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Tuesday, Jul 16, 2024

Wakse Bows First Store, Sets Sights on Growth

Wakse LLC’s founders initially wanted to bring an upscale DIY experience into people’s homes with their hair removal products.

Now, they’re doing the reverse with the opening of their first physical store and salon at the Irvine Spectrum Center.

The space for Wakse (pronounced “waxy”) includes about 900 square feet dedicated to retail, and another 1,100 square feet for a salon, boasting six private esthetician rooms and in-store coffee bar.

This first door of the Irvine-based beauty company is expected to lead to an eventual expansion of a handful of carefully planted flagship hybrid salon-retail experiences for the business.

The company believes it can continue momentum that began during the pandemic, with more and more people who once frequented in-person salons trying, and succeeding, with the do-it-yourself approach to waxing.

The increased demand has led to new retail accounts, such as Costco, and overseas expansion.

Boutique Feel

In the near term, monitoring the recently opened physical Spectrum location will be key to further understanding what steps to take next with Wakse.

“When we first started, we became known for reinventing the waxing experience,” said cofounder Andrew Glass. “We knew that we wanted to expand the Wakse experience and transform the service portion of the category and not just the retail portion. It really is an elevated experienced compared to what I would say is a normal experience. The rooms look beautiful and smell beautiful.”

Customers are greeted with a cappuccino upon arrival. Waxing rooms are tailored to fit the service. So, for example, if a client is coming in for the rose gold wax, the lighting might be adjusted to have a rose gold hue. The chocolate wax experience might have a chocolate scent wafting throughout the room.

The point is to make the experience more upscale boutique, and less of a stark medical aesthetic, the company’s founders say.

Starting Point

That strategy of aspirational branding has so far worked out well for Wakse, which was launched in 2018 by Glass and Shayan Sadrolashrafi, serial entrepreneurs originally operating out of the Atlanta area.

The duo (self-described as “two hairy guys”) self-funded the business, pairing Sadrolashrafi’s digital design expertise with Glass’ branding experience and beauty industry connections to sell at-home waxing products—jars of hard wax beans priced from about $15 to $32 in scents, such as lavender, bubblegum, caramel brûlee and gingerbread.

“It was like a perfect marriage,” Glass said of the two founders’ meeting at a former employer. “We stumbled upon hair removal products and realized there really hadn’t been any innovation.”

About a year ago, the two made the decision to begin transitioning the business to Irvine.

“We knew we wanted [headquarters] to be in an area with warm weather,” Glass said.

A local warehouse opened about a year-and-a-half ago, followed by the office.

The company’s still small with some eight employees at corporate and another four employed at the store. It continues to be entirely self-funded after being bootstrapped by the two founders. They’re also not looking to raise outside funding any time soon with Glass saying they’d rather focus on organic growth.

“We definitely don’t need to be thinking about that,” Glass said. “I think we’re being smart and not growing too fast. We’ve definitely turned down some large retail opportunities because we want to sustain the business and not have to look outside for financial opportunities.”

3,500 Stores

The duo appears to be doing just fine without the need to raise additional capital, with the brand now sold direct-to-consumer through its online shop and recently opened location, in addition to about 3,500 stores globally.

The majority of those accounts, about 3,000, are in the U.S. at retailers, salons and spas. Some of those deals plant Wakse at big name retail partners, such as Neiman Marcus, Anthropologie and Ulta. It also recently went more mass via a deal inked with Costco where it sells an exclusive kit. The business also just expanded into New Zealand, Australia and Canada via a distributor.

Glass’ beauty industry connections helped from the start, managing to get Wakse into some large retailers almost instantly.

Three months after its launch, the business secured CVS in a deal that placed it in some 4,000 stores. The brand has since exited the drug store chain as its refined its distribution strategy.

Next Steps

Wakse’s successes have it now poised for further growth.

“This has been our most successful year,” Glass said. “We’ve been on the really lucky end of the spectrum in that we did not expect it, but when COVID took a big hit in the U.S. and everyone had to go home, we saw a 1,000% increase in sales because people were looking for a DIY solution.”

That surge in the business has since leveled out, but sales are overall still up for Wakse, Glass said.

Next year will see the company make a big push in media campaigns and continuing to evolve and expand the product lineup.

About 75% of the business is generated from female customers, but Wakse’s seeing growth from the men’s side.

“We try to be as gender neutral as possible,” Glass said.

Interestingly, the growth from the men’s side is coming from some niche areas, such as the cycling community where both avid amateurs and pro cyclists require smooth legs for better performance. But even in the early days of the Irvine Spectrum location’s opening, pre-booking for men’s brow services have been strong, officials said.

They’ll continue to closely watch how the door does as more consumers find it.

“We’re going to obviously see how the store performs, especially since it’s such an interesting time,” Glass said.

He estimates about a year-and-a-half from now additional brick-and-mortar locations could open in Hawaii and then possibly Europe. Site selection, he said, would be based on where the company is shipping its products.

Glass also said the goal is to bring manufacturing in-house with Wakse eventually owning its own production facility to make its own products and also do private label for other brands. The company currently makes its products in the U.S. and China.

“Because of all [that happened this year] we’ve definitely tapped into a consumer we probably wouldn’t have before because people were forced to look for a DIY option. Customers who didn’t think waxing at home was an option are now converted,” Glass said. “At the same token, I think our brick-and-mortar has allowed us to open up to a customer we wouldn’t have before.”

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