Beauty is important. It is not superficial, but essential to how we all feel about ourselves. We’ve learned so much about the foundational language and understanding of beauty. And it’s startling to find just how deep it runs. Take the time to go beyond the surface. Like many industries, beauty is incredibly competitive. Your best chance at success is to be something different, to stand for something. You need an anchor, and it’s hard to anchor on a surface.
As a part of our series about “Five Things You Need To Know To Succeed In Modern Beauty Industry”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dion Hughes.
Dion Hughes, an award-winning creative director and brand consultant, is also the co-founder of HiBAR, the fastest-growing, zero-waste hair care company in the US. He believes in the potential of creativity to deliver outsized business impact. Originally from Australia, Hughes now calls Minneapolis home.
Thank you so much for doing this with us Dion! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
My co-founders have all been involved in beauty or natural products for their entire careers. For me, beauty is one of the few categories I have not worked in. That all changed when I realized how much plastic I had in my shower. I went looking for a high-performing, plastic-free brand of shampoo and conditioner, and could not find one. I started to think about how to solve that problem, and before you know it, here I am.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
The most interesting thing to me is how this idea of a salon quality, plastic-free, solid shampoo just seems to want to exist, with or without us. It’s like the universe is saying ‘make it happen.’ We were looking to do an Earth Day event, screening a documentary about plastic, and hosting a discussion panel about the future beyond plastic. We weren’t happy with the selection of documentaries, and happened to mention this to our friends at Tare Market (a zero-waste market in Minneapolis). They said ‘Have you met Sergio? He’s a guy from Easter Island who made a fantastic documentary about plastic (Eating Up Easter.) He lives just down the street.’ It’s one of thousands of weird coincidences that have powered us along.
Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Are there takeaways or lessons that others can learn from that?
When we started thinking about our product and brand, almost every single industry expert told us that the world was not ready for a plastic-free brand. But we were absolutely certain that they were wrong, or, would eventually be wrong, given the pace at which plastic waste was entering our environment. The tipping point for us was something we knew would eventually happen, we just did not know when. And it had nothing to do with us. In 2019, the issue of plastic pollution really hit the headlines. National Geographic devoted an issue to it, Earth Day was themed around plastic, David Attenborough’s Blue Planet 2 focused on plastic pollution, and then along came Greta Thunberg, who just shone the brightest light on our collective responsibility to take action. So, very early on, our product went from ‘cute idea’ to part of a bigger answer to a huge problem.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person to whom you are grateful who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
There are so many people who have helped us out, but because she was the very first person we spoke to about our idea, and one of the very few who was pragmatically encouraging, I’d say Monica Nassif, founder of Caldrea and Mrs. Myers. She kindly met with us and in the space of an hour sharply analyzed our idea, saved us from making some huge blunders, identified our challenges, and at the end, said ‘yes, I think you have something.’ We’ll be forever grateful, to Monica, and to the hundreds of subsequent generous people.
Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. The global beauty industry today has grown to more than a half a trillion dollar business. Can you tell us about the innovations that you are bringing to the industry? How do you think that will help people?
We look at the aisles and aisles of plastic in any salon, drug store, supermarket or specialty store. Every single one of those products is a potential for re-imagining, not just in its packaging, but also in its form. We know that’s a tall order, but we hope that by us and others tackling a few select categories and building customer awareness and demand for such innovations, we make the case for more of the same, on a much grander and impactful scale.
Can you share 3 things that most excite you about hair care?
1. Hair is so immediately visible and expressive. It can tell the world what kind of day you’re having, how you’re feeling, where we come from and where we’re going.
2. The chemistry of hair care is so incredibly sophisticated, but the technology has outpaced its responsibility to be mindful of the planet. The beauty industry can legitimately broaden the context of beauty. Beauty can no longer be part of the ugly.
3. Given that it’s now possible to create high-quality hair care solutions that are also respectful of the environment, we’re excited by the prospect of people caring not just about how they look, but also, building into that an explicit statement of how they intend to make a positive impact upon the world.
You are an expert about hair care. Can you share a few ideas that anyone can use “to feel beautiful”?
Feeling beautiful is about self-confidence. And that can come from what you see in a selfie — and of course, we want to help make sure that your hair is healthy — but the self-confidence needs to come from somewhere deeper. Your own self-confidence can come from how you see yourself without a mirror. How you hold yourself. How you face the world. The connection to your core. The feeling you have when you step out the front door. That is beauty that is there for everyone.
Here is the main question for our discussion. Based on your experience and success, Can you please share “Five Things You Need To Know To Succeed In The Modern Beauty Industry”. Please share a story or an example, for each.
1. Beauty is important. It is not superficial, but essential to how we all feel about ourselves. We’ve learned so much about the foundational language and understanding of beauty. And it’s startling to find just how deep it runs. Take the time to go beyond the surface. Like many industries, beauty is incredibly competitive. Your best chance at success is to be something different, to stand for something. You need an anchor, and it’s hard to anchor on a surface.
2. Ask around for advice. We talked to everyone we knew who might shed some light. We took notes. We had long discussions after every interview, changing our business plans, rewriting our expectations. At least in our experience, there is an eager generosity in the beauty industry to share knowledge and wisdom. Tap into that. And remember, when it’s your turn, pay it forward.
3. But beware of the experts. They are expert on what was, and what is, but what will be is anyone’s guess. If you have an idea for a business, chances are that the intricate shapes of your idea are unique to you. When we first started to shop our idea around, EVERY expert told us it would not work, that women would not buy our product, that we’d be better off being a niche product aimed at men looking for an all over body and hair bar. The experts may still prove to be right. But so far, our fast-growing brand is loved by a passionate, mindful and discerning audience that is 98% female.
4. Beauty is not all glamour. We know of an extremely successful multi-salon owner and stylist in our home town who still to this day has such a high level of excellence that cleaning the salon AFTER the salon cleaning crew is done, is just the way it is. We all expect to be scrappy at the start. Many are surprised that a willingness to get scrappy even after we’re successful is actually a signifier of success.
5. Give everything you possibly can of yourself to your customers and clients. This is not about you; it’s about how you can make people feel about themselves. It’s a powerful magic you have, so please, spread it around!
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Skip the plastic. Support brands that are making high-performing products without the wasteful single-use plastic packaging. It’s that simple.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Do what you fear, watch it disappear.” I’ve had lots of ideas for businesses over my life, but never had the courage to make them a reality. This one not only had a moral imperative to it (clean up the planet!) it also had me staring at the fact that I’d let so many opportunities slip by. So, we started a business. And it turns out, it hasn’t been scary at all. Everything we’ve done has been logical, sensible and comfortable. Phew!
How can our readers follow you online?
Facebook — HiBAR
Instagram — @hellohibar
Twitter — @hellohibar
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.