About the Brand
The concept for OWA Haircare has existed for a couple of years now, but did not start to gain traction until the founder’s pursuit of her graduate degree in January 2017. By April, the idea placed first in the products category at the New York Business Plan Competition. In May, OWA Haircare, Inc. was officially formed. By July OWA Haircare was gaining global attention being named a Top 500 Global Deep Tech Startup by Hello Tomorrow and was invited to exhibit the prototype for Hair Wash in Paris, France later that year. OWA received a National Science Foundation Grant (NSF) in November 2017 to assist in validating their market. That same month, OWA Haircare was named Rochester Business Journal’s FastStart and Kailey was interviewed by 98PXY about the business. The year came to an end with an segment on OWA featured on Rochester’s local news channel.
The year of 2018 for OWA started off with a founder interview in USA Weekly. In March, OWA was named a Top 16 Finalist in the Pitch Texas Competition at SXSW and won the RIT Business Model Competition. A month later OWA was named a Top 40 Sustainable Startup by Sustainable Brands and exhibited at Imagine RIT for the second year in a row, this time with their final formulation for Hair Wash.
Though the first product is set to launch in the US later this year, the brand has continued to gain international traction. A recent interview with Kailey on Wear It Slow really speaks to the innovation the brand has brought about and the excitement for sustainable products on a global scale.
2018 has been a year of development for OWA and the entire team is working nonstop to bring products from the Moondust Collection to market, starting with Hair Wash. The future is almost in your hands.
About the Founder
Encountering the inconvenience of traveling with liquid personal care products, specifically haircare, Kailey started to seek out alternatives to conventional liquid shampoo, conditioner, and styling products. When she started to look into what hair products were composed of, she was surprised to learn that they were made up of mostly solvents. “Water is the first ingredient in all liquid shampoos and conditioners I’ve used, but I didn’t realize that meant 80% water. I realized I needed to do something not only for my suitcase, but for our planet.” After some research, Kailey found herself developing new technology for a line of powdered hair products that would hydrate with water to form the ready-to-use products she loved.
She knew if she could develop formulas that were high quality and performed as well as, if not better, than traditional diluted hair products, she would be onto something.
Kailey’s interest in the science behind beauty did not develop overnight. In high school Kailey thought she wanted to pursue either interior design or photography in college. “I have to admit, I am not and never was a great artist, but being creative in my career is a requirement.” Upon taking her first chemistry class it immediately clicked for her. She was inspired by the science behind everything from fireworks to food. Learning that there was a way to take her strengths of math and science, and apply them creatively in the same way she approached her art classes seemed like a perfect fit. From there she looked for universities that offered chemical engineering, but also had a focus in design and sustainability. RIT seemed a perfect fit. She was able to gain formulation experience by optimizing battery cathodes for performance and designing functional inks and coatings for a variety of applications. After graduation, she moved to Los Angeles to take a position at the clean-tech startup where she previously completed a co-op. She loved the fast-pace and uncertainty the startup world had to offer, however she lacked the ability to fully exercise her creativity.
After a little over a year working full-time, she had the idea for a powder shampoo. She pondered the idea for a few months. “I knew I either I had to give it everything, or I had to forget about it. And I couldn’t forget about it.” She packed everything she could into her car, drove across the country, and moved back to Rochester to return to her alma mater and pursue her graduate degree in Product Development. “The first day of my entrepreneurship course was eye opening. I didn’t fully understand what an entrepreneur was, but that day I knew I was one.” During her graduate career, Kailey was also able to pilot a option for entrepreneurship within the Product Development program. She hopes to inspire more women in STEM and those from technical backgrounds to move into entrepreneurial careers paths, whether that be starting a business or pitching a product idea to a manager. She hosted two seminars at RIT to encourage these efforts; “Engineer to Entrepreneur” with WE@RIT and “Sustainable Entrepreneurship” with Golisano Institute for Sustainability. While finishing her degree, Kailey relocated to New York City to continue her mission to bring “out of this world amazing” haircare to you.