Amber Fillerup Clark’s hair care line Dae has raised a $2.6 million seed round.
This is the brand’s first capital raise and will be used to expand the team, build out inventory and for sampling and marketing, according to Clark.
Dae raised the capital from Willow Growth, a venture firm that recently closed an oversubscribed $28 million fund. The fund has more than 50 percent women limited partners, and was raised primarily over Zoom during the pandemic. Willow’s cofounders and general partners, Deborah Benton and Amanda Schutzbank, aim to do things differently from other venture investors in the beauty space, they said.
“I personally had been looking for a beautiful, really effective clean hair care brand with wonderful formulations and ingredients, and I couldn’t even find it,” Benton said. Last summer, one of Benton’s investor friends called and facilitated an introduction to Clark, who had started to consider raising capital.
“We were in a position where we could have kept going on our own,” Clark said, but she was open to “investors we really loved.”
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“This is my first time raising money, so I wanted someone who could in a very non-intimidating way help me through that process,” she said.
Willow’s goal is to help founders build the businesses that they want to build, versus firms that rapidly focus on scaling sales at the expense of margins, Benton, the former president and chief operating officer of NastyGal, noted.
Benton advises her brands to be “maniacally focused on your margin profile” and on “bringing joy to your consumers’ lives” to drive repeat purchase. “We just don’t want to force these brands to have a billion-dollar exit to be successful, that’s irrational,” Benton said.
For Clark, an influencer with 1.3 million Instagram followers, Willow’s marketing approach was particularly important.
“So many investors were just pushing performance marketing and Facebook ads so hard, but to me it’s super important to go about it in a more genuine way and put more effort into deepening relationships with customers,” she said. The capital should also help the brand manage inventory and avoid out-of-stock moments, she noted.
“We ended up doing so much better than we thought and we surpassed all of Sephora’s projections and we ended up out of stock a few times,” Clark said.
She was speaking from Utah, where she and her family were on a road trip in a Dae-branded van, playing ice cream truck music and handing out free hair care samples and citrus and prickly pear Popsicles. The goal, she said, was to meet customers and new customers IRL. “We’ve been releasing maps of where we’ll be going, which cities and neighborhoods,” Clark said.
The brand will also launch new products, including Monsoon Moisture Mask in a few weeks, Clark said. She’s particularly interested in debuting multitasking products, and will potentially take the brand into other lifestyle categories. “We really want to be a part of the whole shower experience, so eventually body, scent is a really big thing for us — our customers have been begging for a body wash and body lotion,” Clark said.
Dae is on track to grow 300 percent for 2021, Clark said.
The brand is one of several Willow investments, which also include Bubble, Coterie, Goodfair, Feals, FlavorCloud, Lalo, Ox, Swell and YGN. Benton is also an investor in Manscaped, the fast-growing men’s grooming company.
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