Q&A with Prose Co-Founder Paul Michaux
Curious to learn more about starting up a bespoke beauty brand or want to know more about Prose, the custom hair care brand disrupting the beauty industry? So are we.
We tested out Prose’s customized hair products, which you can read about here. Then we sent off some questions to Paul Michaux, one of the co-founders, to get a “behind the scenes” look at what’s making Prose stand out from its competitors.
What was the main motivating factor behind creating Prose?
The founders were motivated to create Prose because they saw that mass production was broken as it was positioned to cater to everyone, but benefited no one. Hair care should be designed for people, not hair types. When you put people in a sort of box or category based on gender, ethnicity or hair type, their hair goals are typically compromised.
We also wanted to create a sustainable distribution model that is better for the environment. We’ve disrupted the beauty industry’s supply chain model by moving from mass-production to fresh, made-to-order production, resulting in less waste - 40% in the general beauty industry vs. our 2%, made up of our returns.
The biggest challenge you faced (or are currently facing) as a beauty startup? How did you overcome it?
As a beauty startup we ran into a few challenges - one was building a strong team very quickly! We’ve also had to effectively educate our client base on custom hair care in terms of how it works and why it’s beneficial.
Something we strive for every day is to ensure that everyone is happy with their unique formulas. Delivering on a product that really works is key for us. We invest heavily in our R&D lab in Paris in order to expand our product offerings based on the research of our in-house chemists, but also on consumer feedback. We’ve built a relationship with each of our consumers and interact with them constantly throughout their Prose experience. This gives us insight into products that they are truly asking for as well as how we can continue to evolve their individual formulas. Based on what they tell us, we can add or remove ingredients or tweak the concentration.
In terms of production, supply chain can be somewhat of a limitation for us for several reasons. One is that our chemists work every day to optimize our current formulas by researching ingredients from all over the world. This means sourcing new ingredients and working with different suppliers. These are then sent to our lab in Brooklyn. We have a sense of how to plan for how much of each ingredient we need, but we won’t know exactly until the consumer places an order. And because all formulas are freshly made, everything we create is on demand which means we need to have very strict production schedules to ensure all customers get their products within five business days.
What are you doing to ensure Prose stands out in the highly competitive beauty industry, especially during a time when bespoke beauty is booming?
We heavily rely on customer feedback by collaborating with them to create their products based on a holistic conversation through the online consultation. Our products and ingredient lists are always evolving, as we focus heavily on ingredient research and product efficacy - going beyond the “gimmick” of personalization. To ensure the quality of our custom, made-to-order hair care products, we invest heavily in R&D with our own in-house lab and team in Paris. We also have our own in-house team of developers and engineers in Paris to keep our brand nimble.
Your products are free of parabens, sulfate, and other not so great stuff. Why should people be paying attention to what’s in their personal care products? Are they lurking in luxury brands?
What goes into your hair care directly impacts your health and goes down your drain, which ultimately affects the environment -- it’s important to pay attention to the ingredients in your products!
For us, clean doesn’t necessarily mean all natural. Our R&D team does extensive research and testing on all ingredients to ensure what we use is safe and ethical. That means sourcing clean ingredients from all around the world, including over 80 natural active ingredients as well as synthetic alternatives that have been ethically tested to be the most effective options available.
You’ve just introduced a hair oil. Can you tell us more about that? Any other products in the pipeline that you can reveal?
After the very successful soft launch of the first-ever custom hair oil this past November (where we sold out in less than a week), we’re officially launching the Prose custom hair oil this spring!
We know from the one-to-one relationship we’ve built with our customers that they are already using hair oil, and we also know that those who aren’t just don’t think hair oil is for them because there’s nothing out on the market that really caters to all hair types. This was an opportunity to create something that was really missing in the market.
You enlisted master perfumer Karine Dubreuil-Sereni (who has quite the portfolio of fragrances, from Guerlain to Jo Malone) to develop the fragrances for the line. Why was this step so important and how did you convince her to treat shampoo like a luxury perfume?
We know that fragrance is a key factor when buying beauty products. The truth is, a lot of hair care products can smell horrible! Being direct-to-consumer, we had no real options for client to easily test, so we had to find a great perfumer to create no-miss fragrances.
She immediately understood that Prose was going beyond a simple hygiene product, and custom beauty was an opportunity for her to go beyond what is traditionally being done in the market.
One piece of advice for entrepreneurs looking to succeed with their businesses?
Be stubborn enough to give directions you believe in and flexible enough to take feedback.
One woman who is disrupting her industry (it doesn’t have to be beauty) and deserves a shout-out…and why?
Nina is disrupting the fashion industry by reinventing wardrobe staples while utilizing a sustainable supply chain. As a successful female founder, she is also an empowering figure for women.
Ed. note: YES! Nina is 100% our kind of woman and a total #rebelleboss.