Memo Exclusive: An Interview with Sutra's President, Liam Ben-David
Liam Ben-David, president of Sutra
From its inception, the Sutra brand of styling tools combined the newest technologies with stellar product design. The name “Sutra” derives from a Buddhist chant that, loosely translated, refers to bringing all energies together. “We wanted something universal that represented bringing worlds and energy together,” Liam Ben-David, president of Sutra, says.
Sutra tools use FAR-Infrared Technology, an ultra-gentle but still effective form of heat. In their Ionic InfraRed Straightener, infrared rays are projected from the top plate and come to effect when combined with the ultra violet frequency generator at the bottom plate, conducting uniform heat through each individual hair. This coming together of energies applies to Sutra tools and to its business model of producing professional tools combined with home-use appliances for great hair, anywhere.
MODERN spoke with Ben-David about this burgeoning boutique brand and its exciting advancements.
MODERN SALON: Share a little of your beauty background.
Liam Ben-David: My background in beauty started when the flatiron ceramic straighteners were booming in 2005. I was in the right place at the right time and started selling them into a lot of different markets and getting feedback from professionals on what they liked, didn’t like, and what they needed out of their tools. Being around so many beauty professionals during the beginning stages of the straightener evolution, I developed a passion for the engineering and physics behind these tools. I was fascinated to see what is needed to create certain effects and I started working with manufacturers and representing different brands to the market. I was also coming up with different ideas for products and this started to evolve into actual product development and product production.
MS: How did you come to launch Sutra?
LBD: In 2011, I gathered up a group of investors and we decided to launch a tool together. I was tired of sharing my ideas with all these companies and thought, why not create something I love and it will be that much more fun to launch and sell into the market. Initially, Sutra was geared towards the retail market but very soon we started to hear a lot of positive feedback from salon professionals. We found a niche in tools that work well for professionals and can also be applied for home use. We introduced the extended edges on the straighteners and also a cool tip on the curing iron, both which simplified usage for anyone not fluent in using these tools.
MS: How are you connecting with the hairdresser?
LBD: Our influence on the market isn’t anywhere near that of a company that has been around for 30 years and has access to the big names in education and beauty but we’re figuring it out. We’re becoming familiar with a lot of different people and at every show we’re getting dozens of contacts, stylists who want to work with Sutra. Being a boutique brand, it’s fun to figure out who we like, to see who is pushing our brand out on the field via social media or in their salons.
MS: What are some of your most recent launches?
LBD: We launched the Ionic InfraRed Straightener last February in Long Beach (during the International Salon and Spa Expo) and we’re hedging our bets on infrared being the future of the straightening industry. It is unexplored and the technology is far superior to what now exists. Many brands are following suit and I can see a lot of things in development. Infrared is the future.
In Chicago at American’s Beauty Show, we are launching an improved version of the original InfraRed that we launched last year. Based on the tens of thousands of flatirons that we sold, we are adding an awesome new feature; we are pinpointing the radio frequency for the ideal range that will produce the very best results.
MS: Where are you distributed?
LBD: We’re represented by The Kirschner Group and right now, our strongest distribution is in the northeast and here on the west coast where we are located. We sell to a lot of different mom-and-pop distributors. We have good distribution in Puerto Rico, we’re still analyzing the east coast to see what makes sense and we are looking for stronger distribution in the Midwest. We are definitely open to talking about how we can partner with distributors in those regions.
MS: What do you see as the next big thing in the tool category?
LBD: The next big push, including what we are working on, is in the blow dryer market. Towards the end of last year, the world was introduced to new brushless motor technology. This technology improves the motor life, it is magnetic, lightweight and crazy strong. On average, through testing the claims, we see they are going to last a minimum of 3000 hours which is a few years in a salon. We already have an infrared blow dryer but now it will also have the brushless motor and we want to launch this before the end of the year.
The future of tools is endless. They are only going to get better and better because you’re combining technology and creativity. We’re in an industry that always needs good tools and always need people like us, on the ground, who want to think of the next best thing.
MS: Final words?
LBD: At Sutra, our passion is about developing the best tools at the best price. We try not to be one of those brands that believes in aggressively marketing and justifying it in high prices. We make awesome tools that can be put in the hands of as many people as possible.