After forging a successful career in the consumer goods industry with Unilever and then Heineken, Sean Cassar, a born entrepreneur, and his wife set out to create a brand of their own. In 2009, Headgear was born. Headgear is a range of salon-quality haircare products for men that are effective, affordable, and made accessible through their availability in supermarkets and pharmacies.
After building significant expertise in the male grooming category the business has since expanded with the launch of Jack The Barber and Barber & Co. Jack The Barber is now a leading brand in the male grooming category with products ranging from haircare, shaving, beard grooming and shower gel. Branching out from a focus on men, most recently the business has expanded further with the launch of Thanks To Nature, a hair care range for women. Thanks To Nature is a luxury hair care range that is accessible and affordable, designed using the best naturally derived ingredients, for healthy happy hair. With an ever-growing portfolio of products and brands the business has been rebranded to BluSky Brands to amalgamate each of the business units and cater for future expansion.
Where did the idea for Thanks to Nature come from?
I started working in haircare around 20 years ago for a major Multi-National, and back then I could see opportunities in the category that were not being catered for. Male grooming was the first opportunity I tackled with the launch of Headgear in 2009 and more recently Jack The Barber and Barber & Co. Our philosophy has always been to create barbershop quality products that are easily accessible and affordable to everyday people. We applied the same philosophy to create Thanks To Nature, in the female space, offering salon quality products at an affordable price.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
My day is typical. 6am wake up, walk the dog, coffee and small breakfast and head to the office by 8am. Operational fire fighting usually takes up the first hour or two of my day. I then re-group with the team over a coffee mid morning and re-prioritise the rest of the day against the to do list from the night before. There are many late nights though, especially in the early days, but I like to get home in time to have dinner with the family before starting a second shift in the evening.
How do you bring ideas to life?
We follow haircare and beauty trends closely, immersing ourselves in the latest insights in regards to technology, ingredients, and packaging developments. Social media platforms provide a source of inspiration and consumer conversation sentiment. We overlay that with identified gaps in the market to develop brands and products.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Customisation and personalisation; creating products and services that are completely customised to an individual’s needs. From customised beauty, to bespoke medical care and individual fashion that connects more intrinsically.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Money management! My wife would probably classify me as being tight, but I hate waste of any kind, especially money. I have solid financial knowledge and I like to know that the money being spent is taking us closer to our goals and every step is adding value.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Don’t over think about things that might happen, especially those that are not in your control. For the majority of the time they don’t eventuate, and the few that do you can’t change the result anyway.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Mad Max 2 is a better film than Mad Max.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Focus, focus, focus! If you know you have a core strength and competitive advantage, exploit it to the fullest. Doing one thing really well anchors your business and will allow you to take more calculated risks down the track when you can afford small failures.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Call me old school, but sticking to the Marketing 4P’s, focusing on the packaging and product first. Designing great packaging can create the point of difference to stand out and inspire consumer trial, even when no-one knows your brand. Then deliver a product promise or quality that exceeds consumer expectations and that usually goes a long way to getting consumers to re-buy. Add a sprinkle of smarts and you can grow a successful business.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
To reach scale and create a bigger business faster, I took on complementary third party brands which at the time made strategic sense But it proved to be a distraction and caused customer relationship harm. It put pressure on our trademark brands and our customer relationship equity took a hit. In the end we were up-front with our customers and told them we needed to exit the brand for the better of core business – rip off the band-aid! The lesson it taught me was to stay focused and maintain control of brand and commercial decisions and to be upfront and communicate quickly with key customer stakeholders.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Beach bags and beach gear made out of recycled ocean plastic waste.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
Purchased a bottle of Houghton Jack Mann wine, went home and drank it with my wife on a Tuesday night (while Sydney is in lockdown).
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Having an automated ordering system that manages sales and invoicing without having to raise layers of transactions manually. It limits the majority of the sales process to electronic transactions and record keeping, freeing up time for people to add real value somewhere else in the business.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Shoe Dog, it’s the inspirational story of Phil Knight who created one of the most recognisable brands on the planet, NIKE. It tells the true story of the tenacity, perseverance, dedication, patience, and commitment to the cause required to start a successful brand.
What is your favorite quote?
‘If you waste time, time will waste you.’
- Focus on your core product and do it well.
- Work on your product and packaging first to ensure it’s high quality.
- Don’t overthink the issues you may face, when they may be out of your control and you will learn from those problems.
- Ensure your budget is going towards things that add value to the business.
Carlyn runs the day-to-day publishing operation here at ideamensch and interacts with our awesome customers and entrepreneurs. She is likely editing this with a cat on her lap.