- Lucie Macleod noticed drugstore products weren’t working on her damaged hair.
- After feeling priced out of high-end haircare, she created her own hair oil treatment.
- This is how a viral TikTok on her haircare inspired her business, as told to Amber Sunner.
This as-told-to essay is based on a transcribed conversation with Lucie Macleod, a 22-year-old founder from Pembrokeshire, Wales, about starting a haircare company. It has been edited for length and clarity. Insider has verified Macleod’s sales with documentation.
I noticed at 19 how my hair suffered after bleaching it. I had also just got a job in PR and marketing while taking a year out of university.
I became self-conscious because my hair was severely damaged and it kept breaking and falling onto my shoulders.
After spending hundreds of pounds on different shampoos and deep conditioners that promised to fix damaged hair, I quickly realized they were all missing something
My hair would look good for one day, but it would be tangled or crunchy the following day.
I needed something that had a long-lasting effect.
I began researching haircare for purely my own needs. I read a lot of articles that cited prewash treatments containing essential oils.
I couldn’t find prewash treatments in stores, and they cost too much online; a 50-milliliter bottle of prewash oils was 35 pounds.
I decided to find the oils I needed to make my own prewash treatment. I went to my local health-food store and bought the raw oils I needed, including peppermint oil, argan oil, and avocado oil, and over the coming weeks I experimented on my hair.
I first mixed different oils in my student house
Each week I would try out a different homemade blend.
I kept the various oils in squeezy sauce bottles that cost 99 pence.
Before lockdown hit in 2020, I moved back to Wales to live with my parents. My mum was amazed by my hair when she saw me. It had also grown a lot, which was challenging to do before because of all the previous damage.
A few months later I downloaded TikTok to pass time during lockdown. I began to notice #hairtok, a hashtag for TikTok users to talk about hair.
I decided to do a video explaining to people how I made my hair healthy through my experiments. It was awful quality, but it went viral. It received 600,000 views over a week, and I was inundated with thousands of people saying that they would buy the prewash treatment.
Comments like these kept coming for three months.
In summer 2020 I started researching how to set up a cosmetic business because of the requests. I spent 600 pounds on lab testing, equipment, and the legal regulation for sale.
I then came up with the name Hair Syrup for the brand. I made the first website myself on Big Cartel because I didn’t want to waste thousands if the business didn’t take off.
I also designed my logo myself to cut costs.
I learned everything from Google, from the legal side of selling haircare to designing the logo. There were no shortcuts, because I had little money to spend.
In autumn I was ready to launch. I set up operations in two spare rooms in my parents’ house. We would create the product, bottle it up, and ship it from there.
I grew the business solely on TikTok. After the viral video created the hype, I thought this would be the best way to get word of my business out. I post a few times a day on the app as marketing.
What works best for my brand is showing before-and-after haircare transformations so that people can see the results. Instructional videos also do well for the brand on the platform.
I juggled university and the business during the launch, and it was the hardest thing I have ever had to do. I would be up most nights till 2 a.m. juggling university assignments and Hair Syrup.
Doing restocks fortnightly helped me to keep the demand under control
After orders became too much for me to handle, I started only selling on three Fridays a month.
I got this idea from TikTok four months into the business. It meant I didn’t become overwhelmed with orders every day, as I was only selling three days a month. It also meant that sometimes I could allocate more time to send orders out.
In February 2021, I had to shut the shop because I was overwhelmed with my university assignments. I knew I wanted to finish my degree. I was academically driven, and I had worked hard to get into the university.
I reopened the shop after handing in my university work three weeks later.
I finished university in June and went full time on Hair Syrup.
In July, retail brands began approaching me to stock it in their stores — but each contract asked for exclusivity, and I didn’t think the retailers were completely on brand for the company. With more time to focus on it, I redesigned my website in October.
In November, the online beauty retailer Beauty Bay approached me. It felt amazing to be recognized by such a major cosmetics company.
It was getting hard to keep up with the orders
I realized I had to move out of my parents’ house to keep up with the demand.
In February I decided to move operations to a unit in Pembrokeshire, Wales, to increase production. We’ve got a lot more space, and it doubles as an office.
In April our products appeared on Beauty Bay.
There have been challenges with the business too. I was asked by TikTok to go on a Live, and I was told that I wouldn’t sell anything in the first two Lives. So I agreed, and quickly we had 50,000 viewers and 200 orders.
I had never sold on a Live, and having that many orders over two hours led to absolute chaos.
I now have four employees, who help with packing the orders and putting the oils that have been manufactured into bottles.
I made more than 93,000 pounds (about $114,000) from my DIY hair oil last month in revenue. I am proud of a business I created with 600 pounds.
If you have an idea or a product that you know is special, launch it.
I knew I had found a niche that had worked for my problem, and the fact that I had found a community on TikTok who wanted the product was the push I needed.