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How a hair-care firm went from salon provider to sanitizer powerhouse – Canadian Enterprise

When AG Hair moved into its new, 70,000-sq.-foot, state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Coquitlam, B.C., two years in the past, it was a part of a plan to supercharge enlargement of its hair care product line to salons in worldwide markets. Europe was subsequent on its listing. Then COVID-19 hit.

Not solely was the European enlargement placed on maintain, however salons in main markets throughout Canada and the USA have been briefly closed. Only a few have been buying hair merchandise, so manufacturing was halted in mid-March, leaving many of the firm’s 82 staff out of labor.

AG Hair might have waited out the pandemic however as a substitute determined to lean into its entrepreneurial tradition and make a pointy pivot. It started offering hand-sanitizing merchandise for front-line health-care employees, addressing a world scarcity.

“We realized there was this large want for health-care professionals, and we needed to make a distinction and have the ability to present them with the merchandise they wanted,” says AG Hair CEO Graham Fraser.

AG Hair obtained Canadian and U.S. approvals per week after making use of for the licences wanted to make sanitizer, and produced samples to indicate native authorities inside 48 hours.

AG Hair's Coquitlam facility has pivoted to making hand sanitizer (Photograph by Alana Paterson)

AG Hair’s Coquitlam facility has pivoted to creating hand sanitizer ({Photograph} by Alana Paterson)

“That speedy response time, and the truth that we had gone by way of the entire Well being Canada regulatory hurdles, confirmed [the local health authorities] that we have been a accomplice they may belief and somebody they may look to, to ship the merchandise they wanted,” Fraser says.

Inside a month, the corporate began pumping out the merchandise, first for the health-care trade, then for shoppers by itself web site and on Amazon. About 10 per cent of AG Hair’s hand-sanitizer manufacturing additionally went to individuals in want, as recognized by organizations equivalent to United Manner.

Parallel 49 Brewing Firm can be utilizing AG Hair’s Coquitlam manufacturing facility to provide its personal mix of liquid hand sanitizer for front-line well being and emergency employees, in partnership with the B.C. authorities.

Fraser credit his workforce for its power and creativity in making the hand-sanitizer manufacturing occur, and serving to put AG Hair employees again to work.

“We realized we had a possibility . . . after which it grew to become this unimaginable, nearly war-room mentality and collaboration with our homeowners, our government workforce and our individuals to say, ‘How are we going to get by way of this?’ ” Fraser recollects. “I believe our success speaks to the kind of individuals now we have and the entrepreneurial spirit of pursuing each avenue now we have, understanding how we are able to produce the merchandise and making it occur.”

AG Hair’s dedication to investing in future progress is an enormous a part of what makes it a Greatest Managed firm, says Nicole Coleman, a accomplice at Deloitte and co-lead of its Greatest Managed Program in B.C.

“Functionality and innovation come by way of fairly strongly with this firm,” says Coleman, who can be AG Hair’s coach at Deloitte. “I don’t assume they’d have the ability to pivot as rapidly in the event that they weren’t so strategic and had the interior capabilities to do it.”

The manufacturing facility was an enormous funding, however one Coleman says has already paid dividends.

“They have been trying ahead with a strategic plan in thoughts about future progress and the way they may increase, slightly than simply specializing in the each day,” she says. “Greatest Managed firms are at all times pushing the envelope and are aware about planning for the long run.”

AG Hair was based in Vancouver in 1989 by hairstylist John Davis and graphic artist Lotte Davis. The husband-and-wife workforce started bottling hair merchandise of their basement and promoting them direct to salons from the again of a station wagon.

The corporate ultimately moved its manufacturing off-site, to a 3rd occasion. Sooner or later, John went to observe the operations and was shocked to see salt being poured into the combination. Though he was instructed salt is often used as a thickener, he didn’t just like the potential unwanted effects of dry hair and pores and skin.

It was at that second John determined the corporate would oversee its personal manufacturing. “Via that have, John additionally grew to become an knowledgeable in product growth,” says Fraser, who got here to the corporate in 2000 as director of gross sales.

After having labored for greater than 20 years at PepsiCo and Kraft Meals, Fraser was desperate to work at a smaller, extra agile firm the place he felt he might assist make a distinction.

“It was excellent as a result of I bought to deliver a variety of construction and course of that I realized in these organizations, however I additionally realized an terrible lot about being an entrepreneur from John and Lotte: that sense of urgency, the decision-making course of, the necessity to get issues carried out and drive issues ahead and pursue alternatives,” he says.

Fraser has helped drive AG Hair’s enlargement into the U.S. and internationally, together with Australia, Taiwan, and Central and South America. A portion of its gross sales go to One Lady Can, a charity based by Lotte that gives education, schooling and mentoring for ladies in sub-Saharan Africa.

Fraser additionally oversees the event of latest, trending merchandise, together with a brand new deep-conditioning hair masks made with 98 per cent plant-based and pure elements. Hand-sanitizing spray and gel would be the newest addition to the corporate’s product lineup.

“We don’t see the demand [for hand-sanitizing products] going away,” he says. “Because the isolation insurance policies begin to get lifted, individuals are going to wish types of safety and protocols as they get again into common life and work. We see there’s going to be a necessity for some of these merchandise long-term.”


This text seems in print within the June 2020 difficulty of Maclean’s journal with the headline, “Figuring out the kinks.” Subscribe to the month-to-month print journal here.

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