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Level 6

How do you take a great idea from research to market? Follow Celeste's journey - Part One!



Here in QB Community we highlight real stories from small business owners just like you who are deep in the process of taking a new idea or product to market. We're shining a spotlight on QB Community member Celeste Ruberti to find out what she's learned so far about customer research and bringing a new product to market.


After years of air drying hair as a successful hairstylist, Celeste discovered a niche opportunity for creating quality hair products specifically for air drying. Now, she's determined to create a new line of styling products customized for women on the go — and build a sustainable business along the way.


We invited Celeste to share her story with us so that together we can crowdsource some answers for her — and help each other out along the way!



CRuberti.jpg Name: Celeste Ruberti

 Business: Mane Island


Tell us a little bit about this business you're in the process of launching!


I’m a hairstylist by trade and I've been working toward starting my own line of hair care products, specifically those that can be used on wet hair. 


I’m still working on the name, but my business is tentatively going to be called Mane Island. It’s for women who don’t use a blowdryer. At this point, I’m guessing I’ll launch the business sometime in 2017!


How did you come up with the idea for your business?


I've been doing hair for about 10 years and my own hair has always been such a source of frustration for me. I like to air dry it, without using any styling tools like hairdryers or flat irons, and I just haven’t been able to find a styling product that looks good in my hair when it’s air dried. Over the years I’ve found a number of products that work for me, but they've never been marketed in the way that I use them. It's an underserved market — there are very few products marketed toward women who are just air drying their hair.


Last September, I was in Hawaii and I found the weather prohibitively humid when it came to styling my hair! I had taken some products along that I generally use to help me air dry, but that was when I realized that there are so many people who air dry their hair regularly. There are moms who don’t have time to blow dry and style their hair, those who work out at the gym, ladies on vacation and even women who just don’t want to go to the trouble of using tools to get the look they want.


If there's just one product you can add to your hair when you air dry, it can make all the difference — it can make your hair look great even if you’re not doing anything else to it. 


I decided that I could be the person to make those products.




What are you doing right now to turn your idea into a reality?


It has taken a lot of research to get where I am today. I started out by just talking to clients. I learned that a lot of people air dry on a regular basis, but that they can’t find a product that works for them when they do. 


Something I see time and time again is women buying a product because they like the brand or the style of the packaging, or maybe the product says it will help them achieve the look they’re going for. But when they try it out on their own hair, they’re left disappointed. It just doesn’t perform the way they hoped it would and they end up with a collection of hair products at home that they never use.


So, I started by doing a bit of market research. 


In hair care, you have the opportunity to meet a lot of different people. Living in Silicon Valley, I'm able to connect with some really smart business people. One of my clients helped me put together a short survey that helped me figure out whether there is a wider demand for hair products like this outside of my immediate circle. I wasn’t sure what kind of a response I would get, but I ended up with great feedback.


From there, I needed to decide whether I was going to work with a cosmetic chemist or whether I wanted to try to formulate the product line myself. I came to a bit of a road block when I heard from a business consultant that there was little to no way that I’d be able to compete with larger product lines. 


While her reasoning was sound, I knew from my own research that there is demand. I really feel that this product doesn’t exist, and if it did it would be well received. I connected with a couple cosmetic chemists but was unsure about how the formulation process would work and how much it would end up costing me to create the product line.


Luckily, I came across a woman who is a natural cosmetic chemist and she actually teaches people how to make their own hair and skin care products. After speaking with her about what I wanted to do, she told me that I could make the products myself. She said that while it would be a long and challenging road to learn everything from scratch, it would be worth it in the end because I would own my formula, which is not always the case when working with cosmetic chemists. By learning how to make the products myself, I would have more knowledge of and control over the end product.   


Now, I’m about to start taking cosmetic chemistry courses, which will likely continue through the end of the year. Once I'm able to start making my own products, I plan to test them out on my clients. 


It’s an exciting time! I know where I’m going and have something to work towards, which is really motivating.




What resources have you found to be helpful in starting your business?


People have been the greatest resource. I’ve spent a lot of time asking questions about what people are looking for from their hair products and getting business advice related to the cosmetic chemistry industry. 


Asking the right questions has been important too, but I’ve really been impressed at how eager my clients and people in my professional network have been willing to help me out.


What would you most like to learn from a community of other entrepreneurs who are also in the early stages of launching their businesses?


I would like to learn more about things like negotiating contracts with buyers and how to scale up when I'm ready to take my product to market. 


What are your best tips for negotiating contracts? How should I think about scale when I'm just starting out — and want to get my product into the hands of as many people as possible who will benefit from using it?




Let's help Celeste out!

How did *you* take your business from the beginning stages of research and product development into the limelight? What tips or tricks do you have for someone like Celeste who is just starting to bring their new product to market?


We can't wait to hear more about your experiences below! :-)

1 Comment 1
Level 6

How do you take a great idea from research to market? Follow Celeste's journey - Part One!

One of my all time favorite journies. I love that we're a part of Celeste's experience right now! Getting from idea to conception wasn't easy. When we were making the first Bellybar, it was hard to find independent food scientists who we could afford. Ultimately, we found a co-packer that had an R&D arm - we were able to buy back our recipe with orders. 

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