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The latest product to hit your doorstep? Hair dye.

August 20, 2015, 9:24 PM UTC
Courtesy of Madison Reed

What do healthy snacks, shaving cream and makeup have in common? All three are now sold and packaged as monthly subscription services that show up on your doorstep — think NatureBox, Dollar Shave Club and Birchbox. Another newcomer to the “box revolution” is Madison Reed, a startup that applies a similar model to at-home hair coloring kits.

The web-based hair care startup, launched last year, is hoping to capitalize on the estimated 100 million American women who dye their hair regularly—and tap into a growing appetite for beauty products that are free of harsh chemicals (Madison Reed has developed its dyes without ammonia and PPD, substances commonly found in coloring brands). While existing customers use the company’s subscription model, Madison Reed said last week that it is also partnering with beauty retailer Sephora to sell a “root touch up” powder in stores and online.

“It’s a great partner for us, but our predominant model is still direct to consumer,” says Amy Errett, the founder and CEO of Madison Reed. The startup, which has raised $15 million from venture capital firms to date, is named after her daughter.

As a former investor in consumer-facing startups, Errett knows a thing or two about building out a sticky brand. But selling hair dye comes with its own set of challenges. For starters, convincing women to change their coloring habits, whether they rely on a salon or do it themselves, is no easy task. Large brands like L’Oreal and Clairol are already well-entrenched, and Madison Reed dyes tend to cost more than the incumbents, $25 a box compared to about $10 to $12. The Sephora partnership, while currently limited to just one product, could help Madison Reed garner some consumer recognition and trust. And Errett is convinced the ease of use of the subscription model and the company’s focus on selling healthier formulas will help attract customers.

“Our customer is the person who cares about the ingredients story,” says Errett, who brought in a “master colorist” and a small R&D team to tackle product development (the hair dyes are manufactured in Milan).

Not every product works as a monthly subscription, but if Errett’s brand resonates with consumers, hair color could be a near-perfect fit for recurring deliveries. The market is huge — an estimated 65% of the roughly 100 million American women who color their hair already do so at home. And the need for replenishing hair dye is ongoing because, well, hair grows.

Madison Reed has another potential market to tap into: men. About 10% of its current customers are male, and Errett sees marketing to them as a huge opportunity. For now, though, she’s got her hands full convincing more women to switch to monthly subscriptions — and Madison Reed dye — for their hair coloring needs.

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