Ken Paves has a message for the masses: You Are Beautiful.
After releasing a book last year with that title, the celebrity hairstylist has partnered with Stila and Jane Cosmetics owner and Patriarch Partners chief executive officer and founder Lynn Tilton on a hair-care brand under the same tag line; it launches at walmart.com on Dec. 15 and at 1,800 Wal-Mart doors in January. You Are Beautiful, which is turnaround specialist Tilton’s first wholly new beauty brand, is kicking off with 18 stockkeeping units priced from $14 to $19. It could generate in excess of $20 million in retail sales during its initial year on shelves, according to Tilton.
Paves traces the origins of You Are Beautiful to an “Oprah moment” he had on an episode of “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” Paves, who did makeovers on the program for a decade and who continues to do them on the weight-loss contest “The Biggest Loser,” was receiving both personal and professional praise from the talk-show host, and her kind words didn’t match some of the ugliness he had seen in the beauty industry. “I said to Oprah, ‘I’m actually embarrassed and ashamed of my industry. It preys on women by telling them what’s wrong with them to sell goods and products.’ I realized I didn’t want to do that,” he said.
For years following that episode, Paves envisioned creating a hair-care brand that would lift women’s self-esteem rather than tear it down. Making that vision become a reality was difficult, though, without the right backer. Almost two years ago, that changed when Paves’ friend Sarah Lucero, Stila’s global director of education and artistry and a breast cancer survivor, acquainted him with Tilton. “I didn’t really know much about her and the things she did. When she started talking about her business philosophy, which is giving people the dignity of work, we really clicked,” said Paves.
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Tilton wasn’t looking to develop a brand, but Paves’ enthusiasm and compassion won her over. “She [Lucero] had told me that Ken wanted some business advice, and he had been so kind when she was going through breast cancer. I really wanted to return the kindness that he had shown Sarah,” said Tilton. “He really resonated with me as a special person and someone who wanted to build a business that would touch people. I told him I would help him build his dream as long as it made sense from a business perspective.”
Paves’ dream included an extensive array of products with choice ingredients at inexpensive prices, and his goal was to sell those products at Wal-Mart. Why Wal-Mart? “I wanted to create a product line that my friends and family back home in Michigan could have access to,” said Paves. “I told her [Tilton] a story about how I was on tour with Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony, and we were driving from Canada to Chicago. I looked up, and I saw my hometown, and my dad was shopping at Wal-Mart, so the tour buses pulled into Wal-Mart, just outside of Chesterfield. That was kind of our thing as a family.”
When You Are Beautiful arrives at Wal-Mart, Paves’ family members and other shoppers will find three shampoos and three conditioners — across the ranges Nourish & Hydrate, Smoothing and Volumizing — that lay the foundation for healthy hair, Paves explained. The products — conditioning masks for thick and thin hair, firm- and flexible-hold hair sprays, shine serum, volumizing whip, dry shampoo, curl crème and thermal protectant spray — allow customers to concoct “a cocktail that is your own prescription to have whatever it is that you want for your hair,” said Paves.
The conditioning masks are a favorite of Tilton’s. “I use masks every time I shampoo my hair now. It used to be something I thought you used once a month, but it has become part of my process, along with shampooing and conditioning. I think we can teach people to make it a part of their process,” she said.
The line doesn’t exclude any particular demographic, Paves stressed, saying, “There is not a woman that I can’t take care of. I work with all hair textures and types, and I grew up doing that. I grew up in an African-American neighborhood with a Filipino-Portuguese mother and a Romanian-Jewish father, so I have had my hands in all textures and types. I wanted to create a line where a woman with a certain hair texture didn’t have to go to another aisle.”
You Are Beautiful is scented with 100 percent essential oils, an important point of differentiation for the brand. “We don’t consider the consumer to be as sophisticated as she is, and we give her apple blossom, and we expect her to think that it is apple blossom, and it is really not. It is naturally inspired, but it is not natural,” said Paves. “I wanted to give women something that they deserved that was of a different quality. One hundred percent essential oils produces a spa-like experience. If you have five minutes to yourself in the morning that is really just for you, I think it is a wonderful way to start your day off.”
Bryan Wilhelm, category director of personal care for Wal-Mart U.S., is a big fan of You Are Beautiful’s essential oils, which include ylang-ylang and geranium, among others. “The scent is just amazing,” he enthused. More generally, he described the brand as appealing to both men and women and as having “high-end products at mass prices.” Wilhelm suggested the brand’s premium positioning within Wal-Mart stores could encourage the retailer’s customers to “trade up.” He also believes the audience for You Are Beautiful could be “a customer that we may not have today in our store that we might be bringing in.”
Paves will play a huge role in marketing You Are Beautiful to customers at Wal-Mart and beyond. “What we have is the asset of Ken and access to him, however we define that. I can see it being heavily social and digital in terms of the initial launch,” said Wilhelm. “We are going to give him people in our stores to sell his brand and product to. We will have some demand creation ideas, but a lot of it will be on Ken.”
Tilton was forthright about marketing efforts being critical to You Are Beautiful’s success. “It is about making sure people know the products are there,” she said. “The product speaks for itself. Wal-Mart is very committed to it. They have worked from Day One to make this happen. When you have a launch partner that you can launch with in 1,800 stores with 18 products, that’s a damn good start.”