Episode 202: Amy Errett, Founder and CEO of Madison Reed
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If there’s one thing the pandemic has taught Amy, it’s the power of finding joy in whatever you do. Founder and CEO of Madison Reed, Amy strives to find shades of joy in her life — beyond the stuff you put in your hair. Gratitude, falling for your work, and becoming friends with failure are all important ingredients on her list for success.

Dan Hodgdon
JodiHey, everybody. Welcome back to WHERE BRAINS MEET BEAUTY Podcast. We're celebrating our fifth anniversary season, so glad that you tuned in. And this is our 202nd episode, and therefore we have confetti. So we're still celebrating. We'll be celebrating all year long and it's also our new show format. So all episodes are now live streaming on YouTube live. Please subscribe to our channel now to get all future live episode notifications. And in our new live stream, you'll get to watch the podcast get made. So if the show goes sideways, you'll get to see that too. And our shows all start with a 30 minute interview, followed by a lighthearted and fun after show with a game and fun questions. So please leave your questions and comments below, and we'll be able to share them during the after show. And if classic podcast apps are your preference, you'll be able to listen to the podcast of this show on your favorite podcast app in a few weeks. So my inspo for re-formatting the show like this is Andy Cohen's Watch What Happens Live, which always makes me feel like a part of the Bravo world. So I hope that our fans feel like a high level of connection with our show and our guests. So our theme for this quarter is technology. And we're thrilled now to introduce you to our 202nd guest. It's Amy Errett, Founder and CEO of Madison Reed. Hi Amy.
AmyHey Jodi. Hey, thanks for having me. Your 202nd show and I was sitting here thinking it's 2, 2 22.
JodiOh, that's so fun. Thank you for the number play. I didn't even think of that.
AmyThere you go.
JodiWell, welcome formally to WHERE BRAINS MEET BEAUTY. I'm gonna start off Amy with my favorite question, because this is a career journey show and journeys are long and winding. So, tell us when you were like 11 years old, what did you wanna do when you grew up?
AmyA boss. It's really simple. I just –
JodiA boss of what?
AmyAnything. It didn't matter. I just wanted to, you know, get a group of people I liked together and lead them to do something. I didn't have any I didn't know, it was hair color. Didn't know it was financial services where I spent my career as well or being a venture capitalist. I just, I liked the thought of leading people and, you know, helping make things better.
JodiDo you remember yourself like leading others at like camp or school –
JodiYou know, in the neighborhood?
AmyYeah, I tell this great story. I got kicked outta the Brownies. Do you know the Brownies? Do you know, like Girl Scouts and stuff like that? And it was because—
JodiI am a Girl Scout assistant troop leader, Amy.
AmyOkay. Well this is great maybe. Yeah. So in my time, the Brownies, we had to like wear a certain uniform and it was on a certain day and I had a group of friends and I didn't like that because it was an inconvenient day. So I organized us to move it a day except the brownies didn't like that, the leadership. So that was my first experience of discourse. And we worked it out, but yeah, and I went to camp, I went to camp for, from the time I was seven until I was a camp counselor when I was 19. SoI have a lot of experiences of groups and mentorship and camaraderie and what groups of people can do when they're locked arms in a mission.
JodiI was a camp counsellor and it was some of the most fun I've ever had. And the camaraderie between counselors is like next level. It's almost something that I think I've been chasing, you know, all these years.
AmyYeah. I think I'm glad you brought that up. I think it's why I do what I do because I love to think of our team as that same dynamic, right? The taking something that's impossible and creating the possibilities that could happen and then realizing that together equally.
JodiSo we're gonna go back in time to the 1980s. The 1980s on your LinkedIn profile takes me to the banking world and I wanna know why?
AmyI wanna know why too. Now that we're in 2022, I'm like, why did I do that? That seems curious. You know, it was what people did then, right? It was you know, when you come out of a place like Wharton, there's only two things that you were trained to do in the late eighties, early nineties, which was, you were either an investment banker or you went to a consulting firm. And so I went to be an investment banker and I learned a lot that's helped me tremendously, but it wasn't my calling at all.
JodiAnd if you think back to graduating from school and getting that job in investment banking, were you super psyched about it?
AmyAbsolutely. It was the pinnacle of, I talk a lot about this Jodi that, you know, we, all of us, depending on where you come from, my parents put a lot of emphasis on education and they put a lot of emphasis on 'you're supposed to do things the way you're supposed to do them'. And soI was a good soldier and followed along with that until I realized that that wasn't going to be a recipe to make me happy. And I think that life is just this curious journey. Everyone has a different one to get to the same – the complexity that gets to the simplicity. The complexity of all the things we weave around to get to the simplicity of what are we here for. And everyone has a different definition of that.
JodiThat's such a beautiful way to think about journey. I've been thinking about it because my journey wasn't straight and I didn't have a strong direction at like, you know, it took me a really long time to figure out what would give me joy. And actually, I think the camp counselor, and then also student government in college, like those were the feelings I was chasing. Like, yes, I'm a value, I'm contributing, I'm a leader. I'm working with people who're having so much fun. It felt so good. But then I got into like my first job and no one gave a (censored) about my opinion or anything like, wait, what happened?
AmyYeah. I think as I talk about a lot, yeah. Leadership has so much to do with your own self-awareness and your ability to understand what motivates you and then gives you the ability to have empathy for other people.
JodiOh, I love that. You mentioned empathy. We'll talk about that. That's one of my favorite topics. Okay, well, we're here to talk about technology and I just thought you'd be such a great fit for this topic. You know, Madison Reed sets out to do better with hair color, right. For all the innovation and hair, we've probably been coloring our hair in a pretty similar way for or decades right? So I'm curious, what role has technology played in your vision for this venture?
AmyMassivein sort of three ways. One, we've effectively elevated the possibility that you'd have the right color match through a 18 question quiz, that's a sophisticated algorithm. That's vetting for what you're telling us about your hair and what your desired results are. And then what we can do to predict that and recommend usually three shades that will get you there. So that's one. Two is, we've put a lot of time around photo recognition, right? Because it goes into number three, which is most women are living their lives on their phone. They're not living their lives on desktop. So how do you create behaviors that on their phone are easy, convenient, and the ability for them to snap a picture? Everybody knows how to snap a picture. So we've used a lot of photo recognition. And then going into that third thing about convenience, we've built a lot of our own technology to allow whether you're shopping for the color to be sent to you at home, or whether to do it yourself, or whether you are going into one of our 52 nationwide hair color bars you can make all your appointments there.
AmyWe gather all your data. And that allows you like, you know, to be in San Francisco and wanting to get your hair done. But you might live in Texas and Dallas and go to the Plano hair color bar versus the San Francisco hair color bar, or take the box of the same thing we're putting on your hair, home. The data and the seamless nature of that data and allowing the convenience to come to the customer is all driven by technology.
JodiYou know, it's making me think about the relationship between the client and the colorist, because I mean, you hear this all the time from friends: 'well, I don't really like my colorist, but she knows my formula, so I'm not gonna go anywhere else'. Right? Or, the salon's not nice, or they're cruel there, or they're mean, and they're snobby or too expensive, but they know my color. So I'm gonna stay there. Right? We've been, you know, real – I think the customer's been a little defeated, you know, in this process for a long time.
AmyAs I say, this is, it's such an interesting industry once you get into it, because it's, you know, again, most of our customers are women. There are some men, but we've all bought into this notion that we do it the way our grandmother did it, or our mom did it. Right? Like there's been no innovation. And you know, our real purpose is, you know, we've innovated on ingredients. So we have (inaudible - 12:13 - 12:14) free formula that's new and different. You don't have to put terrible things on your head for you to look beautiful. Seems obvious, but not so obvious. And then we've also been able to say that convenience is really the customer's choice. Like it's the same exact thing. I may not like my colorist, but they have the formula. Well, why are you shackled to your colors, having the formula of the stuff that you're paying for to put on your head that you don't know what's in the ingredients and why don't you have the convenience to have the same product available, which is the same quality.
AmyLike we are a salon quality product. Colorists buy tubes of color from us to use on their customers. So we have figured out how to take this industry where the – what was on the shelf was shameful, right? Like nobody wants to talk about, I use Clairol or I use L'Oreal preference because it is an inferior product from the professional quality. We've just said, well, why can't that be available in any channel you want? Why would that be something that's only at the effect of the colorist? Right. And then again, and I'll talk a lot about this. We love colorists. You talked about a toxic salon environment. Colorists are amazing, and we employ hundreds of them and more, and we pay them more than the industry does and give them benefits and things like that. So we think we have a win-win for both our customers, as well as our team members.
JodiSo with all your background in investment banking and as an investor yourself, why did you set your sights on hair color?
AmyIt's a very great question. I think what I set my sights on initially, Jodi, to be honest, was I wanted to go back and run a company and I was a full-time venture capitalist. And that is an amazing job. I mean, what an honor to meet incredible entrepreneurs and actually have the ability to give them the capital to have their dreams come true. Like it is unbelievable, right. But every time I left a board meeting where I was the board member, I was envious of the CEO. So I started to realize this thing that we talked about earlier, like, oh, what is my mission and purpose? What makes me get up every morning and just be excited to be present in a grateful life? It has to do with building something that is extraordinary for a group of people to give them personal professional and financial growth.
AmyAnd when I did, it just so happened that I was coming to that conclusion at the same time we passed on a famous investment called Dollar Shave Club. And I became enamored with like, wow, these CPG categories could really be disrupted. What is the analog of shaving to women? And you just run the numbers and it's hair color, right? The repetitive nature of it, how big it is, the, you know, as I said all along, but it took a pandemic for people to realize like she, or we are gonna color our hair, no matter what happens. Doesn't matter if there's a hurricane, doesn't matter if there's a pandemic, we're gonna color our hair. So that repetitive nature intrigued me about the business model. And at the same time I was going through really deciding that I wanted to go create something and I like hard things, and this is a hard category. And so why not? Why not turn it upside down and try to build something that really, you know, when you boil it all down, this is really about empowering women to be bad asses, to just – when your hair looks great, like there's no, I mean, that's it, right? When your hair looks amazing no one has to tell you that you feel confident or confident in the world. And so I wanted to find that emotional category.
JodiSo you know, I just think it's so interesting because you said about as a kid, you wanted to be a boss, and then you were in this realm where you were an investor. Right? So you're like advising, right. But you're not – are you, are you leading? Is that what you missed? Is that what you craved?
AmyYeah. I missed leading and I missed building and I like hard problems, so I didn't know how to make hair color. I didn't understand anything about hair color, hair theory, color theory. So I have a part of me that's very science-y, right? Like that's very tinkering kind of person, likes products, likes to know how things get put together. And so it was also sort of a quest of figuring out a hard problem. And then when I could, I'm a consumer person, so it's not that I don't like, I'm just not attracted to SAS kinds of problems. It's not – they probably have better outcomes than consumer things do, so maybe I should be. But nonetheless, I'm intrigued by what motivates human beings to buy something or not. And so once I kind of figured those things out, then I just missed building a team and having a dream and doing that together. Not solely. That's interesting when I said about the boss thing, I think it was true, but it was not in the context of being alone.
JodiRight. So what's so fascinating as I listen to you, because I've been an entrepreneur for 15 years and like most of those 15 years I was in a fear place, you know, like all the time. Like the fear of financial insecurity. I like personified it as sort of like a shadow behind me. Through the years I didn't start my entrepreneurial journey because I wanted a challenge. You know, I love how you're talking about like – you approach this because it was hard and that was exciting for you. So my entrepreneurial journey's been really hard, but I never actually got into an acceptance position on the fact that it's hard and that's what makes it fun until really recently. I mean it's taken 10 years of therapy and lots of business coaching to get there. And I'm envious of you that you walked into it knowing it's hard and that you're ready to climb the mountain. It sounds like though you probably felt like you had the right gear, like you were wearing the right shoes and the right hiking gear to get up that mountain.
AmyYou've said a lot. I resonate with so much of what you've said because I too you know, this is my fourth time running something, right. So I had a lot of I had a lot of early stumbles, right. I had a lot of – and here's the thing about life, you know. Failure is our best friend. And so if we can embrace the fact that it's a good thing, that it actually again, getting from the complexity to the simplicity, it's the little trail mix as I call it, that one leaves behind that you trace the steps back and you say, oh, that's why that happened, right? That happened to bring me to this place. So yeah, I think I had a better tool set. I certainly had more security about funding and more relationships. I think I was more realistic, but make no mistake about the fear, the anxiety, the still waking up in the middle of the night thinking, because here's the thing: wherever you are, you will be somewhere else.
AmyAnd the problems that come with that or the challenges, the opportunities, are different. They is still challenging. So what I try to tell everybody, yeah, the business has grown. We're doing great. Like who knew, you know, seven and a half years later, we'd have 52 locations and hundreds of, you know, millions of customers and blah, blah, blah. Right? But now we face into something completely different that's daunting. So it doesn't make it. You, I don't think on this journey, you ever fix it. You, it's what I call and I have a coach too, and we talk a lot about enjoying the present time. I've spent a lifetime of, you know, early in therapy, like my therapist would be like, so you think when that happens, everything's gonna be okay. Let me tell you something, lady. No, you'll just go on to the next thing, right? So I think, what is it about the human spirit, at least for me, that sometimes has a hard time realizing like right now at this moment, right here with Jodi Katz, I'm having a transformational experience that's wonderful? Right. And I think if you could look at life with that kind of gratitude, then it's all upside.
JodiI love you to talking. I love hearing about joy because that's really, I think why I started my business is – I wanted to enjoy being a mom and work. I wasn't even pregnant, but like I knew what I wanted. Right. So I didn't know what I was getting into, but I was trying to craft a life for myself where I can do the things I wanna do, the way I wanna do them, and still have a great career in this industry. And it started out as like, I think a noble goal. And then it turned into like a whole lot of complication. And I found myself at Mommy & Me gymnastics with my daughter. She's probably like one or two. And I had her in one hand and my phone texting, you know, a client or someone on my team on the other.
JodiAnd I started to get so anxious before Mommy and Me gymnastics, because I didn't know it at the time. It took me like several weeks to figure this out. But like, it wasn't joyful anymore. Because I was trying to do all these things at one time and going back to like, why am I doing this? I'm doing this for joy. Right? Like that's always helped me figure out how to steer myself back to home. Right. Whatever home base is. And I use that as a marker now too. If I'm like just feeling dragged down because you know, I'm in a client service business, it's not always easy, like what can I do and invest my time in the joy to, you know. So the podcast is like the best outlet for me because it's like free therapy, you know, like what's going on right here. So, but joy is so meaningful and it's really like more important than money.
AmyI 1000 percent agree. I think it, you know, it takes a while to sort of have that self-awareness to look at what's right in front of you, this amazing kid that you're having this experience with and then realizing like I have this amazing kid I'm having this experience and my phone's in my hand and I'm prioritizing this thing that is actually not as amazing. Right. So you know, what you've described to me, I call the intentional life, you know, how can we each devise what works for us because what my intentional life might be could be very different than yours or somebody else's and that's that long and windy road to get to this place. What are the things that make me happy? Where do I, where in the presence am I most grounded, right?
AmyLike what are those things? You know, for me, it is my team that actually, I don't apologize for that. It's joy for me to take somebody who has raw talents and give them the opportunity to actually find themselves and have a successful experience. Oh my God, that just makes me, but it took me a long time Jodi, to figure out that's the super power, right. That I love. There's a lot of things I'm terrible at. And this is the thing that I try to explain to people when they're going through their career path is that the traditional educational system tries to convince us we're supposed to be great at everything. Right. So, be great at numbers and you should learn how to code and you're good at marketing. And at the same time, you're, you know, really great at product development, like, go down the list. Well, that's not true. So why is it that we buy into that? And then we measure ourselves against some sense of set up failure rather than getting really smart and then surrounding yourself with people that are awesome at the things that you aren't, that you actually don't like. And I, you know, I feel very grateful because I have a group of people around me that are magnificent at the things that I suck at.
JodiSo Amy, I wanna talk about this topic of this seduction of growing a business. So this is a word that I know is like disarming and strange to use in a business situation, but I've described the feeling I have in my belly about growing my business as seductive. Because when I get like a little taste of that success I dreamed of, whatever the success means it could be hiring that right person or getting new client or whatever. It makes me want more, right. Like sugar, right? You have some sugar, you need more. So,it is such a seduction because in one part it's so exciting that I'm seduced by it. 'Cause That means it's fun. And like, I love it. And the same, and the other opposite end of it is like, well, I could sit here all night long and like keep sending emails and never stop. But then I'm not like, you know, going to the gym or breathing fresh air or like, engaging with my family. So I'm just so curious, is there anything about this business venture for you that's so seductive that you actually have to like jump from one side of the fence, to the other, to balance everything.
AmyEverything, not one thing, everything. I'm in love and love what I do every day and I am seduced by it all the time. I think that, and that's what keeps me engaged and hopefully on my game and having some level of, whatever you call success, 'cause I've also learned that that's different for everybody. Although we all measure ourselves against, you know, this one great thing that's green, it's called money. But you know, I'm not quite sure that anybody that does that has that right. 'Cause You can always, you never have enough of it by the way. But I've also learned a lot about what are the other things that also seduce me and where can I have what I would call like an intentionally balanced life. And I've learned a lot about that.
AmyAnd frankly, a lot of those current learnings have happened during the pandemic. I've been really, really, actually trying to pay attention to that because I think that this has been a moment for— I think this is why there is the great resignation or whatever you wanna call it. The great dislocation, because I think human beings had a bucket of cold water poured on their heads and their routines that they just thought, like I talked about like, right, we're just supposed to go to business school, we're supposed to do this and we're supposed to do that. Right. Like we're all supposed to be able to go out and not feel like we're scared to get sick. And then all of a sudden it has a bunch of different ramifications. So for me, it's been a time of great reflection and that's been awesome and like anything else in life there's consequences for it, right. There's things that suck that – I'm a people person, you know, it's like humans please. I'd rather be doing this sitting next to each other, right. Like just that's how I'm wired, but I've had to learn a lot about what, do we have the, do I have the capacity in life to find joy everywhere? And for me the answer has been absolutely. Yes.
JodiI love that. You said that you're in love with your business and you love your business 'cause it kind of awakened in me a point of view that I never articulated about my work. I don't know that I've, I mean, I probably said out loud, I love my work or I love my business or I love these, you know, challenges and opportunities, but I never framed it as I'm in love with my business. Right. And I'm in love with my idea to build the business and I'm in love with what it takes to build the business. And it really got to my heart, you know, little flutters like, yeah, that's why we do it. 'Cause like, this is so fun. It's as fun as being on a roller coaster, you know? And like the swishy parts, you know, when the wind is looking in your face you're giggling like that's what it feels like. I mean, sometimes it really is like the upside down part of the roller coaster. And when you're hanging there, it's not always so fun. But the being in love with it really does feel like the fun parts of the coaster.
AmyYes, yes, absolutely. That's why we do. I mean, and how lucky are we, right. This is the thing that really is so fascinating to me. Whenever we have a big sign at Madison Reed in our office that I talk, that I say all the time, which is we get to do this. Life is, you know, we get to be the ones that do this. We don't have to do it. No one has to do anything. Right. We get to do this. So you know, I find that very exhilarating that I have that gratitude for it. That does not mean that there's not days where I'm like 'really?'. But when I have those days that feel that way, that's an inside job. Nobody causes me to feel that way. Right. I choose to feel that way based on a whole bunch of things I could choose not to feel that way. So I really try very hard to not look for villains of this, not be on a drama thing. I just want to enjoy life. And I'm very lucky and I'm very grateful for that.
JodiWell, I am so grateful for your wisdom and like this did feel like a free therapy session for me. So I appreciate that.
AmyI'm gonna send you the invoice later on Venmo. You can Venmo me. It's fun.
JodiIt's super fun. So I also wanna let our listeners know that Amy and Madison Reed are offering customers a special incentive for shopping. So 20% off and free shipping if they purchase through madisonreed.com. And also 20% off at your local hair color bar nationwide. So that's really amazing. And that's good until the end of 2022. So go spend it, get your hair colored and you can use the code WBMB20. And thank you Amy for giving our fans that discount. That's exciting.
AmyMy pleasure.
JodiAnd for our listeners, I hope you enjoyed this interview with Amy. Please subscribe to our series on your favorite podcast app and for updates about the show, follow us on Instagram @wherebrainsmeetbeautypodcast.

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