How Old School Italian Values (and a Sunday Sauce Recipe), Playful and Authentic Branding, and the Most Ingenious Press Kit Ever Made this Clean Hair Care Brand The Cool Cousin You Want to Tell All Your Friends About
The former Bumble and Bumble product development manager was working hard on building her haircare brand, taking a hands-on approach to everything from the packaging and website copy to product development and marketing, and had a gusty, go-getter vibe about her.
I was intrigued.
Over the coming months as we chatted about media outreach, launch strategies, and favorite podcasts (see her must-listen recommendation for start-up entrepreneurs below), I found myself anxiously anticipating the launch of allyoos.
When it finally launched this past December to great fanfare, I tapped over to the website, and eagerly snagged a couple of Juice Drenches and Quick Cleans for myself and my beauty-loving friends as holiday gifts.
I believe allyoos is a brand to watch in the clean hair care space and I couldn’t wait to interview Sam for our Women in Beauty You Should Know Series.
Below, we catch up with Sam and chat everything from her authentic approach to brand strategy, to the advice she has for other beauty brand founders bootstrapping their launch, and all the exciting things coming up for the brand.
1. What inspired you to start allyoos?
I started working in a hair salon when I was 14. After 12 years assisting and being behind-the-chair, I started freelancing doing hair and took a full-time job at Bumble and Bumble in the Product Development department. For five years, I worked on all things formula related—from thinking up new launch ideas, to working on actual formula and fragrance development. It was an absolute dream job for me, best job ever.
A few years ago, I started becoming a clean consumer in all different categories — food, wellness, cleaning, and beauty. I was noticing that in hair, clean brands weren’t really tapping into innovation, they were just really making clean versions of what already exists in hair. This was great, and what we all need, but thinking of new concepts and ideas is what I love most. So I wanted to build a brand that was clean, but was also creative and valued new ideas and innovation.
I also noticed that clean beauty brands were a bit highfalutin, often expensive, and not all that friendly. I didn’t want to scare people into using clean beauty because everything else is bad for you. I wanted to make clean beauty warm, friendly, and soulful. So that even if you weren’t the clean consumer, you still wanted to shop with us. And if you were the clean consumer, our formulas are safe and met your standards. So, allyoos is clean of course, but we’re a lot of other things, too.
2. Your brand voice is very fresh and engaging. I feel like I’m reading something from a friend when I read your website or social content and I always look forward to the next thing! How did you discover your unique brand voice? What allowed you to create such an authentic voice?
Um, OMG. Thank you so much! It’s super important to me that allyoos has the personality of a “chip off the old block.” If allyoos were a person, that person would be the salt of the earth—your lifetime friend, sister, or cousin, who just says it like it is, gets it, gets you, and is always true blue. It’s definitely deliberate that allyoos sounds like a person, and not like a brand, but it’s a part of brand-building that luckily comes naturally to me.
Also, being a stylist for so many years, I’ve had a wide variety of clients, and no matter how different they are—from hair type to personalities—they all ultimately want the same thing—good hair, good service. So really, I would talk to them all the same. That’s kind of what allyoos is doing—talking to everyone, relating to everyone.
3. What does authentic branding mean to you? What does it offer your ideal customer?
Authentic branding, hmmm. I think for allyoos, I knew from day one that I wanted to created a line of hair care that treated you like family. Even when our name changed, our design changed, that idea always stayed the same. If i’m designing hair care that treats everyone like family, that means my voice, packaging, logo, website, marketing — that messaging needs to come through. I always think about the feelings I want people to have when they look at allyoos IG, or visit allyoos.com. I want people to think we’re cool, friendly, approachable, silly, and I want people to want to get involved.
So this means when we were designing our packaging, it can’t be stark white and super minimalist. I know this has been a trend for a while now, but the super simple coldness of minimalism is not the vibe we’re going for. Same with our website and photoshoot. Everyone is smiling. No one looks super sultry, sexy, or serious. Instead, we’re silly and playful. Your copy, your imagery, your packaging, your messaging, it all has to jive and make sense together.
We’re also giving people our Poppy’s Sunday Sauce recipe. When you order on allyoos.com, you get our recipe card with your order! This is another way we treat our consumers like cousins, like family — extending a time-tested family recipe, and everyone loves a good Sunday sauce. We’re Italian, and this whole Italian thing in beauty is definitely untapped. My brand is definitely an extension of me and my personality, so these things come more natural. I do think that if your creating a brand, and you can somehow tie in little parts of yourself, bits that you think will really resonate with people, it’s the most authentic thing you can do. It will also set up apart, because no one is you.
4. How is Allyoos challenging the status quo?
Honestly, I think the hardest part for me was quitting my job. I had the best team who I’m still best friends with today, and I loved working with them. I didn’t start allyoos because I hated my job, or wanted to do the next best thing, or was unsettled. It’s really the opposite. I was so inspired by my job and team and coworkers that I wanted to recreate it and make it my own thing.
It’s hard to go from working with great friends everyday to working alone all the time. There is nothing glamorous about being an entrepreneur, and if there is, I didn’t get to that part yet, lol. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. And I’m a do-er. I really do grin and bare it, I gladly take a lot on, don’t make excuses, and I’m still going with—it’s all hard. But, it’s worth it. And it’s cool. And it’s the smartest and most creative I’ve ever felt.
5. What are you most proud of since launching allyoos?
I have to say, our launch day was the coolest day ever. I picked a bunch of my favorite people, fitness studios, restaurants, and stores. Then, I took screen shots of their individual IG posts and made everyone a custom wrapping paper. We took a bunch of allyoos press kits (that also looked super cute) and wrapped them up in everyone’s personal IG posts. Mailed and hand delivered them all round NYC, LA, and Miami.
I don’t have PR yet and don’t have a huge marketing budget, so I had to think of a way to really get people to post us. And it worked! We got incredible feedback from people we admire and have followed for years! Jennifer Fisher, David Grutman, the list goes on. Just to see that these big business names we look up to were calling us “cool” and “smart” was incredible.
6. What does your morning routine look like?
As soon as I get up, I make celery juice for me and my husband, throw it back, then jump in the shower. I air-dry or rough-dry my hair everyday, so I really just put on a face oil or bb cream and that’s it. Unless I have something special that day, mascara. Then, I make us both a green smoothie, we drink it and take our supplements (or I take mine and he forgets!). Then, a green tea to-go and we’re out the door. I either work from a community office in my building or The Wing in Flatiron. I’m like, boom, boom, boom in the morning. It’s the fastest thing you’ve ever seen.
7. How do you come up with new product ideas?
I try to think of all the things my clients have said to me through the years—they always wish they had a product for this or that—and definitely tap into that. Also, I like to think of ways to take what already exists and make it more “today.” For example, Juice Drench. Do we need another moisturizing hair mask? Probably not. But how about a green juice for your hair? Sign us up! I like to take old-school things and reinvent them, too. I don’t really look at hair care a lot for inspiration, I just look at what my consumer is doing, what her habits are, and try to think of products that will fit into her daily routine.
8. What’s a non-fiction book or podcast that’s positively impacted your business and why?
The podcast: How to Start a Startup changed my life. Before I quit my job, from about January until September (when I quit) I read every book I saw on IG or was recommended on starting a business, best companies/practices, etc. I interviewed at Harry’s a few years ago (didn’t get the job, lol) and I reached out to the girl that interviewed me just to see if she would chat about the startup world. She did, she’s lovely, and also recommended I listen to How to Start a Startup. I literally rushed home every night to listen to this podcast. I took notes on every lesson (there are 20), and then when it was over, I rewrote all my notes in a new notebook, in much better handwriting. It was so cool to me.
First of all, everyone’s voice is hot, lol—these guys are so smart, so quick, just brilliant. But really, they talk about everything from coming up with an idea, to raising money, proof of concept, to getting people to love you and your brand. It’s great, I’m still obsessed, you should listen. My favorite line, one that I always remind myself of—the score takes care of itself. Meaning if you do the work, every little detail, and really care about every touchpoint, the score will take care of itself.
9. What has been #1 most game-changing marketing or pr strategy for allyoos to date and why?
So I would have to say again, our launch day and wrapping paper stunt. I don’t want to pay influencers to use allyoos. I want people to post because they like our brand and like our products. I thought our press kit was cool, and definitely post-worthy, but people see influencers unboxing things like this all the time. I wanted to create something totally new and buzzworthy and I knew that if someone sent me a gift box wrapped in all of my own IG posts, I would totally post that. I needed people to post. I don’t have money for billboards all over NYC and LA (yet!), so I had to pull a stunt of my own and thought that IG was the best place to do it. I don’t buy followers on IG.
From this whole wrapping paper thing, we got over 200 followers in a day or two. It was pretty incredible. It’s so allyoos-y, too. We want people to know that we take an interest in them. That’s why we didn’t send to a ton of beauty influencers. We sent to people we love, and places we actually like and go to — Soul Cycle, Rumble Boxing, Jennifer Fisher Jewelry, Chillhouse, Isabella Grutman, Y7, KITH, Bandier, the list goes on and we’re doing a phase II. 😉
11. You self-funded your company launch. Any advice for beauty entrepreneurs looking to do the same?
I took a personal loan to start allyoos. I did start the process with some cash of my own, but for the big stuff, I took a loan. My advice for other beauty entrepreneurs is that you probably need less than you think to start. I have two partners that own equity in allyoos. One is a finance partner, one is a digital partner. Everything else, I pretty much do on my own — product development, social media, content creation, marketing and PR, customer service, strategizing long-term and short-term goals, future launch ideas and planning, etc. I have a friend who is a super talented graphic designer, she did my branding, logo, and package design. I wrote all the copy for the website and products, but hired a (lovely!) freelance beauty writer to perfect, edit, and look over everything for me.
Lucky for all of us, vendors today are excited about working with new beauty brands. So it’s okay if you don’t know stuff or have 1,000 questions. They will help you. Keep as much ownership of your company as you can in the beginning. Ask for recommendations, ask your vendors for advice and contacts. For example, if you find a good formula vendor, they probably know great third-party testing labs, pack-out facilities, or fragrance labs. Ask them, they’ll help you! You can do it yourself and make it yours, it’s fun, it’s a lot, but it’s fine. You don’t need interns, you don’t need to hire people for everything. Some things, yes. But if you can figure it out, do it yourself in the beginning.
Also, that’s the point of having your own business. In a year, you’ll know so much more, you’ll have done so much work, and when the time comes for you to hire someone, you’ll know exactly who you need since it was you at one point.