Kristin Ess may well be known for her career as a celebrity hairstylist to the likes of Lucy Hale and Lauren Conrad, but her achievements don’t end there. The LA-based, Insta-famous talent – she currently has 476k followers – is also a successful entrepreneur with a range of uber-popular hair products that sold out (in US Target) in the blink of an eye after launching. And if that wasn’t enough, Ess also co-founded a The Beauty Department, one of the first websites to serve-up accessible hair tutorials.
On her recent trip to Australia, BD caught up with Ess, to find out her thoughts on starting a successful business and how to stand out online.
Tell us about the time when you went from hair stylist to entrepreneur?
I was working in the industry for a long time selling products for other people, so you kind of become a bit of a novice entrepreneur in your mind when you’re doing that. And you also dream about what your own line would look like. So the crossover really was when I started the brand at the very beginning.
We had The Beauty Department before, so that was a bit of an experiment in ‘starting’ something, even though there was no product. It taught me how to run a business, it taught me how to show up on time and how to be consistent.
My tip for everyone who asks me what to do – find somebody who does what you don’t do, and who does it really well. I was so lucky with my business partners that they are at the forefront of manufacturing and formulations.
What part has the internet and social media played in your business and personal brand?
I always think of it like this: if the internet blew up, I still need to have a job. I’ve never once wanted to let go of doing hair as a trade and I know that as long as I’m continuing to do that, I have something to offer in terms of knowledge.
[Influencing] is a different hustle, I have a certain craft and I love sharing it, but I couldn’t be an influencer just to be an influencer because I don’t have that energy. I just do my thing and I happen to take videos of it.
It’s hair first, Instagram second.
What do you think makes a really good piece of content?
Two things. Firstly, it’s about a feeling. I might take 100 pictures but I’ll always go with the one I have an emotion about when I look at it. There are lots of different feelings I might experience; when I post the hair brushing videos for example, they’re weirdly satisfying to watch. I don’t want to take myself too seriously but it’s like art in that way!
Secondly I would also say making sure that you educate people one way or another – that’s my biggest thing. We’re about to launch so much education around the products because I want to teach people about how they’re probably used via different types of content.
Where do you look for inspiration?
I’m really old school. I have so many old books, an archive of them in fact. Some of them are as random as a Sears catalogue from the 1920s, or an old hairdressers manual from the 1940s – I just love them. One of my favourite things to look at are old Victorian hairstyles and work out how I can make them look modern and cool. I’m very nostalgic!
I used to work under Eugene Solomon at Fashion Week. He’s iconic. I would watch him invent things and would think, I’m sure someone has once attempted this, but he’s truly an inventor of textures and looks and that inspired me so much. He also taught me that there are always fun and different things to be tried.
Which are the best-sellers in your range?
The top three are the Rose Gold Temporary Tint and the Signature Shampoo and Conditioner. And in exciting news, there will be six rounds of launches coming soon. We’ll have 64 products by January. There’s a lot happening!