Name: James Hammett
Location: New York, NY
Describe yourself in three words: Kind, passionate, and explorer
What is the name of your business and what do you do?
MASAMI. It means “Truly Beautiful” hair care in Japanese. It is a luxurious, high-performing, clean, vegan hair care line that’s infused with Mekabu—an ocean botanical that flourishes in the bays of Northeast Japan. Mekabu is the lower part of Wakame seaweed and it offers lightweight hydration.
Why did you decide to start your own business?
I have been a beauty industry maven, hair creative, and a photoshoot and casting director for years. Hydration of the scalp and hair is a huge issue that I noticed everyone has—whether they’re a model, a celebrity, or really any person.
I spent years researching naturally-derived hydrating, moisturizing, and nourishing ingredients for hair health because I believe in the power of hydration for all.
How did you get started?
My business partner, Lynn Power, heard about me and that I spent ten years of my life developing clean formulas. She loved them because they performed on her fine, wavy hair type and told me that we have an opportunity and a gap in the premium market.
In just a few words, how does running your own business make you feel?
Energized. It’s a 24/7 endeavor and there is never a dull moment. I’m following my dreams and doing what I love.
What are some roadblocks you’ve faced and how did you overcome them?
We had to pivot hard when the pandemic started. We needed to find like-minded, mission-driven brand partnerships to keep the focus on a direct-to-consumer model since the salon industry shut down.
Throughout everything, we’ve kept our focus on building a gender-neutral hair care brand that is for all ethnicities, hair textures, and hair types. I am reaching out to our community through 30-second video chats and sessions about their hair.
What are some of your major wins or accomplishments since starting your business?
MASAMI launched in February 2020 during NYC Fashion Week. Since then, we’ve created the MASAMI Institute, a nonprofit run by my husband that focuses on preservation in the bay of Otsuchi, which is where our ingredients are from.
What are your proudest moments?
Reading the incredible reviews and educating consumers about clean, vegan, and high-performing hair care. It’s a difference you can feel and see.
What are the next big plans you have for your business?
We have a new product launch coming in September 2021. And recently, we launched a refillable ceramic shampoo and conditioner bottles that come with 32 oz pouches. It’s all about sustainability and reducing our carbon footprint.
When you’re having a tough day, who or what inspires you to keep going?
My love for life, my husband, and Chiro—my French bulldog. And, of course, the consumers I have yet to reach because once they try MASAMI they won’t ever go back to unclean hair care.
How can LGBTQ+ business owners give back to their community?
Get involved in local and global events, networking, and partnering.
What advice would you give to other LGBTQ+ small business owners just starting out?
Don’t focus on the small stuff. When times get really tough, continue believing in yourself and your worth—remember the value your products will bring to people. Follow your own intuition; make time for self-care; and chat with your mentors or close friends to share and evolve. Reach out to people even if you don’t hear back—I email salons daily to connect on a grassroots level. It’s uplifting when you don’t get a negative answer.
What’s your “power song” and why?
“I Gotta Feeling” by the Black Eyed Peas. “…Tonight’s gonna be a good night!”