Beauty Store Business

DEC 2017

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52 December 2017 | beautystorebusiness.com of the world. The first bullet train was introduced at the Olympics, and this was the start of Japan coming out of World War II devastation." As the company grew, Fred invited a commodity trader in New York, who specialized in foreign trade, to join him on the West Coast. That man was Kay Obayashi, who would become Jatai's next owner in the late 1970s. At first, Jatai specialized in sewing machines, and later switched focus to what Obayashi knew best: importing and exporting. From tatami mats to diatomaceous soil to scrap pieces of tuna for canned cat food, the company didn't find its niche until Obayashi started importing haircutting razors and blades. SHEAR LUCK In the 1960s, under Obayashi, Jatai began distributing Feather Safety Razor Co. products, starting with the Feather Switch-Blade Shears with Replaceable Blades—an item that did well for many years as one of the priciest, high-quality shears on the market (and is still sold by the company today). "[Obayashi] started to find products he could have full or exclusive distribu- tion rights to," Dean says. "Today, that's what we're enjoying right now. We have been the sole distributor of Feather pro- fessional beauty products as well as a couple other product lines." Jatai has also created its own line of men's grooming products, which includes shaving cream, facial cleanser and moisturizer. Feather products are made in Seki, Japan—the birthplace of the samurai sword and a region known for its cutlery, knives and grooming tools made using the land's plentiful natural resources, like pine charcoal for kilns. "Jatai razors are truly remarkable. Their quality is what sets them apart," says Dean's daughter Vanessa, who oversees marketing and product development. "Feather, our razor manufacturer, sets the bar on razor pro- duction. … They are very precise with their production techniques and quality control testing." In 1991, Jatai and Feather developed the Feather Styling Razor, which is Jatai's hero product and the No. 1 haircutting razor in the world. "The Feather Styling Razor is the first replaceable-blade razor with guarded blades to appear in the mar- ket," Vanessa says. Prior to its invention, razors folded and had a guard slip on the head of the razor, which allowed hair to get clogged between the guard and blade. This posed a danger to stylists who could easily cut themselves. Unlike its predecessors, the Feather Styling Razor has a guard built right onto it, with a blade that extends into the handle for a more secure grip. "The other thing about our razor is that it doesn't fold. It's a straight-handle razor, which was unheard of back when we brought it out. The reason we did that was to give the hairdresser a real easy tool to use, which you don't have to learn how to hold. It's just like grabbing a pencil or paint- brush—and you start cutting," Dean says. THE BARBERSHOP BOOM Dean was working as a CPA for one of the Big 8 firms in the 1980s ("Way back when we had floppy disks," he laughs), and Jatai was one of his clients. Though Obayashi's nephew was poised to take over the busi- ness, he tragically died in a plane crash; Obayashi invited Dean to join the company in 1987. "I always wanted to get involved with a small company to help develop it and be more entrepreneurial," Dean says. Seventeen years later, Dean purchased Jatai, moving its headquarters from Santa Fe Springs to Buena Park, California. Dean says that his most memorable accomplishments over the years include conceptualizing the Feather Styling Razor, bringing Seki Edge tools to the U.S. and witnessing Seki Edge nail clippers become the No. 1 nail clipper sold on Amazon. "Because of the internet, people who shave at home can get access to less expensive products, and great products as well. So due to that, a lot of entrepre- neurs have come out and developed shav- ing products and men's haircare products, which opened the doors for the barber industry to really flourish and continue "My advice to entrepreneurs is to stay focused, stay true to your convictions and be patient— nothing happens overnight." –Dean Wada Next year, Dean's children Vanessa and Kevin (pictured to his right) will have more involvement in upper management at Jatai. Jason Bennett, product photo courtesy of Jatai International Feather Switch-Blade Shears were the fi rst Feather product Jatai distributed in the 1960s.

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