How Mane Addicts Changed The Game For Hairstylists And Founders
By Karin Eldor
Jen Atkin’s platform Mane Addicts gives new meaning to the power of community, collaboration, creativity, and content. (Not to mention the saying, “Content is queen.”)
Atkin famously documented her rise to celebrity hairstylist (with clients ranging from the Kardashians and Jenners to Chrissy Teigen) followed by entrepreneurship as the founder of haircare brand the Ouai and Mane Addicts in her bestselling 2020 memoir, Blowing My Way to the Top, and often shares her stories of resilience on her Instagram feed (with a phenomenally engaged audience of 4.5 million followers).
“I think that big leap I first took at 19 years old to move to L.A. from Utah set me on this path of saying, ‘That was really scary. That was a leap of faith. It didn’t ruin my whole life, this feels true to what I want,” Atkin shares. “And I’ve tried to continue staying on that path.”
That path includes helping to pave the way for other women hairstylists.
Launched by Atkin in 2014, Mane Addicts is the destination and leading digital hair community that gives access to the world’s top talent for both hairstylists and consumers. It features the best products on the market and instructional how-to videos, along with professional profiles, original content and cutting-edge education, all delivered to its audience via its defined, signature voice and POV. (It’s also a powerful case study in the importance of a brand having an editorial content team.)
Mane Addicts has expanded to include Mane University: a global education platform that brings top talent to major cities around the world, to teach and inspire a new generation of hairdressers.
“To be honest, it was such a cutthroat and really hard industry to get into, especially as a woman in 2006. You really didn’t see women behind the chair that much. A lot of women colorists — yes — but not many women hairstylists in the mainstream other than Sally Hershberger and Odile Gilbert to look up to.”
Part of Mane Addicts’ origin story ties back to Katherine Power, the founder of Clique Media (whose empire includes WhoWhatWear, MyDomaine and Byrdie), and a portfolio of brands like Versed, Merit and Avaline.
“In 2012, Katherine had pointed out the strong shift of publications going digital. She was the one that really encouraged me and said: You know so much about hair. You’re such an advocate for people that work with you and the community at large, you need to create that digital space for hair.”
Today, Mane Addicts is more than a digital space for hair — it’s a full-blown universe, or as Atkin refers to it, a “playground.”
“I really wanted to create this playground for consumers to learn about products that brands are coming out with, for professionals to be able to mingle, and for hair enthusiasts to have a place to go and learn information, see tutorials, but at the time, it was just a digital editorial platform. And then once I started doing little mixers at my house on my rooftop early on, for example, I realized this was really taking off. So since then it’s grown and morphed into this amazing 360 global community — it’s really fun to see its growth.”
This growth is reflected with one look at Mane Addicts’ metrics: Bookings for hairstylists that are part of the collective have increased 78% from Q1 2021, and are on pace to finish the year with a 54% increase. Brand partnerships are 87% over FY 2021 and on pace to finish the year at a 34% increase.
And Mane Addicts’ content extends to more than just hair.
“We talk about the planet, we talk about all the things that I think a traditional hair space wouldn’t talk about — we talk about people’s values and their interests, and aesthetic in general,” Atkin shares.
But you can’t have a playground without players — or a sense of community — and Mane Addicts has that with its Creator Collective.
A popular editorial feature on Mane Addicts is the influencer spotlight and Q&A, Mane Muse, which recently highlighted social media sensation Tinx (whose real name is Christina Najjar), and whose former subjects include actress and changemaker Yara Shahidi, as well as Zendaya and Maddie Ziegler.
“We launched Mane Addicts even before influencers were on the rise. Today we consume so much, so it was really fun for me to put my stake in the ground. And I’m really grateful that I took Katherine’s dare.”
The power of education and helping other women hairstylists is a key part of Atkin’s ethos.
“I kept thinking about who I was, when I first came to Los Angeles. I was 19 years old, I had $200 or $300 in the bank. And I really wanted to learn about hair. I was really lucky that different hairstylists throughout the years have taken a chance on me and taught me. So I said to myself, Let me learn from them and then create my own craft from all of their ways and their techniques. It’s been my mission to really keep that door open for more women.”
It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows for Atkin, who has heard a lot of “no”s along her trajectory and had doors close on her. But she persevered and today shares her wins (and obstacles) on her social feed: including an Instagram post that went viral back in December 2021, when her haircare brand Ouai launched at Harrods — it was her resilience and drive that kept Atkin going, despite the fear. (Atkin founded the Ouai in 2016.)
“Looking from a wide lens and realizing what’s happening with me, setting up my brand at Harrods — and that it very well could not have happened. I didn’t let the fear or the doubt take over. I just kept pressing on. And I think there’s something going on right now in the media, focusing on female founders stories with a negative slant — it makes me really sad.”
Let’s be honest here: it becomes especially hard for aspiring or early-stage women founders, when journalists (even female ones) spotlight the female founders who were once media darlings.
“There’s this weird trend right now of telling stories in media, where I feel like female founders are getting picked on,” Atkin shares.
“I’m really proud of the amount of achievements that women have made in business in recent years — I’ve seen it accelerate a lot. And that’s because we’ve all supported one another. It’s hard — it’s not like, you have an idea, people buy it, and that’s it. On the backside, there’s investments, there’s VC conversations, there’s all kinds of overwhelming things, and you’re getting so much advice from so many people. It’s really scary at times. So I think it’s important to recognize that whoever a publication or journalist is featuring, is putting themselves out there.”
“When I first started the brand, I had lunch with Bobbi Brown and I was calling on Sonia Kashuk to give me advice on her journey. So it’s really important that we are supportive and encouraging one another. I have always lived by the rule of driving community and not being jealous of people and being friends with your peers. I think that’s helped me manifest a lot in my life.”
With a big website redesign coming up later this summer, a continuous focus on Mane Addicts’ social platforms (Instagram, Pinterest and TikTok) and developing the power of community, Mane Addicts will only continue to grow.
As Atkin asserts:
“If I am helping to create opportunity and help direct or steer the careers of other people, which we’ve been doing with our Creator Collective over the last few years — that’s a legacy, and that’s so important to me.”
Photo by Mike Rosenthal