After working together as a team for 30 years, the trio of owners behind Salon AKS (New York City) decided their next business step was launching a product line. The project has been a labor of love for the last 10 years, and today they offer a collection of haircare products packed with raw active ingredients like chamomile, coconut water, cocoa, sunflower seed, and wheat protein targeting different hair types as well as specialized formulas for kids and teens. In addition to haircare in the salon, they also offer a range of spa services, including waxing, nailcare, and a Dr. Gross Peel Bar to fulfill clients’ beauty needs. Here, we talk with partners Alain Pinon, Kao Hui, and Susanna Romano to get the story behind their product launch and what they’ve learned in the process.
Why did you want to create a product line for the salon?
And after many decades working every day with so many different type of clients and hair types, we wanted to help resolve issues that most of everyone has to deal with on a daily basis- flat, frizzy, and limp hair. We listened to the requests of our clients and took the time to research the effects of products over time on their hair.
How are your products unique?
We wanted all of our shampoos to have power ingredients in them. They are like a power food smoothie for your hair! One of the first we identified that would make a huge difference was coconut water. Back then, the consumer did not know how powerful of an ingredient it was, today everyone knows how good it is for your hair, body, and health. We went ahead and made coconut water our first ingredient in all of our shampoos along with other power ingredients. Most products contain three to seven raw active ingredients. We have done the research along with a chemist, to assign certain active ingredients to each product to combat the problem. For example, the protein keratin, will create a smooth hair cuticle when combined with coconut water to hydrate the hair without weighing it down.
What have been the most rewarding and challenging aspects of creating products?
The most challenging aspect has been patience! It took more than eight years from conceptualization to arriving on the AKS retail shelves. During the process, you have to keep reminding yourself that it always takes time to build quality.
The most rewarding aspect is when extremely skeptical people come up to you and tell you that your product really works for them and makes a big difference in there everyday life dealing with their hair. The feedback and difference we make in our clients lives is so valuable.
They love the direct approach in solving their hair issue. We feel like our clients gave us the information to help us create the line, seeing their hair after long time use of certain products.
What tips would you give to other spa/salon owners about creating a product line?
Make sure you are passionate, prepared, focused, and patient! Listen to your clients and staff, test all products with several submissions. Test all components of your packaging. Packaging is fun in design, but the formula is the most important part and where you spend the most money! A pretty package will sell a product once, but if the product doesn't deliver they won't repurchase.
How do you involve your staff in the product creation process?
Our 70 staff members were all involved in the research and formulation process. They were trying the formulations on each other or testing it on ourselves until we completely happy with them. The next step was staff, family and friends for more feedback. When it was finally completed, we had a group of clients using it to hear their perspective.
What are your goals for the product line and how does a signature line help enhance the salon and services offered?
Our short-term goal was to bring the line on the AKS retail shelves. Our long-term goal is to go into specialty stores and pharmacies. In May, we will have our first door at BlueMercury on 83rd street in NYC. We are very excited about the opportunity to now share the AKS line with a larger market.
January 2017 also marked the 20 year anniversary of Salon AKS. To have our product line solidifies our image as well as our reputation, for our current clientele and the potentially new clientele who will see the AKS name.