Ouai Haircare, the brand started by Jen Atkin, is gearing up for its next phase of growth.
Colin Walsh, formerly the chief executive officer of DevaCurl, has been named ceo of Ouai. In addition, the brand confirmed that Alliance Consumer Growth has come on board as a minority investor.
“The brand turns three in February and I felt it was time to bring someone in to help us develop our strategy in the business,” said Atkin, who has parlayed her career as hair stylist to Hollywood’s hip set into a multifaceted career as influencer, entrepreneur and educator. “Also — I have seven jobs and needed a coparent,” she quipped.
Under Walsh’s tenure at DevaCurl, from late 2013 to when Ares Management acquired it in 2017, sales quadrupled to a reported $75 million. According to industry sources, Ouai is on track to hit $23 million in sales for 2018. Although Walsh declined to comment on the figures, he is very clear about the growth potential of the brand. “I want to leverage the creative genius of Jen in hair and the broader beauty lifestyle,” he said, noting that international expansion also represents a significant opportunity.
Co-presidents Deanna Kangas and Andrew Knox are leaving the company to focus on other startups, but were instrumental in the search and appointment of Walsh, said Atkin.
Atkin, who has driven the growth of the brand in part through forging a close connection with her community of followers on social media, said that Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Australia and the U.K., are among the most requested countries she hears. Another goal is to solidify Ouai’s e-commerce experience.
The moves come at a time of rapid growth for the prestige hair-care category. Prestige hair’s expansion is outpacing that of makeup and skin care in the U.S., according to data from The NPD Group. The hair category’s growth is bolstered by broad-spread retail adoption of higher-end hair products, when before, most pricy hair brands were committed to the salon channel. Sales are also being pushed upward by the wellness movement — consumers are looking to take better care of their hair as part of their overall regimens.
At Sephora, where Ouai is sold, hair is the fastest-growing category, according to former Sephora Americas president and ceo, Calvin McDonald; and at Ulta, prestige products are the fastest-growing subcategory in hair, said Monica Arnaudo, senior vice president of merchandising, earlier this year.