Sarah Potempa, celebrity hairstylist and inventor of The Beachwaver Co. proved wrong the naysayers who said her rotating curling iron couldn’t compete against titans of the large hot tools corporations.
Undaunted, she and her sister Erin Potempa Wall charged ahead launching the Beachwaver, which frequently sells out on QVC, sits at the top 10 of prestige best-sellers on Amazon (according to Tribe Dynamics) and has been singled out by Ulta Beauty executives as a shopper favorite.
Now, the duo are jumping into an even bigger ocean — the $87 billion hair care category dominated by behemoths, including Procter & Gamble, Unilever, as well as premium nameplates like Ouai, Bumble and Bumble and Oribe.
The Beachwaver Co. collection launched this week with the first entry, the Great Barrier Heat Protectant Hairspray. Within the year the Beachwaver Co. collection will expand to about 30 items including everything from shampoos and a vegan pomade to co-washes and reparative formulas. Industry sources believe Beachwaver Co. collection could surpass sales of $20 million in two years. The company did not comment on sales.
“This is an obvious next step for us and something we’ve been wanting to do for a long time — we started this five years ago,” said Potempa, adding Beachwaver fans have been clamoring for hair care, as well. Potempa knows her way around the lab — she was a spokesperson for P&G for over 10 years.
Her blueprint for the Beachwaver Co. collection includes ingredients that strengthen hair, especially in tandem with her tools, but are also environmentally friendly. The collection is sustainable, cruelty-free, vegan, made from recyclable bottles and free of sulfates, formaldehyde, petrolatum, benzophenone and phthalates. There are three segments: Essentials (styling products that pair best with her tools), Make Waves (all about adding moisture, building strength and creating texture) and a Reparative Collection that will feature reparative benefits. The items are formulated for all types of hair from textured to fine.
Potempa said the first items were selected because they work well with her Beachwaver Co. tools. For example, the Great Barrier Heat Protectant Hairspray features a thermal defense system and proprietary HiX Bond Multipliers, which adds strength. “It works incredibly well with the Beachwaver Co. tools and Coast Pro tools, and that is why it made sense to launch it first. We were a tool company first and that’s how everyone knows us by, so it makes sense to launch with something you pair with it.”
That will be followed up next week with the Second Chance Dry Shampoo, incorporating a rice-based formula that helps absorb oil. Finishing out 2018, the company will roll out the Shubie Surf Beach Spray and the Good Vibes Moisturizing Shampoo and Conditioner. Prices are primarily in the $18 to $52 range.
The launch will be digital at beachwaver.com. “We realize what is happening in digital and there is a big advantage of being able to talk directly to consumers and find out what they want and when they want it,” Potempa said. There will be a sample, however, included in the December Birchbox. She doesn’t rule out opportunities in the future for other distribution. Beachwaver tools are sold in more than 6,000 locations including at Ulta Beauty, Kohl’s, Target, SpaceNK, Riley Rose and several other major retailers.
Each product comes with what Potempa calls an “aroma experience.” The scents are teed up with the time of day the product would be used and selected to evoke memories of a day at the beach. For example, the Polynesian Pink Sugar in the hairspray is akin to a morning juice. Plans call to add roller balls and purse sprays featuring the scents.
With her contact list brimming with celebrity clients, Potempa’s new line is already generating unsolicited buzz on social media. Actress Busy Phillips, for example, lauded the products on her Instagram Story this week noting it was not a paid endorsement. Also, actual consumers (including a woman with one arm who couldn’t use other tools to style her hair) will be featured in their upcoming campaign called Dream Big, Make Waves. Adding to that, Beachwaver Co. will sponsor the World Surf League’s Maui Women’s Pro championship. Meanwhile the company hasn’t taken its eye off the device business. Recently, a dual-voltage model debuted at Ulta Beauty and will be featured on QVC later this year. The device category to date this year, according to Kline, is outpacing growth of last year, especially as consumers learn tips and tricks from social media.
The launch comes at a time when prestige hair’s expansion is outstripping that of makeup and skin care in the U.S., according to data from The NPD Group. Sales spiked 19 percent for the 12-month period ended in May. With that growth in mind, many other brands associated with tools are broadening into liquids. HairMax, the hair-growth device, just launched an entirely new collection called Density, and Aquis, the turban company, rolled out Aquis Prime.
The skin-care device industry tried, with mixed success, to wrest consumers away from their traditional regimens several years ago. Experts think the story could be brighter for hair.
“There is definitely a strong trend with beauty devices getting into the lotion, potion and goop game,” said Jeanine Recckio, owner of Mirror Mirror Imagination Group. “It certainly comes with challenges, but the key to success is to formulate a truly unique product that you must use with the device. I think in hair the transition is more smooth and believable [versus skin]. In the hair care world, the experimentation rate is much higher.”
Added a former industry retailer who put up big numbers with Beachwaver, “People love Beachwaver and they will be willing to try the full assortment. People love that beachy hair look.”
Potempa is also confident her background as a hairdresser gives her the pedigree. “This is a well thought-out collection that has a much bigger reach than just Beachwaver fans. It is an easy transition from the tool, but is a line that can stand on its own.”