How to launch exclusively into Sephora with Bread Beauty Supply Founder, Maeva Heim

Joining me on the show today is Maeva Heim, founder of Bread Beauty Supply. Or Bread for short.

Now, I Actually met Maeva by chance last year when I was in Melbourne visiting a friend and I recognised her voice from a podcast I’d listened to her speak on before and the rest is history - now she’s here with us sharing her story.

But, back to the episode - Bread is the best shampoo alternative and co-wash for kinky, curly, coily hair.

We’re talking about how she took a third door approach to launch exclusively with Sephora and what she’s learned so far while we have a few giggles along the way.

Please note, this transcript has been copy pasted without the lovely touch of a human editor. Please expect some typos!

Maeva: Yeah, so my name is Maeva, I am the founder of Bread Beauty Supply, Bread for short and bread is essentially a brand, but we focus on textured hair. So hair that's curly, quietly, wavy or even handed. It is generally dry and there's a lot of moisture. And we launched the world in July of this year. We launched with Sephora. And I'm really kind of proud that we're one of the very few Blackphone friends to launch in Sephora, the definitely building that out and all of our formulas are clean and it's all about basically making textured hair care and hair care in general, simple and easy.

Doone: Amazing, and I've obviously been following along your journey ever since we met, so for the last year and I'm just so pumped for you, I see all of your updates and I've read about you like just scrolling somewhere else and seeing your brand.

Doone: Or like I was telling you on Instagram yesterday, someone I was asking the woman I was interviewing if she had any recommendations for new guests on the show. And she was like, oh, you need to speak to Maeva from Fred. And I was like, that's so funny that you say that because I'm interviewing her tomorrow morning issues.

That is so bizarre.

Serendipity or serendipity, indeed. Let's rewind back to your life. A few years ago when the light bulb moment happened, what was going on in your world?

Doone: What made you decide to start a brand?

Maeva: What was so many things? My journey was a really long one. I think to get to the point of launch and where we are now growing up, I don't think I ever kind of. Had an aspiration to launch my own brand will be a business owner, but it was kind of drilled into me from a very young age regardless, because my mum owned hair salon. So she was also an entrepreneur here in Perth. She had a salon that was this tiny little garage connected to the back of the Italian restaurant. And I was there all the time on weekends and after school and around all of these products that were for textured ham because it was a braiding salon.

Maeva: But I guess the moment for me happened later on.

Maeva: Then I ended up in a corporate career and that was kind of my thing. I was like, yes, I'm climbing the corporate ladder. That was always kind of the path that I wanted to go down. I was very much one of those, you know, dedicated, I guess, quite high achievers in school. And so it was that cool. This is the path that is laid out for you and this is what you're going to do. And so that was kind of what I was doing. I ended up working in marketing and beauty in the corporate space at L'Oreal, and I kind of just got to a point where I was really just fed up with the beauty industry. I was behind the scenes of this enormous corporation working on some of the biggest brands in the world. And I didn't feel like those brands were talking to me. And I was also privy to a lot of the behind the curtain things that went on that gave me that insight to be like, OK, I can see why there's a disconnect. I can see why these brands aren't catering to me. I can see why there aren't more foundation shades in the market for women who look like me and women have darker skin tones. And I really saw that as one, a huge problem and too an opportunity to potentially start my own brand because I was just becoming fed up. I was like, these companies have all of this money and we're all working so hard for this and that.

I just wasn't, you know, aligned to any more. And I wanted to do something about it and I wanted to know where that money was going. I was working with this enormous company and I didn't know where the benefit of that was going, the economic benefit. And I figured there weren't really a lot of beauty brands like really large brands that were owned by women or women of color.

And that to me was where this massive problem was stemming from, because I felt like you have to be in that position of power in order to really have the effects trickle down into the market. And I remember complaining about this to my partner one day and saying there aren't enough female founders in beauty that have massive companies. There aren't enough black women that the CEOs of these big companies that can make these decisions so that we see it impacting in the market.

And he was like, well, what are you going to do about it? And it was kind of that moment that I was like, oh, well, I guess I could do something about it.

You know, I've got this industry knowing how I've got this really this background in beauty. It's kind of been in my family, in my blood for so long.

And I figured, why not do something about it and start a brand that would have that goal of making the industry more diverse, providing more products and services that were better for women of color.

And so I left my marketing role and it took about I mean, I think it was overall like at least three years from that moment that I left to now actually launching the brand three or four years. And when I first left, I actually was considering launching a makeup brand. This was pretty fancy. And I often kind of make that distinction when when I think of the beauty industry is like this preventive phase and post phase, because Presente, you could not find a foundation for AIDS unless you were shopping at Mac. And so there was this massive gap in makeup. I knew that the entire industry had a problem, but that seems like the most immediate need. And so I was exploring, launching this makeup brand. I wanted to launch a brand that had one hundred foundation shades. And it was actually while I was exploring that concept and working in another role that was actually in the startup space so that I could kind of absorb a lot of startup wisdom that I went on a trip to the United States and I was in New York and we got on a flight to go from New York to Colorado. And I had a chemical in my suitcase, which is basically a very toxic, caustic product that you can buy over the counter and you use it to straighten your hair. And I arrived in Colorado, opened up my suitcase, and this chemical relaxer had exploded over all of my stuff. And it was a great time. We're in the middle of nowhere in the mountains somewhere. And I didn't have access to get another one. And I'd been chemically relaxing my hair since I was. Six or seven years old, so my entire life and it's kind of like bleach, so you have to top up for relaxer, it's like every three to six months.

Imagine that over the course of a lifetime of 20 plus years and back in the day and still now there are some really, really harmful products in ingredients in these products. And so you can imagine that the effect on your health is not great, especially for products that you're putting on your scalp so often and so frequently. All right. And a lot of the time, the experiences that you leave it on for a really long time and you get welts and scabs on your scalp. And so the issues that they call is in not only potentially internal, but external as well. And that is all just part of the experience. You don't really question it, do you? Get to the point where you can I should stop doing this. Really. And so it was kind of just in that moment that I was like, you know what, I should stop using this product. I had been slowly transitioning a lot of my body care and skincare products to things that were more clean and realizing that I was still relaxing my hair and putting this really harmful product on my scalp. So I decided to stop and go back to my natural texture very quickly. And I had no idea at that time that I had curly hair. And I know that sounds ridiculous in my head when it's if it's not like a patent, it's just like an effort. And so I didn't realize that I actually had colds like spiracles because I'd never even seen my hair naturally. So I had to look after it because I was constantly relaxing it.

You just in that routine? Yeah, it was always relaxed.

It was always in braids or in a wave my entire life. And so I had no idea how to look after it, what it was, any of that.

And I just made the snap decision in that moment, not realizing how difficult and cumbersome that transition process was going to be. And it wasn't until we got access to the shots again and I was able to get online that I was really shocked at the state of the category and the products that were targeted towards this type of hair. And I remember getting to the multicultural Halkett aisle, which is what they have in the US, and they make that distinction. And I was just so shocked and I felt like I had gone back to the 90s. Nothing had really changed. There was a lot of innovation happening in other categories and it just felt like this part of the beauty industry had been completely left behind. And so I went away and was like, these products just don't exist. There is nothing on the market that is simple. It was very confusing, very overwhelming.

And I was like, I just want to know how to wash my hair. And Nebraska telling me or giving me a simple solution to do that. The a lot of different product types retains a really long even if you research online, like looking at natural can retain or curly hair can retain its like 20 products after having a routine like I don't have time for that.

And so that was kind of the moment that I went away and started building bread to be this brand and all of these products in a really simple way, using a kind of philosophy and making routines really simple, starting with wash day.

And that first part of your routine, which is washing your hair. And it wasn't just me that was going through this experience. And so I knew that there would be a lot of other women who were going through these exact steps and then entering this market and being, there's nothing here for me. Relax. The sales at that time had declined almost 40 percent or five year period. And I think just anecdotally, so many women were going back to their natural hair and the natural hair movement was really a thing and still is a thing. It's very much like a coming of age. You get to a certain age, feel like I'm going to start relaxing your hair through her. And that was a good couple of years ago. And the brand had a completely different name, but.

I'm not going to say take this so embarrassing, it's embarrassing.

It was a very kind of trendy thing at the time. And and for that reason, within three weeks of me thinking of that night, somebody trademarked it. And I was like, oh, crap, I have to go back to the drawing board. But the concept remains the same.

It was like, we want to simplify textured routines and we really want to provide the staples and the essentials of your wardrobe. And so when I had to go back to the drawing board, I was like, what is it that we're doing? That's what we want to be. We want to be the staples like Staples, Staples in other categories and landed on bread.

Oh, I just love it, love it, love it, love everything about it, the name, the look, the language, I really think it's such a special brand.

Can we actually talk about the branding for a second before we get into how you actually built the company? How did you come up with the vibe? Like, obviously you've you've probably worked with someone, all that kind of thing, but it's so distinct in in its look and feel and and language.

How did you how did you get there?

Yeah, I think that a lot of the brand and the vibe and the aesthetic of it has been driven by this girl and this woman that I was seeing online who wasn't being spoken to by other brands in this space. And so I was looking at these brands. A lot of them were heritage brands, a lot of kind of conglomerates that have been around for a long time and have multiple brands in this space.

And a lot of that look and feel was very polished and Photoshopped and glossy. And then I would go on Instagram, for example, and see this woman who I felt like was a customer like me and that I could relate to as well and peristaltic. And the way that she presented herself was completely in opposition to what you would see in the market. And I thought this there has to be room for a brand like bread to be a product and something that you'd be really proud to have on your bathroom shelf. And that aligns with her identity. And so, yeah, the vibe has been completely inspired by her. And I worked with multiple different people and kind of bringing it all together. But I think in the end, like, I kind of just went with a lot of it was my gut and what I was saying and just trying to translate that into a brand. And so it's still superfluid and ever evolving, just like she is. And that has probably been one of the most difficult pieces of building this brand, because I feel that, yeah, for sure there is. When you have an idea in your head and you know what, you want something to look like, it can be very difficult for somebody else to translate something that doesn't exist and is like intangible in your mind. And of course, when you're working with designers, designers want to design. But if you already have a very kind of strict idea of what you want, it can be really difficult to kind of rein people back and be like, no, we don't need new concepts. We want this, but make it look professional.

And that's really tricky.

And we're still on that path of really finding that person or that that team that can translate that vision into tangible things, whether it's digitally or through print, because a lot of that work I still do myself.

Wow, incredible. I want to go back to when you had that light bulb moment where you make the decision like this is it? It's going to be bread. We're going to build this brand. What are the next steps? How do you actually build the brand?

And it's so funny because I was in this phase for so long of listening to all the podcasts, going to all the conferences, reading all the Founda stories. And that was always my one question is like, what is the first thing that you did? Because I felt so stuck even when I landed on this concept and even though I knew that this was what I wanted to build, there was still so much, I guess, like push and pull between, like, what do I do first? Am I doing the right thing? Like, what if I do that? I waste money on this and all of those things. And so I wanted to know from everybody, I'm like, what's the first thing you did? And I honestly can't remember any of the answers from that. And I actually can't remember for myself, I thought, I don't actually know what the first thing was. What I will say is that once I landed on the concept, was that cool?

I would buy this brand. I guess the first thing that I did was figure out if other people would, too. And I think there's different ways to do that for me. I was scraping the Internet, any kind of market research that I could find for free that would validate that there were other people that would need this. And so I was looking at Minitel reports, the Consumer Reports that was showing people buying relaxes less and spending more on products like conditioners or shampoo and how much and what the trend looks like and what the overall kind of cosmetics trends are, which if you look at anything, it's like fashion cosmetics, it's cyclical. And so I could see that it was going to be big, will become huge. That was going to be a real renaissance to the hackerspace, because at the time it was all about color, cosmetics, makeup, makeup, makeup is a big thing. And I'm like, cool. In a couple of years I was going to come around and then we're going to swing back. But just getting that data and getting those insights really made me feel confident about the direction and really made me feel good about how we would position this story as well to investors or to retailers or whoever it might be.

So that was one of the first things that I did. But again, insights and one thing, actually, it's another thing. So I guess after that, I spent a lot of time kind of crafting that visual language of the brand, figuring out what the products should be. And so that took a lot of time in terms of being able to test products, because I actually don't like to wash my hair very often, which is the whole point of the brand. It's difficult to be able to test a lot of products in a timely way because it just takes a little bit longer. And then I went about finding manufacturers everything. Nothing happened in a linear way. What's it like? Do this and then do that, because I'm just going to try all of these different things. And eventually I think they'll come to a straightforward path.

And I spoke to a lot of different manufacturers without a lot of different manufacturers, independent cosmetic formulators, all of those things, until we landed on the web with exactly what that launch product assortment would look like. But then also figuring out where do I want this brand to go? What are we trying to achieve here? And I knew that one. I wanted to create a brand that is going to scale quickly and be really big, because the whole point is that we want to change the cosmetic industry. And in order to do that, we need a brand where a woman of color has decision making power so that we can impact the industry. So I knew I wanted it to be big, which mea