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Winter 2011 Healthy, Shiny Sales

Salon Favorite markets the first do-it-yourself, formaldehyde-free, salon-style keratin hair treatment kit for consumers. The company is filling a hair-care niche and ramping up its mall specialty leasing program.

Katherine Taieb was tired of plunking down $300 or more at a salon every three months to have her hair straightened with keratin. Several of her close friends were also regularly shelling out big bucks for keratin treatments, which made their hair smooth and shiny in addition to straightening it.

“One day, I heard on the news that most of the salons used keratin treatments with formaldehyde, which could be dangerous to your health,” Taieb says. So the long-time entrepreneur, who for the past two years has run a marketing company, began researching whether keratin could be made without formaldehyde.

“While researching the keratin product, I also found out that all other keratin companies only sold to salon owners, and not to consumers,” she says. This was largely due to regulations concerning the formaldehyde content in the products. The entrepreneur saw an opportunity. “I wanted to produce a formaldehyde-free keratin treatment formula with affordable pricing and sell it to consumers in a do-it-yourself kit,” she says, envisioning that the product would be available online and at malls around the country.

Over a period of six months, Taieb worked with a lab to develop the product, which she tested on friends and acquaintances. “My friends loved it and kept asking for more,” she says. The success of the tests led Taieb to launch Salon Favorite in the middle of 2010.

Based in Beverly Hills, CA, Salon Favorite markets formaldehyde-free, do-it-yourself keratin kits, among other salon products.

Why keratin?

Keratin, the main structure-building protein in human hair and nails, contains a high concentration of the amino acid cystine, which makes hair tough and extremely elastic. Over time, with damage from the sun, pollution, dyes and other chemicals, hair loses its natural keratin. Salon Favorite’s keratin treatment reconstructs hair by infusing a blend of natural keratin deep into the hair cuticle; the keratin is bonded into the cuticle by heat from a flat iron, which is used in the treatment process.

The effect, Taieb says, is that curly and frizzy hair textures are virtually eliminated, leaving hair straight, healthy and shiny for up to three months, depending on the individual’s hair type and maintenance.

The formula works on all hair types—thick or thin, straight or curly, dry or oily, and chemically damaged. Taieb says the formula will make wavy hair appear naturally straight and healthy. For very curly hair, it will minimize the frizz, but the hair will probably not become completely straight.

Application process

Prior to the keratin treatment, the customer should wash hair with the Purifying Shampoo, which comes with the kit, and blow-dry almost completely. After the keratin is applied and spread evenly through the hair, it should be left on for 20 to 25 minutes before the hair is completely blow-dried. Next, the flat iron should be passed from the roots to the ends of small sections of hair at a time.

Recommended daily maintenance includes using the shampoo and conditioner that comes with the kit and, for best results, the Keratin Extend Stabilizing Spray and Instant Keratin Gold, a formula that further repairs and adds moisture to hair. The latter two products are sold separately.

Product packages

The Do-It-Yourself Jumbo All-In-One Kit is Salon Favorite’s flagship product. Priced at $199.99 retail, the kit contains enough keratin formula for three to four treatments. The treatments straighten and restore keratin to the hair for up to one year, and the kit comes with two shampoos, conditioner and tools—except the Hair Straightener Flat Iron, which the company sells separately. Tools that come with the kit include two special combs and a brush, an applicator bottle, plastic cap and gloves. If women decide they do not like the straighter look, they can stop using the shampoo and conditioner, and the curls will return after about a month, Taieb says.

Also retailing for $199.99, the flat iron heats up to 450 degrees F, which is necessary for the treatment process. It features a microchip temperature control and LED temperature display.

A second kit, retailing for $99.99, contains enough materials for one to two treatments (depending on the length and volume of the hair). A one-time treatment for $39.99 is also available. This does not come with the shampoo and other accessories.

Salon Favorite also offers Moroccan Argan Oil Hair Serum, made from the fruit of the argan tree, which grows in Morocco. The serum, one of the company’s top sellers, is priced at $39.99. A bottle lasts about a month and is meant to be used on a daily basis to revive, hydrate and detangle damaged hair and render a silky, shiny finish.

Finally, customers can also purchase the Keratin Extend Stabilizing Spray separately. The product, at $19.99, delivers keratin loss protection and can be used to prolong the effects of the keratin treatment.

Forefront of demand

Hair care is a thriving industry and keratin is a growing category. “Keratin treatments are becoming the number one treatment for many salons,” Taieb says.

According to Taieb, women are drawn to the treatment because it allows them to look different and beautiful while making their hair healthier and easier to manage. “Celebrities are getting keratin treatments, and it’s helping to make the category more popular,” Taieb says, noting that Salon Favorite is currently engaged in talks with several celebrities regarding product endorsement.

Salon Favorite’s target market is women from their mid-20′s through their 40′s. “Our customers are mainly women who want to change their look,” Taieb says.

According to Taieb, Salon Favorite is the first company to offer a do-it-yourself keratin treatment kit directly to consumers. “We are expecting other competitors to enter the market,” she says. “But we will be ready for them.”

Specialty leasing specifics

Salon Favorite is looking to open its own flagship store in a mall near its Beverly Hills headquarters. In addition, the company has a growing specialty retail program. The first cart opened in October in the Sawgrass Mills Mall in Sunrise, FL, and several others quickly followed suit. “Our goal is to have 100 to 150 carts by the first quarter of this year,” Taieb says. While it is early in the game to gauge sales volume, Taieb says the first few carts have been averaging about $30,000 to $35,000 in revenue per month.

The carts are all independently operated by specialty retail entrepreneurs. Retailers are provided with a cart design along with training, sales tips and a DVD that demonstrates how to use the product and the effects of keratin treatments on the hair. The DVD can be played at the cart to both intrigue and educate consumers.

The startup product package, which includes 12 of each product—the kits and additional salon products—costs about $2,000. Total startup costs, including cart construction, a couple of DVD players and monitors, a blow dryer and flat iron, and the product, is less than $5,000, Taieb says. Markup is
300 percent or higher, she adds.

Carts that sell Salon Favorite products are typically not permitted to sell the Flat Iron, since this category of product is generally offered by other types of stores in the mall. “At the cart, salespeople will refer people to the website, or tell them another store where they can buy an adequate flat iron,” Taieb says.

Breaking the ice with Argan oil

Salon Favorite advises its retailers to start a conversation with passersby by asking if they would like to sample the Moroccan Argan Oil Hair Serum. “By rubbing a little on their hair, consumers can see how it feels and smells, and they can see results right away,” Taieb says. “It’s very easy to demonstrate.”

Once the customer is engaged, the salesperson can talk about the advantages of keratin treatments and can even give a brief treatment to a one-inch section of hair. According to Taieb, the “quick fix” can be done in a matter of a few minutes. “The customer will be able to see the brand-new, shiny look,” Taieb says.

Online dialog

The company’s website provides step-by-step instructions, along with a forum that includes answers to users’ questions, such as “Can I dye my hair when using this product?” (The answer is yes, but it’s recommended that the dye job take place about three weeks in advance.) The site also contains testimonials from customers.

“I feel absolutely gorgeous!” wrote a woman from New York, who identified herself as Amber. “It doesn’t take too long, it’s easy, and when you are finished you will feel like a new woman! Recommended for anyone wanting the straightest hair possible, I give this treatment two thumbs up!”

Mouse over images below to view.

Bernadette Starzee

Starzee, a Long Island, NY writer who covers business, sports and lifestyle topics, is a senior writer for SRR. She can be reached at .

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