In Living Color

By Tom Branna, Editorial Director | August 1, 2014

Steve Goddard has witnessed a lot during his decades-long career in the professional hair care industry. He’s relied on that knowledge to create Pravana, a hair color company celebrating its 10th anniversary.

After 30 years in the hair salon industry, it should come as no surprise to learn that Pravana founder and CEO Steve Goddard has enjoyed a colorful career. During that time, hair color has become the norm, not the exception, with 75% of women today using some sort of hair color. Even 11% of men dye their hair, according to industry analysts. And when they want it done right, they go to a salon. And when they want it to look its best, more and more of them are trusting Pravana, which derives 75% of its sales from color.

“It’s always been a vibrant market and it follows societal demographics,” noted Goddard. “The Baby Boomers are gray and as a result the market has exploded. It is an affluent population that embraces color.”

Even better, this gray market for hair color works in concert with a youth culture marked by tattoos and a desire to express itself with vibrant hair color. The result is that Pravana is posting double-digit growth year after year, which has enabled the company to top $45 million in sales.

Demand for hair color is providing a lift for salons, too. Hair color sales rose 3.6% last year to reach $783 million and accounted for nearly 26% of salon hair care product category sales, according to Cyrus Bulsara, CEO, Professional Consultants & Resources, Plano, TX. Overall, the professional hair care sales rose 2.8% to $3.03 billion, representing one of the lowest growth rates in recent years, according to Bulsara. The total US salon hair care market, including products and services, reached $65 billion last year, with hair care services accounting for 87% of sales, followed by salon retail/take-home, 8% and service/back-bar, 4%.

“The market is growing due to Boomers coloring their gray and tattooed-Millennials wanting vibrant color,” observed Goddard. “The fastest-growing colors for us are vivid shades like purple and lime green.”

Not exactly the sort of tones that make one wonder, “Does she or doesn’t she?”

Goddard has a long history in hair color, having started as a stylist, before moving on to Redken to manage a product evaluation salon and work closely with chemists. He was promoted to senior VP-marketing and advertising and created several key styling products for Redken before being recruited by Revlon for senior VP in new product development at Colomer. He continued to climb the ladder at Rusk and Wella and ultimately, to president of Sebastian International.

“I had a marvelous career, but I had gotten myself promoted into an area that I didn’t like,” Goddard recalled. “I like new product development, not managerial duties that require flying to Germany every 90 days.”

To get back to what he loves doing, Goddard didn’t look for another company, he created one and as a result, Pravana is celebrating its 10th anniversary. The name, from Sanskrit, means “The Source of All Things.”

The Times They Are A-Changin’
It’s not just hair tones that have changed dramatically in the past decade, so has the way marketers and product formulators interact with their customers.  According to Goddard, one of the greatest changes that has taken place in the hair salon business is distribution consolidation. Back in 1987, he recalled, Redken had 100 US distributors. Today, there are only two major players, Beauty Systems Group and SalonCentric, followed by about 30 second-tier distributors.

“Changes in distribution have been the most impactful and strenuous event in our business,” asserted Goddard.

The other big change has been the emergence of distributors selling directly to salon professionals. Goddard noted that 30 years ago most salons were independent and commission-based. Now, the industry is marked by booth rentals by individual stylists. As a result, instead of several hundred dollars worth of product to a group of hairstylists, sales reps are taking $15 orders.

“It’s become a nightmare to sell to them and collect from them,” asserted Goddard. “A salon may have 20 stylists, but they work their own hours and come in when they want.”

To reach these entrepreneurial free spirits, Goddard uses a variety of methods. When he was at Sebastian International, the idea of putting info on CDs was considered to be on the cutting edge of technology. Today, Pravana uses apps, websites, text messages and social media.

“When the internet got up and running in the 1990s, we all saw the opportunity to connect with stylists,” recalled Goddard. “But salons don’t have computers! If they do, they use it for booking purposes. Nobody is searching the web during the day.”

That’s why Pravana has optimized its website for mobile use and employed text marketing campaigns too.

For example, Pravana 180 is a free, educational website featuring as many as six videos that are refreshed monthly. The site also contains information on new product launches and tips to build business.

Pravana even offers an online, five-module Chromasilk Color Certification program that takes 2.5 hours to complete and is aimed at “any salon professional looking to master their hair color craft,” according to the company.

“It’s been a great tool that meets the needs of the independent stylist,” noted Goddard. “Rather than trying to get them in one place, we invite them, 24/7, to take the program and learn about our products.”

Gentle, Yet Durable
And there’s lots to learn about Pravana’s product line, where the emphasis is on gentleness and durability. Goddard and others in the salon industry subscribe to Leonard Lauder’s Lipstick Index theory, but rather than choosing a new color cosmetic, a cash-strapped consumer opts for long-lasting hair color to make herself feel better.

“The last recession hit salons hard and a lot of them were forced to close. It changed how people timed their visits to salons,” recalled Goddard. “So, durability and retaining the vibrancy of color is key. It affects how we formulate color, how we use it and how we sell it.”

For example, Pravana relies on a silk amino acid to carry color into the cortex. The technology enables the company to use less ammonia, which in turn, doesn’t swell the hair as much so the color lasts longer. Taking care of hair outside the salon has changed too. Color-friendly sulfate- and sulfite-free formulas are common, and formulators say they stay clear of parabens and propylene glycol, too.

“We’re formulating care products that will preserve the integrity of hair color,” noted Goddard.

Pravana’s ChromaSilk and Vivid hair color lines meet the needs of an increasingly color-conscious consumer. To attract even more of them, this month Pravana is introducing ChromaSilk Neon in five “shockingly electric” colors. Shades include Neon Pink, Neon Orange, Neon Yellow, Neon Green and Neon Blue.

And while the jury may still be out on the idea of neon blue-haired, old ladies, Goddard insists that the 70s are the new 60s. He noted that during the past 15 years, older women and more than a few men, have seen how a good cut and the right color can enhance their lives.

“I have an 84 year-old mother-in-law with a perm and a progressive cut. At some point, we all say ‘enough with the color,’ but that time is being extended,” explained Goddard. “Especially as people push retirement into the future and want to look more vibrant.”

What’s New?
Goddard is most proud of his newest line, Nevo, which is 100% vegan, 100% gluten-free and packaged in 100% biodegradable bottles. A portion of Nevo’s sales, 5%, is dedicated to City of Hope, a cancer research, treatment and education organization. Nevo formulas contain exotic ingredients such as Mulateiro extract, an antioxidant that helps eliminate free radicals and protect hair color; Babassu oil, which contains 70% lipids to keep hair smooth and shiny; and Brazilian Nut oil, which is rich in selenium and other nutrients to add elasticity and suppleness to hair. All of these materials are obtained from the Amazon rainforest; and one of Goddard’s business partners in Rio purchased 25,000 acres in the Amazon and partnered with the Brazilian government to operate sustainably.

The packaging is sustainable too, thanks to an ingredient that attracts landfill microbes. The result is that the Nevo bottle begins to break down in 250 days and completely disappears in two years, according to Goddard.

“I am very proud of Nevo,” he added.

So proud, in fact, that Pravana’s chemists are reformulating the existing care and styling lines to have the same vegan- and gluten-free specifications and are packaged, of course, in biodegradable packaging.

A line like Nevo helps keep Goddard optimistic about the future.

“One advantage we have is that we can turn on a dime. We have no layers of management, I don’t have to talk to a board that can take years to get approval,” he explained. “Here, I talk the marketing team, we do research and we make it happen with our own manufacturing. That puts us in a great position now and in the future.”

Looking back over his career, the 63-year-old Goddard realizes he’s been blessed.

“I started as a hair dresser. I never thought I would become president of a company. When I look back, I think about what’s really important and what do I need to do?” explained Goddard. “If I can create a company that is giving and caring, that is exciting.”