This is an episode of the Glossy Beauty Podcast, which features candid conversations about how today’s trends are shaping the future of the beauty and wellness industries. More from the series →
With over a decade’s worth of experience in the hair-care industry, entrepreneur Shelby Wild is now venturing into the mass hair-care space. In July 2023, Wild unveiled California Naturals, a clean hair-care brand that launched direct-to-consumer and with exclusive distribution at Target. Compared to her previous hair-care brand, Playa, Wild is taking a different approach to hair care by zeroing in on more affordable but still effective products. Currently, all of California Naturals products are priced under $10.
According to previous Glossy reporting, prior to launching California Naturals, Wild raised $4 million from consumer investors L Catterton, Sandbridge, Midnight Venture Partners and Elizabeth Street Ventures. Investors Eric Ryan and Roth Martin also contributed to the brand’s funding round.
Though California Naturals, with its accessible price point, may target a different consumer, the core of why Wild got into hair care in the first place remains.
“Most of what I did at Playa informed California Naturals. I always knew that I wanted to create a mass market iteration of Playa,” Wild said on the latest episode of the Glossy Beauty Podcast. “I grew up in the South … and we weren’t a high-income family. So for me, throughout my childhood, product development and product discovery was happening on the shelves of Target, CVS and Walmart. It wasn’t happening in Sephora or Ulta. While I was creating these prestige products [at Playa], I was also seeing and hearing the feedback — not only from our own customer service channels, but also from my peers at home — that the price point was just too high.”
As California Naturals approaches its first anniversary, Wild said a few exciting things coming down the pipeline. For starters, the brand tapped pro-skater Tony Hawke, who also serves as the chief culture officer, to create a new fragrance for the brand set to launch this month. A-list actor Owen Wilson also joined the brand and will be a major part of the product development side of the business as well as future marketing campaigns. And in February, California Naturals is set to launch moisture shampoo and conditioner, which was mostly driven by the brand’s community and audience.
On this week’s episode of the Glossy Beauty Podcast, Wild talked about the reason she launched a second brand and the differences between mass and prestige. The excerpts below have been slightly edited and condensed for clarity.
‘Clean’ comes to the mass market
“The cost of raw materials has decreased significantly. My favorite thing that I like to say is that coco glucoside, which is a coconut-derived surfactant that we use, is a quarter of the price now than it was when I started Playa eight years ago. It’s been interesting to see the evolution across the raw material landscape, which has allowed us to create high-quality products that we’re creating for California Naturals and still have them sit below $10. …
We are also seeing an evolution to clean, which is exciting. We saw that with the clean at Sephora initiative that Playa was initially a part of in 2017, 2018. We’re now starting to see that in Target, as well: The focus is on clean. As we’re looking at retail expansion for next year, in conversation with Costco, it’s interesting that even on the Costco level, clean is such an area of focus — and sustainability, as well. It’s incredible to see.”
Product development in the mass category
“I’ve taken a bit more of a formulaic approach to product development for California Naturals. I had the experience with Playa of seeing what was resonating with customers. For example, with Playa, I made this product that was a wrinkle releaser for the hair, and I called it New Day Hair Mist. I was like, ‘This is amazing. Everyone’s going to go crazy for it. I’ve been needing this my entire life.’ We launched it, and it fell flat, to be honest. It was funny to see. So we’ve been a bit more thoughtful about the pipeline with California Naturals and making sure that the SKUs can resonate with as wide and diverse of an audience as possible. In doing that, we tend to look to Nielsen data and NPD data to see what’s really performing, from a category perspective. Then, [we look at data] by retailer. I’m also reflecting on what I’m actually using, what my daughter is using and what my friends are using. And, because we do have a pretty significant social following for California Naturals, we’re able to ping our community and get their feedback on what it is they’re seeing.”
Operating a mass-category brand on social media
“We don’t [see a difference operating a mass vs. prestige brand on social media]. For us, it’s even more exciting because the audience is more vast and more differentiated. And so for that, we also want to make sure that our content is reflective. There shouldn’t be a difference [in your social media presence]. Why wouldn’t you apply that same kind of thought philosophy to a wider demographic? I just think it’s been ignored for quite some time. Even when I was a, you know, a teenager, I wasn’t really seeing mass have a lot of solar and a lot of life so we want to be thoughtful with every aspect of how we build the brand.”