Odele, a phonetic translation of a dele, which means “to share” in Norwegian, is a new haircare brand launching at Target. The core team is comprised of co-founders Lindsay Holden, Britta Chatterjee, and Shannon Kearney. With extensive experience in the retail, marketing, and manufacturing in both big-box stores, including Target, and smaller companies, the trio merged best practices and perspectives and set out to disrupt the shelves with the launch of Odele.
The three millennial moms set out to democratize the haircare space by creating clean formulas at approachable prices. The founders wanted to democratize the haircare space by providing a formula the whole family can love. “His, hers, mine, and ours…our shower shelves are overcrowded with bottles, jars, and tubes for me, my husband, and my kids,” said co-founder Lindsay Holden. “We knew there had to be a better way—a shareable way—that was cleaner, better, safer.”
BeautyMatter caught up with Odele founders Linsday Holden and Britta Chatterjee.
Can you share the story of how the female founder team came together to launch Odele?
LH: Britta and I met on a project in business school (University of Minnesota, Carlson School of Management), and over the course of the past 10 years, we have been plotting what we could make happen [business-wise], on our own terms, together. We just knew that a start-up was the ultimate professional passion goal as working moms and serial problem solvers where we felt the impact of our efforts would be strongest and satisfaction in our efforts the greatest—especially considering the cost of spending all that time away from our kids.
It was when Britta started consulting in beauty (this happens to be where Britta met Shannon, who ran the day-to-day operations of another haircare company), that we took a hard look at the category and realized that we weren’t loyal to any of the brands at mass. With Shannon as our third partner, we realized we were in a position to create, execute, and deliver on this concept, and we got to work. Odele was born to create something we wanted to see but felt was missing despite the plethora of options.
When did the three of you decide to leave your day jobs and enter the start-up world?
LH: This is a different answer for all three of us. I left Target about two years ago with no set plans. I was lucky to be in a position to take the time to figure out what was next, and wanted more time to spend with my kids (I’ve got three little ones) as it felt like they were growing up way too quickly, and I wanted to be more present. Britta was in consulting, and her last job ended with the sale of the company she was consulting for, which happened to coincide with the birth of her second child. It was at that point, a year into my time away from corporate life, when we both found ourselves on the cusp of figuring out what’s next and committed to taking the time to see what we could build together … literally, over nap time. Shannon, the ultimate hustler, was in contract mode with multiple clients following the sale of that same company.
Can you share how the business has been funded?
BC: We were fortunate enough to keep our fundraise to friends and family.
With your collective background, you could have launched in any category. You’ve launched Odele in the haircare category. What was the opportunity you saw in haircare?
BC: Honestly, we wanted to create something in a category that we just couldn’t seem to find, despite the plethora of offerings. Our bathrooms were packed with products for us (the fancy kind), our partners (the whatever kind) and our kids (the safe kind) … and quite frankly, it was excessive. We didn’t understand why there couldn’t be a high-quality, clean, premium formula that wouldn’t break the bank (read: where we wouldn’t be angry with our partner or kid when they squirted out ⅛ the bottle for their morning shampoo and/or a bubble bath)? We know that great design and quality can and should be available at a diversity of price points and believe that the consumer is on the lookout for that at mass. We knew if we treated our consumer like the smart woman she is and gave her the premium products we knew we could make at an affordable price, that we’d disrupt the shelves.
There is a lot of exciting innovation happening in the mass channel, but it is a notoriously expensive channel to compete in because of the scale. The Odele founder team has deep experience in the channel; what has changed that has created an opportunity for indie beauty brands at mass?
LH: We can’t speak to the larger trends at mass beyond what we’ve seen and observed and felt—as both consumers and former retail executives. We’re really laser-focused on our lane and making the most impact we can with Odele. We do agree with what you’ve noticed, though, and would attribute a large part of that to consumer demand—they’re craving something different on the shelves at their go-to store, and it feels like retailers are responding accordingly. There is certainly more room for indies at the traditional big-box stores—and we are very excited to be part of the offering. It just keeps getting better!
How did you arrive at the launch assortment of 4 categories and 9 products—volumizing, smoothing, curl defining, and styling?
BC: This was certainly an arduous process. We knew we wanted to avoid analysis paralysis, aka that sinking feeling consumers get when they’re faced with endless options, touting superfluous words and confusing messaging, on the shelves After much data analysis and focus group insights, we decided it was best to formulate based on hair type, and we allowed the science of needs by hair type to be our guide in product development. Initially, we actually started with only two types, but realized through testing that we would need to create three separate regimens to accurately address needs across a spectrum of volume, frizz control, moisture, and breakage prevention. Within the styling category, we took a similar approach and simplified the most common routines into simple stylers that would lead to an effortless finish. We say you shouldn’t need a PhD to decipher hair care. Simplicity, functionality—those were our guiding lights when it came to the Odele lineup.
Can you share a bit about the two active ingredients amaranth and rice tein?
BC: Amaranth and rice tein are the key active ingredients within Odele. They work really nicely together and deliver on multiple benefits, which is why we put them in our whole line. They promote overall hair health—nourish hair from root to tip, fortify hair against damage, drive benefits that range from increased shine and manageability to fuller volume and better movement.
Target seems to see an opportunity in haircare after the success of the Kristin Ess brand they launched exclusively two years ago. Odele is one of four brands [Fekkai, Emerge, TPH by Taraji] launched in the category already this year. What’s your secret weapon to break through all this newness in the category at Target?
BC: Alas, we never reveal our secret weapons. But we are thrilled to be in great company.
Celebrity and/or influencers are very integrated into the competitors’ positioning. This provides immediate amplification. Can you share a bit about your launch and marketing strategy?
BC: Our priority is to get Odele into the hands of as many people as possible—the whole concept is built on shareability. Right out of the gates, we’re investing in sampling—we stand behind our product and feel that trial is the most effective way to win over new enthusiasts. In the coming days on odelebeauty.com, we’re rolling out a travel-size kit offering [3 x 3 fl oz. sizes], a $15 value for just $5; the $5 covers shipping. Our hope is to tap into those groups of friends—whose advice you trust implicitly—and leverage that tried-and-true word of mouth to build awareness from the ground up vs. diving into paid partnerships. Optimistic? Perhaps, but we’ll see what happens.
Unisex or gender-neutral positioning in beauty and personal care has become a big trend. Odele takes an interesting approach to the trend with a “his, hers, mine, ours” positioning. The brand is inclusive and unisex in a friendly intuitive way. Can you share a little about the creative process of arriving at the positioning voice of the brand?
LH: To echo Britta’s sentiment, shareability is at the core of Odele. Our showers were packed with products … but some of the differences in what made each of those products a unique offering just didn’t feel meaningful or functionally relevant. If you have the same hair type, you could be using the same product. If you have different hair types, use different products. We felt strongly that everyone deserves “clean” (that’s table stakes—and because there are so many definitions of clean, ours is according to Target standards and EU compliant in terms of formulation and ingredients) and that everyone deserves great performance (aka products that work). When it came to scent, we’ve never been attracted to those that registered as super “feminine” or “masculine”… nor would that be something we were comfortable using on our children. We wanted to choose a beautiful natural fragrance that wasn’t polarizing and had the chance of being more universally attractive. Gender is not binary; we don’t think fragrance should be either.
The brand has a very well-articulated clean positioning. Does the business have a position on sustainability as well?
BC: Sustainability is really important to us, and we are committed to continuous improvement. Currently, our bottles and labels are 100% recyclable, and we’re moving to 25% PCR within the year. Past this initial change, we’ve got a lot of ideas that we’re pursuing in hopes that we can be on the front end of offering the most cost-effective, responsible options to the consumer and minimize our footprint.
How difficult was it to arrive at a 100% natural fragrance? What development parameters did you put in place to make a 100% natural claim?
BC: It was definitely a steep requirement, to make sure it felt balanced, gender-neutral, and worked with our formula, but it was a promise we felt important to bring to our consumers. We stuck to the strictest industry standards, with all raw materials in our fragrance being ISO 9235 certified to ensure compliance with this claim.
It seems Odele is positioned to be able to expand beyond the haircare category and perhaps be a head-to-toe brand for the whole family. Can you share your long-term vision for the brand?
LH: We love how you think! Hair will always be our first Odele baby, and we see more runway within haircare for other essentials, but wouldn’t it be great to have a bathroom full of Odele?!? The bathroom is frequently a shared space, after all, and other essential products that could be shared within households definitely extends beyond haircare.
Photo: via Odele