Jen Atkin’s budding hair care empire, digital prowess and celeb roster is turning heads.
Even before the celebrity hairstylist finalized plans for her own brand — a modern, sleek collection called Ouai — large beauty firms were angling to collaborate with her on the effort.
She declined them all.
Jen, known for her social media prowess and bevy of how-to videos, doesn’t have time to educate established brands on making a connection with modern consumers. She is too busy doing it herself across multiple businesses. She founded the educational platform, Mane Addicts, and tends to a list of tippy-top celebrity clients, including Kim Kardashian. In November, she styled Jenna Dewan Tatum’s glossy, pin-straight lob for the Glamour Women of The Year Awards in Hollywood.
Jen, whose parents called her Beezy (for busy bee) as a child, sees more opportunity to make her mark.
“I don’t feel like I’ve done enough,” she said, feeling energized after two cups of English breakfast tea on a recent fall morning. “I still have a lot of work ahead of me.”
Jen recalled that makeup artist Sonia Kashuk told her being an entrepreneur is “a blessing and a curse,” and that when you run your own business “there is never an end.” That seems to suit Jen, who is in perpetual motion.
She spent nearly four years developing the digitally savvy Ouai before launching it in February 2016. She partnered with longtime family friends as investors, and recruited Deanna Kangas and Andrew Knox as co-Presidents.
Jen, whose personal Instagram page (which she manages herself) has 1.7 million followers, has relied on social media to help develop the brand. The level of engagement on her page and the brand has surprised her the most. “I get to trouble-shoot daily with our followers,” she said. In her view, big brands are still scrambling to digitally connect with consumers. She said she frequently polls her friends—who work within SnapChat and Instagram—about what’s working and what’s not.
Jen crafted Ouai as a foil to what she saw as the overly stimulating, serious tone of the hair care market. To Jen, models in styled wigs weren’t relatable. Either are bottles littered with type.
“Years ago, I felt so overwhelmed by the amount of products I’d receive. The names were crazy and super confusing,” said Jen. “Everything felt noisy. I wanted something that could live in Barney’s [New York].”
She succeeded with Ouai, which is now sold in the specialty store retailer, as well as Sephora, SpaceNK and Nordstorm.com. The brand currently ranks within the top 10 hair care brands in all its retail accounts, according to Jen. Key items have also sold out, such as of Hair Oil, Treatment Masque and Texturizing Hair Spray.
It also offers a subscription service, allowing customers to receive their chosen products every month, two months or three months. The aim is to offer women “modern, effortless style every day.”
To that end, on Nov. 17 Jen’s brand launched #MyOuai, an online hair consultation service, which recommends a regimen based on number of simple questions about one’s hair.
Sonia Kashuk recalled telling Jen, “It’s not an easy road. It’s going to be difficult and there are many sleepless nights… I always tout the book ‘Good to Great.’ Unless you can get to great, it is a waste of time.” She added, “Jen is ready for a challenge. I recognized the drive, passion and energy right away. She’s willing to work as hard as she needs to work.”