Women in Business Q&A: Sophie Zalkauskas, Co-Founder, Hello Hair

Women in Business Q&A: Sophie Zalkauskas, Co-Founder, Hello Hair

Hello Hair was founded by three women who were frustrated with their dry and damaged hair. Jade Thomson, Sophie Zalkauskas and Jess Gerring, are the women behind the Australian-based, all-natural hair mask. Jade handles the operational side of the business, Sophie is a full-time Osteopath and manages Hello Hair's business operations, and Jess oversees the social media, PR, and marketing.

None of the three women have any previous ties to the beauty industry; it was their shared experiences of dry and damagedhair and search for an all-natural hair mask that lead to the creation of Hello Hair. They all had bad experiences with salon brand treatments and realized there was a gap in the market for an all-natural, vegan friendly hair mask alternative.

With their awareness of current health trends and a desire to use 100% natural products, they did some research, took the leap and developed, packaged, and marketed Hello Hair to the world.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?

The great part about a young business like Hello Hair (we're still less than 18-months old), is that we're a very close partnership of three like-minded women, who continue to handle every aspect of the business ourselves. Our Hello Hair Hydrating Mask was the first of it's kind (an all-natural hair treatment engineered to repair and revitalise dry hair) in the global market, and continues to be "the original and the best". It is the product of our shared experiences of years with dry, dyed, damaged hair. Our awareness of current health trends, and a desire to use a 100 percent natural conditioning product on our own hair, lead us to see an enormous gap in the hair care market. Taking the leap to develop, package and market this product to the world really relied strongly on us trusting our instincts. It takes courage and confidence to stand behind an idea that is new and unique, as your audience needs you to convince them of your worth.

How has your previous employment experience aided your position at Hello Hair?

All three of us have had employment experiences that have positioned us perfectly for our respective roles in founding and running Hello Hair. Jade Thomson (Operations Manager) has had extensive experience in other organisations handling administration, customer service and distribution. Jess Gerring (Marketing Manager) has studied PR and then worked in a number of roles within Marketing and PR, that saw her gravitate towards Online Marketing and Social Media Management engagements. My background is a little less conventional in qualifying me for the responsibility of Commercial Manager - as I'm actually a fully-qualified, and still practicing, Osteopath. My career as an Osteopath lead me down the path of running my own practice, which meant handling all of the small business operations myself.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Hello Hair?

Building a new business from scratch that uses social media platforms as it's primary marketing tool is probably both the biggest highlight and challenge in itself! Social media channels are so fast-paced and so responsive, with direct lines of communication to our customers as individuals; which means that we always have to stay on top and ahead of everything. Jess, who handles the marketing and PR, is tethered to her phone nearly every waking hour, never missing a beat. Jade is a master of customer service, ensuring every single customer order and enquiry is responded to quickly, and with grace (even when there is a language barrier between herself and our international customers). This gives me the freedom to focus on a lot of the back-end business - although accurately forecasting for the supply and demand chain of such a newly established, and dramatically growing business, is definitely a test!

Our proudest achievements are those moments when we hear feedback about our product directly from customers - being told that our Hydrating Mask is "the Beyonce of hair products" doesn't hurt!

What advice can you offer women who want to start their own business?

Be prepared for anything, and everything! We started Hello Hair knowing we had a pretty unique and marketable product, but not everyone necessarily shared our vision. Thankfully we had enough passion and drive within ourselves to give it a chance. But we were realistic - we wanted to be women that tried, even if it ended in failure (thankfully it did not!). Entrepreneurs take risks, but make sure they're educated risks.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?

That's a hard one...we're all still working on that! It's certainly always hard to switch off when you run your own business and want to see it flourish. But it really is true that taking the time to live your life, will in turn inspire your work.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?

Women often put other people or commitments ahead of their own needs. This really isn't always a negative, but it does often leave some women with little time for themselves. Particularly if you're working hard on building your own business or career. Finding the balance between being selfish and selfless is a constant struggle for all of us.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?

It's always so inspiring to be surrounded by passionate people. I think we're exceptionally lucky that the three of us bring unique skills and experiences to our Hello Hair partnership. This means that we're able to collaborate, bounce ideas around, and draw on each other's strengths; which ultimately fosters growth within all of us. Beyond that, we've got a great network of friends and family mentoring us on a daily basis (sometimes unbeknownst to them!). I've always been very fortunate in having an entrepreneurial father. He understands the challenges of small business, and is never short on time to listen carefully and advise me on my latest puzzle, whatever it may be.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?

We're really enjoying growing our library of entrepreneur-centric reads at the moment. Titles by the inspiring Arianna Huffington, Sheryl Sandberg, Lisa Messenger and Sophia Amoruso, might have appeared on every Top Reads list printed last year, but now live bookmarked and dog-eared on our coffee tables and bedsides. We also seize every opportunity to attend events with speakers and networks of successful women, particularly those that have achieved their success in the e-commerce/social media sphere. Their stories and wisdom are gems we can take with us and straight away apply to our growing Hello Hair business.

What do you want Hello Hair to accomplish in the next year?

We're so excited to continue expanding our global reach in the coming year. New products and improved processes will hopefully capture an even larger audience.

We're also really eager to gain greater recognition for our Hello Hair Hydrating Mask. So far, this product has already helped many users restore health to their hair with all-natural ingredients. The flow-on effect of healthier hair is that when your hair looks good, you feel good. So, forgive our lofty goals, but we're pretty hopeful that Hello Hair will influence an army of women (and men) worldwide, to be happier and healthier versions of themselves.

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