Beauty Store Business

SEP 2018

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34 September 2018 | Often the most fruitful businesses have humble beginnings, and DeveloPlus is no exception. The company's impressive rise in the world of hair dyes and gray coverage is the result of three generations and, currently, 100 employees tirelessly working together to expand DeveloPlus into four distinct haircare lines: Satin, Splat, Color Oops and No Gray. Here, you'll learn more about this family-run operation, their secrets for like-minded entrepreneurs and what it's like to be a major, influential player in the ever-changing hair color category. HUMBLE BEGINNINGS In 1991, Kiran and her parents, Dave and Ann Agrey, founded DeveloPlus. Prior to starting the company, Dave, a mining engineer from India, ran a printing shop in Denver with Ann. "Kiran at one point wanted to be a cosmetologist, so that's why we got into hair care–we started the business for her, really," Ann says. "My husband had a chemistry degree [from Nagpur University], so he knew what he was doing." At first, the family tinkered with a formula for months until they created a safe developer for professionals and, soon after, shampoos and conditioners formulated for salons and beauty stores followed. Kiran admits that formulating products and gaining brand recogni- tion among consumers were the biggest challenges in the beginning. "We were creating conditioning developers, so getting that stabilized was a challenge," Kiran explains. "And we were unknown to the industry, but we managed to break through." To do that, Kiran went door to door to salons, spending hours pounding the pavement and performing product demonstrations to gain her clients' trust. "We needed to learn the industry and our customers. The only way to do that was to be hands-on," she says. In 1994, the Agreys began importing colors from Italy and soon after added hair colors to their product lineup under the name Satin; by 1997, they were manufac- turing everything in-house. "We started in the kitchen and we gradually went to a 1,000-square-foot building to 5,000 square feet to 26,000 square feet–and then we added four more buildings and outgrew all of them," Kiran says. Their current space boasts a lab, a photo studio, production areas, filling departments, a warehouse, a distribution center and ample office space. Living by the philosophy "there's always room to grow," DeveloPlus launched the brand Color Oops to mass market in 2003. The product, a revolutionary, ammonia-free color remover, is so gentle on hair that customers can recolor their locks the same day. In 2005, Splat, a line of temporary vivid colors that last anywhere from one to 30 washes, debuted in beauty supply stores, drugstores and the mass market. In the years that followed, DeveloPlus introduced No Gray Quick Fix for instant gray coverage on the go. There was a point when Kiran, who has a background in accounting and office management, took a few years off from the business to live in England with her young sons, Steven and Christopher Barnes ("It was always my dream to live there," she says). Upon her return, she opened up jewelry kiosks in malls. But when the market crashed in 2007, she closed up shop and returned to DeveloPlus. Today, Christopher, who joined the company about a year ago, works as a business analyst. Steven, a premed student who studied drug development in college, came onboard four years ago as a customer service representative. Eventually, he moved up the ranks to quality control, changing roles frequently until he grew into his current position as chief operating officer. "My earliest memory of the company was filling bottles in the kitchen," he says. "We still have the table here that we used back then." But of all the tasks he's now in charge of, he is fond of one in particular. "I'm from the lab, so I love being part of the development process." Ann says that it's exciting to see her grandsons so involved with the company and that they've caught on quickly. "We planned to pass the company on," Ann says. "Steven was going to be a doctor, and so was Christopher, but when my husband got seriously ill, Steven gave it up and came to work for the company." Steven worked alongside his grandfather for almost two years, learning the ins and outs of running the company. That valuable experience combined with the multiple roles he has played crystalized one key point for Steven: Listen to what your customers want. "Starting in customer service really opened my eyes to the people that make this all happen– and the importance of focusing the company on them. We like to have that personal touch and have direct feedback," he says. "That's what sets us apart. … It's different when you do it all in-house." Kiran took over as CEO after her father passed away in 2017. "My father was a good boss. He was tough but respectful and caring. He was a strong-minded person who always expected a lot of himself and, in turn, expected the same from us." His style of leadership is what Kiran tries to emulate in her role as CEO. "We really like to help people express themselves and it's great to see everyone adopting this trend of bold, vibrant and colorful hair." —Steven Barnes, COO, DeveloPlus The DeveloPlus headquarters in Corona, California Karen Wilhemsen

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