#80. SHHHOWERCAP is not your grandma’s shower cap. We talk with founder and CEO Jackie De Jesu about reinventing an antiquated product for use both in and out of the shower—a cross between fashion-forward headwear and waterproof functionality. The Loose Threads Podcast features in-depth discussions with leaders across the rapidly changing consumer economy.
Check out the full transcript below.
Richie: [00:00:08] Welcome to the 80th of the Loose Threads Podcast, a show about the rapidly changing consumer economy. This episode is brought to you by Loose Threads Membership, which gives you actionable analysis, insights and events that drive growth, and Loose Threads Espresso, your energizing and high-pressure filter for consumer news—in context. We also have a newsletter that features the latest open letter to CEOs, podcasts with industry leaders and news from Loose Threads. Check it all out at LooseThreads.com.
Richie: [00:00:35] Joining me today is Jackie De Jesu, the founder of SHHHOWERCAP, a brand reinventing the stale and outdated shower cap. Jackie started the brand after seeking out a better toolkit so she didn’t have to wash her hair every day. This sent her down a rabbit hole to reimagine what a shower cap could be and what it could stand for.
Jackie: [00:00:53] It’s about you. It’s about your mirror moment. It’s about how you feel when you put it on. It’s about purchasing it because you wanted the upgrade for yourself—not for anyone else.
Richie: [00:01:06] What has followed is a sprawling business built around a product that people are wearing in and outside of the shower. Here’s my talk with Jackie De Jesu.
Richie: [00:01:18] So why don’t we start. Just talk a bit about your background then we can work our way up to this company existing.
Jackie: [00:01:23] So I started my career as an art director in advertising. I didn’t really have a winding career path. I pretty much went to school for that, graduated, started as a junior art director, then became a mid-level art director, then a senior art director, then an ACD.
Richie: [00:01:39] What doe that mean?
Jackie: [00:01:39] An associate creative director. And then the job that I turned down to launch my company was officially a creative director title on one of my favorite brands. But this felt bigger.
Richie: [00:01:51] So what was the first inkling of this idea? Where did it come from?
Jackie: [00:01:55] The idea came from the fact that being an art director and married to a designer, we just curate our lives based on aesthetics. I always say that it doesn’t need to be expensive purchases, but we just appreciate nicely formed things, thoughtful design. It doesn’t matter if it’s a pillow or Method soap. So that’s how we make our purchase decisions and, because of that, that’s how I search for things on the internet. When I search for well-designed, best designed, reinvented whatever—fashionable, whatever it is—doesn’t matter if it’s an air conditioner or something else—
Richie: [00:02:32] Are there nice air conditioners?
Jackie: [00:02:33] Yeah, we have one in the office. It’s beautiful. I think it is Quirky or something. But, yeah, there are in pretty much every category and those search terms normally deliver that thing. The internet is a really big place. I needed a shower cap. But when I did that for shower caps, it wasn’t that nothing turned up, it was what did. So there was a pretty deep scroll for fashionable shower caps in 2013 but they [had] sequins, bows, bedazzling, really tacky prints. Everything had that Miss Muffet shape. So working in advertising, obviously I was like, “There’s an opportunity here.” It was such a notoriously uncool thing and every brief that I had ever worked in for my entire career, you were always trying to find that tension. You were trying to find those two things combining because that’s where the unexpected power is and something that lands. So the opportunity to be able to do that for a category through product design just felt like something that I had to pursue. That’s where it started. It pretty much started immediately. It was born out of my own personal need.
Richie: [00:03:44] Talk just through the shower cap need specifically.
Jackie: [00:03:47] Yeah.
Richie: [00:03:47] For those [who] don’t necessarily know or experience that need.
Jackie: [00:03:51] So a shower cap is a waterproof head covering that you use to protect your hair from getting wet on days where you don’t shampoo it. Different hair textures, different hair types, different hair lengths have different levels of need for the product. Frequency, etc. But, generally speaking, 90% of women don’t wash their hair every day. So everyone needs one. Just the category was a little bit forgotten. Unless you are in that extreme need for the use case with your hair being extra long like mine or big and curly, etc., where it’s part of your daily routine.
Richie: [00:04:29] Yeah. For me, the hotel room comes to mind.
Jackie: [00:04:31] Yeah.
Richie: [00:04:32] Of just that plastic thing in the nice little box.
Jackie: [00:04:34] That’s a lot of people’s first go-to because it’s where it’s the most prevalent and it’s presented to you. You’re not seeking it out. But as far as the ones that women have in their bathroom, those tend to be at a $20, $16 price point with a terry cloth lining or something that makes them cute.
Richie: [00:04:57] So it’s 2013. Where does it begin after you figure out it’s the thing?
Jackie: [00:05:02] One of the first things that I did was I called a patent attorney. I wanted to understand what that process looked like because I knew that, if I was going to do it, I wanted it to be ownable. I knew I also had a long journey in front of me so I wanted to make sure that whatever I was starting from I, at least, knew what could make something patentable, what I was solving for and what that line was for what the government would deem as an invention vs. just a new type of product.
Richie: [00:05:29] What did you mean by “long journey in front of you?”
Jackie: [00:05:31] I had no idea—anything about developing a product. I had taste and I understood how to give feedback because, as an art director, that’s the skill that you hone. It’s the skill. So I had ten years of doing that which can be applied to anything, but I had no idea how to create a shape. I had no idea where to get waterproof fabrics. I didn’t understand how to fuse seams or anything that actually made this product what it is. I didn’t know anything. I didn’t even know what the shape was going to be inspired by when I first had that idea. So those were the types of things that I was just trying to figure out. But I didn’t think it was going to be quick.
Richie: [00:06:12] Did you find a good answer on the patent side?
Jackie: [00:06:15] Yeah. But I found the answer of just—I couldn’t really start any processes formally until I had something to get drawings based off of. So it had to exist. But what I did learn was what the protection means, what to expect from it. There’s two sides of that conversation. One is that it’s only as good as what you could pay to fight.
Richie: [00:06:40] Right.
Jackie: [00:06:40] And then the other is it does give you protection because a lot of the bigger companies don’t want to risk it. It’s high risk, if a patent is approved, for someone to knock you off and that’s not true if you don’t have one. So those types of things is information that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. I just basically had it validated that it was worth trying to create something that could be patentable.
Richie: [00:07:06] Where do you go from there? It sounds like you probably start with the product and the drawings.
Jackie: [00:07:10] I started with market research. So, for me, I knew that I had this need. I made that call but I remember going on GChat and literally just asking everyone who is online if they wash the hair everyday. That was it. I was like, “Hey, do you skip shampoos ever? Do you wash your hair everyday? Do you wash your hair everyday?” to like 15 different chats. Girls that I went to high school with, [with whom] I was friendly enough, but hadn’t talked to in a while. I just wanted some sort of sampling. And the majority of them said no. It was a very, very small sampling but, for me, that was enough to take the first step and go forward. Basically, the validation that no one was washing their hair everyday in combination with the follow up question of if they used a shower cap—the first answer being yes, usually. And the second answer being no, usually—that was enough for me. Because I was like, “I’m gonna make one that everyone will want to use because it will bring joy.” It’ll feel good when you put it on versus feeling bad.
Richie: [00:08:09] And so it did, before this, have—would you say it had a stigma around it?
Jackie: [00:08:12] Oh, yeah. Completely. It’s becoming more ownable now. There’s a “dirty hair don’t care” hashtag on Instagram. Prior to 2013. The behavior is becoming more ownable but it’s still stigmatized. I’d definitely say that women recognize that none of us are washing our hair everyday but fratty dudes will be like, “Ew.” There’s still that. But the actual stigma around the product was a grandma connotation. I did a survey while I was in development, just a SurveyMonkey, to ask, on a scale of one to ten, what people thought of or associated with shower caps when they thought of them. I put in everything that I could think of and then I said “other.” They ranked them from one to ten but other was over and over and over again, “grandma-like,” “grandma-ish”, “grandma-ish,” “grandma,” “grandma-like,” “grandma,” “grandma,” “grandma,” “grandma,” “grandma,” out of a blank fill-in-the-blank. That goes back to the tension, which is that it wasn’t just that it wasn’t cool. It was that people hated them. People hated them. And even if you were someone like me who had to use one, it wasn’t something that you enjoyed. So it was either you actively didn’t like it so, therefore, you didn’t purchase one and you just would put your hair up in a top-knot and then it would get wet anyway and then you’d waste time blowing it out when you never really had to. I always say that it’s like walking when cars existed just because you hated cars.
Jackie: [00:09:43] But that whole piece is what I think launched us, was that we came out the gates with the confidence to be like, “This is a fashion item now.” It never was before but now it is. And that tension became validated. Our price point was higher. And those are the types of things that are very intentionally laddered up to the fact that it could be a coveted item in a space that was typically the opposite of it.
Richie: [00:10:11] So, knowing what you had to surmount given the connotations, how did you go about designing this from a product perspective and breaking down all of that stigma?
Jackie: [00:10:21] Good design, to me, is when usability and aesthetics are in balance. Form and function. Those things should be in unison, not sacrificing one or the other in product design or design, really, in general. So, for me, it was like: How fashionable can it be and how big or small does the back pocket need to be so that it fits all the hair? And what is the best solution from a perspective that this could be ownable, but also would have longevity? I didn’t want it to be jocking some head covering trend that was going to disappear. So that’s where I landed in this turban-inspired world because in every decade for the past century, it’s been on the heads of fashionable women in some variation of the other. Being inspired by all of that, head wraps and head coverings in that regard and then applying it to something that was simple enough that it could become ours.
Richie: [00:11:15] And so, given we’re on a podcast and there’s nothing to see, how would you describe some of the pieces of it to overcome and to do stuff differently as you iterated through it?
Jackie: [00:11:26] Aesthetically, looks-wise, it looks like a chic turban. It has a little bit more room in the back because that’s where the hair sits but from front on, you really wouldn’t know. That pleat in the front is where we get the turban look. It’s not a big knot on top of it. It’s kind of pinched and fans out and then there’s elastic in the back. They come in a bunch of fashionable prints so that’s another area where we get to insert good taste where there wasn’t before. It’s made out of a nanotech fabric so the water just rolls right off. If you’ve seen those viral videos that pour the ketchup on the white shirt and it doesn’t stain, it’s that same technology applied to this. So it has the hand feel of a tightly woven, luxurious linen but it’s 100% waterproof. It’s really thin and light so it doesn’t have that crinkly plastic. And then, as far as the functionality pieces in the design, there’s a rubber grip on the inside that provides a better hairline protection so water doesn’t seep in. It doesn’t pop off and it also doesn’t leave a mark like the rubber-banded ones do. That was a problem. The biggest thing for me is that all of the hair sits in the back so that you’re not sacrificing anything but, because of that, we actually put ours on differently than other shower caps. You scoop it up and over as opposed to when there’s the elastic all around you can just stretch it out completely and pull it on from top to bottom. I hope that painted enough of a picture.
Richie: [00:13:01] So how many prototypes do you go through before you realize you have something you actually can put out there?
Jackie: [00:13:06] I used the Garment District in New York City and one of the unique pieces of my story is that, normally, designers will design the thing perfectly, make the paper pattern and then go to the sample rooms and I used my sample rooms as prototype iterations. So I was sketching something, bringing them sketches, having them make it out of muslin, trying to get the shape right and iterating that way. I wish I counted because I get asked this question a lot, but I know that I was doing it for probably a year and a half and I went through at least 15.
Richie: [00:13:43] When did you know, on the 15th or whatever it was? When did you feel ready?
Jackie: [00:13:48] Yeah, so I knew I was getting close because I put it on and I actually felt something. The other ones felt like I was trying to jockey a turban trend and make it apply to the space as opposed to, when I got in the family of where we landed for the first time, we—I say we, [but] it was me this entire development process. Now, we’re a we. But when I had gotten in that family, I felt like it was mine when I put it on and I also carried myself a little bit taller. So that made me feel like it was right but, through that, I had to spend a lot of time basically seeing how small that back pocket could be while also knowing that I could fit any type of hair ’cause I know my girl has every length, braids, everything. So I’d say, probably, four after that. And it was when I could fit a towel in the back, but it was still chic enough. So it was like a hand towel wrapped up in the pocket in addition to my hair which is down to the middle of my back while that was still chic enough that I could wear it outside. And then that piece was really interesting because I tested it walking around and just seeing if I could feel good in it in public. And that’s when I knew I could, when people weren’t looking at me funny.
Richie: [00:15:12] Interesting. And were you getting reactions or the goal is to not get any reaction?
Jackie: [00:15:17] The goal was to not get any reaction.
Richie: [00:15:17] Just to blend in.
Jackie: [00:15:18] Yeah because if I was wearing a shower cap people would be looking at me funny, right?
Richie: [00:15:20] Was it weird or did it take convincing for the pattern and the sample and those places—had they ever worked on an object like this? Were you at an apparel shop?
Jackie: [00:15:31] Yeah, I was at a traditional apparel shop. When I went to go get a working prototype with my few seams that had to be someone who had that machine and, therefore, had experience with swimwear and activewear. But, when I was first doing it, it was just like, “Hey, garment district info center, can you print me out a list of all of the sample rooms from 38th between 7th and 8th?” And I just would go in and say, “Hey, can you help me make this?” And then someone would say, “No, we don’t do stuff like that.” And they’d recommend me to someone else who would, of course, be down the block because it’s the Garment District and I would just walk over there. It was really just about finding the people [who] were willing to work with me—and I was willing to pay the $35 bucks or whatever it was for each iteration—but it was more about making sure that they trusted that I didn’t have any background, I didn’t have a card with a brand name that they recognized. It was just about people to be honest.
Richie: [00:16:33] Yeah. Okay, so you have a product now that you feel you can launch. Where is the branding and the aesthetic and other marketing plans at this point?
Jackie: [00:16:45] I built the brand before I had the product. I had a logo. I had business cards. I had a microsite with a landing page and a fill-out form. I was basically collecting data on the women [whom] I was talking to on the street about their hair habits because that’s a big part of dev, was, while I was running back and forth to sample rooms, anyone that I met that had any type of hair I would be like, “Do you wash it everyday? I have a super random question. Do you wash your hair everyday?” But it was through those conversations that I got a lot of the insights that I folded into what the final product was. The brand was the first thing that I built because it was what I knew how to do. I didn’t know how to design a product, but I definitely knew how to design a logo, pick a color palette. I knew how to identify a brand voice which is still, even to this day, an exacerbation of my personal voice. Just a little sassy and outspoken, confident, brash sometimes. Those types of things were what came naturally and, therefore, what I started with because it made it feel real. Obviously, I could design the product, but to be able to have something that substantiated it from the start was a big piece of it. So I had had all that stuff but the lookbook shoot was the thing that really was the last piece before we could launch it to the world.
Richie: [00:18:07] And did you have the name at that point?
Jackie: [00:18:08] Yeah.
Richie: [00:18:09] Talk about that process.
Jackie: [00:18:10] I knew that I wanted it to be fun to say and ownable. I also knew that I wanted to lean really heavily with the visuals as far as how we approach the brand and that a lot of the coolness was going to be from us not having to sell so hard and we still do that. We don’t really talk about blowouts and we don’t really say, “This is the most fashionable shower cap.” We just show pictures. A picture is worth a thousand words, as they say. Have you heard that phrase before?
Richie: [00:18:40] Of course.
Jackie: [00:18:43] So, because of those things, I also wanted to do the same thing with the packaging. I wanted to make sure that when someone saw the logo, it didn’t have to be a separate name that then said, “This is a shower cap.”
Richie: [00:18:57] Right. It was all-inclusive.
Jackie: [00:18:58] Yeah. But I will say that I didn’t have some sort of brainstorming powwow with 14 people for a naming session. It really just came to me and I was like, “That’s amazing because it doesn’t look like a shower cap, it’s far enough from the actual category name that I probably could trademark it.” And as soon as I knew that something that simple was ownable, I was just like, “There’s no other word. Why would I try to beat this?” And it became what it was.
Richie: [00:19:27] How do you pronounce it?
Jackie: [00:19:29] This is my favorite part. So it depends how cheeky we’re feeling.
Richie: [00:19:33] Wait, spell it first and then pronounce it.
Jackie: [00:19:33] It’s S-H-H-H-O-W-E-R-C-A-P. But a lot of times, we’ll, just around the office, say “shower cap,” not even hold the H’s. But if I’m on a podcast, I’ll be like “SHHHOWERCAP.” Just a beat. “SHHHOWERCAP”.
Richie: [00:19:51] It’s subtle. Yeah I was expecting something a lot more.
Jackie: [00:19:53] Sometimes it sounds like a lisp. But if we’re really pushing it and we’re having fun with it, it’s like “Shhhhhhhhhhhhowercap.” In videos, we hold it a little bit longer.
Richie: [00:20:04] Not that long.
Jackie: [00:20:05] Yeah, not that long.
Richie: [00:20:06] Okay. For some reason, I thought it would be more. Maybe because it’s in all caps, it seems louder that it is, but it’s actually rather subtle.
Jackie: [00:20:12] Yeah.
Richie: [00:20:13] And it’s ownable.
Jackie: [00:20:13] That’s the other thing. We really do like to put it always in all caps. My husband worked for vitaminwater and vitaminwater was always lower case and that always stuck with me because it always, in the body copy of an e-mail when the logo wasn’t there, it still separated it and gave it its own presence. So we did that with caps.
Richie: [00:20:32] Okay so you have the branding, you have a lookbook now, you have a name and you have a product.
Jackie: [00:20:37] Yep.
Richie: [00:20:37] How do you figure out how to launch this and how does that go?
Jackie: [00:20:40] So I knew I wanted to do a presale just to test the waters. We didn’t raise any money and I wanted proof of concept before I thought about it again.
Richie: [00:20:53] Or bought a bunch of inventory.
Jackie: [00:20:55] Oh, I bought the inventory.
Richie: [00:20:57] Oh, you did.
Jackie: [00:20:57] Yeah.
Richie: [00:20:57] So it was like a half presale.
Jackie: [00:20:58] Well, I still had a presale, but it wasn’t a Kickstarter.
Richie: [00:21:03] Okay.
Jackie: [00:21:03] So I invested in a thousand pieces and I had a presale for it so that I didn’t have to have the logistics figured out, quite frankly, and I could focus on what I knew how to do which is sell, pitch, sell, pitch, sell, pitch. And it didn’t matter if I was doing that on social or if I was doing that with an editor at a deskside. I worked in advertising so it’s the thing that you’re really taught—
Richie: [00:21:30] Supposed to be good at.
Jackie: [00:21:30] Yeah, exactly. Really taught how to do. So when I went to go launch, I wrote a press release. It’s a little “outdated.” But for this product, I think it was really unnecessary because I didn’t have a PR team so it gave me an opportunity to tell the story of why this was important, why it was disruptive and a little bit more about me, in the process, without having to get a chance to sit down in front of the editor of Fast Company or Vogue. I launched the site and I wrote that press release and I collected the bylines of everything that I was reading that I thought could be relevant. I had a couple of friends [who] worked in PR that helped out or advised just the best approach which was, effectively, play it cool and be confident because they’re getting pitches all day, everyday so you want to look like you want them to know about it which is really, truly how I felt. They’re writing about products all the time, especially in beauty, and it’s very rare that any sort of invention comes from anyone outside of a big brand and their innovation hub. They responded just that they were so happy to not have to be writing about another red lipstick. I heard that multiple times so I think it’s something within the industry.
Jackie: [00:23:00] I wrapped my head around the fact that one piece of advice that was given to me was that it’s their job to come up with compelling content. As much as it seems like this unattainable goal to get press on your own, if what you’re doing is interesting enough and your images are beautiful and you lead with good design and you’re professional and respectful then, really, at the end of the day, they need to be pumping out at this point hundreds of pieces of content, each editor. So that helped me understand it a little bit more. It was not so scary.
Jackie: [00:23:33] But I had a subject line. It was “Not your grandma’s shower cap,” and I attached the press release and I attached the images and I wrote an email being like, “Hey, I reinvented the shower cap. Someone needed to do it and it was me. I hope you love it. I would love to chat.” And Fast Company picked it up the day after the site went live. I think the site went live on August 16th, 2015 and then Fast Company wrote back on the 17th. I had my interview on the 18th and it went live, the article, “Reinventing the Shower Cap for the Modern Woman,” with my sketches and everything on the 20th. So that kicked it off and validated it for the rest of what was to come. I feel very fortunate that that’s what happened, but it wasn’t an accident. It was because we invested in making sure that the lookbook felt a certain way and I spent time on the brand and it felt like we had $2 million in funding when we didn’t at all. I think that that’s a testament to the power of branding in launching a business.
Jackie: [00:24:42] In general, I hear a lot of this, it’s becoming more and more accepted or understood now because the average consumer is so much more tuned in, but it’s the price of entry. You can do a lot with a little if you know what you’re looking for as far as anyone, externally, to help you. But the education and understanding [of] what makes a brand tick and what makes a brand feel authentic is more important than understanding how your margins work, quite frankly.
Richie: [00:25:14] Yeah.
Jackie: [00:25:14] Because as long as there’s enough room, you can figure those things out. I feel like it’s my personal mission to shift the focus to understanding and educating the importance of founders, really, at their core, understanding a brand and not just hiring a branding agency. Because you can hire the best people in the world, but if you don’t understand, [as] the decision maker, how to steer that ship every single day, then it doesn’t matter what your brand book is given. It doesn’t matter who’s working on it.
Richie: [00:25:49] Did you have a goal in mind for the launch? Did you have a number? How did you expectation set?
Jackie: [00:25:55] I was like, “I hope people like this.”
Richie: [00:25:58] That’s pretty good. Most people have numbers.
Jackie: [00:25:59] Yeah. No, I had no numbers because I had no one to please. For me, what success looked like was if this thing clicked, if I sold through my inventory. It was 1,000. I could have ordered 300. I could have ordered 200. 1,000 is kind of a lot.
Richie: [00:26:16] So you kind of had a number.
Jackie: [00:26:17] I guess, but it wasn’t like, “990! Ten more to go!” It was not that at all. It was just like, “I hope that this thing lands the way that I think it will.” I wanted to place a replenishment order, but it wasn’t about the numbers. It was about the thing that I designed nailing the brief that I had created for myself which was make this thing cool. Have this thing be validated by Vogue, by anyone else. Not just as a new type of shower cap but a new type of thing and actually shift the perception. That, to me, was what success looked like, was would people think this brand is cool?
Richie: [00:26:57] So when did you start to feel that after the launch? When did that start to kick in?
Jackie: [00:27:01] Literally the day it did. I had a soft launch I guess. I put the link up on Facebook because I had been talking about dev just on my personal networks and being like, “I’m reinventing the shower cap. Watch me.” That was kind of interesting when I saw orders coming in that people, that I knew were immediately taking out their credit cards and paying $43 dollars for this thing which also, admittedly, is—we’ve raised the bar on the price point in this category and what luxury could be defined as. It’s an under $50 gift item but still there’s category perception that it shouldn’t cost that much. So when I saw that people were actually purchasing and excited about it and then tweeting that a certain print was coming or that they chose one because they all have really fun names and people self-identify. They know exactly which one is theirs almost immediately. So that’s been really interesting. But we were selling pretty immediately. We sold $15,000 in the first two weeks of goods with, I think, a $400 Facebook investment.
Richie: [00:28:13] That’s pretty good.
Jackie: [00:28:13] Yeah.
Richie: [00:28:14] So we’re in fall of 2015 now. The thing’s out in the world. Where do you start to focus your time for the rest of that year?
Jackie: [00:28:22] A fun part of my story is that my presale was supposed to be a soft launch but once Fast Company picked it up, it was very much my launch-launch. That was end of August. So now we’re in September and October. My wedding was November 6th so the plan was if it keeps going like this, go get married, honeymoon. If it’s still revving then I get a WeWork. I don’t go back to advertising. If it peters off—
Richie: [00:28:50] Were you still at your other job?
Jackie: [00:28:52] I quit my full-time job and I was freelancing.
Richie: [00:28:55] Gotcha.
Jackie: [00:28:55] But I was freelancing at one place for, probably, about six or seven months and then that was the one that offered me full-time and I walked away in July to do the shoot and then launch the site and then that’s kind of the timeline. So got married early November, came back. It was still going crazy to the point where we actually had the opportunity to be featured in The New York Mag Gift Guide. When they reached out, they were like, “You’re in. It’s not even a question, but you can’t be in presale. You have to be live with inventory that can be delivered by the time that it hits newsstands and it hits newsstands on the 21st.” And I didn’t have time to transfer to a fulfillment house. At that point, all my inventory was in my living room. Thank god the caps pack super, super flat so I could. But New York Mag really, really blew it up too. And that was, then, when we shipped out all of the thousands of the presale orders and we flipped the switch live. So there was another nice gift guide push because now, all of a sudden, we were live and out of presale. And then it just hasn’t really slowed down ever since.
Jackie: [00:30:03] But the plan for the year was, “Okay, go get a desk at WeWork.” I started out in the shared common space and then I moved up to a shared desk. I was there for another couple of months and then I got an intern and then I moved into a two-person and then I met Lisa, who is our Head of Operations. And then we designed packaging so we could go into retail and we launched with Bloomingdale’s and we launched with Sephora. That opened a whole other side of the business for us. But ecomm just kept growing, [steadily] growing. The plan for the year was make sure we can make enough because it was, I want to say it was about four times more successful than I thought it was going to be at launch.
Richie: [00:30:49] Were you making the stuff in New York still?
Jackie: [00:30:51] Mhm. I didn’t make everything in New York. My first factory was on the West Coast. Still in the mix but now we have four factories working for us.
Richie: [00:31:00] Did you give them away as gifts at the wedding?
Jackie: [00:31:03] I didn’t. I’m really not one of those founders—as much as it’s a part of my life—that wants it in the private parts of my life.
Richie: [00:31:11] Yeah, or wants it everywhere.
Jackie: [00:31:12] I don’t know why. It just doesn’t resonate with me. I really like that it’s my product and it’s my baby but—I don’t have kids, I have no babies. But I really respond to the French method of parenting. It’s [that] the marriage and that relationship is core and that the baby is supported, but that’s as good as this is. And I feel that way about myself. Which is I need to stay core, this is my livelihood, but I do like to keep a line.
Richie: [00:31:41] Cool. So we’re in 2016 now.
Jackie: [00:31:43] Yeah, we are.
Richie: [00:31:44] There is some force behind this.
Jackie: [00:31:45] Yeah.
Richie: [00:31:46] How do you think about where it goes from there given it’s kind of running?
Jackie: [00:31:51] It was very much about making sure that the model was sustainable and that we could continue the level of growth at which we had started. I didn’t want a story where that dipped. And I didn’t want a story where that dipped while we figured it out. So I just wanted to make sure that we were supported and that it was truly scalable. Everything from our supply chain which, thank god, the decisions that I made early on actually were scalable. The factory that did our first run of a thousand was able to scale to thousands and thousands. Same thing with our mill, etc. But it was very much about making sure that all of the pieces were there, that there was no major hole that I wasn’t thinking about. Making sure that I had advisors around me [whom] I could reach out to if I needed some kind of big picture or even just people with experience, advice and keeping the ball afloat. We had started guns blazing and I’m not the type of person to go backwards from something like that. So we just leaned in even harder. So it was like how hard, how fast? And then also structure, structure, structure and stability, stability, stability as much as we possibly could while we were running as fast as we can.
Jackie: [00:33:10] But, for me, it was telling the story and the brand narrative and making sure that we were spending time with our customers because the biggest piece is that it’s not really about the press and it’s really not about the retailers that have picked it up. It’s the genuine love for the product itself. We can just tell people that it exists and be confident that, once they get it, they’ll love it because we see that. We have a super, super, super low return rate and for an ecommerce company, that’s really notable especially for a higher price point combination of things. It was just making sure that we were primed to scale because every year it’s just been exponential.
Richie: [00:33:55] Talk a bit more about the customer piece in terms of: how were you talking to people [who] had a shower cap in their life? And then were you also talking to people [who] never did before and were taking their first leap with your product?
Jackie: [00:34:08] So, from a brand messaging perspective, we catch the women [who] use shower caps frequently because those are the women [who] have a palpable distaste for what they were using. That’s a little bit of the more, “Hey, shower caps are cool now,” and then we’ll get them. For everyone else, that’s where we spend most of our time. We say that our competition is the top knot because that’s the girl. It’s the girl who’s not washing her hair everyday but also not using a shower cap [who] I think is our sweet spot. For her, it’s just very much about destigmatizing the behavior. We talk a lot about 90% of women not washing their hair every day because it’s like, “Girl, you’re not alone. None of us are doing it. And, also, you’re actually smarter because you’re saving time.” That piece lands. It doesn’t matter if she’s an 80-year-old woman on the Upper East Side or a 14-year-old cheerleader from Texas. The ability to have more hours in your day is a universal desire of most women. By cutting down on your washes and using a product that you don’t need to touch up your hair afterwards, we really are providing that.
Jackie: [00:35:18] A lot of female empowerment. We talk a lot about never settling. So, as far as company brand and mission, that’s true for me not settling for what was out there and starting the process. But also, as it translates to our customer, not settling for a less-than experience. There’s no reason that anything in your life should not make you feel good when you use it or put it on. That sentiment also is true to people’s core. So it’s not really about shower caps. It’s about, “Why do you think you deserve a moldy, smelly piece of plastic that makes you feel like a lesser version of yourself?” That’s a lot of what we say.
Richie: [00:35:59] So it’s a much more higher order sell.
Jackie: [00:36:01] Yeah, yeah. I mean we treat it like a fashion lifestyle brand and that’s been true since day one. Everything from pulling little cues like using hang tags or calling it a collection or having a lookbook for a shower cap. That was in the original press release. It was like, “Click here to see the look book. Yes, a shower cap with a lookbook.” But that also translates to how we talk about the brand from an advertising perspective. We lead with the very heavy visuals. We try not to say a lot and, when we do, we don’t lean into the fact that it’s a shower cap because there’s such a stigmatized category perception. So we talk about the product benefits.
Richie: [00:36:39] It’s an interesting paradox though, going back to the name even.
Jackie: [00:36:41] Yeah.
Richie: [00:36:42] Was there a part of you that said, “Actually, we should call this something totally different because of that stigma.” Or was it “We want to overwrite the stigma and that’s the best way?”
Jackie: [00:36:49] We want to overwrite the stigma. My personal thing that I would say to everyone was, “I’m reinventing the shower cap. I’m going to make the shower cap cool.” Those two sentences. So I wanted it to have some sort of tie there.
Richie: [00:37:03] It seems that the obvious place to where this thing would be is in the shower, but it also sounds like there is a lot more wider resonance about where this thing gets worn and I’m curious to hear more about that.
Jackie: [00:37:12] That’s one of the most exciting pieces for me as far as where we’re going is we’ve disrupted this shower cap space but I think because we over-indexed in design and how it looks and how women feel when they put it on, once they have it, it translates to these different places where waterproof head coverings are necessary. We’ve seen women on the subway wearing it on rainy days underneath their umbrellas, swimming, splashing in the pool. We have a lot of women [who], because it’s already in their bathroom hanging up, they use it to hold their hair back while they put on face masks or they’ll keep it on when they step out of the shower while they put on their makeup. All of these things that never existed before because, normally, you would want to take it off as soon as you put it on. Never keep it on or have any reason to put it on your head more often.
Jackie: [00:38:04] So that’s something that, not only am I really proud of because I feel like it validates that original brief of changing perception of what this category could be, but also, from a business perspective, it makes it much much bigger. I think we tackled the niche market thing with 90% percent of women not washing their hair everyday. It really didn’t matter about how many women were using shower caps. It was about the behavior and that’s what we saw really early on and we still do. It’s core to the brand. But those types of different waterproof head-covering necessities and those use cases are where this, I think, becomes a billion-dollar brand.
Richie: [00:38:42] And then talk briefly about 2017 and then into this year in terms of what have been the focus areas? And then how do you look going forward?
Jackie: [00:38:52] 2017 is very much about closing the year strong. We had had incredible growth from zero in 2015 and ratcheting it up hundreds and hundreds of percents each year. But 2017 was very much like we have a number. We want to hit it. If we’re going to say no to VC for now and do it this self-funded way and we want that to be our story, this is what that year needs to end like. And, also, this is what that year needs to end like so that we can go into 2018 on fire. So, up until this point, I hadn’t launched any sort of overhaul new collection. In 2017, we took that same core piece of our strategy–we’re the most fashionable shower cap, we’re making the shower cap cool—and we amplified it. We had a fashion show for the launch of Season 2, a totally legit fashion show with incredible professional models. Our friends at EBC and our PR team, Azione, really did a great job of packing the room. But I pulled out everything that I ever knew about experiential advertising and made it a vibe and really took it to the next level that way in a very public way. We never had a launch party because we were self-funded, so this was that coming out moment for us. It also really built some nice excitement about us dropping a new collection for the first time. So that was that and that took us into Christmas.
Jackie: [00:40:27] The start of 2018 is really about building the team. We just hired a full-time Head of Growth. I got an EA for the first time which is probably something that I’ve needed since August of 2015 when that Fast Company piece went live. So those two hires are key for me because I feel like they support me on both sides of what I was feeling super taxed by. We’re growing the team and building the culture. Now it’s not just me and Lisa. It’s me Lisa, Maurice, Renee and Tara and Alex and Tony.
Richie: [00:41:01] Lots of names.
Jackie: [00:41:01] Yeah, lots of names. That’s so cool.
Richie: [00:41:04] Yeah, that’s the “we.”
Jackie: [00:41:06] That’s the “we,” yeah. That piece of things is so important to me because I think, probably more than most founders, I value my team so much because they really are the lifeblood of what we’re doing. I launched it by myself but I could not do this on my own. The fact that they believe in me and they believe in what we’re building and they’re excited every single day, not only for their individual roles but the company as a whole, and that they take a lot of pride in their work, those things could make me cry on a dime. So that’s really where my head is at. Creating an incredible, inspiring, creative space that is making tons of money.
Jackie: [00:41:53] As we look to the future, we’re a female-focused design and innovation company. So SHHHOWERCAP is our first product launch, but I’m not going to take over the bath space. That’s not really my M.O. I’m much more excited about invention and design to solve problems and building great brands around those things. So that’s really what the future holds. We’re already working on a couple of things like that while we continue to scale these companies.
Richie: [00:42:25] So the company started online. You talked about starting to go into wholesale, Bloomingdale’s and so forth. In Bulletin of course. Is there a physical footprint of your own that is in the pipeline? How do you think about how all those things coexist?
Jackie: [00:42:37] We act and support ourselves like a D2C brand but it’s really important I think, especially because we’re self-funded and this is also a patented invention, that we have a physical footprint and the validation of major retailers and industry leaders, like the Sephoras of the world, like Violet Grey. Luxury beauty, too, is still very much a place where women want to shop and they want to experience and they want the recommendations of the people in the know and that can’t be ignored. So I think that the whole “retail is dead thing,” for me, it’s proven not to be true, very much not to be true but also, specifically, because of what we’re selling. But ecomm is the majority of the business and retail is a huge opportunity for us to continue to grow and gain the brand notoriety.
Jackie: [00:43:30] As far as our physical footprint, we are planning to do probably a pop-up for holiday. There are a lot of opportunities for interim blowout salons or things that ladder up more to our girls’ behavior. I love the idea of like a “Lazy Girl Salon,” where it’s just everything you need, in and out, no one talks to you. Things like that’ll be fun to play with, but I don’t know that we necessarily need a space of our own until we move into a headquarters that might have an opportunity for a Glossier penthouse-type model. That feels right.
Richie: [00:44:07] What’s been the cheapest and most expensive lesson you’ve learned building the company?
Jackie: [00:44:12] Most expensive lesson I’ve learned—cheap isn’t always better. We had found a new factory [that] squeezed us in. He had his own fashion line and when they were done with their seasons, they were going to do this for us. So we needed the scale and we’re were like, “Here, take a couple thousand caps.” They rushed through them and fixing it was so annoying, but everything happens for a reason. That was definitely the more expensive lesson I learned I think.
Jackie: [00:44:46] The cheapest lesson I learned is that money is a tool. You could put a little bit and get a lot back if you put it in the right place. Investing in $400 worth of Facebook ads in the beginning helped. That’s not a big media buy for the launch of a company, but it definitely helped. It was those types of little seeds of not being afraid to bring Lisa on when, quite frankly, we probably couldn’t support it from a profit perspective, a leadership salary. But those are the types of things where you have to spend money to make money. I hate that phrase, but it’s more about not being afraid of it and recognizing that, in business, [money] is way more valuable out working for you than it is in your bank account.
Richie: [00:45:41] Yeah.
Jackie: [00:45:41] Don’t get me wrong. Obviously, you need cash flow to sustain a business. But that seems to be a universal hurdle for people [who] don’t have funding—is where to spend the money and how much is okay. And everyone’s trying to nickel and dime everyone. Of course, we’re still trying to get efficiencies from everything that we do, but it’s worth it to invest in an overhaul of your website. It’s worth it for investing in inventory when you don’t know how a product’s gonna sell because it’s better to be prepared. If I tried to skimp and only get a couple hundred in that first beginning, I would have been really in a bad spot. It’s those bets and, wherever you can, making the small ones that can turn into the big ones and just continuing to reinvest.
Richie: [00:46:25] And then, as you look into the future—year four, five, six—what are you most excited about and what’s on the horizon?
Jackie: [00:46:33] I’m definitely more—not more, but most excited about building the team because that, to me, is allowing me to rise to the leadership that I’ve always had. I used to have teams in advertising and it was weird when I didn’t really have one. So now that we do, it feels much more natural to me but continuing to grow that.
Jackie: [00:46:54] And then the different use cases and the paradigm shift. There’s no reason that Nicole Kidman should ever have a scene where she’s wearing a regular shower cap because that character, chances are, that she’s playing is not a woman [who], in 2018, would wear an old-school shower cap. So those types of things and the paradigm shift and the culture shift and the perception are definitely what excites me the most. We had Issa Rae’s team reach out to request caps for Issa on HBO’s “Insecure.” So more things like that which is like, yeah, Issa would probably wear a SHHHOWERCAP. And those types of things are where I get the most excited because it means that this thing that I put out into the world in 2015 is actually making moves. And it’s making moves because she found out about it from someone who used it and loved it—not from a placement agency.
Richie: [00:47:55] Yeah. Absolutely. Awesome. Anything else we didn’t cover that you want to?
Jackie: [00:47:59] I think it’s really interesting, the male gaze perception of why people shouldn’t care about how they look in the shower. That’s always been really interesting to me. Before I launched and then in the early stages, there was such a disconnect between why the product was needed because people would literally say, “But no one sees you.” It’s just so crazy to me because that came up all the time and it’s not about anyone else. People couldn’t comprehend why you would want that moment for yourself to feel great and that was really eye-opening for me, the few people that I heard that from but it happened more than once.
Richie: [00:48:38] It’s good you’re reversing that.
Jackie: [00:48:39] Yeah. It’s about you. It’s about your mirror moment. It’s about how you feel when you put it on. It’s about purchasing it because you wanted the upgrade for yourself, not for anyone else. If your roommate sees you and compliments you on your shower cap, all the better. But it was never about that.
Richie: [00:48:55] Awesome. Thanks so much for talking.
Jackie: [00:48:56] Thank you.
Richie: [00:49:01] Thanks for listening to the Loose Threads Podcast. You can read full transcripts of the podcast and join the newsletter at LooseThreads.com. Feel free to leave review on iTunes. We always appreciate it. And thanks to George Drake Jr. for editing this episode. We have a great roster of upcoming guests including Melissa Mash of Dagne Dover, Miki Berardelli of Kidbox and Barry Beck of Bluemercury. Thanks for listening and talk to you soon.