Carrie Sporer Meredith Krill SWAIR

Meredith Krill and Carrie Sporer like to workout. But washing your hair after every single workout? Not so much. The two met while training for the New York City Marathon and continued to workout together most mornings. Daily hair washing became a mutual gripe, and despite trying out a number of different products like dry shampoo, they couldn’t seem to find one that actually left your hair feeling clean. Two years ago they decided to take the plunge into the beauty industry with the launch of their showerless shampoo, SWAIR. Despite facing an eight week launch set back because of the Pandemic they still managed roll out their new product to rave reviews from customers and beauty industry insiders alike. Today the New York City-based entrepreneurs are trying to carve out some personal time amidst their busy start-up schedules and looking to grow the SWAIR team.

Sporer & Krill’s story, as told to The Story Exchange 1,000+ Stories Project:

What was your reason for starting your business?

SWAIR, 100%, came from personal need. I met my co-founder Meredith while marathon training in 2007, and after the race we continued to work out together most mornings. We loved the physical and emotional benefits of working out regularly but shampooing our hair in the shower after every sweat session got old fast. We tried dozens of products over the years, but never found anything that left our hair feeling shower-clean. We knew we couldn’t be the only people with this problem, so we decided to create the dream product that was missing from our routine.

How do you define success?

For us, success means having a profitable brand and have work life balance so that we can spend time with our loved ones, travel, and enjoy our hobbies. While the company is just two people, there are times where we feel like we are working 24/7, but as we grow we hope to be able to develop a more manageable schedule. We would love to build an inclusive team with a culture that emphasizes physical, mental and emotional well-being. If we can achieve that, we will consider SWAIR a success.

Tell us about your biggest success to date

Our biggest success to date has been receiving support from various doctors, editors and beauty experts. As industry outsiders, we had quite a bit of imposter syndrome entering the health and beauty space. Over the past few months, we have shared our Showerless Shampoo with people that have spent their entire careers testing products. It has been incredibly humbling to receive their praise and support. For example, renowned dermatologist Angela Lamb shared SWAIR on the Today Show and New York Magazine editors wrote a stand alone feature in the “This Thing’s Incredible” section.

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What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it?

Launching a brand during a pandemic was a huge challenge and triumph. We were at the mercy of our suppliers because they had to prioritize bottles and sprayers for sanitizer and surface cleaners. We had to push back SWAIR’s launch date by eight weeks, but we did our best to make good use of the extra time by fine-tuning our marketing and social media strategies. We also took advantage of that fact that many service providers were willing to offer price breaks. We feel really lucky that we were able to work with some amazing people that may not have been affordable or available otherwise.

What is your biggest tip for other startup entrepreneurs?

Instead of asking yourself, “Can I do this?” ask yourself, “How will I do this?” You also have to accept that your idea might not work, and that’s okay. If you frame failure as an opportunity to reset rather than the end, it becomes a lot less scary.

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How do you find inspiration on your darkest days?

Professionally, believing in our product drives us. It has been hard to remain optimistic and dialed-in during COVID-19, but we’re so proud of creating SWAIR and confident that it’s a game-changer for giving women back time in their days.

Who is your most important role model?

Our most important professional role model is Holly Thaggard of Supergoop. She reinvented the established, but uninspired, category of sunscreen to meet the needs of today’s customers. Since we are creating a new category with Showerless Shampoo, we have studied her story closely to learn how to educate and excite consumers. Her story is truly inspirational. She started Supergoop to create a movement around the need for SPF in the wake of a friend’s battle with melanoma. Despite a rocky start, Holly has gone on to change the way people think about their sun care and has created a ripple effect in the beauty industry with new and existing brands focusing on SPF.  We look to emulate her strategy and success in the hair and skincare industry for people who workout.

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Editor’s Note: The Story Exchange is celebrating its 10th anniversary by launching the annual Women In Science Incentive Prize. Apply now for a chance to receive $5,000 in funding for your climate-related research or startup. Deadline: July 31. 

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