Author’s Blurb: You know that whole ‘glow-up’ thing people talk about on social media? I think I hit my peak when I finally learnt makeup skills, but one thing I’ve never bothered much with is my hair. In terms of hair, I’m still a total amateur, and I just don’t understand why I should put much effort into it (a basic ponytail is my go-to).
Kim is the exact opposite of me. To her, a great hair day makes her feel ready to conquer the world, and she wants to share this feeling with other women in Malaysia.
It all started when she found out about Drybar, a California based chain of salons that solely provides a hair styling service known as blowouts, while listening to the Girlboss podcast.
Intrigued by the concept, she flew to London and met 3 blowdry bar owners to validate the idea and understand why it worked in the UK, and whether it could work in Asia.
She realised then that there were many issues faced by clients while visiting regular hair salons, some of them being:
- inconsistent service,
- short-lived blowouts,
- getting pressured into paying for extra services,
- a limited selection of blowout styles,
- a top-up required for better shampoo,
- and a lack of inclusivity (the Chinese go to Chinese salons, and likewise for Malays and Indians).
With the gap she’d identified in the market, Kim decided to address it by launching her own blowdry bar called COCOdry with her co-founder, Shan.
Know Your Value Proposition
Angel investors helped bring their dream to life, and COCOdry began operations in 2019.
But I was curious about the Malaysian demand for blowdry services. With it being such a specific and relatively new concept to many of us, is there enough interest to sustain COCOdry’s business?
Apparently, investors asked this exact question when she pitched to them.
“My answer has always been the same: how often does a woman with long hair get her hair cut or coloured? Twice or thrice a year? And how often does a woman wash her hair in that same period?” she reasoned.
“Why not create a space where they can drop by for a hair wash as often as they please? We’re playing on the frequency game.”
Then I thought, couldn’t we wash our hair ourselves and achieve a basic blowdry with our hairdryer?
“Yes, one can argue that we can always do it ourselves. Nevertheless, one can also say the same for cooking and eating in (yet Malaysians spend 31.2% of their disposable income dining out) and driving around in our own cars (but Grab processes more than 6 million rides a day),” Kim countered.
“So, we think there is a value proposition here with the service we provide. As Malaysia progresses into a high-income nation, we believe consumers will start to prioritise experience, convenience, and comfort.”
Thus, Kim and Shan set up the first COCOdry outlet in Bangsar, targeting 3 types of clientele:
- corporate working women climbing the career ladder,
- lifestyle seekers with events or dinners to attend,
- and people who believe in COCOdry’s values of women empowerment, community building, and sustainability.
“We believe a more mature and affluent neighbourhood that is more likely to be exposed to the concept of blowdry bars will be easier to penetrate, and will give us stronger footing,” Kim shared.
There’s More To It Than Good Hair
Despite the location, however, COCOdry does its best to keep its pricing reasonable.
According to Kim, neighbourhood salons usually charge RM20-RM50 with add-ons for curls or better shampoo, while higher-end salons will charge RM50-RM100 without add-ons.
“In COCOdry, we decided to take the sweet spot approach and priced our services at RM60 for our top 5 styles which include the types of shampoos suitable for your scalp and hair condition. It’s value based pricing that does not burn a hole in your pocket.”
Besides simply pampering Malaysian women and giving them good hair, Kim also sees what COCOdry does as being part of something bigger.
“I wanted COCOdry to inspire and empower women by instilling positivity and self-confidence to step out of their comfort zone and be brave enough to chase their dreams,” she told Vulcan Post.
These two values were what pushed Kim to start a business at 26 without much experience and capital, after all.
As for the future, Kim definitely has plans to open more COCOdry outlets in the Klang Valley and other Peninsular states, but stated that it was important that they got the foundations of the business right before considering other revenue streams and expansion.
“That being said, we do have big plans and have pencilled down some of the initiatives that we will be looking into for the next 24 months,” she shared.
These initiatives include organising more events to bring women together in sharing their journeys, extending their product range to include a series of new hair and scalp treatments and additional hair extensions, seasonal and occasion-driven styles, outlet expansion, and even COCOdry’s very own hair products.
I was actually given the opportunity to get my first blowdry experience at COCOdry, so off I went to Bangsar on a weekend.
I wasn’t expecting much since I’ve always only had mediocre salon visits. Upon entering, however, I was greeted with a pretty full house, the air filled with the sound of hairdryers blowing at full force.
Briefly, here’s what I really appreciated about the place:
- the modern and welcoming (and Insta-friendly) design,
- how open the staff are to having a genuine, interesting conversation with you,
- the reasonable and affordable prices for the quality of service you get.
As I’m no hair aficionado, I went for a relaxing wash and a basic curly blowdry, and I got what I asked for. That, coupled with the above points, made the experience a memorable enough one to me.
Throughout my hour or so there I saw a number of walk-ins as well, though COCOdry tries to operate on an appointment basis.
This surprised me, as I was harbouring my doubts about the demand for blowdry services in Malaysia. What’s more, these women who visited COCOdry were actually diverse in age and ethnicity.
Would I go back again? I actually would, but only if I had a really fancy event to go to.
Bottom Line: While my experience at COCOdry hasn’t changed my attitude towards my hair, it’s definitely given me insight into why women might find a simple 45-minute experience empowering and rewarding. It’s definitely the sort of thing you’d need to experience to believe it.
- You can read more about other Malaysian startups here.
Featured Image Credit: COCOdry