It’s almost impossible to find white space in a congested industry such as beauty. But Hien Nguyen, a cosmetic chemist, and MIT grads Zahir Dossa and Joshua Maciejewski, have done just that with their year-old, recently re-branded company, Function of Beauty, which offers customized shampoos and conditioners.
“The beauty industry can come up with cool, new ingredients, but if you compare it to other industries, beauty has changed the least,” said Zahir. “The biggest change we’ve seen in the last 10 years is the rise of Birchbox, and other similar companies, which means no one is happy with what they’ve got. They want different products that are tailored to them, which is being done with products already on the market. But it’s not changed the way products work, as opposed to changing formulations and the way products are developed. In the Seventies and Eighties people tried customization, but it didn’t succeed because technology was so far lagging.”
That isn’t the case here.
Function of Beauty is a math problem solved. In the company’s quest to offer total personalization in the beauty arena, they can give the consumer more than 12 billion possible combinations—catering not just to hair type and hair goals, but also color, fragrance and even a fragrance’s intensity. It’s an algorithm that took a year and a half to create.
In mid-November the company opened a week-long pop-up store in Nolita turning the once Mulberry Street’s Ruby’s Cafe into a Wonka-like chemistry lab, with more than 80 different pumps that held a variety of ingredients for individualized shampoo and conditioners.
Customers filled out a quick hair profile/goal questionnaire, answering questions on hydration, color protection and oil control, then chose from five possible formula colors and watched their personalized concoction be created in front of them.
“We’ve never showcased our machine or the filling process before,” Zahir said. “We wanted to prove to our customers that we really have this personalized system, and we wanted them to be part of the experience and to watch their set being filled.”
Re-launched on October 1, FOB now touts new product branding and photography. Without advertising, the company relies heavily on word of mouth, an impressive fan following and social media, specifically Facebook. The indie company presently sells exclusively online.
“The millennials are definitely our target market. They just get it,” he said. “They have appreciated the benefits of personalization the most, and they are most convinced that we can indeed use technology to achieve that.”
With headquarters located in New York, they operate a new 7,000 square-foot warehouse in Pennsylvania. Everything is created in-house, including customized heat exchangers, which removes a handful of middlemen. Just this month, they reached a new capacity level filling 1,200 sets (2,400 bottles per day) of product. An 8-oz set is $32, and a 16-oz set is $48.
Everything Function of Beauty does is customized; from ingredients to formulas to bottles, which has one’s name etched onto it, to regiment cards and stickers that seal items into a personalized box.
“Our goal is to celebrate individuality, that’s our tagline,” said Zahir. “There’s no telling this is a Function of Beauty box, it’s a Function of You.”