When Donna Pohlad’s busy life made it increasingly harder for her to see her hair colorist every few weeks, she decided to create salon-quality solutions that would allow her to go longer between appointments but wouldn’t mess up her colorist’s work. In 2011, she founded dpHUE with no prior experience in beauty — or the corporate world. (Her one previous venture had been owning a kickboxing studio.) Since then, she’s managed to conquer a steep learning curve and outshine copycats who tried to dupe her products. Today, Minneapolis-based dpHUE boasts 29 SKU’s and is available in 1,300 Ulta Beauty doors, and online at Ulta.com, Nordstrom.com, Revolve, and Amazon. With average price points of $30 to $45, dpHUE has evolved to include shampoos, conditioners, masks, and scalp treatments, and the brand’s hero best-sellers are within hair care.

DpHUE’s latest launch returns to their roots, no pun intended. Color Dream, which debuted in April, is touted as next-gen hair dye that gives both virgin and color-treated hair a subtle, shiny boost of semi-permanent color. It’s the first launch under Janice Lee, the brand’s Vice President of Innovation, Marketing, and Consumer Engagement, who joined dpHUE this spring after previous senior marketing roles at Physicians Formula and Jurlique. Pohlad and Lee spoke with CEW about their plans to make salon-quality box color easier and more enticing to everyone, particularly those considering coloring their hair at home for the first time.

CEW: What was the inspiration behind dpHUE?

Donna Pohlad: When I started the company, I was a frequent salon color client — too frequent. I was too busy to go to the salon every three weeks for two hours at a time. I realized what would change my life would be having the flexibility to color my hair myself, on my own time. I needed the right product to achieve the same pro results I was used to receiving in the salon. And I wanted to empower other women with the same option.

CEW: As an outsider to the beauty industry, how did you go about creating a hair color brand?

DP: It was a big learning curve, and I had to stick with my intuition because I didn’t have corporate experience. Beauty is a very competitive industry, and it’s gotten more so with the whole indie space and celebrity brands. When I started, I didn’t know anything about formulations. But I live in Minneapolis, which is home to numerous manufacturers — Aveda was born here. So, there were resources. I learned that once you network with the right people, one connection leads to the next, and that’s how I started the business. But I have always wanted to come back to my own experience as a consumer, and that has been the guiding light to make sure all our products go through a filter of high quality, ease of use, and effectiveness.

CEW: In 2014, you launched ACV by dpHUE, the apple cider vinegar collection that spawned the brand’s best sellers. What was the response when you came out with hair care?

DP: We were at an industry event and had just launched our ACV products. They were very unique and grabbed a lot of attention. Somebody came up to us and said, “We looked around, there’s nothing like this — we’re going to copy it.” I was so stunned! It was a big company, too, but they didn’t have the same quality of ingredients. They ended up not keeping [their similar line of products].

Janice Lee, VP of of Innovation, Marketing, and Consumer Engagement for dpHUE

Janice Lee: What attracted me to dpHUE before I joined the company were the ACV products. I love the Apple Cider Vinegar Hair Rinse ($37). It’s so unique, but it also works. That’s the thing about all the dpHUE products and the filter of efficacy that Donna puts everything through. For me, hair color and hair health are interrelated. You can’t talk about one without talking about the other, and I was excited about joining a brand that cares about the holistic aspect of treating everything about the hair and scalp.

CEW: How does the latest launch, Color Dream, fit into the portfolio of products?

DP: Hair color has always been my passion, and Color Dream ($32) is a natural extension of that. It’s a demi-permanent dye that refreshes existing color and shine between color appointments, but it also offers a low-commitment option for people who are new to hair color. It’s easy to use and designed to appeal to consumers from Gen Z to Boomers: just add the tube of color into a bottle of developer, shake, put it on the hair, and leave it in for 20 minutes. Then rinse it out in the shower.

JL: Color Dream gives beautiful, salon-quality results that last for up to 16 washes. The ammonia-free formula has no lift — meaning no pigment is removed from the hair — and it’s very gentle. The goal is not to radically change the color of the hair, but to refresh your current hair color and highlights, even on virgin hair that’s never been colored. The technology is very versatile. We want people not to fear it and to understand that this is not your mother’s or grandmother’s hair color.

CEW: What are some misconceptions around at-home hair color that you want to correct?

DP: In-salon hair color shades are usually a number system. It’s another language that’s impossible for the consumer to understand. We’ve tried to simplify the names on all our products — we have Cool Blonde, Golden Blonde…it’s very easy to pick a color and get the right match.

CEW: How important is consumer education, especially at the point of sale?

JL: It’s very important. We are leveraging our relationships with influencers in a way that focuses on education. Everyone has a different way of learning about us, and we give our influencers flexibility in that messaging. Our bestsellers come from across our different collections and include the ACV Hair Rinse, the ACV Daily Scalp Serum ($49), the Glossy Glaze ($29), and the Root Touch Up Kit ($35). We are bringing consumers what they need, and 65% of our consumers are repeat buyers, so we have a very loyal base.

CEW: What is the additional scope for innovation in the hair color category?

DP: There are all kinds of products out there. [We are] looking at different formulas, applicators, all kinds of things. In this space, we are certainly looking to what’s next for hair health, scalp health, and color. We’re always looking to understand and have our finger on the pulse of what those innovations are. We are still a small company — we don’t have a big lab and loads of resources. But we are working on things that I believe are truly innovative.