She’s an Aussie mum, a business founder and a domestic violence campaigner – and somehow, amongst all of that, Jen Harwood has also found the time to develop an innovative detangling hair brush, the Happy Hair Brush. Now, she’s CEO & Founder of yet another business, on a mission to help create happy households with her campaign, #onemillionhappywomen – which she’s doing by giving away one hair brush every day (and they retail for $39.95!).
What was your inspiration to start your own business?
The constant morning fights and screaming before school started to get my 6-year-old daughter’s hair brushed and pulled back into an acceptable style for kindy, and then Year 1. The time finally came to find a solution at the end of the Kindy Year when I verbally threatened my child (like so many mothers before me) to chop her hair off so we didn’t have to deal with this problem anymore. Having been through domestic violence myself, I realised the insanity – I was threatening to cut her hair off, against her wishes, because of hair brushing drama. There was nothing wrong with her hair or her. It was the brush. I just had to find a brush – or, as it turned out, make a brush – that would do the job.
When did you know the timing was ‘right’?
When I started talking to other mothers about brushing hair. I realised that almost everyone dealt with it in some negative way, either when they were a child or currently with their own children. Some women were also dealing with it with their ageing parents who were bed ridden, or sensory kids or young adults that they were caring for. I found that this problem had been accepted as a cultural norm – that brushing hurts and it always will. Realising this excited me beyond words because I knew, given everything in my past experience about how to build a business, we could change this on a massive scale.
How did you make your big break?
I wrote a mini-plan, my sister loaned me some cash so I could get a manufacturer to make the first 2000 Happy Hair Brushes and decided to see if I really had something. Well, we definitely had something!
What was your training prior to starting your own business?
I’ve been a business coach and motivational speaker for the last 20 years, working with other companies to be successful, profitable and make a difference in the world. I’ve coached and helped over 2,500 business owners grow their businesses, and that’s been a successful business in its own right. I’ve just never started an online business and manufactured retail products myself – just services and business books, so the Happy Hair Brush has been a big change.
What are the biggest challenges of being a mum and a business women?
I believe that every mum in business has her own unique challenges based on her family, her kids, their needs, her skills and experience, her support structures and her own values around parenting, motherhood, business and balance. So… with all of that in mind, my specific challenges have been:
- Knowing who to trust: having been through domestic violence and becoming a single mum when my daughter was two and a half, bringing people into my world and trusting them to work in the business has been hard. To overcome this, I have put them all through the ‘Trust Test’ – which I’ve created myself – so I could ascertain who was a ‘genuine person’ who had my best interests at heart, and would be good for me to work with. It’s been brilliant.
- Balance: I love to work (I really do) and I don’t need a lot of sleep – 1am or 2am finishes work for me, but waking up four to five hours later to get ready for the 8am school run has been hard. The short day of school means switching off from work at 3.30pm while my daughter is home, and not logging back on again until 8. As the business is growing, I’m getting better at detangling – ha ha, I mean delegating! –to people who I trust, and on tasks I don’t need to do. I am now able to focus on being a mum, managing homework, doing dinner and spending quality time loving my child, then jumping back online in the evening to support our customers.
- Finding business peers: I’ve hand-picked over 12 specific friends and have been actively developing the friendships and personally investing in them (emotionally and intellectually) and their family. I’m creating my own village to hang out with to talk business and kids, who ‘get’ me. Some I just talk business with, while to others I’m just a mum. Some are online and some are professionals in the workplace or people I found at business networking events. They all offer different input into my life with information, education, commiseration, celebration, fun time and solidarity! My sister Kate is in that village, as is my grandmother Polly.
What is your top tip for maintaining a work/life balance?
Know yourself. Know what you are good at, then delegate the rest. The other tip is to fully understand what you overdo because you love it and/or use to avoid other things (yes, we all do that). Come up with a plan to manage that when you get stressed.
What is your biggest learning since starting your own business?
Keep going! Don’t stop, no matter the obstacles. The world is big enough to succeed in – seriously, we sell hair brushes. I’m not a hair dresser, I’m not a retailer and there are millions of hair brushes being sold every day, all over the world. And, despite that, we are growing and succeeding. Build your confidence in your product or service every day, and keep going!
What do you do in your spare time to keep yourself sane?
I get a 90-minute massage any time I can – I’ve also been known to have a two-hour session!
What’s one thing other people should do who are looking to start their own business?
Work out how to cashflow the business from sales right from the start, and you’ll be on your way to great things. The other thing I would say is curb your ego from the beginning and focus on your own lane. Do what you do well and keep looking for ways to be better, and then do better.
What team haven thought of their Happy Hair Brushes…
My girls love the happy hair brush and having one daughter with thick, frizzy hair and the other with thinner, smooth hair it gives them their own brush to suit. Smooth sailing while doing hair at our house!
As a mum of two tween girls, both with long thick hair, I’ve tried almost every brush under the sun over the years to avoid the hair-brushing tears. The Happy Hair Brush definitely lives up to its name. It’s comfortable in the hand (not unlike other detanglers we use that sit in your palm) and it works a treat. It took a little getting used to the curved shape, but now we three girls fight over it! It is definitely more expensive than other brushes but I can justify the cost because it works well. And it’s easy to clean.
Anastasia, editorial assistant…
As someone who has “struggled” with flat, super-straight-yet-easily-tangled hair for most of my life (*cue eye rolls from all of the curly haired girls I’ve always been jealous of*), I’m wary of using hair brushes that might rip out half of my already sparse head of hair. My knots aren’t easily tameable in the morning (they’ve always somehow turned into dreadlocks overnight?) and I usually have to pack on the argan oil when it’s still wet before I’m able to get a brush through it. At least, that’s what I used to do. The Happy Hair Brush lets me tame my tresses, wet or dry, with little to no fuss. I don’t feel like I’m constantly pulling chunks of hair out of it like I did with my old hair brush, and its wide, curved head means I can get the job done in seconds. I don’t think my hair has never been so happy.
Obsessed! I have two daughter’s, one with thin hair, the other with long thicker curly hair. We’ve all been using the Happy Hair Brush for 5 weeks now and I am amazed that we haven’t had the before school hair rush/argument during this time – the girls are actually brushing their own hair before school now and come out of the bathroom humming with their efforts (literally, they did that this morning!). I am not turning back now and will purge the other detangler brushes sitting in the drawer! Oh, and the bristles and the shape of the brush give your head the most luxurious massage!