Sustainable Shampoo Startup OWA Haircare Secures Investment From Precursor Ventures
OWA Haircare has drawn more money to remake showering.
The brand behind the waterless powder shampoo Moondust Hair Wash set to debut next year has received an investment from early-stage venture firm Precursor Ventures. The amount of investment wasn’t disclosed. It follows a $200,000 infusion OWA Haircare received from RIT Venture Fund I LLC, which is connected to Rochester Institute of Technology, and $10,000 it scored from winning the New York State Business Plan Competition.
“This capital gives us the flexibility to launch the way we envisioned,” says OWA Haircare founder Kailey Bradt, who studied chemical engineering and product development at RIT. “We really wanted to use recycled material for the packaging, but we didn’t have the option to before because we didn’t have the capital to do so. With this additional funding, we can use recycled materials and do custom packaging when we launch.”
She estimates the recycled plastic OWA Haircare is using for its bottles is 20% pricier than virgin plastic, and costs have piled up beyond materials for the brand’s custom molds and designs. She calls the 8-oz. bottle that will house its forthcoming dry hair wash as a hybrid of traditional shampoo bottles and powdered face cleanser packaging. It’s smaller than many shampoo bottles, but still intended to be easy to hold in the shower.
By squeezing the water out of shampoo – most shampoos are 70% to 80% water – and incorporating recycled containers, OWA Haircare is taking an environmental stance that’s attractive to Precursor Ventures. The firm’s portfolio of consumer companies includes boba tea delivery service Sweet A Little, custom meal plan specialist PlateJoy, home décor search engine Tressle, dining space creator Hall, digital workout helper Keelo and fertility platform Carrot.
“It’s really important to get the right investors, and ones that fit with your brand. When I told Charles about my idea, he was on board and really believed it could a game changer, not only in the hair-care space, but in the cosmetic industry as a whole. You don’t want to feel you have to convince people to invest in you. You want to have investors who really believe in you and see your vision.”
In a statement, Charles Hudson, managing partner at Precursor Ventures, says, “Kailey and the team at OWA Haircare have an exciting vision for a world where beauty products are sustainable for the environment and effective for the consumer…Kailey is an impressive entrepreneur whose background combines the science and consumer insights needed to bring this product to market, and I am proud to back her in bringing her vision to market.”
Bradt’s approach to fundraising has been to network as much as possible. She tries to attend a networking event every week. Bradt explains the events give her a sense of the personalities of potential partners better than she might attain in formal pitch settings.
“It’s really important to get the right investors, and ones that fit with your brand. When I told Charles about my idea, he was on board and really believed it could a game changer, not only in the hair-care space, but in the cosmetic industry as a whole,” she says. “You don’t want to feel you have to convince people to invest in you. You want to have investors who really believe in you and see your vision.”
Previously scheduled to be available during the fall of this year, Moondust Hair Wash’s release has been pushed back to early 2019 to avoid the commerce clutter of the holiday season and take advantage of the busy gym-going period after New Year’s. The product works by customers wetting their hair and hands, sprinkling one gram of powder formula into their wet hands, applying the wash to their hair and lathering. It’s formulated to be a mild cleanser suitable for all hair types, and relies on minerals and plant-based ingredients.
“In the beginning, the absolute minimum I thought it would take to launch was $300,000, and my idea was to raise around $500,000, but I know that, once we start selling, we are going to have to turn around and raise again quickly to bring on full-time employees and have growth capital for new product development.”
The $27 wash will be available in unscented and scented varieties. Originally, Bradt expected to start with only a scented option, but pregnant women and moms of young children have impressed the importance of an unscented option upon her. For travel-friendly products, she continued, unscented shampoo options are rare, presenting a gap in the market OWA Haircare can fill. Bradt describes the fragrance of the scented version as mystical.
“It’s a custom fragrance, and the way I worked with the lab to develop it was to give them a scene of a girl walking out of a space ship onto the moon, and there’s wind, and her hair is blowing in the breeze,” says Bradt. “I’ve never smelled anything like it, and that’s what I wanted. It’s just completely new, and it works really well of our concept of being different, new and futuristic.” The concept is underscored in the brand name, too. OWA is an acronym for “out of this world amazing.”
OWA Haircare has a conditioner, hair mask and styling lotion in its product pipeline to unveil following the hair wash. Bradt also mentions it’s creating additional sustainable merchandise to position the brand on the leading edge of earth-conscious companies. Based in New York, OWA Haircare is building its staff to support and propel business forward.
To pay for product and workforce expansion, OWA Haircare isn’t done fundraising and is in negotiations to secure further capital. “It’s really about getting enough to make sure you have a little more than you budget for. It’s a new process for me as a first-time founder, and there are things that have come up that were unaccounted for,” says Bradt. “In the beginning, the absolute minimum I thought it would take to launch was $300,000, and my idea was to raise around $500,000, but I know that, once we start selling, we are going to have to turn around and raise again quickly to bring on full-time employees and have growth capital for new product development.”