“It was a lightbulb moment born out of necessity,” Jacquelyn De Jesu said. “I originally searched for a shower cap using the qualifiers that I always do: best, cool, fashionable and the results were eye opening. I was confronted with gigantic satin bows, ruffles, sequins, flower rosettes, rhinestones and tacky medallions. Nothing that my friends or I would ever consider wearing, let alone admit that we did!”
De Jesu recognized quickly that there was no trusted brand or category leader in the shower cap space.
“It was a total whitespace,” De Jesu said. “The idea was too simple, to relevant, and too big of an opportunity. I knew that if I didn't do it, someone else would and I became obsessed with the idea of getting to market as quickly as possible.”
De Jesu spent a year of researching and developing her prototype in New York City’s Garment District, and her persistence in finding her manufacturer paid off when she found the right partner.
“I learned that my design could benefit from a very specific type of waterproof bonding to close the seams,” De Jesu said. “I called the manufacturer of the machines themselves and asked for a list of anyone and everyone that they sold them to. I learned that there are only a couple of these machines available for contract work. Since I knew I wanted to be Made In The USA, I had a very, very short list to go through. This was a blessing and a curse because it made each lead that much more important. One of the factories I'd heard worked with Under Armor and Nike, so I knew I'd be in good hands. The problem was that they had these big-name clients and didn't really ‘need’ my business. I called the factory owner and left a message. Then I called again a week later. And again the week after that. And again until he called me back. We had a lovely conversation once we finally connected. He has been so supportive, reliable, and excited for our growth ever since. Relationships are everything in this business.”
De Jesu saved money for the 6 months leading up to her launch of Shhhowercap.
“I knew I wanted to give it 100%, I treated every dollar like it was my last that I'd ever make from my day job,” De Jesu said. “The more I saved, the longer my lifeline because it meant the longer I had to prove my concept and turn a profit. I pulled favors from all of my friends to make the photoshoot happen. And, my dad owns a set building company which came in very handy. I negotiated at every single touchpoint from my fabric printing, retouching, shipping quotes, folded inserts, even down to the hangtags and thread. For the inventory, all I needed was the ability to make my first run to fill the pre-orders. I remember ordering so many extra Shhhowercaps because I thought that it would last me through to Christmas! It was clear from the first week the site went live that we were going to sell out. I had to make more right away! Luckily, our pre-sale lasted for 3 months, so those sales were paying to make more and more caps. Our sales fueled our growth from day one and we reinvested everything back into the business.”
De Jesu did extensive research and spent time crafting quality pitches to get her first press mentions.
“While I was in development, I started a little database of fashion, beauty, and design editors' names via their bylines, Instagram, Twitter, friend's contacts, and LinkedIn,” De Jesu said. “It is pretty easy to guess anyone's direct email once you confirm the publication's structure.”
De Jesu drew from her background working as an art director in advertising to leverage her experiences of leading photoshoots to make great images and pairing them with impactful messaging.
“In advertising, there is this common saying, ‘What would the press release say?’ It’s how you know an idea for your client is groundbreaking enough, that you would and could write a press release about it. So, when it came time for SHHHOWERCAP's I wrote my own. Combined with our eye-catching look-book photography we then started blasting it out to everyone that we possibly could. No one can tell your story like you can and along with a professional photoshoot, those two things really legitimize the pitch.”
De Jesu landed Shhhowercap’s first big feature in FastCompany, which became a pivotal moment for her business.
“I had emailed someone there and received an out of office reply with a message "If urgent contact _____" so, then I just sent my same pitch email to that other person. To me it was urgent. But, it worked! They responded immediately upon receipt and I had my interview the next day.”
The first store to carry Shhhowercap was Violet Grey, and soon after she got her first major department store account.
“One day during pre-sale, before ever shipping product, I received a sweet email from a woman asking if there was any way that she could get her Shhhowercap shipped early,” De Jesu said. “She was leaving for a trip to Hawaii and wanted to have it before she left. I looked at the signature and it was signed Anne Keating, the SVP of Public Relations at Bloomingdales. I immediately bent over backwards to get an early release from the factory and sent it with messenger and a handwritten note. She was my biggest advocate internally at Bloomingdales. She would literally forward the buyers every Shhhowercap newsletter so they could stay in the loop before they eventually placed their first order. She's our biggest fan. I think she must have at least five Shhhowercaps at this point.”
Shhhowercap has plans to continue to grow by converting women from every-day hair washers to Shhhowercap loyalists.
“Nothing excites my team and I more than converting a non-showercap user into a Shhhowercap user,” De Jesu said. “You'd be surprised how many women are putting their hair in a top knot dancing around just hoping that their hair won't get wet. But, they weren't wearing shower caps because they were always such a horrible user experience. We are changing perception of this outdated utility item and re-introducing the category to the 90% of modern women who don't wash their hair every day. For most women, the behavior is already there. That is a huge business opportunity and we intend to continue to grow and own the category. We're also seeing our waterproof turbans transcend the shower. Women are wearing them to protect a blowout in the rain, to the pool, and the beach. It's exciting to see that we've already made significant moves in bringing this ‘dirty little beauty secret’ to the forefront.”