Shhhowercap Looks Beyond Its Stylish Signature Shower Caps

To win in the current noisy market, consumer packaged goods founders are often instructed to drill down into a niche and leverage the authority they command in that niche to extend to areas related to it. That’s exactly what Shhhowercap is doing.

Since Jacquelyn De Jesu, formerly senior art director at Saatchi & Saatchi and art director at Energy BBDO, launched the bootstrapped brand in 2015, it’s been focused on its hero product—a $49 high-design waterproof fabric shower cap turning showering into a stylish moment—to the tune of $11.4 million in total sales. Today, it’s leveraging expertise and recognition it’s built with its signature shower cap to expand to adjacent products and is bolstering its management and seeking institutional capital to help it pull off the expansion and 10X sales.

“Originally our brand name was perceived as niche. It was associated with our one hero product,” says De Jesu. “Now what we are seeing is that not only do we have a disruptive way to scale our white space with our established haircare position, buyers and retail relationships, but we have the right to play anywhere in bath and body because of what we sell for the head.”

Shhhowercap’s initial merchandise move outside of its shower cap will stick to the head. Coinciding with New York Fashion Week in the fall, it expects to premiere what it calls Extended Day haircare with a shampoo and conditioner. De Jesu explains Extended Day is Shhhowercap’s “repositioning of dirty hair.” She notes that 90% of women don’t wash their hair every day, and occasional hair washing is a general practice among Shhhowercap’s customers, whether due to busyness, laziness or adherence to extensive wash-day routines that aren’t repeated daily.

Since its launch in 2015, bootstrapped brand Shhhowercap has sold $11.4 million worth of its signature stylish shower caps. Later this year, it plans to extend its assortment from shower caps to haircare products.

“Our community is unified by this behavior. We say it’s a psychographic, not a demographic,” says De Jesu. “In spending so much time with them, what we’ve learned is that it’s a universal behavior. It transcends international boundaries. We acquire customers profitably in London the same way we do in the U.S., and we have coverage in every state.”

Shhhowercap’s expansion to haircare products is intended to energize replenishment. De Jesu mentions that Shhhowercap’s return rate is 2%, and the brand has “1,000% sell-through.” Shhhowercap is carried by Saks Fifth Avenue, Anthropologie, Violet Grey and Revolve along with hundreds of mom-and-pop stores. Direct-to-consumer sales account for 60% to 70% of its business, with the remainder coming from retail.

“We have the right to play anywhere in bath and body because of what we sell for the head.”

Informed by Shhhowercap’s consumer base, largely professional millennial women who gravitate to lasting rather than trendy products, and De Jesu’s mother’s experience as a professional hairdresser, De Jesu says the brand’s future in haircare will “go beyond dry shampoo and texturizing spray to innovative solutions that solve for pain points. What she [the Shhhowercap consumer] really wants at the end of the day is easy, breezy, healthy hair.”

According to market research firm Circana, prestige haircare sales were up 14% last year, and De Jesu believes Shhhowercap can capture space in the segment by having a distinct point of view. “What I’ve been most inspired by are less the mass appeals and more people owning their space from a unique position, and that translates to the ingredient set,” she says. “We’re focused on advancements in oil regulation and hair health, not just scalp, but universally.”

Shhhowercap founder Jacquelyn De Jesu

De Jesu is adamant Shhhowercap’s future assortment won’t encompass splashing prints used in in its shower caps on shower curtains or other elements of the bathroom. “Owning a room in the house is not a brand strategy,” she says. “For whatever reason, it’s become the DTC and VC understanding of brand expansion, but it’s not a brand strategy.”

To execute Shhhowercap’s expansion strategy in a manner that’s financially sound while keeping up with demand, Andrew Heath, co-founder and former chief business development officer of Bombas, is joining the brand as CFO and COO. On top of his assistance, it’s enlisted the company Skyefox to fortify back-office operations and finance.

“Underneath the hood, Shhhowercap has all the fundamentals that we did at Bombas.”

“Underneath the hood, Shhhowercap has all the fundamentals that we did at Bombas, and velocity plus cult love of the differentiated product behaves the same,” says Heath. “What’s always been missing for Shhhowercap is the institutional capital to go from bootstrapped brand to household name, and that time is now.”

Noting that Shhhowercap is undergoing a brand refresh as it prepares to roll out haircare and strives for an 80%-plus opening order margin, De Jesu adds, “We have incredible new leadership. We’re considering ourselves lady Bombas. The metrics underneath are the same. Our margins are incredible, and we’re scaling our U.S. cut, sewn, printed and assembled product and manufacturing line to be able to support velocity globally. We’re taking a very intentional step forward in brand prestige, brand tone and influencer networks as well as effectively raising our first institutional raise.”

Shhhowercap’s core customers are busy millennial women who gravitate to lasting rather than trendy products. They share a common practice of not washing their hair every day, and Shhhowercap is centered on products suiting that practice.

As it starts generating buzz for haircare, De Jesu has been conducting one-on-one interviews with Shhhowercap’s loyal customers to learn from, educate and get them excited about forthcoming releases, and she says the brand will be sending samples to roughly 1,700 of its VIP customers. In-person focus groups and events are in the works, too, as are broader influencer seeding and retail sampling programs.

From 2019 to last year, Shhhowercap was embroiled in legal battles over its intellectual property. Last year, an infringement case wasn’t decided in its favor, but Shhhowercap retained patent protection of its shower cap design. Although not intentionally, the legal battles limited the brand’s distractions, and it didn’t jump on opportunities that could’ve been misfires. With the legal battles hopefully behind it, De Jesu is confident Shhhowercap is stronger than ever.

“At this point, I’m no longer a cute female founder with a great idea,” she says. “I’m a seasoned CEO that protected my business through things that a lot of CEOs, female or otherwise, have never needed to do. So, there’s a lot more respect on our name.”