Meet Suzie Gillespie creator of the sustainable brand Moo Hair
For those who don’t know Moo Hair, are you able to tell us some more about the journey and where it all began?
I have owned a salon in Edinburgh for 13 years and decided to make it an eco-salon 5 years ago. One of the frustrations I had was not being able to find vegan, eco-friendly products that ticked all the boxes and were made in the UK. There were brands available from Australia and the US, but the carbon-footprint that would come from shipping them in from those countries wasn’t something I was comfortable with.
This sparked the idea for Moo Hair, and we decided to find and work with a chemist to make our own products.
Can you remember the moment when you thought, ‘we can do this’, and took the first step towards developing Moo Hair’s products?
I can, it was speaking with a client about the idea when he was in the salon. The client owns and runs a tea company, and when I mentioned the idea of Moo Hair, but that I had no experience making hair products he told me ‘I don’t make tea, but I have a business selling it, you need to find and work with the right experts’.
This was a pivotal moment for me, and I went on a search to find chemists who had experience in natural products and ingredients. We met with several, but I knew when we met ‘the one’, as they were experienced, down to earth and completely ‘got’ what we were about.
Moo Hair is very much a family run business, do you think that adds dynamic to your brand?
It is very much a family business. My husband wasn’t involved initially, but now does the invoices and ordering. My daughter Olivia does the social media management and is about to start studying Digital Marketing. I am the creative one and people person. We are a great blend of ages and experiences and being a family business does give us an edge, as people like to know who they are buying from; we have an honest approach, we are not perfect, are always trying to improve and I think that is seen in our brand.
Your products and ethos are very much about natural ingredients, sustainability and being cruelty free. How do you work with your suppliers to ensure they meet your values? Has this been more challenging/easier than expected?
It was time consuming. It took us two years to develop Moo Hair, and there were a number of reasons for that. We wanted to find marula oil that was produced ethically by a woman’s co-operative, which we did, but that took time** the ethical sourcing of the oil was most important to us, the fact it is organic is a bonus.
We wanted to use Icelandic moss as an ingredient, and Iceland is generally a greener country, so this was not too difficult to source.
Working with a small lab made this easier for us, we had a number of red lines that we were not willing to compromise on, for example, we will not use Palm Oil, our relationship with the lab and their understanding of our values helped a lot.
We are also realistic about compromises, for our product to have a realistic shelf life there are preservatives we need to use, but we are proud that most of our range contains 96% natural ingredients.
People are, rightly, talking about greenwashing at the moment, has this made it more difficult to get your message across?
No, I don’t think so. Because we are a small company it is easier for us to be transparent. Big companies can’t change fast enough for customer demand in this area, and I think consumers can tell & know this.
More people are thinking about their health, environmental impact and supporting small businesses, we have definitely seen more of a change with this since lockdown.
Your product ingredients include Icelandic Moss, Marula Oil & Sea Salt – what led you to them and what are the benefits to hair?
A lot of research!
Marula oil is a fascinating ingredient, we came across it in skin care products and wondered if it would have the same benefits for hair. Marula oil contains more antioxidants than other oils such as argan, and we found it is great for hair.
Icelandic moss has been used for centuries for it’s soothing and anti-inflammatory properties, we chose it as it is great for soothing your scalp; we wanted our products to be good for both your hair and scalp, especially as so many of us use hairdryers and straightening irons regularly on our hair, which can irritate your scalp.
What advice would you give people who are looking to move to more natural products?
Make a few small changes at a time and build on it. Small changes made by lots of people will made a difference.
Single use plastic is frustrating, and we wanted our product packaging to be as plastic free as possible. Our labels are made from recycled paper and printed with vegetable ink, and we offer aluminium lids so people can re-use pumps when they replace their bottles. We had to compromise with the plastic pumps, as glass bottles in a shower without them would not work.
We are aware that our products are more expensive than many big brands, but they do last longer. Changes are often an investment.
Did you find you ‘fell down the rabbit’ hole when you started to explore the ingredients included in commercial haircare products?
It wasn’t too bad, as we knew what we wanted. Producing vegan products was very important to us and this was a compromise we were not willing to make.
Was there anything you learned during the journey of developing your own products that have changed other products you use yourself?
Definitely! We now have exposure to many websites, like your own, who have opened our eyes to other changes we can make, especially with re-usable items such as cotton pads and switching them to re-usable make-up wipes.
There is a definite change in the market, and it is easier than ever to make swaps.
You have recently launched new products, body wash & lotion, is this the beginning of a wider range for you?
There will be…. We can be more adaptable as a small company and salons are no longer our main route to consumers, so we are exploring what other products we can offer.
You supply to small independent stores like my own, salons, hotels – did you think your products would reach so many different channels?
We are in some boutique hotels, but hotels are difficult due to their nature (small products for lots of customers) and we are not willing to package our product in plastic to get a great gain in this market.
I never thought we would end up in online store sector. It all happened with Beth from Plastic Freedom getting in touch as her hairdresser used our products, from there we have found ourselves in an evolving market, and it has been really interesting, as salons do not react as quickly as retailers.
What has been your proudest moment?
The biggest thing has to be the consumer response and customer following. There is almost a cult like response to people who have used our products are recommend to their friends.
Seeing our range in so many online retailers has been incredible, and we were also recently featured in Vogue which was such a great feeling.
Mainly it is customers though, it is all about them.
** you can watch a video about the Marula Oil producer on Moo Hair’s website: https://www.moohair.com/discover/