Jordynn Wynn and Sharon Pak's Insert Name Here (INH) landed their signature product on Ariana Grande
Joining me on the show today are the two best friends behind the coolest wig company you’ve ever met, Jordynn and Sharon from Insert Name Here (or INH for short).
These two women were early employees of the beauty startup Colourpop and after spending a few years learning the ropes at the wildly successful business they decided it was time to get out there and launch their own thing. After connecting with their co-founder Kevin in the DMS they realised they had a really good idea in mind and got to work developing and launching INH.
INH is inspired by pop culture celebs and trends and they produce premium quality pony’s, wigs, buns and extensions that are full of sass and so much fun.
We’re talking about the importance of building a sticky community, the time when mega celeb Ariana Grande wore their signature pony, how they’re approaching marketing and what initiatives are driving their projected $20M in sales for this year.
Please note, this transcript has been copy pasted without the lovely touch of a human editor. Please expect some typos!
Thanks for having us. We're excited to be here.
I feel like this is probably the best part of our story is how I kind of came about. Jordynn always joked that it's kind of the stars are aligned and we were meant to be partners and best friends. So Jordynn's actually from a really small time town in Wyoming. And I'm from a really small town in Arizona. We both are were raised by single moms, also have younger brother and older sisters, same family dynamic. We both end up at Pepperdine and at Pepperdine. We were doing the same marketing classes, courses. We live in the same dorm.
But you love each other, but we're friends. And then towards the end, Jordan was interning at Color Cosmetics. But at the time it wasn't color pop. It was like a third party manufacturing company. And she was like, hey, they're looking for another one of me, like, you should interview. But I was like, I don't know about that. Like, I want to work at a startup. Like, I'm not sure and I'm not really into makeup, like, I don't know. So then out of desperation, I was like, I want to go back to Arizona. I'm just going to do this, do the interview and getting the job. And that happened to be color pop cosmetics and color is one of the fastest growing beauty companies online. So George and I were there. And then we hope to also build a couple of other brands while we're under the seed beauty umbrella. And then we launched it together when Kevin, our third partner, split into our dorms and he was like, what are you guys up to? He worked at Beauty Salon and we got dinner with him and he would just like you.
Do you want to launch anything else? Like what are your plans like? I know what you guys did, a color palette like let's do something together. And funny enough, at the time Jordynn and I had been going back and forth on business ideas. We wanted to do something together, but we weren't exactly sure what. And she was setting me crazy ideas like we should do a SOFA company, like we should do a Tupperware, a company like do some crazy things. And we just were brainstorming. And Jordan tells me what it's like. I have it. I know what it is. She's like Wiggs. She's like, what do you think about wigs? And I was like, Oh, wait, I can get behind that. Like, I could see that you started seeing a huge trend where girls are experimenting, for example, like Kylie and Kim, you never even know what their real hair looks like anymore. It's constantly changing every single day, but it's not accessible to her like a normal daughter. And I and she started ordering all these wigs off of Amazon and like testing out what was out there.
And she called me. She was like, they're so bad, like we need to do this. There's a huge opportunity here. We need to do it. So then I was born.
Oh, my gosh. Wow, so cool. I love that you guys are like best buds worked together.
You already knew you had the dynamic I want to keep on the early days, even when you look back at color to understand what were those early experiences like, what were you learning and what were you doing at color pop that kind of made you feel, I'm motivated to do this for myself one day. And I actually have the inkling that I'm going to be an entrepreneur myself.
I think that Sharon and I both realized while we were there that we really loved building things. I think that after we got to kind of witness and be a part of building multiple brands, that we realized that there's definitely like an art and science to it. And the initial aspect of like building a community and making it sticky and then understanding what people want to see and what they don't want to see. All of that part is where I think we kind of thrive. And so we told each other for a really long time because when we first started working together, we actually didn't get along that well because we weren't like we weren't really friends. We had done a bunch of good projects together. But then when we got thrown into like the color pop environment, we were two of basically five employees for the first couple of years and there was not a lot of structure. And so that's where we got our nickname short and actually that a lot of people still call us to this day because people in the office wouldn't know who was doing what projects and they'd be like, oh, just give it to Shorten. And so then I would look at each other and be like, OK, who's going to do it? Because there is no, like, top down direction.
So we ended up having to kind of like duke it out a lot at the beginning because we were both like very driven, very ambitious and very competitive. And so at the beginning, there's like a lot of stepping on toes. Obviously, you both want, like, the big project. But then where we kind of ended up realizing after a few fumbles that we actually have very, very different skill sets and very different strengths and weaknesses. And so when we were able to kind of figure that out and really like we had a lot of really real conversations with each other, we had to sit down and be like, this is not working, like this is not pleasant, not enjoying our time. And we really had some like come to Jesus conversations where we made a lot of progress and we decided like, hey, these are things that you're really amazing and these are really amazing. And instead of like choosing who's going to do them, we'll either just be like, oh, this is more of a creative visual project and this is more of like a copy project. And then, like, we just started divvying it up among each other based on who is going to do it the best. And then we both really believe that the other one had really strong skill sets and were different from our own.
It got really easy to be like, OK, clearly yours clearly, clearly are solely mine. And I think that's when we realized that. But I always say, like, here's the yin yang. And I think that those experiences are what made us think like, oh, we should build something together because we did have a really special relationship of not only could we work really well together, but like we can fight really well together, like we always overcame like any any obstacles that came our way or any disagreements. And we always grew a lot from them. And so I think we both realize those are really special relationships that are hard to come by. And who you work with is so, so important, especially when you want to brand. And so I think I think a funny story, too. At the very beginning, when I told Sharon to apply for the role, my mom actually told me she was like, oh, instead of picking a friend, why don't you pick somebody who you work really well with inside pick Sharon? Because we had worked well in group projects and all of that came together very serendipitously because now obviously we work together a time. And thank God that was like the initial kick off point.
Shout out to your mom, you have her to thank for this. That's so cool.
And I think it also takes a lot of maturity, especially in your early 20s, to be able to sit down and have those tough conversations and then to actually flip it on its head and totally empower each other to thrive in that environment. And like both ended up doing really well at climbing that ladder together. And I imagine just the experience of working at a startup in the early days, there's just so many critical learnings. I think that's hard to replicate if you haven't worked in a startup and you don't understand the kind of hustle that comes along with it in that journey. Do you think there are any kind of key learnings that stand out for you that you will like? I'm going to take this from Pop and build this with an H.
I think the biggest thing that we learned at Color Pop was the community aspect of the brand. Having a community is so incredibly powerful, especially a group that's going to go beyond the product and with color pop, they have this insane avid fan base who's just talking about color pop all day, every day, like it's beyond the actual product itself. They're finding connection and relationships with one another through a brand and a product. And that was something that was like we need to replicate this niche because that's what stickiness is. That's what your customers are going to go evangelize for you, for the brand. It makes things so much easier. And then also just seeing how happy I each makes our customers has just been such an amazing feeling that I just knew that we needed.
Can we go back to the beginning when you guys had this moment, you start talking to Kevin Gould, third co-founder in the DMZ, you stopped meeting him for dinner, this kind of thing.
What happens next? Do you guys be like, yeah, we need to get to friends and family around. We pile our savings together in a bank account and scrap our way through it. What's that early beginning phase like for you guys?
I don't know. Gordon Tauxe, the first thing that happened was panic. We were like, oh, Gordon, call me that right after. She's like, I shouldn't have told him our idea. Like, I'm so dumb. Why did I do that? Like, we both were just in absolute meltdown mode just because finding partners is really difficult and you're like getting in bed with these people and most of the time you don't know them that well. So I think for her and I was really young, we were in our early 20s about to go into deep waters without really any guidance. That was the first thing was panic.
And we weren't like planning it. Like it all just kind of happened. And it happened really quickly because we weren't planning on doing it. Like we'd been brainstorming a bunch of ideas, but we weren't like, let's do this until Kevin basically reached out. And then he was like, let's do this. And you're like, OK. And in a few months, like from meeting with Kevin and telling him the idea, we launched a brand like months later, like I think four months later. And so it really was a big whirlwind. Luckily, Kevin has been the one funding the brand to date. And so that that was like super, super helpful. I think that's a big obstacle that a lot of startups probably struggle with. But we were really fortunate in having a partner like Kevin who is able to bring that to the table.
Are you able to share any kind of ballpark numbers on initial startup capital that's needed to start something in day to see product based e-commerce space?
I think it really varies depending on the product, our product, the cost of good. I can go a little bit higher than many product categories. But we started off we only did a couple hundred thousand dollars is like the initial investment and that was primarily all for inventory. And so we did like a really small order and we did it pre Halloween, which was our all of our wigs. And so we just wanted to get it done and get it done as quickly as possible. So that way we could have some inventory for Halloween, but we did a very small order quantity. So that way we could kind of like test the market and see what people were interested in.
And I think it also depends on like lead times to in like production lead times, because it does take a while to hentai all the wigs, like it's like a two month lead time just for production. So it really depends what your actual product is.
Yeah, for sure, absolutely.
And so, OK, so you launch into Halloween and you start just like telling your friends or how do you start getting the word out there and finding those early adopters of your brand, those early first customers who who really like champion you guys now out of the gate?
It was friends and family and not going to lie. We were slightly disappointed with the initial because you don't know when you're building a brand, you're just like building to that starting line or like to that point, you just want to go. And when you get to the finish line, you get there and you're like, oh, wait, nobody knows about us. We're an absolute nobody cares. Like, I don't even know why we spent so much time to just get it so, so perfect. That's like one of our biggest tips to entrepreneurs is don't be a perfectionist when it comes to launching a brand, because there's just so much that needs to happen once you get to the finish line anyway. So it doesn't really matter as much. I just don't get hung up on it. Like, I just know so many people who want to do it. They're like, I needed the perfect unicorn, I needed the perfect PR. I'm like, no one's going to read it. Like you're not going to have, like, enough people to even send it to. Don't worry about it. So, yeah, I was just like a funny aspect of it.
Yeah, for sure, wow, absolutely, and I hear that a lot from female founders is like, if you didn't if you don't, like, embarrassed about your first iteration, like you didn't launch soon enough. And I think people also forget there's like so much work in the lead up, but it really starts the day you launch, like, having to go out there and talk to as many people as possible about your brand.
You've spoken a bit earlier about building a sticky community. Can you describe what that is and like how you specifically did that, what the plan was and what you would recommend other founders do to achieve that?
I think one thing that people often ask us about the Chinese community, because it is super, super active and I think that one of the parts, like a lot of people, are like, so what's the key? Like, what's the one key? And I think that high level like it is a lot like the nitty gritty actually getting in there and doing it yourself. Work that a lot of people think there's a shortcut for sharing. And I respond to a ton of comments, all of our ideas, we're like constantly going through and looking like from our personal pages, from each page, like anybody who talks about us tags us even like I do stories. And I think that in the very beginning, that kind of like a one on one interaction, not only are you going to really learn and understand the customer, but they're going to feel like they know you because you have been like so hands on with them. And I think that that's one of the biggest misses of a lot of brands like startup or existing brands, is that they don't have that direct touch with their customers because it does take a lot of work and it is difficult to scale. But I think it pays itself back like ten fold, like it's worth it's one hundred percent worth it. Even commenting like when people respond to your Instagram post and they're just like Cupich or something like engaging with those people is really, really important.
Yeah, for sure, and then you're building the loyalists that really love you and keep coming back and keep spreading the word for you.
I want to talk more about the specific kind of marketing initiatives you guys use to drive your rapid growth. You have a huge following. Now, you guys are doing seemingly like so many different things. You're in a lot of press online. What kind of initiatives did you launch or are you launching that helped fuel that?
I think I could speak a little bit more to this, but I think a really important thing that we learned is building a brand. Six years ago is not the same thing as building a brand. Now you have to take an omnichannel approach like you need email, you need SMS. You need all these funnels running, performance, marketing. Without any of those moving funnel, you really can't have a brand. So for us, it's just been going hard on every single funnel and capturing the audience on every level because we're just there. Just so much noise in the world right now and you're just getting pushed so much content in your face all day, every day. So you have to have all these multiple touch points to make it work.
Our other founder, Kevin, always says, like, we're going to chase these people around the Internet. And I think the like a really accurate depiction of what we're doing here. Like, OK, we're going to have this email over here to talk about them. And so I think that people truly need to hear about the brand, especially these days when the barrier to entry is like just launching a brand is so low. There are new brands every single day, just like popping up like wildflowers. And so, like our new important part is to be a brand that they're hearing about repeatedly from a bunch of reliable sources. So that way they kind of understand it is a legitimate brand that I can trust that I'm hearing like being talked about everywhere. So I think that's really important. I think that that can be really overwhelming when you're very first launching a brand because you're like, oh, my gosh, like 15 channels. Like, there's no way that I can kind of optimize all of this. So I think that if you're just getting started, a good way to prioritize is I think social media is really important and really easy. You don't really need to have some kind of, like, crazy skill set to get started. And especially if you have this touch point on your customer, like it really is a learn as you go process anyway. So I think social is really important to get going. And then I think getting your attention, at least like your attention, capturing tools up like your like email capture when they land on the website, your eyes capture when you land on the website, even if you don't have like a really elaborate email or SMS platform built out. Yet it's just important that you're at least retaining all of that information so you can reach back out to these people later. So I think those are the really important ones. And I think after that, you can kind of decide if you feel more comfortable going in the performance bargaining or more influencer angle. I think that they both kind of have their weaknesses and strengths.
Yeah, absolutely. What do you think for you guys, was the step change in the business where you were like, yeah, we're seriously onto something. It's all picked up either through influencer marketing or through something like performance marketing. What were those moments for you guys?
I think I'm a little worried me that I was like a little holy cow, one of them, like Ariana Grande, wore our pony in her in my head music video with Vogue. And it was really cool because we worked with her hairstylist and worked with Vogue and they asked us for hair pieces, but like, it didn't sound like it was like guaranteed, guaranteed. So we sent it and then we hear back from them for months. And then one day there, her video goes live and we're in the credits. And everybody started sending it to us. And we were like, oh, my gosh, this is crazy. So that was a really big moment for sure.
Holy moly, that's crazy, and that must have just been like that thrill of like, yeah, we're onto something here.