Dan Hodgdon, CEO and Founder of hair wellness maverick Vegamour, takes the power of plants seriously. In 2020, Vegamour launched seven new products, bringing the current line to 30 SKUs including shampoo, conditioner, dry shampoo, and scalp-energizing gummies.
In a brutal year which flattened many indies, Vegamour grew sales to over $35M, up from $4.5M in 2019, with only five members on Hodgdon’s team. Just as most companies were furloughing employees or simply shutting down operations entirely, the team expanded to 28 by the end of 2020, with more key roles already filled in early 2021. The surprising reason lies in the same seeds, barks, leaves and blossoms that other manufacturers have never taken seriously.
Hodgdon’s unusual background led to a unique understanding of agrobiodiversity. As the son of a pipeline engineer, his childhood was spent in countries where he would later create sustainable, Fair Trade partnerships with indigenous farmers and producers – South East Asia, Madagascar, and southern Africa. He spent summers on his uncle’s dairy farm in central Vermont, an experience which deepened his interest in the potential of plants as power-players in human health.
After graduating from Georgetown University, he established eco-friendly economic opportunities in regenerative agriculture in the equatorial countries where many ingredients are grown, and then engaged many of the beauty industry’’s major players in contracts to introduce these plant actives into their formulations.
“However, one of the frustrations I experienced early on was that the vast majority of the brands housed under these multinationals were only interested in the marketing story these actives provided. Rather than use them in their formulations at levels in which they actually could have an impact, they often would use less than 1%. I created Vegamour to prove that plant actives could outperform commonly used synthetics that often produce harmful side effects,” says Hodgdon.
A hero among these ingredients is marula oil, used in key Vegamour products and sold as a pure extract on the brand site. The production of this raw, cold-pressed antioxidant oil, rich in omega fatty acids and oleic acid, provides a Fair Trade opportunity for more than 5,000 women in Namibia who harvest the marula nut.
Pandemic stress has raised the stakes. Linking an uptick in hair loss to chronic cortisol elevation, Hodgdon is now planning an educational outreach to hairdressers to help their clients avoid and cope with COVID-related thinning and shedding. Equally important, Vegamour positions hair wellness as simply an element of overall health consciousness. Hodgdon says, “No singular or ‘silver bullet’ approach is tenable. A holistic, truly comprehensive approach is necessary in order to produce a long-term, sustainable impact on hair health.”
His personal go-to for stress reduction: shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing. “The 24/7 nature of digital media hijacks our mental and emotional process,” he says. “People feel distracted and overwhelmed, rushed, tired and burned out. This literally causes system-wide inflammation. Just turning off the phone and spending time in nature can help us think more clearly, make better decisions, feel more empathy for others, be happier, balanced and content.”
And maybe even give us better hair.
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