hair types. So we do a lot of research, we do a lot of testing. That’s part of our process. But that’s James.
My strength is really on the other side, which is the branding, the business, the go-to market strategy, the distribution, those things. It’s like where the rubber meets the road on what is actually building the ecosystem to drive sales. And then we built our team to complement us because I always say there’s certain things now that I’m my age and James is his age that we know we don’t like to do like finance. I mean, I spent yesterday dealing with sales tax. It is literally like my most hated thing I do. But we did bring some finance expertise on to help sort of take that off our plate. And then we also have a content person who writes blogs for us and does an amazing job with all sorts of things. We have a business development person, we have a PR person, we have a UX person, we have a digital acquisition person. So we’ve got people that go deep into very specific things, but it works quite well. And everyone I’d say on the team is like a friend. So it’s a really nice, well-functioning team. We don’t have any angst or miscommunication or arguments. It just works well.
James Hammett: [00:22:37] Yeah, well, you have a really good strategic team in place that you can count on everybody, that it can also count on them to stand out, which is great.
Sam: [00:22:49] So important. How do you both resolve conflicts?
Lynn Power: [00:22:53] Yeah, we don’t have a ton because I think one of the things and this is another thing I always counsel founders on is you really need to be aligned not just on your sort of immediate needs of what the business requires, but you have to be aligned on the vision and values of the company. And all too often I see founders launch with the real product focus and not actually talk about what they want the company to be in five years. And so I’ll ask the various founders. And it’s completely different, like they have totally different answers. Whereas for us, we aligned on that stuff. First, we knew we wanted to make it a brand and a company that was about wellness. It’s actually bigger than hair care. We wanted to make stuff that was good for you and good for the environment. We created the Masumi Institute to basically prove that, which is our foundation that supports ocean research in Japan and that stuff we’re so aligned on that everything else becomes easy. I mean, if we argue it’s usually on stupid little things, right. And we don’t really argue, we just sort of debate it and then move on.
James Hammett: [00:24:06] It’s just the way that it is. And also, we beg to disagree sometimes, you know, and then we find our way back, but we open things up to look at all perspectives before we actually go in and, you know, pinpoint where we need to be. It just depends. It’s a detail.
Sam: [00:24:24] I think the two, as I’ve talked to so many founders, the two most important qualities I think that you’ve both highlighted are the ability to have a discussion professionally without sort of allowing personal or emotional or ego driven stuff into it. But then second, the ability to move on. Once you’ve made a decision and not spend a whole bunch of time kind of retreading that ground. And of course, some of those decisions are right and some of them aren’t in hindsight. But, you know, there isn’t time and it’s not productive to kind of sit there and dissect them and who did what, when and how.
Lynn Power: [00:25:07] We rarely go back and revisit old decisions.
James Hammett: [00:25:13] We’re forward thinking – we’re present. We’re present in the present and we keep going for tomorrow. And we’re very positive about our direction and extremely happy about our performance of ourselves and our brand. Yeah, I mean, it’s passionate. It’s a passion too. Gosh. I think Lynn’s passion and energy of drive and ambition and mind and the love, the pure love that comes with this, you know, stems from a very deep place in both of us. And we’re storytellers, too. But we know what we’re doing.
Sam: [00:25:50] Now, these have to be shared values. So what keeps you both up at night right now?
Lynn Power: [00:25:57] I mean, I think, you know, there’s just a lot of uncertainty in the world right now. And as much as our business is somewhat insulated because people will always need to wash your hair, we think, and clean beauty is growing, as we talked about earlier. You know, it’s just unpredictable. So that’s just hard because I’m somebody who likes to have some control over the plan. And I’ve been looking for patterns in consumer behavior now over the last few months and I can’t find any. And that just drives me nuts because, you know, you want-
Sam: [00:26:44] I know it well because I’m just like that.
Lynn Power: [00:26:50] I know. But it’s like, look, you know, in a lot of my career, you knew that, OK, back to school means certain things to people and holidays mean certain things to people. And there’s certain sort of seasonality things. But then there are also other other factors that you could kind of create some patterns out of even days of the week that people are more likely to buy products. There was always like a pretty predictable cadence. And now it’s like there’s no predictability anymore. It’s like random. It’s like we’ll get an order at like 4:00 in the morning on us, like just random, random, random. So that’s probably my biggest thing, is it’s hard to get ahead if you can’t figure that out because there are days when we have horrible ROI on Facebook or Instagram and then there are days when it’s amazing and it’s like there’s no consistency. And I think, by the way, as you put it, as I’m talking to other founders and other D.T.C. brands, they’re all saying the same thing. So I know we’re not alone in this. I keep asking people, have you found any patterns emerging around behavior and buying?
Sam: [00:28:08] One hundred percent. It’s a generalized phenomenon in every sphere of our lives, right? Not just business. [00:28:14][6.3]
Lynn Power: [00:28:16] At least on one hand, while it’s frustrating because it feels like we’re in this new reality, on the other hand, we’re not alone.
Sam: [00:28:23] So, so true. So last question. If you could go back and change one thing about your life or that of the business and maybe, James, you could take this one, what would that be?
James Hammett: [00:28:36] Change one thing about the business?
Sam: [00:28:39] Or your life. [00:28:40][0.4]
James Hammett: [00:28:40] I won’t change anything about the business because I don’t like going in reverse like that. But in my life, I could change one thing…That’s a very tough question because there’s not much that I had in my life. I wish I met Lynn earlier. I made all of my choices and all of my decisions and from a very young age I had the opportunity in my life to be able to do whatever I wanted to do. And I was in Europe when I was a young kid. And I speak several languages and I loved exploring and I love discovering. I love doing things. So I think about my career path. You know, I’ve always been ambitious, and I if I could change one thing, it probably would be to have the opportunity to work within an environment in the entertainment world where I would be able to take what I’ve gotten today in terms of experience and apply that to that world in order to build artists, because I know I’m great at building brands. So there’s very little otherwise in my life that I would ever change the decisions I made.
Sam: [00:30:10] They’re always a lesson.
James Hammett: [00:30:12] And that was the key was all the lessons that I have learned. Our lesson is worth learning. If I had better…the key is for you to have really great friends around you and people that you can trust and that are loyal. And that will tell you the honest truth that is really important, extremely important, especially if you don’t have much of a family environment around you. And I never had that. So I was kind of looking for that my whole career and then personally. But I’ve never had that. And I kind of have that now.
Sam: [00:30:45] Yeah, you found it. That’s amazing.
James Hammett: [00:30:47] So I guess that…after all these words I just said. That’s the point.
Sam: [00:30:54] Great. So here’s something else you should know, the hair care market is estimated to reach 112 billion dollars by 2026, and consumers overwhelmingly consider green, vegan, non GMO and organic the most important qualities of the brands they want. All qualities that Masami has. Thanks to TechNavio and Statista for the data used in today’s episode. James and Lynn, we love your partnership and the depth of expertise and complementarity you both bring to your company, and we’re excited to try your products. Thanks for being with us on the show today.
Lynn Power: [00:31:29] Thank you so much. [00:31:30][0.5]
James Hammett: [00:31:31] I really appreciate it. I had a wonderful time talking with you. Thank you so much as well.
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