For the second episode in season five of our Piper Podcast, How I Grew My Brand, we interviewed a founder at a different stage of their journey. Kate Berski, co-founder of the inclusive haircare brand Curlsmith, sold her brand in 2022 and offers the invaluable perspective of hindsight.
Kate and her husband, Michal, co-founded Curlsmith in 2018. They grew the brand so successfully that they garnered a valuation of $150 million at exit. In the interview with Mary Nightingale, Kate tells the story of their origins, journey to building the brand in the US, and her insights on the exit process.
As founders, Kate and Michal loved the creation of the business and the scrappiness of a start-up. Bringing back memories (fond and challenging), their first office was coincidentally across the road from our recording studio in North Acton. For Kate, stepping away from the business that dominated their lives for years felt strange. Equally, when it began to feel large and corporate, they felt lucky to be able to pass the torch to a great professional team who could take it to the next stage.
Curlsmith stands apart from other brands in its unconventional origins. It began as a community. The idea began with Kate and Michal’s nieces, who struggled to find suitable haircare products for their curly hair. The couple launched a curl-focused Instagram account, sharing invaluable advice, recipes, and tips. Soon, a passionate community formed around them. Recognising the untapped market for curly and wavy hair – 70% of people have some sort of texture in their hair – they began to make their own products. Curlsmith was created to disrupt the idea that women should only have sleek straight hair. They preach that frizz is not a hair type, it is curl potential.
The brand grew rapidly, and soon there was pull from the US. Kate admits that she is unclear whether they made the decision to expand to the US or whether it was made for them by their passionate community. Going to the US meant a culture shift. As founders, they had to change the way they communicated with potential buyers and Kate had to become an energetic “hype girl”, a somewhat uncomfortable role for us Brits. Once they found their footing, they found a highly receptive market way ahead of the UK.
Curlsmith’s journey to success is one of impeccable timing, expertise, and most importantly an astute understanding of consumer behaviours and cultural attitudes. An inspiring story to listen to on iTunes, Spotify or our website.