Memo Exclusive: An Interview with Amika Brand President Chelsea Riggs

The Brand President of amika, Chelsea Riggs joined the company seven years ago and has overseen tremendous growth for the brand, since.  “I saw a real opportunity to bring professional quality tools to the market that were fun and were all about self-expression,” Riggs says. MODERN asked Riggs to talk about what has changed since she joined amika and what she sees, going forward.

 MS: What was happening at Amika when you joined the team?

 CR: I’ve been interested in business and beauty from an early age, finding any opportunity to market and sell anything I could since I was 10. After starting my career in the fashion industry, I joined amika in January 2010 and was the fifth employee hired. We quickly realized that there was a demand for professional quality hair care products that were unique, well-performing and wouldn’t break the bank. The initial hair care line, which launched in 2011 with only six products, was an immediate hit, with its ingredient story and colorful package featuring amika’s signature pattern. We eventually became known for this vibrant packaging, our addictive fragrance (people have been begging us for years for a hair fragrance and we’re finally launching one this month), and our straightforward products that perform.

 MS: What has been your focus since joining the company?

CR: Under my leadership, we’ve established the brand in over 20 countries. Today, over 850 professional-only stores and 1,000 salon consultants in North America are currently offering amika. This has led the brand to achieve significant growth, year over year, and I am grateful and excited to continue this trend.

 Early on, I piloted the development of our styling line, which includes some of our top products today–Perk Up Dry Shampoo, Bombshell Blowout Spray, Un. Done Texture Spray, and Touchable Hairspray. Because of this success, I assisted in the expansion of our commitment to the professional industry by adding our education and artistry division, and brought on Naeemah LaFond as our global artistic director to head up this division in 2013.

As the company’s brand president, I have full control of the brand’s strategic direction in relation to sales, marketing, product development, education, and hiring. My focus today is establishing and implementing the brand’s vision, goals and overall direction to ensure for long-term growth.

  MS: What are some of your most recent initiatives?

CR: We’ve recently unveiled two launch campaigns that were a long-time in the making: Wash Your Way and amika Armory. amika has been known for killer styling products, styling education and styling tools, however, our care collection failed to deliver that same excitement that hairdressers and consumers had come to love and expect from amika styling products. It was my utmost priority to change that.

 Together with our product development team, we spent over two years developing a strong collection of seven new wash and care products that cover everything from blonde and fragile hair to frizzy and/or curly hair. We went back to the drawing board to ensure that we would be able to deliver the highest quality products for every hair care need while staying true to the amika spirit of being fun and quirky. That’s how Wash Your Way was born; no matter your hair, we have the perfect solution for you.

amika Armory is a new level of professional tools. The collection contains seven high-performance styling tools expertly designed to withstand even the toughest conditions for use by true hair experts who need equipment they can count on—that means an all day, every day in a salon environment. In true amika fashion, the tools each have a name (and tag line) that fits their personality.

MS: Talk a little about your education team and how you reach the hairdresser.

CR: We are constantly testing innovative ways to engage with stylists and push the industry forward. We see our industry as ever changing. As the number of traditional salons is decreasing and the number of booth and suite renters is growing, we want to be at the forefront of these developments and have initiatives to engage with stylists who don't have access to traditional in-salon education. This is one of the reasons why our partnership with Salon Centric has been so successful. Stylists often meet amika for the first time in their store and now we are launching the amika Digital Academy to have education tailored to these stylists. Digital media has always played a key role in our company and we have quite an active and engaged social media following of stylists and consumers. This allows us to gather first-hand feedback and test the waters on new initiatives, while maintaining our finger on the pulse of all trends in the professional industry. We also collaborate with industry publications like Modern Salon who are great at spreading the word on all new launches and innovation and engaging salons and stylists alike.

MS: What is coming up for Amika?

CR: While most of our upcoming initiatives are super-secret for now, we are coming up on our launch of what we call Education 2.0. Through our digital academy, we aim to have a wider and more immediate reach to our amika hairdressers. Everything is moving so fast these days, and everyone wants to learn more, faster. Still, we don’t want to lose sight that our industry is ‘high-touch’ and nothing beats getting the artist community together to push it forward. Starting this fall, we will be launching a series of live events pulling together our global artistic director, top educators, and new artistic collaborators. We like to think of it as Andy Warhol’s The Factory, of sorts, to push the boundaries of styling.

 We are also knee deep in our anti-diversion program. As amika grows in popularity, we also become an increasing target for diversion. We’ve implemented a sophisticated identification system to track the movement on all amika products in-order-to aggressively combat diversion. Once diverted products are discovered, legal action will be taken.

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