Husband and wife Yuki Saito and Claire Chesterton don’t do things by halves.
When they decided to launch their own business providing salon-quality, low-chemical home hair colour, they also decided to have a baby and relocate from Japan to Australia.
Then the pandemic hit.
But despite it all, the company, MIIROKO, has found a market and Yuki and Claire are managing to juggle growing demand for their product alongside their daughter Naho and a new life in Canberra.
Yuki, a business consultant, and Claire, a hairdresser and former marketing executive for a global hair colour company, do not consider themselves an overnight success despite their sudden popularity in the home hair care market.
MIIROKO has actually been years in the making.
Claire conceived the idea around four years ago while sharing a wine with some hairdresser friends. One of them had a client who was trying to colour her hair at home but kept choosing the wrong colour and getting a less than ideal result.
Using her professional experience, Claire spent the next three years developing a product that gave salon-quality results, was easy to apply and worked perfectly for the home touch up.
Her expertise came not only from her salon experience but from her experience in a hair colouring company and she was familiar with the chemistry behind colour.
She and Yuki realised that a low-toxic product was the best way forward and while the couple were based in Tokyo, they settled on an Italian manufacturer who used salon-quality eco-friendly ingredients. But then things got a little hectic.
“In the space of 12 months we had our baby girl, moved country and launched the business (all in the midst of Covid),” said Yuki.
They only launched on November 1 but have already shipped over 100 colours locally and interstate.
The MIIROKO service is different to buying a hair colour kit from the supermarket. Clients fill out a detailed hair colour analysis questionaire online and can even book a virtual consultation. Their colour is matched and dispatched with all the tools they will need, plus a video guide to application and troubleshooting. The first order comes in at $60 and includes the tools for application, second and on-going orders cost $45.
The couple also pay tribute to their experience in the Canberra Innovation Network for providing them with additional business tools to hone the concept and for helping them commit to staying in Canberra.
“It actually made us stay in Canberra to launch the business. Prior to CBRIN, we were considering Sydney because we lived in Sydney prior to living in Tokyo and have more professional network and friends there. But CBRIN and Canberra’s support for our business has been overwhelming, which made our decision easier to stay in Canberra.”
The couple actually see a bright side to launching a business in a pandemic year.
“We believe that lockdown meant more people were willing to try home hair colour than if they had been able to get to their salon. Even before Covid we were seeing the trend of people who were shifting to home hair colour touch ups due to juggling a busy lifestyle and being time poor and now that group is even bigger.
“A lot of people have been surprised at how easy it is, although most people are still not happy with quality of current supermarket home hair colour.”
Miiroko hopes to change that experience with a product that doesn’t even require you to leave your home and go to the supermarket.