Helen Reavey and Colm Mackin remind me a lot of my grandparents. I know that sounds super weird. It’s not like they physically remind me of my grandparents (though that is actually a compliment because my grandmother is the chicest woman I’ve ever known). But, their story reflects that of my grandparents. Colm and Helen are a husband and wife duo setting out to revolutionize the haircare industry. Helen is a renowned hairdresser with an immense professional knowledge of hair (as was my grandfather) and Colm is an outgoing, business savvy entrepreneur (as is my grandmother). Together, they’ve created Act + Acre, a line of hair wellness products unlike anything that the industry has seen (as did my grandparents, in the 1980’s with the launch of their own company). Given all these similarities, and the amount of stories I’ve listened to (and subsequent knowledge I’ve gained by osmosis) throughout my childhood, I had so much fun meeting the Act + Acre team and talking hair industry shop with them.
What sets Act + Acre apart is their all-natural philosophy, their commitment to recyclable packaging and chemical free products, their insistence on scalp-care first, their direct-to-consumer business model…so, basically everything. After trying their Scalp Detox, I was immediately hooked. As someone with intensely curly hair who relies on globs of numerous products to give desired texture to my otherwise frizz-balled mess, product buildup on my scalp is an unfortunate reality. Oftentimes, this buildup leads to dry, flakey skin. This was extremely evident from the super-zoom camera app that Colm created in order to check the health of hair follicles. And the Scalp Detox is the perfect fix. Follow with their other two products, Cold Processed Hair Cleanse and Cold Processed Hair Conditioner and you’re well on your way to a healthy scalp and healthy hair! Plus, I have a feeling Helen and Colm are onto something with this whole haircare wellness brand thing, so stay tuned for more from these trendsetters in the new year! :)
Why the emphasis on scalp care first? What is the importance of this and why do you think it is so overlooked in the beauty/ wellness sphere?
2018 brought the understanding that scalps are extensions of our faces, and that skin and hair are composed of similar proteins and fats. There’s an increasing rise in scalp facials and skincare for scalp, driven by the growing integration between skin and haircare with scalp-specific products acting as an extension of consumers skincare regimes. Lifeless hair and an irritated scalp are signs of an imbalanced micro biome. When your biome is balanced, you’ll notice common hair symptoms disappear. You’ll need to wash less often. Your hair will feel stronger and look shinier. Buildup of product, sweat, sebum and dead skin cells can block the hair follicle and have an impact on the quality of hair growth.
Act + Acre isn’t about quick fixes. We’re about expertise, caring, and thinking things through. We’re talking about the long-term wellbeing of your scalp and your hair. More importantly, it’s about your own wellbeing, and the wellbeing of the world. We wanted our brand to be proactive, not reactive. It’s about prevention, not damage control. It is about long-term investment.
How can a direct to consumer business model revolutionize the hair industry?
Hair wellness isn’t yet a category. We are opening a door and asking people to walk through it. We might be standing for something that people aren’t aware of yet. For awareness we need to meet and interact with our consumer at their most porous (*excuse the pun). The DTC business model not just affords you that, it demands it for success. High fashion is about proclamation, whereas beauty is about conversation.
Inspired by the aesthetics and approach of iconic, functional, and minimalistic brands in the categories like skincare, clothing, and scent, we wanted Act + Acre to be an outlier and a pioneer in the wellness space. To think broader and further. It was born as a reaction to the established category, and as a promise of what this category can become.
Helen, how has your position as a hair dresser prepared you for the launch of your own company?
We decided very early in the process we wanted Act+Acre to be a role model in the category, so its promise must reflect the role it wants to play. It must disrupt the conventions of the haircare world. It must support its customers holistically, across aspects of their lives, by engaging their body, mind, heart, and spirit. It must reflect being well and doing well. It must signal an elevated yet democratic aesthetic.
I feel so blessed to have worked for the past 18 months with incredible people to bring this to life. Across all aspects of the brand such as creative direction, content, photography, etc. In developing our patented “cold process method,™” we worked with a team of 31 PHD’s, including chemists, physicists, chemical engineers, biochemist’s and botanist’s. We’re currently developing 10 further products with the next release of products to occur in May 2019.
Colm, what gave you the courage to quit your job and pursue entrepreneurship full time?
My wife Helen and Co-founder Rachel Conlan are the two most impressive people I’ve ever met. Helen is truly the most incredible person, insanely talented but never wants to talk about her accomplishments, she never wants to make another feel less than. The other most impressive person is Rachel. The first time I met Rachel, I asked if she was two years away from running Facebook, and if not, “Please make me understand why”. Rachel is incredibly well trained, knows what works and what doesn’t. Helen is a free thinker. All of this is a long way to say that I wanted to build something around Helen and Rachel for Helen and Rachel, and the other amazing people in our lives. The people with all the creatively in the world, but maybe will never be fully recognized. Belief.
The challenge of building Act + Acre has been exciting, the customer journey and the internal processes that support it. These processes touch upon everything from Design, Merchandising, Content, to Community/Influencers, Marketing and Social teams. The idea is to make the Act+Acre organization collaborative, agile, quicker to react, and more effective with the goals of growing strategically, improving quality and building brand value and equity. Thinking holistically about how Act+Acre operations can contribute to delivering a world class customer experience: this is the challenge.