With a hugely influential client list, a booming business and over two million followers on her social channels, Jen Atkin knows a thing or two about business savvy. The founder and director of the OUAI – a now multinational haircare company – worked her way from humble beginnings in Utah to being on call for Kim, Kendall and the like. But for Atkin, success was never measured in terms of the dollar, it was about a passion, a desire, a fire in the belly that needed to be stoked. It was also about solving problems. “Anything I do really isn’t about money. I was never like, ‘Oh, I’m going to make money from this,’ I was always coming from the place of, ‘I want to try and create a solution to a problem’.
It turns out the problems she wanted to solve came down to our hair, and there were a lot of well-connected friends who also wanted to help. “I thought messages were all wrong, I thought packaging was all wrong, I thought there were too many descriptives on the bottle. I didn’t think it was cool or real. That’s kind of how it happened. I had no idea my clients would get paid millions of dollars for posts, I didn’t know they would all show up the way they did. Really, I owe a lot to them for helping us get to where we are, it’s been really incredible.”
But it didn’t always come down to friends in high places. Way back when, long before her gal pals started with the letter ‘K’, Atkin was simply in search of the basics. “I wanted a dry shampoo that didn’t have a white mark, a hair oil that didn’t make your hair greasy, I wanted a texturising hair spray that smelt really good, because you know, we’re always trying to cover up BBQ scents and cigarettes from the night before.” That simple want – one almost everyone can relate to (particularly the party evidence) – became the impetus for the OUAI – a tongue-in-cheek, results-driven, female-centric brand to solve daily hair problems. “I felt like I wanted to create a brand that was really socially connected and I wanted to be a woman talking to women about hair care needs, and about what we want. And I wanted to talk on a realistic base like I’m talking to my girlfriend.”
Riding the swell of unrelenting feminism, Atkin is a willing participant, and with that, is impelling her girl gang to ride it with her.
“I am so grateful to be a female entrepreneur right now because I think it’s just going to get bigger and better, and again, not to get too crazy, but we are stronger together as women, so I think it’s really important.”
She is also quick to observe the strong female solidarity in our country, one, in her own words, we shouldn’t be taking for granted. “You guys have such a great camaraderie with women here, you guys really do support one another and don’t take that for granted because not every country is like that.”
Here, the modern day boss lady shares her ultimate advice for all those girls planning to start businesses, or, take over the world.
1. Girls to the front
“First of all, as women, it’s really hard because for so long it’s been older men that own companies and corporations, and they’re in the boardrooms making decisions for us. And in the past they were telling us what we liked or what we needed to look like or what was important, and I think that is my number one piece of advice to really help change that conversation.”
2. You are not a label
“It’s a great time to be a female entrepreneur, and I think it’s really important to not let someone label you as one thing. You’re not just a mum, you’re not just a wife, you’re not just an editor or an influencer – you are so many things. Just keep that in mind as you are growing as a person. Don’t feel like you have to be kept in a bubble.”
3. The way to get over a guy is to get under another
“My third piece of advice is – I always love this piece of advice – the way to get over a guy is to get under another. Don’t let people in your life who are sucking life out of you or aren’t encouraging you. It’s really hard for men to be with successful women. I am so lucky my husband is from the new generation of thinking. You have to make sure, whether it’s a friends or family, don’t let anybody hold you back. Be careful about how you are spending your time and don’t let people take away from what your goals are and what you really want to do. Again, with social media, it’s a tool for all of us and you have to use it. You have an open platform where you can have unedited, unfiltered voice, and no one has ever had that, so it’s so powerful. And don’t forget you all have a platform and people are listening and watching. Don’t worry about the haters; just keep in mind that you have such an incredible opportunity with social media.”