Women We’re Watching: Meet Kailey Bradt, Founder + CEO of OWA Haircare
Encountering the inconvenience of traveling with numerous bottles of hair products, Kailey Bradt sought out alternatives to conventional liquid haircare. When she researched what hair products were made up of, she was surprised to learn that they were mostly solvents. Discovering shampoo is 80 percent water on average also shocked her (and us). A deep-routed passion for environmental sustainability plus an interest in clean beauty ultimately motivated her to pursue her idea to disrupt the haircare and travel space. With a background in chemical engineering, experience at an early-stage startup and an entrepreneurial drive, Kailey knew she was a perfect fit to launch OWA Haircare, a water-activated line that makes packing for a short or long trip easy, while making a positive environmental impact. And it’s all part of why she’s one of the Women We’re Watching.
Tell us about your commitment to sustainability and how that flowed into wanting to create a waterless shampoo.
I stumbled upon this idea out of a frustration packing my carry-on suitcase, which I did almost every week for work. What actually motivated me to start this business was the fact that we were packaging and shipping [shampoo made of] mostly water all around the world, only to use these products in an environment where there was water readily available. That doesn’t even make sense.
Okay, real talk: Does it work as well as conventional shampoos? What differences should we expect?
Yes. I actually like it better than any other liquid shampoos, but then again I developed it on my own!
Seriously though, I took about two years to develop this and was constantly going through iterations and dishing out samples to the same people to see if they liked it more or less or if they even noticed a change at all. We’ve seen this in reviews that users say it works just as well as Oribe (no lie someone actually wrote that) and that it’s their favorite shampoo they’ve ever used.
You’re an under-30 female entrepreneur actively doing fundraising—what two tips do you have for other fledging female founders?
1. Just get started. Fear can be your worst enemy. Don’t say “what if” and think about everything that could go wrong. Will you make mistakes? Yes. Will it be easy? No. The reality is you will figure out how to deal with everything that is thrown at you, but not starting at all can be your biggest mistake. With OWA, I knew if I didn’t go after it I would always (FOREVER) wonder what would have happened had I not moved forward with it.
2. Be confident. There will be times where you’re wondering if you’re the right person for what you’re doing. Instead of thinking “why me?” think “why not me?”
Tell us about your background in science and consumer insights—and how that led to you wanting to create your own beauty brand.
My education taught me a skillset yes, but more so it taught me how to think.
Engineering is a lot of problem solving, and I am constantly pondering how I can improve something. Anything, really. I walk into a new environment and start asking a lot of questions. Take a coffee shop for example. You walk in and you probably start thinking about your order. I walk in and I am thinking about why the register is in the location it is in, because it could be more efficient if the ordering happened in a different location. What if you ordered where the hostess stand is typically? Cash used to have to be behind the counter, but now we are cashless with an iPad and Square in many new shops. Why is the order still being taken from behind the counter? The counter should just be where you grab you coffee. I could go on, but you get the idea.
So, creating my beauty brand just came from one of these mind-wandering cases where I really didn’t understand why my hair products were all liquid. That “why” was because they were made up of mostly liquid ingredients, mainly water. Then I asked “why” water was necessary. I couldn’t find a good answer, so I challenged it.
What do you think when you hear the term “clean beauty”?
“Clean” beauty to me is safe beauty. It’s that simple. Safety is something that is measurable and quantifiable and can be accounted for.
What beauty trends do you foresee for 2020?
I hope to see more environmental awareness around the entire supply chain of a product, not just the focus on packaging. The product needs to be considered as well. Hopefully this is not just a trend! As consumers, we need to make some real changes and as brands it’s our responsibility to be able to give consumers the transparency they deserve.
Not to get too philosophical but… what do you want?
To be able to channel my creativity to achieve an overall lasting and memorable positive impact. And a chocolate milkshake.
Interested in other incredible female founders? Check out all the Women We’re Watching.
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