Sharon Pak Talks the Transformative Power of Hair and Founding Insert Name Here
Sharon Pak is the co-founder of Insert Name Here, a hair brand beloved by millennials and Gen Z. One of the first employees at ColourPop Cosmetics, Pak and her best friend Jordyn Wynn launched INH to fill a void in the market — selling premium hair extensions and wigs at an affordable price point. We spoke to Pak about how Insert Name Here has created a hyper-engaged online hair community and why hair is such a powerful beauty tool.
What is Insert Name Here?
Sharon Pak: I think Insert Name Here (INH) is about transformation, confidence, and being whoever you want to be. I’ve been in the beauty industry for six years now. I helped build ColourPop, and then saw brand like Kylie Cosmetics, KKW Beauty, Sol Body, and Fourth Ray come out. It made me realize that beauty is such an empowering industry. When you do your makeup you feel confident. I felt the same way about hair — hair can transform how you feel on the inside. That’s why we decided to create INH and our motto is “you can be whoever you want to be.”
When you founded INH, what was missing from the market that you think your brand filled?
To be honest, there were no other consumer hair brands that knew how to speak to millennials and Gen Z. We started a conversation around hair experimentation and how to change up your hair. There were these big celebrities like Ariana Grande, Kylie Jenner and Kim Kardashian who change their hair all the time — you almost don’t even know what their real hair looks like anymore! For us, when we launched INH, we saw that as a huge opportunity in which someone could afford to buy a $40 ponytail that would instantly change their look. There was a desire for these pieces but was no brand offering them at that time.
What do you think that makes different INH from other hair brands?
We really know how to build a sticky community and we care about our audience. I feel like a lot of people when they build brands can have a black or white approach, just trying to make money and push product, but for us, we want to create a conversation with our audience and our consumers. They’re our friends and we’re very, very interactive. We really take in our consumers’ feedback seriously because they are the pulse of the brand. It also creates a connection between our audience and us.
How did your background at ColourPop prepare you to launch your own business?
ColourPop was everything! It’s funny because in retrospect I’m like wow, I wouldn’t be able to do anything that I’m doing without now my experience there. It made me flexible and super reactive, and I think that’s a really important factor when you have a startup. You have to be quick on your feet and willing to change the plan because you never know what’s going to happen. I’ve learned so much about how to build a good product, how to market it, how to involve our community into the conversation, and how to get feedback. I think from start to finish, there isn’t anything that I’ve learned from ColourPop that hasn’t prepped me for my own business.
What role does Instagram play on your business?
Instagram is a really big part of it — I think Instagram is the entry point for people to find you. It’s the discovery channel and that’s where people are going to engage with you so it requires great visual branding, great copy, and tone. Facebook is where intimate relationships are created, so we have a very intimate group called INH babes where we basically invite our top VIP costumers into a Facebook group. They love the brand and believe in it, so in this group, we’re getting a lot of feedback about our products. I think people underestimate the power of Facebook but we have to remember people love exclusivity and personalization. When you create an environment that has that intimacy, that’s where the magic really happens.
What are the three personality traits that help you as a business owner?
I think number one is faith. I go into everything with the mindset of “it can be done, let’s find a way.” I’m very optimistic and I have so much faith in INH and myself. Number two I’m very very blunt. I think feedback is key and without a team, a business is not a business. You need your team to push onward and I really value our people because they’re the ones every day making sure things are happening. I think my third one would be curiosity. I love to learn new things and I get obsessed with new things. I go all-in and into a crazy rabbit hole of crazy research.
What’s the most empowering thing about having a successful business as a woman of color?
I never realized what that meant until maybe three years ago when I was about to leave ColourPop. My parents are Korean immigrants. They both moved here in their twenties to pursue the American dream. My mom worked at a sewing factory for many years and my dad was a truck driver, then they moved to Arizona. I lived near the border, so I grew up in a Latino community and lived there for so long that I never even realized I was different, as funny as that sounds. I grew up eating pozole, tamales, and going to quinceañeras all my life. It was so normal to me! Then my dad passed away and my mom, who speaks no English, had to figure out how to raise three children on her own.
When I got into ColourPop, I started doing more beauty and gained a little bit of social recognition. I received direct messages from girls saying things like “thank you so much for representing our people,” or “I don’t know how to put on makeup for Asian features” because there aren’t that many Asian beauty influencers out there. I just really learned that I have a voice and that it means a lot for a lot of people.
2020 has been a challenging year so far. Have you had any setbacks this year and how have you dealt with them? What would you like to accomplish later this year?
Interestingly, I thought the Coronavirus was going to be a hard hit for the business. When all of this started happening I was freaking out but because of the situation, people are shopping online more. Being such a social media-oriented brand, I feel like our content is really resonating with our audience and our sales haven’t been impacted at all. Technically they’re doing better, which is crazy. I would have never expected that to happen.
I want us to become the biggest hair brand! This year INH is coming up with really fun and different products and I think it’s something that will set us apart.
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