Four years ago Gail and Matt Waterman saw a gap in the market for a hair growth shampoo. Catherine Scott reports.
When hairdresser Gail Waterman and her husband Matt both started to suffer hair loss problems they struggled to find a product to help them. So the couple from Rotherham spent two years researching and producing their own hair growth product, which is taking the world by storm.
Using a blend of ancient remedies and modern techniques the couple from Rotherham created Waterman’s Growme shampoo, conditioner and elixir and expect to turn over £5m this year.
“I am mixed race and really struggled to get my hair to grow any longer than shoulder-length as it would just snap off,” explains mother-of-two, Gail. “After my children I started to get hormonal hair loss near my temples
“Even though I am in the hairdressing business I just couldn’t find a product that helped me and I realised there was a real gap in the market.
“But I was busy working and bringing up two young children so didn’t have time to do much about it.”
But when husband Matt, 43, started to suffer male pattern baldness they decided it was time to take action.
“We spent a lot of time researching ancient remedies and then started making some creams which we trialed on ourselves,” says Gail, 45.
“It took a while but I started to realise that my hair was growing and getting stronger.”
They didn’t have much money and so they pooled their savings and initially had 5,000 bottles of their formula made in a factory in Darlington.
“We put it on Amazon and sold out in three months,” says Matt.
They have now gone from selling 200 bottles a week, to 200 a day, to one every 30 seconds.
But it hasn’t all been plain sailing. The couple say they have really struggled to get their product stocked in supermarkets or department stores in the UK.
“Because we weren’t a known big brand they just didn’t want to know,” says Matt.
Their first big customer was actually a department store in South Korea, they now sell across the world and have just been revealed as the number one searched haircare brand. They also have a massive online presence, their Instagram account has 20,000 followers and their Facebook page is full of before and after photos of people who have used their products.
They also have a number of paid- for celebrity endorsements which, Matt says, can be a double-edged sword.
“Some people love to buy a product because it is used but a celebrity, others prefer ordinary people’s stories. We have had some great people who have posted their stories but then we have also had some people who have been trolled and that is disgraceful. These people are really brave to tell us their stories, some of them have undergone cancer treatment or have had alopecia and then to receive online abuse is not acceptable and so we took them down.” The couple have spent £65,000 over their own money sending free bottles to people who have lost their hair due to chemotherapy and are planning to do further work with Weston Park Cancer Hospital in near future.
“We just wanted to give something back,” says Gail.
Matt met Gail 18 years ago on a night out in Rotherham. Originally from Newcastle, Matt had a tough upbringing,
“My mother was an alcoholic and we often had no electricity and no heating at home. I couldn’t even afford a loaf of bread for long periods of time.
“I went to live with my grandparents when I was 16 and they put me through college. I moved away to Yorkshire when I was in my early twenties to start fresh.
“A lot of people turn to crime in those situations. But you just need to remind yourself that your background does not define what you are or what you’re going to do with your life.
“I saved money by doing marketing for companies and eventually became the marketing manager of Date.com with a salary of £35,000-a-year, before launching the business with Gail.”
They now spend all their time on their business which was officially launched in 2014 but have recently taken on a member of staff to help up. They now have four warehouses in Rotherham and are in the process of moving to a new 20,000sq ft warehouse in Manvers area of the town. Their sons Marco, 10, and 12-year-old Luca, are both at the Sheffield Wednesday football academy and so life is busy.
The couple believe their success is down to the fact they had a vested interest in making a product that worked for them and also the fact they don’t scrimp on the ingredients.
“Some products made by others manufacturers are all about maximising profits, that has never been our main aim,” says Matt.
The future plan for the company is to continue to make more money. “Hopefully £10 million in 2020, work with my more celebrities and continue to expand into retailers.”
And now the UK retailers who once snubbed the Watermans and their shampoo are now queuing up to get them on board.
“It was tempting to tell them to take a running jump but we have just signed with Boots as they are offering a click and collect service, which means the product will be cheaper for our customers which is important to us,” says Gail. “It is unbelievable to think where we started to where we are now.”