The Interview: Natanel Bigger, Founder and CEO of MONPURE

MONPURE London is a specialist scalp and hair health brand, recently launched in the UK. The premium scientific brand is devoted to discovering genuine solutions to common hair issues and has launched with the ultimate aim of nourishing the scalp and hair follicles, in turn, promoting stronger and healthier hair in abundance.

Established by a collective of scientists, dermatologists and beauty experts, including MONPURE’s resident dermatologist Dr. Sue Ann Chan, each product in the six-strong range boasts pioneering formulas which combine the power of natural, non-toxic ingredients to care for and nourish the scalp for healthy hair growth. Founder and CEO, Natanel Bigger tells us more:

Could you tell us a little bit about your background?

As a child, my single mother was working as a professional model, so I would travel with her all over Europe to places like Paris and Milan where she did catwalk shows. I would be backstage while she walked the runway – I was exposed to elements of the beauty industry and that whole world from a young age!

I always knew from the age of about 6 that I was going to create my own product. I learned to understand that getting the investment to create would be a challenge, so I chose to work somewhere else first, learn from those more experienced, make my mistakes somewhere else, and then set-up my own business.

I noticed the rapid growth of the Chinese market, so after leaving school I chose to study Sinology (Chinese studies) where I learned to speak Mandarin fluently and lived in China for a period of time. After graduating, I was headhunted by Andy Rubin, CEO (now Chairman) of Pentland Brands, and moved to the UK, where I became Rubin’s EA and learned about global brand building and brand management.

I later worked for the founder of the leading German online retailer called Zalando where I helped to develop and execute the direct to consumer strategy for brands via their platform (with 21m active shoppers at the time) and then progressed to Managing Director of Beauty Brands for a UK beauty conglomerate. Eventually, I decided to branch out on my own and realise my dream of launching a product range.

You recently launched and at a very strange and uncertain time, what was the response like?

We obviously didn’t plan for a global crisis; our shipping cost went up massively, we had lots of delays to start with and we didn’t have a lot of money for marketing. We had to re-prioritise whilst staying true to our core brand values (sustainability and creating a strong product). But once we launched, the response we had was overwhelming from the beginning. The number of people getting in touch keen to improve their scalp and hair health was incredible.

“JFK used to say: The Chinese use two brush strokes for the word ‘crisis’. One is  ‘danger’ and the other is ‘opportunity’. For me, it’s not what’s going to negatively affect us, but how we can learn from and adapt to the current situation. Customers are at home and they’re stressed – they need clean and healthy products to look after themselves.

It’s also about being authentic in our messaging and connecting with our community who are looking for genuine brands that want to make a difference in the world. Obviously, it was unfortunate not to have a launch event and bring the team altogether. But through all the challenges we’ve faced, working separately from home, I believe as a brand, we’re stronger for it.

What is your brand DNA and USP?

 We take a comprehensive approach towards haircare, specifically focusing on scalp health – as the scalp’s condition directly affects the natural growth, retention, and quality of hair.

Our USP is that we are the only sustainable, luxury brand dedicated to scalp health.

At the core of our business is a ‘more is more’ approach, the result is a range of high-performing products brimming with the highest possible percentage of bio-available ingredients that supremely nourish the scalp and promote healthy hair growth.

We created MONPURE after years of dedicated research and development and our aim is to advance the industry and become true innovators in the arena of scalp and hair health, as opposed to treating the actual hair itself (which is already dead). As a collective of beauty experts, scientists and dermatologists, our aim is to tackle the root cause of hair loss and give the scalp all it needs to stay nourished, healthy, and for hair to stay strong and healthy.

We genuinely care about scalp health and hair loss and aim to respond to customers with a 360-degree approach, working with our resident dermatologist to recommend not just products but also lifestyle and nutritional advice. We even sometimes recommend other products to a customer if we think they would work well for a particular issue they are having. That element of trust and transparency is so important to us.

How does your brand differentiate from other haircare brands?

Traditionally brands focus on treating hair and scalp issues in isolation, but given the structural arrangement of the scalp and hair, it means there’s actually an interdependent relationship between the two. Every product in our pioneering range has therefore been carefully crafted to maximise both scalp and hair health, ensuring the scalp has everything it needs to stay calm and healthy so that the hair can flourish.

What’s more, we are in the process of funding research projects with universities in the UK to really innovate in the space of scalp and hair health, and lead the way to more effective solutions to issues like scalp discomfort and hair loss.

Our commitment to the environment goes beyond our own offices. We believe who we choose to partner up with is just as crucial, supporting those who are similarly keen to make a change. That’s why our suppliers have been handpicked for having the highest ethical standards and are often involved in many environmental and social initiatives themselves.

For example, our warehouse has won several awards in social enterprise, while several of our manufacturers only work with natural ingredients and substitute toxic chemicals with more environmentally friendly products.

What is your current route to market?

We have launched a direct-to-consumer brand, available exclusively via our own e-commerce website at monpure.com. This gives us the chance to be the first port of call for customers, offering our 6 products as well as 4 regimes for consumers to purchase.

We hope to continually develop and add to our range in line with our customers’ feedback. Being a niche brand, we have an agile supply chain and can react much faster to customers’ demands than a large corporation.

Content is a major part of our strategy, educating and informing our customers about the importance of scalp care and hair health. We have a multi-channel approach to marketing, aiming to reach our target customers in the right places.  We are currently utilising social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook, email marketing, PR and we are just beginning to engage the influencer community.

We have already partnered with dermatologists in the UK, but are also in touch with prestige hair salons that care about using scientifically proven products for scalp and hair health with sustainable credentials also.

We are also in discussion with retail partners that have similar strong values as we do and we will work on scaling the brand globally in the next couple of years.

What inspired you to launch your own haircare products?

Traditional studies fail to recognise the interdependent relationship between the hair and scalp. I noticed that conventional haircare has been focused on treating the hair itself, with little attention paid to the scalp. I believe the scalp is at the heart of great hair, which is why I created MONPURE to treat both.

From my time living and studying in Asia, I noticed that when it came to haircare people were very much about “prevention is better than cure”. they understand that you don’t need harsh chemicals to treat a problem if you just follow a good regime. Back home, I was startled at how many people were first neglecting their scalps and then treating any issues with harsh chemicals that would end up in a vicious circle. I felt there was a gap in the market for a sustainable luxury range, dedicated to scalp and hair health.

Your products address various scalp and hair conditions, how do you know which product is right for your scalp?

 If you’re experiencing scalp and hair issues; e.g. your hair is falling out, your scalp is itchy or oily or the texture of your hair has changed, then it is a clear sign that something is out of balance.

Our products have been developed in association with beauty experts, dermatologists and scientists to directly treat the issues most commonly faced, getting to the root of the problem rather than masking it.

We have created four regimes comprising several of our products designed to address and treat specific scalp issues. Plus on our website we have arranged products into various categories depending on the scalp and hair concern, the customer is experiencing.

If customers are really unsure of what to use, we host regular ‘scalp clinics’ on our social media channels where they can put their questions to Dr Sue Ann Chan and we can recommend the right products accordingly. Every person is different and we try to take a holistic 360-degree approach to every issue we are presented with, offering nutritional and lifestyle advice as well as a topical treatment.

What are your top tips for healthy hair and scalp?

To quote our resident dermatologist Dr Sue Ann Chan  “I advise my patients to care for their scalp in the same way as they care for the skin on their face. Too often the scalp gets neglected which can lead to a dull appearance in the hair in general. That’s why regular cleansing, hydration, and exfoliation of the scalp are so important.”

For example, choosing a shampoo and conditioner with scalp-loving ingredients, such as calming and soothing aloe vera and fortifying silk peptides, both of which star in our Strengthening Silk Protein Shampoo and Conditioner and steering clear of products with too many harsh chemicals, which can dry out the scalp and exacerbate the issue.

And if you’re dealing with a dry, flaky scalp, our Hydrate & Soother Scalp Serum was created to soothe, hydrate and relieve itchiness with aloe vera and vitamin-rich camellia tea oil.

But it’s not just what you put on top of your scalp, but lifestyle plays a huge role too, ensuring we get sufficient nutrients in our diet including Iron, Zinc, Vitamin B, Selenium, and Vitamin C, as well as minimising physical and emotional stress (huge causes of scalp discomfort and hair loss).

What is the one product that you are most proud of and would recommend others to try?

I’m extremely proud of the entire range, but particularly our Follicle Boost Hair Density Serum. It contains a special pumpkin seed extract which is extremely clever in how it works. It’s an enzyme that increases blood flow to the scalp and blocks a chemical called DHT produced by our hormones which is a known cause of hair loss. The serum also contains two ingredients that speed up cell turnover: lactic acid and retinol, to decongest hair follicles, and create the best environment for hair growth.

Hairloss can often affect one’s mental health and is often an issue ignored by individuals. How is MONPURE encouraging people to address and resolve this matter?

One of the reasons we exist is that more than 40% of all women experience hair loss. While males are much more vocal about it, for females it has become somewhat of a taboo subject and it shouldn’t be! We are very vocal on our social media channels as well as our online Journal about the emotional impact of hair loss.

A lot of our content is geared around a holistic approach to scalp health and hair growth, with tips and advice on how to look after one’s mental health via self-care. We also want to encourage our community to speak about these issues and how they have been affected, which we do on our social channels. Further, plans include creating a private forum, where people have a non-judgemental, confidential space to talk about these issues.

What does it feel like to know you’re helping people with very serious scalp and hair conditions? Do you ever hear back from them?

It’s incredibly rewarding. As a newly-launched brand, we can’t wait to receive comments and feedback from customers who have tried and loved our products. I’m answering a lot of messages myself, working closely with our dermatologists to make sure we don’t just make assumptions and continue learning so we can best cater to our consumers.

We’ve had quite a few people coming back to us, some have even been thanking us. I always remember the most moving answers. One of them was a customer from Northern Ireland – and who said “This shampoo has made such a difference from first use. My hair is fine and was tangling, with a result that I was losing a lot of hair when washing. Combined with the conditioner, it feels much fuller and healthier.” Scalp and hair health is such an emotional issue, so if we’ve helped people regain their confidence, that’s a hugely rewarding aspect of what we do.

We’ve had some amazing feedback from our user trials too. 89% of people agreed that our Nourish and Stimulate Scalp Mask had a positive effect on the health and condition of their scalp, while 87% of people agreed that after continued use of our Strengthening Silk Protein Shampoo, their scalp felt more balanced.

Sustainability is a core focus for many beauty and fashion brands currently. How are you incorporating sustainability into your products and business model?

Every product in the MONPURE range stars nourishing botanicals and potent actives sustainably sourced from all over Europe. We remain committed to finding the very best alternatives that are kind to your scalp and don’t pollute the earth.

We’re very conscious that our packaging doesn’t end up in a landfill. Four of our products are packaged in recyclable glass jars and bottles, with the Strengthening Silk Protein Shampoo and Strengthening Essence-Conditioner housed in plastic bottles that use post-consumer recycled plastic and are themselves 100% recyclable. Our shipping boxes and product packaging are printed using soy ink and our e-commerce orders use 100% biodegradable and compostable packing chips.

Our commitment to the environment goes beyond our own offices. We believe who we choose to partner up with is just as crucial, supporting those who are similarly keen to make a change. That’s why our suppliers have been handpicked for having the highest ethical standards and are often involved in many environmental and social initiatives themselves. For example, our warehouse has won several awards in social enterprise, while several of our manufacturers only work with natural ingredients and substitute toxic chemicals with more environmentally friendly products.

What are the future plans for MONPURE?

The goal is to become the leader in two categories: The first category is sustainable luxury haircare. The second one is to become the leading authority in scalp and hair health. We want to build and continuously innovate in this entirely new category within hair care and transform the way people care for their scalp and hair health and look beyond styling with chemicals.

I would love to make the world of scalp and haircare more sophisticated and be a leading innovator in this space. I also hope to build an incredible and diverse company culture at the same time and develop a team that cares about having a positive impact on nature and society. My dream is to eventually be able to support smaller businesses that I believe in and have the freedom to do that.

What advice would you give to anyone starting up a beauty/lifestyle brand?

  1. Buy yourself time. I had to save up money to support myself for the several months it took me to write a solid business plan.
  2. Commit fully to the cause
  3. Stay true to your brand ethos and values even during the hard times. As a small brand, we managed to stand firm in the face of a crisis and didn’t steer our gaze from the bigger picture, using the limited funding we had available to ensure our sustainability goals were adhered to.
  4. Think about your work culture early on as this is what consumers feel and see.
  5. Hire a team of people that are better than you in their various fields. (I don’t need to have all the answers if I have good people around me that I trust.)