We talked to Nora Schaper of HiBAR about its salon-quality plastic-free hair care brand.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Nora Schaper: It’s been difficult even though our family has avoided catching the virus thus far. At the beginning of Covid, when we were placed on lockdown, we were able to keep the business going by using our children (since we cohabitate) to help fill orders. It was actually very fulfilling for all of us.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded HiBAR.
Nora Schaper: My husband Jay and I are two of four co-founders at HiBAR. Jay and I had a previous body care business where we discovered that products could be formulated without water as a solid product so that no plastic containers were needed. We shared our idea with a friend, Ward, who had just sold his natural pet food company. We had asked Ward to consult with us. When he heard our idea to formulate, so no plastic packaging was needed, he was jazzed and started working with us. We then ran into a mutual friend at a party, Dion, and he asked what we were up to. When we said we were reformulating bathroom products, so no plastic packaging was needed, and that we were working with Ward, he wanted to be part of it too… so we decided to create a new company and band together to tackle the plastic problem.
How does HiBAR innovate?
Nora Schaper: We are on a mission to inspire people to reduce their plastic consumption. HiBAR is the world’s first salon-quality, plastic-free hair care. We innovated by formulating salon quality in a solid form so that no plastic bottle is needed. We are now expanding to create other body care formulated for no plastic packaging.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Nora Schaper: We are a growing company and adding staff. We are now working with some employees working remotely, whom we have never met in person. We are also manufacturing our own products, so we have strict COVID safety measures in place in the factory. We have had to shut down once already and are building inventory in case of another shutdown. We are also paying employees when they are out for covid testing or quarantining when positive. Overall, we have modified our sales goals and moved to a lot of virtual interactions, but being a small and growing company, things are working out for us.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Nora Schaper: We have had to make difficult choices, but having a solid mission to guide us helps a lot. One of these choices is Amazon sales. We decided to fulfill ourselves rather than sending to the warehouse to be fulfilled by Amazon and qualifying for Prime because we knew that Amazon would ship with plastic packaging. We made the tough choice, and customers know it. It is clear when something is off mission. Filtering decisions through the lens of reducing plastic often clarifies the choice. The lesson learned is to stay true to your mission.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and HiBAR in the future?
Nora Schaper: Stress and anxiety go with being an entrepreneur. As a leader, I try to portray calm. We also work hard to keep communicating with employees on how the company is doing and how their role fits into the business’s success. Personally, to manage my own stress, I get outside as often as possible, meditate regularly, and work out multiple times per week.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Nora Schaper: We consider our competitors bottled shampoo companies. We want to be a disruptive player and get the “big boys” to take notice as we gain market share. Our ultimate goal is to get rid of the plastic. When P&G sees that customers prefer a solid product without packaging, they will start to formulate that way as well. In the meantime, we designed our product to sit on the shelf next to the bottle of shampoo, and we are aggressively pursuing distribution and expanding awareness about HiBAR.
Your final thoughts?
Nora Schaper: There are four co-founders at HiBAR. With four people doing and managing the work with a common mission, a lot gets done. Running a company is demanding both time-wise and energy-wise. I feel like with each additional co-founder, we expand our reach exponentially. We also have four perspectives that really help talk through decisions and take the best steps forward.