Now reading: Coming Clean: A Conversation With Odele's Founders
Odele founders Shannon Kearney, Britta Chatterjee and Lindsay Holden
May 04, 2021

Coming Clean: A Conversation With Odele's Founders

We got our three founders together in the same (virtual) room for a candid conversation about entrepreneurship, parenthood and real-life hair routines! Cozy up and read through their chat on self-care, sharing and making lazy hair look really good.

Describe your individual roles at Odele as co-founders—who does what?

Britta: Shannon runs operations—she’s the one who makes things happen. I cover more of the business management: strategy, financials and such. Lindsay oversees all things brand, creative and sales. We’re actually still in the process of figuring out what our exact roles are, because we all do a bit of all the things!

Tell us about the origins of Odele. Why did you decide to start the company?

Britta: There were a lot of reasons. For me, after having my second child and taking 10 months off work, I knew I couldn’t go back to working for someone else. I remember sitting at Lindsay’s house and being like, “We need to do something that we’re really passionate about!”

Shannon: At the time, I had just been laid off from my job [in the hair care industry]. I loved working in hair care, I knew the industry well, and I knew I didn’t want to go into something else—but I also wanted more control over my own time, and to have more say in what’s best for the business and my family.

Lindsay: We were all kind of in that similar place—all of us were ready to make big moves. We saw a need in the beauty space that we knew we could fill, and we were all in a place where we could take a risk and do something about it.

S: It was—and still is!—a lot of work, but it’s a different kind of trade-off. If I’m going to put my blood, sweat and tears into something, I’m going to do it in a way that benefits me and my family, and for a product I believe in.

L: Right. When you have children, you become so acutely aware of what your time away is costing you. Running your own company is higher stakes and you’re never off, but, especially looking back at this past year, to be able to say, ‘You know what? Today I have to help my kids with distance learning,’ and having the flexibility to do it is so worth it. With our partnership, we support each other and help each other out.

How have your experiences with motherhood shaped Odele—the products, the mission, etc.?

L: As a mother, I can barely list anything that’s just mine—so it was really important for us to create something enabled for sharing. Before we started Odele, I was buying my own $40 shampoo. And then I had a moment where I was like, WHY? Well, because someone had told me to buy it a while ago, and I just stuck with it because it was fine, but it was so expensive and the ingredient list wasn’t even clean. We all kind of bonded over that and our frustration with constant bathroom clutter, and got really excited about coming up with a better solution—something designed for real life that makes life a little bit easier, too. The beauty industry has historically led us to believe that certain products are specific to certain ages, genders, etc. In reality, we don’t always need his/hers/theirs—we can share.

B: Inclusivity was also a big priority. As a white mother with a brown daughter, it’s so important for my little girl to see her hair type and skin tone celebrated. The industry has come a long way in terms of promoting inclusion and showcasing more diverse images of beauty, but there’s still a long way to go, and we want to be part of helping to push that forward.

S: Parenthood has definitely had a huge influence on our stylers, too. We put a lot of thought into the products that we bring to the market, because as moms, we know how it feels to have such limited time to get ready. Our Air Dry Styler is efficient for me to just shower, work in and go—and I know that my hair isn’t going to be a frizzy poof. Or the Dry Shampoo, because let’s be real, I don’t wash my hair every day—once a week is what I’m working with these days. And instead of using a bunch of separate products, I can throw the Detangling Tonic in my hair (and use it in my kid’s hair) and get the works with just one product.

B: At the end of the day, we wanted one less thing to have to think about. I don’t have time for a massive routine, and I don’t have time to do a ton of research. I just want something really good that’s not crazy-expensive.

L: And while we’re solving one problem, we want to make sure we aren’t adding to another. My daughter just did her Earth Day project at school, and it was on all the plastic in the ocean. When we were researching her five facts, we learned there’s more plastic in the ocean than fish. It’s so important to us to be aware of our environmental impact, to stay ahead of the curve and deliver our products in a way that respects our planet. Minimizing our footprint, making sure our bottles are recyclable, using PCR... doing the most we can and continuing to improve.

B: Yeah, I mean, when it comes to making those decisions and how we show up as a brand, I’ve never felt more accountable to any boss than I do to my children. When your kids are watching you build something, that’s accountability. My five-year-old son always talks about us as the “boss ladies.” At the same time he’s like, “do you have to work right now?”

What’s been the most challenging part of entrepreneurship? What’s been the most rewarding part?

B: Being an entrepreneur and being a business partner, it is impossible to not grow. It’s impossible to not constantly be learning and questioning yourself. Am I showing up the way I want to show up for my partners? It’s just a relentless pursuit of growth in every way, shape and form... growing the company, growing yourself, growing your tolerance for risk, growing your tolerance for anxiety. Learning to let go.

L: I think one of the biggest challenges is just the fact that we haven’t been able to be together this last year (that’s almost the whole time our products have been out there!). We’re still this small team wearing multiple hats (on top of the ones we wear at home), so every time we physically sit down together it feels so much better. Now that we’re all vaccinated, though, we're going to start to get together once a week and I CAN’T WAIT.

S: For me, one of the most challenging parts has been overcoming self-doubt. Even when you feel like you're making the right choice, and you believe in yourself, you have these moments where you’re questioning yourself, questioning your decisions, questioning if you’re doing the right thing for the business. It’s a constant cycle of questioning, then reassuring yourself you’ve got this and regaining your confidence to go for it.

L: Yeah! It’s like having another child that you release out into the world, and you hope that they are treated with kindness and acceptance and that people love them and are enthusiastic about them and want to see them succeed. There’s only so much you can do before you put your baby out into the world, and it can be scary. But we’ve been so thrilled to see how much people are loving the products and connecting with our mission.

Tell us about your real-life hair routines. Which products have been the biggest saviors for you and your families? Any usage tips or tricks to share?

B: [laughs] I mean, look at me. I don’t have a routine. I do wash my hair every day. And when I get ready, I use all of our products. My favorite right now is the Leave-in Detangling Tonic because my daughter has really long, thick hair, and without that, I don’t think I would ever get her hair brushed.

L: Any time we’re asked to give a hair tutorial, I’m like, ummm, I have two steps… [laughs] But that’s what I love about our brand—it’s all about keeping things simple, embracing that “undone” look and enhancing what you’ve got naturally. We make function-first products. They don’t make you feel as if you’re failing in terms of some how-to—you just apply them and go. I especially love the Air Dry Styler. I have a hard time coaxing out texture, particularly in the Minnesota winter months, and it helps me get a nice wave. For my kids, I love the Leave-in Conditioner. I think that’s one of our most versatile products. They have super fine hair with some curls, and just a little tiny bit goes a long way.

S: One of my favorite products is the Texturizing Sea Salt Spray. I take things to the limit, okay? I won’t wash my hair for a week, I’ll look like a swamp creature, but I’ll just let it down, wet it a bit, spray in the sea salt spray and I can get some nice waves. I get compliments all the time on my hair when I haven't even washed it in seven days.

B: I actually just had to leave for a second because I forgot to put on deodorant today. [laughs]

Best self-care tip for real life?

B: Go to a therapist. Whether or not you struggle with mental health, it’s a really good investment in yourself.

L: Protect time for yourself. My only me-time comes after the kids are in bed. After I’ve made the lunches and switched out the laundry, I’ll stay up reading a book or scrolling. And maybe that lack of sleep isn’t the best idea, but having that time for yourself is important, even if you’re doing nothing.

S: I’m still working on self-care, so I guess I’ll let you know when I find out. But you know, I try. I’ll be like, oh, I have to drink more water. Well, okay, that lasts for a few days. Then it’s like, I gotta meditate. Okay, I need to do that. I need to sleep better, I need to exercise… You try to do all the right things all the time, but it’s hard.

L: When all else fails, book a facial or massage appointment that you have to show up for.

The Drop

Thanks for coming to our TED talk. Share your own stories, styling tips and shower thoughts with us at @odelebeauty—we love connecting with you + your people! Questions for us? Email anytime.

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Written by Lindsay Holden