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Organic and Performance Not Mutually Exclusive

by Advertorial on Sunday, October 11, 2009

Julie Ebner

Julie Ebner began carrying Max Green Alchemy hair products at her Philadelphia salon four years ago.

While having natural and organic products is important to her, having products that work is essential to her salon’s success. With Max Green Alchemy, she says she gets both.

“Everything works amazingly well,” says Ebner of Juju Salon and Organics, which provides all natural, non-toxic and organic products. “It works for every member of the family, every texture, hair that’s been colored, etc. It’s a top seller.”

Demand for organic personal-care products has exploded, with sales of expected to top $1 billion this year, according to the Organic Trade Association. The cosmetics, hair and skin care industries use more than 7,000 ingredients derived from natural or synthetic sources. As many as one in seven of these have harmful or toxic effects on the skin or body, ranging from minor skin irritation or contact dermatitis to carcinogenic implications.

Organic refers to the way agricultural products are grown and processed. It includes a system of production, processing, distribution and sales that assures consumers that the products maintain the organic integrity that begins on the farm.

Juju Salon

But natural and organic products had a reputation for not necessarily performing as well as mainstream products.

Max Green Alchemy set out to prove that consumers need not compromise performance when they buy natural and organic styling products. Scalp Rescue Texture Paste, Scalp Rescue Sculpting Gel, Scalp Rescue Styling Gel and Scalp Rescue Pomade are designed to provide the latest looks without parabens, PVP, silicones, wax or other synthetic additives. Instead, they combine plant-derived ingredients with traditional botanical extracts, vitamins and essential oils.

The styling products were developed because of the gap that existed for effective natural styling products that perform like their chemical-laden cousins. Many “natural” products rely on petrochemicals to provide hold. Texture Paste is designed to add define and detail to chunky styles; Styling Gel is a soft hold gel; Pomade adds shine and moisture and Sculpting Gel is a strong-hold, humidity-resistant gel.

“There aren’t many good natural styling products out there,” says Wil Baker, co-founder of San Francisco-based Max Green Alchemy. “We thought we could do better. We’ve taken natural styling products to the next level.”

Whole Foods helped the fledgling company set up a distribution network, and it was “like a rolling snowball,” Baker says. Today, Max Green Alchemy products are sold at 250 resellers in the United States.

Because of this emphasis on performance, the company’s products have developed quite a following among stylists who work with texture.

“We love Max Green Alchemy for curly hair because it doesn’t feel like there’s anything in the hair, but it gives good curl definition,” says Nicole Lengerich, a stylist at Dio Salon & Spa in Colorado Springs who specializes in curly hair. “My curlies love Styling Gel. I think it’s so good that they’d use it even if it wasn’t natural.”

Many stylists also are turning to lines like Max Green Alchemy out of their own desire to use products with fewer chemicals.

“Stylists are using these products all day long in their salons,” Baker says. “Products like ours allow them to treat their bodies better as well.”

San Francisco-based Max Green Alchemy got its start in 2004 when Baker, whose background is in finance, teamed up with David Karlak, who has a marketing background. Both had an interest in natural products and believed there was a need for products that “respect consumers’ internal and external environments without sacrificing effectiveness.”

The name “Max Green,” says Baker, is a philosophy which reflects the duo’s vision.

“Alchemy is what we do as a company,” Baker says.

“We saw a gap in the market was for natural products that were still sensual,” says Baker, who telecommutes from England. “We wanted people to have an experience when they used them, and be products they would use even if they weren’t into natural ingredients.”

Baker and Karlak spent a year developing Max Alchemy’s first four products: Skin Rescue Cream, Scalp Rescue Shampoo and Conditioner and Chap Defense Lip Balm. The line launched in early 2005 at the Natural Products Expo, and was picked up by Whole Foods Market within half an hour.

“It was an indication they liked what they saw,” Baker says. “While customers may initially have jumped on it because it’s organic, we find most customers use it because it works.”

The company has been lauded by natural living publications such as Vegetarian Journal, Herb Companion, Skin Deep and Organic.org. In 2008, the company won the Best Cruelty-Free Personal Product award from PETA for its Scalp Rescue Shampoo. The PETA Proggy (for progress) awards recognize animal-friendly achievements in commerce and culture on behalf of their members and supporters.

Max Green Alchemy also has received recognition from mainstream beauty publications such as Elle, which this month named the company’s Scalp Rescue Conditioner as the best “green conditioner.”

And stylists are quickly jumping on the Max Green Alchemy bandwagon. Baker says stylists have been among the company’s strongest advocates.

“It’s the only shampoo and conditioner I sell,” says Yoshi Nishizaki of Y-Shaped God salon in New York City. “They work for everyone.”

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Top Tips for Businesses
Top Tips for Businesses

Business Building Techniques

Begin having frequent staff meetings and collaborate on business building techniques used by others that you work with. Every salon has success right inside. Get the top booker to explain how they do it. Pair the weakest with the strongest and let them work next to each other. They can learn from what they hear and see. Do the same with retail sales. Share the ways that the top stay on top.

With cross marketing other services, know who the salon leaders are and copy them. Your staff becomes a resource to each other and by sharing dialouge that works, we all win.

Geno Stampora, Stampora Consulting Inc.

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