Beauty Store Business

NOV 2018

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28 November 2018 | beautystorebusiness.com THE BRAND BUILDER Davidson, a sel-proessed "serial entrepreneur," didn't always have his sights set on building businesses rom the ground up. He instead undertook ormal training to sell and market television airtime in the mid-'80s, but quickly real- ized it wasn't his calling. Seeking a way to satisy his "burn- ing" entrepreneurial desires, he secured the rights to build and develop a Taco Bell ranchise in New Jersey. From there, he built and operated nine additional highly proitable Taco Bell locations within ive years, until then-parent company PepsiCo approached him to buy them back. "That was my irst experience o growing a business and successully exiting, and rom there, I was o to the races," Davidson says. "It took on a lie o its own." Next, he would operate and lead a chain o movie theaters, securing venture capital rom high-proile inves- tors such as William Edward Simon, who was the treasury secretary under Nixon and Ford. Again, ater ive years, a bidding war broke out and Davidson sold to Regal Cinemas. He brought that "build, develop, grow, exit" ormula to myriad industries, rom hospitality to shoe and sandal manuacturing. But Davidson insists he's no lip artist–he was simply approached with can't-reuse oers thanks to a savvy business sense and an open-minded approach to hiring. "I'm an operations guy, and I know what I don't know," he says. "So I hire the best team o executives possible, surrounding mysel with people who are smarter than me in other areas, then get out o their way and let them do their thing." Ater building several businesses, he delved into the other side o the picture, becoming a principal at a private equity irm. Looking at a company's strengths and weak- nesses rom this angle, he says, was one o his greatest learning experiences, with "eye-opening takeaways" as he watched over operations, oered guidance and developed a close rapport with the operators. As a ormer business operator himsel, he knew that running a company goes beyond spreadsheets and black-and-white sales igures. Still, ater another ive years in private equity, he was ready to return to his original passion: growing brands. Davidson had just exited one when his son called and said he knew someone whose parents owned a successul mom-and-pop company called J&D Brush Co., helmed by Je Rosenzweig. Rosenzweig's business was expanding and he needed advice. So the pair connected by phone– a ateul call that would change the course o Davidson's career trajectory and set the still-growing company on a path to greater success than previously imagined. THE WETBRUSH BOOM Davidson and Rosenzweig hit it o immediately, but the business mogul was especially impressed by the raving testimonials rom the brand's ans. "I knew this company had something really special; I had never seen a brand or product with a more impassioned user than the WetBrush consumer," Davidson says. "Unsolicited, there were literally thousands o testimonials, and they all had the same theme: 'This brush changed my lie.'" Davidson hopped on board as a consultant in 2013, expecting to contribute about 15 hours per week. But that soon turned into 30, then ull-time. To take the business to the next level, he recommended selling the company to a private equity irm, allowing them to hire the best executives possible and take on intrepid investment bank- ers. Upon the sale o a majority stake to TopSpin Equity Partners in late 2015, Davidson oicially joined the team as chie operating oicer/chie strategy oicer. About 18 months later, he assumed the CEO position as Rosenzweig moved to chairman. "The business has lourished tremendously, and my ocus as CEO is to grow and respect the WetBrush brand," Davidson explains. "We always believed it had tremendous potential, but we've truly revolutionized the brush business. We've decommoditized the commodity o brushes." O course, by the time Davidson joined the team, JD was already a well-established brand, in the market or decades. Back in 1977, Rosenzweig started selling brushes out o the trunk o his car at a lea market in Long Island, New York. From those humble beginnings, he became one o the irst to manuacture brushes overseas, and in 2005 he ounded what became the wildly popular WetBrush. "We were the irst to market around and teach people about detangling," Davidson says. "The heritage o our business is proessional users, yet it's our consumer group that's now continuing to grow and thrive. But without that proessional heritage, 3,000 to 4,000 hair- dressers using the product every day, we'd be nowhere." Davidson insists that the company remain mindul o that pro ocus; he believes it's like a "permission slip" to cater to consumers. By ocusing irst on proessionals– giving them better, newer, sleeker solutions–JD is able to take that technological knowhow and create patented products or the masses. And, by separating pro and consumer product development and marketing initiatives, Davidson believes the company can ocus better on each channel, thereby strengthening both. "We're now oering to pros and consumers in 35 countries, and it's not just detangling brushes anymore; we have round, dry and styling brushes, too," Davidson notes. "We have some ormidable competitors, but nobody markets brushes like we do, including through digital and social media. And the brand is trusted throughout the world." Fittingly, the man who was once trained to sell TV ad airtime recently launched an unprecedented marketing eort. In September, the company concluded a $1 million ad campaign with national television spots on large net- works, which contributed to a signiicant sales lit while breaking brush-ad barriers. "To our knowledge, there's never been a brush brand advertised on TV that way," Davidson says. "Thanks to the campaign, we saw a 30 to 50 percent growth over last year in just the month o August." With 35-plus SKUs catered to curly-haired customers, Ouidad has lagship salon locations in New York, Caliornia and Florida. "We're very excited about having Ouidad because they have so many strengths we don't." AT A GLANCE JD BEAUTY GROUP Founded: 1977 Best- Sellers Original Detangler, Flex Collection and Plush Brush New Acquisitions Bio Ionic in 2017; Ouidad in 2018 Signature Product The WetBrush, launched in 2005 and now sold in 35 countries

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