When Dan Hodgdon founded Vegamour in Los Angeles in 2016, he set out to create an entirely new product category—“hair wellness.” One of his main goals with the vegan, cruelty-free brand was to destigmatize hair loss, which affects more than three-quarters of people during their lifetime and which is roughly 70% attributable to lifestyle factors such as poor sleep and nutrition, stress, and environmental pollution.
Those stressors affect consumers worldwide and Hodgdon has always had a global vision for Vegamour, which began selling internationally just two months after launching. This past June, the brand expanded into China through Alibaba’s Tmall Overseas Fulfillment program and Vegamour is now participating in Alibaba’s Go Global 11.11 Pitch Fest, designed to help fast-track American small and medium-sized businesses onto Alibaba’s cross-border B2C platform, Tmall Global, ahead of the 11.11 Global Shopping Festival. Hodgdon’s goal is to accelerate Vegamour’s momentum in China ahead of the festival and then launch a flagship store on Tmall Global in early 2022.
“We are concentrating now on building and having brand awareness in China, and we would love to use the Pitch Fest opportunity to gain market share and win the hearts and minds of Chinese consumers,” said Hodgdon.
Hodgdon comes from a long line of farmers, but his father chose to become an engineer and the family lived abroad, including in Asia, throughout Hodgdon’s childhood. Summers, however, were spent on the extended family’s farms back in Vermont. There, Hodgdon learned fundamental lessons about taking care of the land, rotating crops and saving the best seeds for next year.
The experience fascinated him and led him to major in biology in college, where he developed an understanding of the potential that various botanical actives held for consumer products. Prior to launching Vegamour, Hodgdon ran a business that developed sustainable supply chains for natural ingredients sourced from countries across Africa and Asia. When he decided to create Vegamour, his primary goal was to develop a safe and effective natural product that stimulates hair growth.
“We all had great hair as kids,” he notes. “What happens to change it? Is there a way we can help the body remember how to do this? I wanted to prove that if you use the right percentages of botanical actives, the product will really work.”
His theory was based on the premise that hair health is contingent on numerous factors and that haircare products needed to address the underlying cause of each issue, such as breakage, hair loss or dullness, with just the right amount of the right ingredient.
“My theory turned out to be right,” he says. “And Vegamour took off.”
Hodgdon and his team of scientists knew that most shampoos, conditioners and hair serums used animal-derived keratin or silicone to coat the hair—but that the majority of both ingredients just got rinsed down the drain. The team worked to develop a new, plant-based keratin substitute called Karmitin™, which is now Vegamour’s hero ingredient. A protein in Karmitin mimics the silk of the wasp spider and bonds directly to the hair to nourish, repair and protect it from the sun, chlorine and pollutants, leaving it silky and shiny. Hodgdon describes the patented innovation, which contains no formaldehyde or animal products, as “the most important thing to happen to haircare in the last 40 years.”
Given Chinese consumers’ holistic view of health and wellness, as well as their affinity for clean, natural products with active ingredients backed by science, Vegamour is looking forward to its first 11.11 Global Shopping Festival and the launch of a flagship store next year. Hodgdon’s goals for the shopping festival are to build brand awareness, gather customer feedback, and earn the trust and respect of Chinese consumers. Since launching in China with five products in the Vegamour Gro line in June, the brand has already seen its top two SKUs sell out twice and its conditioner rank among the top 10 conditioners on Tmall Global.
Hodgdon says that the importance of a global outlook cannot be underestimated, “Brands should absolutely be considering launching in China to be successful. Though the market can seem intimidating, there are ways to set up for success, including getting trademarks in place, learning how to use Chinese social media platforms, seeding KOLs, and sharing your brand story in the right way. With this in place, launching in China wouldn’t be so scary.”