Arjan Singh: Co-Founder of Jolie

Episode 543

On this episode of The Kara Goldin Show, Arjan Singh, Co-Founder of Jolie, shares the story of his journey building what he says is The World's Best Shower Filter. We hear about the company's mission to reimagine skin and hair care by focusing on water, how the product removes chlorine and heavy metals improving overall health and well-being, plus Arjun shares the real deal on challenges of launching the startup along the way. Consumer education and word-of-mouth marketing are all part of the conversation as he shares what it takes to build brand awareness. Arjan, along with his co-founder Ryan Babenzien, have created a buzz in the industry and I am excited to share this very inspiring episode with all of you. Sit back and enjoy. Then grab your Jolie and feel the difference! Now on this episode of #TheKaraGoldinShow. 

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Kara Goldin 0:00
I am unwilling to give up that I will start over from scratch as many times as it takes to get where I want to be I want to be, you just want to make sure you will get knocked down. But just make sure you don’t get knocked down knocked out. So your only choice should be go focus on what you can control control control. Hi, everyone and welcome to the Kara Goldin show. Join me each week for inspiring conversations with some of the world’s greatest leaders. We’ll talk with founders, entrepreneurs, CEOs, and really some of the most interesting people of our time. Can’t wait to get started. Let’s go. Let’s go. Hi, everyone. And welcome back to the Kara Goldin show where we spotlight the trailblazers who are making a significant impact in their industries. And today, I’m super, super excited to welcome Arjan Singh, who is the visionary co founder of a product of a company called Jolie and Arjan and his team at Jolie are on a mission to reimagine the way we think about skin and hair care by focusing on the most fundamental element, water. And as many of you know, I’m very into water and obviously clean water. So I absolutely love what they’re doing at Jolie. So with their innovative, filtered showerhead, which is absolutely amazing. So we’re fighting over it here in our house, I think I’m going to need to get some more of them put in because everybody was trying to cite for that one shower that we have it in, it’s really, really great. It removes chlorine and heavy metals, but also enhances overall health and well being and we’ll definitely get Arjan to share a lot more about that. And he has a co founder, Ryan, who I was just sharing, I think I might have met him a while back when they were first creating it definitely is such a cool concept and company and very excited for you to be here and share more about not only the company, but also your journey Archer and so welcome.

Arjan Singh 2:09
Thank you. Absolutely, you know, we’ve, I’m staring at a glass of water right now. And we’ve all paid attention to the water that we drink, whether that’s you know, filtering that water or buying bottled water, of course, which you’re very familiar with, but the water we shower and has become or has been such an afterthought. And it was in fact, Ryan, my co founder who came up with the idea. And when he had told me about this, my initial reaction is that I was embarrassed. Because I said how in the world have I not thought about this? Not from a business standpoint, but from a personal. I’ve been showering for 30 years now. And I have not even given thought once to the water that I’ve been showering. And and it’s it was a bit of an aha moment. I think we tend to not think about what’s so obvious and right in front of us and many instances in life. In this case, that’s the water we shower in. And

Kara Goldin 3:03
what were you doing before starting Jolie.

Arjan Singh 3:06
So my whole background, grew up in Long Island, my family has always been in fashion my mom is from, she’s born in London, she’s half French, half Indian, my dad’s fully Indian. The reason why I bring up my family’s background is because I’m certainly a product of my environment. And, you know, grew up loving brands, and always was enamored by those that are very left brain, right brain, we’re naturally I grew up in a very creative household. I’m naturally very creative, but I also was interested in understanding business and how to marry the two. And I always thought that was quite beautiful when that moment happens. Immediately before I was working for a consulting company, the Boston Consulting Group, based in Scandinavia, so I have a love affair with Copenhagen, Oslo, Stockholm in that part of the world. So I was out there for about three and a half years working on their consumer fashion beauty team. Prior to that, though, I was spending a lot of time working for small fashion brands, hospitality companies, based in New York primarily.

Kara Goldin 4:14
Very, very cool. So how did you get so interested in water than,

Arjan Singh 4:19
you know, water is something that of course we interact with every single day. When Ryan had maybe I’ll start by telling you a little bit of the story of how the idea came to be, which again, you know, he had come up with and then had shared with me, he was experiencing dry skin one winter randomly on his legs to be specific. And his wife was working at Aesop. At the time he was a marketing executive. Her name is actually Jolie. So that’s where the name comes from. And I mentioned that because they had so much product at home, he’s trying different lotion, serum and trying to understand you know, what was causing this issue of dry skin. And it wasn’t until he was in the shower one day, when he started thinking about the water gets out of the shower and Googles and, you know, realizes two things. One, the water is not as clean as we think it is big surprise to their shower filters that exist primarily on Amazon. And he’s just trying to fix his issue, it purchases a $30 shower filter and puts it in and miraculously, three days later, his dry skin is gone like that. And he said, wow, but a week then passed by. And that shower filter had literally broken apart, the pressure was terrible, the effects started to go back to what it was prior to using the filter. So he said, Okay, I just bought something that was $30. Let me try to find something that actually has some quality to it, duration, and ideally a certain aesthetic. And that’s when, you know, he realized a that doesn’t exist. And be it mindset shifted from solving personal issue to wait a second, there’s a business idea here. He then had shared that with me shortly after I fell in love with the idea. I immediately went to not necessarily water but the shower as a space from a storytelling perspective, that my brain immediately was like, Wow, there’s so much emotion that we can create. And that one actually puts the shower into this space that we all know, it doesn’t just clean us physically, but it cleans us spiritually, mentally, it’s a great thinking session, maybe you sing in the shower, cry in the shower post breakup, you know, definitely not speaking from prior experience there. Or it is this space that for many people might just be the only place where they’re truly alone. You know, in hopefully you don’t have your phone with you in the shower. And I certainly know people that do. And I fell in love with this whole space of the shower as a place that we could really activate. And then it really made sense to me that water was causing an issue because I would immediately go to travel in my mind where I’ve been, you know, in particular places around the country around the world. And I’d get out of the shower, and nothing would change in terms of the products I would use. But my hair might feel very flat, or my skin would almost feel like there’s a layer of film on it. And I had not had not thought about that before as the water being the issue. But I remember that experience. And then I connected the dots. And that’s what we’ve noticed with many customers as well, is there’s a story often around travel that they associate with water and causing some sort of issue of skin or hair related. Definitely,

Kara Goldin 7:39
as so how does the showerhead actually work? I mean, how does it actually filter this out? And I guess, sort of part two of that question is Why hasn’t anyone focused on this before? For I’m

Arjan Singh 7:52
gonna answer part two first, and I’m gonna go to part one. I think that going back to, we don’t think about what is so obvious right underneath our noses. We tend to complicate things as humans, and we look further afield as opposed to what’s right in front of us. And I do think there’s a bit of that in this case. But we’re not the first ones that have attempted this. At the time when we were developing the product and going through that process. We had tested maybe 20, shower filters, they all were brandless they all for the most part were filters that fit in between the pipe from the wall and your actual showerhead, which makes it convenient when you need to change that filter every so often. And through our research, we found out that there have been some attempts in the past one that came up within a particular community which is hair stylists and hair salons, which is very important to Jolie as a business is guy named Jonathan, who I also think had a brand called Jonathan who is a very charismatic hairdresser in the early 2000s. And this community hairstylist, I’ve been preaching clean water and its impact on hair for quite some time or contaminated water and impact on hair. And he had tried to start something and it didn’t really go that far. There have certainly been attempts, though not as many as there shouldn’t be when you really think about how fundamental this is.

Kara Goldin 9:23
So, so, so interesting. So what are the specific water contaminants that really impact the skin and hair that you all are trying to solve for.

Arjan Singh 9:33
There are many, we unfortunately cannot solve for all of them. But we do focus on the main culprits that’s chlorine and heavy metals. Chlorine is actually added to most water systems throughout the country. It’s a disinfectant, chlorine will kill bacteria such as E coli, Salmonella, things that you definitely don’t want to drink and certainly don’t want to shower in. But that chlorine that sits there is not good for your skin or your hair. Essentially what it does is it strips out the natural oils, it can cause issues ranging from acne to eczema, to dry, brittle hair, heavy metals have a very strong impact on hair, they will actually change your hair color. If you’re blonde or you’re dyeing your hair, getting some sort of treatment. The heavy metals in particular are the main culprits for hair turning brassy or green. And it’s been amazing to see we’re two and a half years old now we have over 250,000 customers and the love that people have attached to them. We haven’t created this relationship that the customer has created this relationship with the product that goes beyond the function, but it certainly is, you know, function forward, we’re efficacy driven. And one thing that we did not realize, and never thought that we could message toward or even address is hair shedding or hair loss, not genetic hair loss. But we had hundreds of woman pretty quickly about six, seven months after launching Jolie that were writing us emails, writing reviews, posting videos, quite visual where they would show how little hair they had in the drain, after using Jolie versus before using shogi. We said okay, we have to put some evidence behind this. We are not overly data or science driven because we firmly believe that people influence people. And there’s nothing like a friend sitting across the table saying you’ve got to try this product. It made my hair X or Y. But in this case, we knew with hair loss or hair shedding if we were going to say anything, where it’s an industry full of magic potions and pills, we’re credibility is always you know, second guessed, we wanted to put some meat behind it. So we did a lab study with a third party lab PhD lab. And there was a three four month study that was done last year, that measured hair shedding and the results were 81% of people notice a reduction in hair shedding by an average of 46%. So there’s some real issues here that we can address at a level that is fundamental, as opposed to you know, many beauty products, while certainly helpful, or more bandied like solutions where they’re not focusing on the root causes. And the shower water, of course, is not the root cause for everything. But it is for many similar to your diet, the air, you’re breathing, the pillowcase that you’re sleeping on the amount of water you’re drinking, the shower water is playing a very fundamental role.

Kara Goldin 12:37
It totally makes sense. And I think it’s it’s definitely something that people who are challenged by hair loss, for example, the first thing they want to do is put something on top a right or, or ingest something versus actually trying to pay attention to actually what they’ve been doing and or what’s in their environment. I mean, it totally, totally makes sense. And I think more and more people are kind of looking around at that now. But it’s it’s definitely, you know, pretty frightening, frightening. Knowing what I know about water too. So I think what you guys are doing is definitely a needed idea, but it needed company and product for sure. So what’s been the most challenging part of launching this company? I mean, there’s, you know, it sounds great, you you create this product, and you want to get it out there and get people to understand I feel like there’s you have to get people to really understand that the the need right, the switch, and there’s some education that goes on too. And so what what has been kind of the the hardest part?

Arjan Singh 13:47
There’s certainly been, I’m just going to comment on the education piece, and then I’ll get to what I believe has been the biggest challenge. Education we knew around two different topics would be highly important for us to focus on as we launch and grow the business. One is, as you said, is the water dirty A and B, is it causing my skin and hair issues? And then two is more around installation. And that’s more perception. Can I install this myself? Or do I need a plumber, which is a bit of a barrier. And we’re in this sort of leads into the challenges. We’re taking a product that is normally seen as a plumbing fixture that pushes out water, where if you ask I’m in a co working space right now if I asked the people in this room outside the conference room I’m in and I said how many of you know what brand of showerhead you have? I can guarantee that over 75% of people would say I don’t know, if I showed a photo of three different brands, major brands, without you know the logo being visible. Which brand is this one, this one and that 170 5% Most people would say I don’t know So the challenge that I think has been, you know, right at the top for us has been taking something that is in such an unbranded not paid attention to space, and then trying to bring it to beauty, which is how we truly view this product because of the impact of water is having on your skin in your hair. This is not a great, we’re not messaging this as a primary message as a green our experience. Of course, this is a great shower experience and needs to be that in addition to filtering, but we’re leading with the benefits from a skin hair perspective. And, you know, it takes some convincing that this is not, you know, a product that should be sitting on the shelf at Home Depot, at least not initially, but at Sephora, or at your hair salon, etc, etc.

Kara Goldin 15:51
That’s so, so interesting. So when you were developing the product, again, no one had really done exactly what you were trying to do. There were other products out there doing it. But how did you even know about how to go about making something like this? I mean, you had you understand brands? And then Ryan? I mean, what was he doing before did he work actually, in this, neither

Arjan Singh 16:18
of us are engineers are coming from water filtration. Ryan had a footwear company before called greats, which was one of the first digitally native sneaker brands, he certainly understands selling online quite well. But we both are very much brand people. You from a design, we also love design, we knew from a design standpoint, what we wanted this to look like and creating a beautiful showerhead was not going to be a challenge, we knew we could do that. However, creating the world’s best filtering showerhead wouldn’t be something that we would have to bring in some outside help. So the first part of the process was trying everything on the market. And just personally, a few things were quite clear. Many of these filters a they’ll say that they have a 12 to 15 stage filtration system. And when you dig into what is in that 12 to 15 stages, you have some material that actually does something but then you have Rose Quartz, and you have what seems to be a bit more marketing fluff, that was actually causing the filter to clog, as opposed to providing much value. And the reason for that is because one brand came out and brand is too generous of a word, but one product and these are all sort of Amazon only products would say we have a six stage filtration system. And then another one would say we have 810 1215. And they were really just trying to make it seem like they had something that was a bit more better. We then also recognize that the six month filter replacement cycle, which was the standard in terms of product that existed was simply not true. Because many of these products would stop working because we would notice, you know a difference in impact, just anecdotally, initially, a couple of weeks to a month at most. We then tested these products, and we worked with a third party lab. This was now at a time when we had hired a team of engineers and product designers that are based between New York and Hong Kong. So they also helped set up a supply chain while they’re designing. And through that process, we had realized that there’s no way that we could create a filter that would last six months unless this thing took up half your shower. And we had to balance you know, the convenience and aesthetic and also efficacy. And three months was as far as we could take it so our filter is replaced every three months. And there’s an American made material that is actually the the work horse in that filter. It’s called KDF 55. It’s from Michigan. And the CEO of that company who’s the founder of that company has been doing this for 25 plus years, Katie, Katie is 55 works very well in the conditions of a shower, which is hot water and high pressure, whereas carbon or charcoal which is used in many drinking water filters doesn’t perform as well in those conditions. If you buy a Brita filter or similar filter, who will actually say do not use in hot water because the efficacy isn’t there. We spent a lot of time with him understanding the intricacies of filtration as it is specific to the conditions of a shower. So it was a lot of research. A lot of rolling up our sleeves. Yeah. The testing product.

Kara Goldin 19:45
You started when you launched two and a half years ago you were direct to consumer initially and then you started to go into retailers. Can you talk about the retail strategy a little bit?

Arjan Singh 19:56
Absolutely. Going back to what I was saying earlier in terms of The challenge of the perception of this product being beauty, which is the reality of it from an impact, we want it to first go into doors that speak beauty. The beauty customer goes, they’re thinking about skin and hair not thinking about, I’m getting my bathroom remodel. So our first retailer was actually a hair salon. This was June 2022. We launched midway through December 2021. So call it six months ish into the business. And the reason why we went to a hair salon first is hairstylist became very clear, had been preaching the impact of water on your hair for decades. This guy, Jonathan, that I mentioned earlier, who had tried to start a brand, he was a hairstylist, hairdresser, that community understood it. And it was easy to at least get started with, you know, it was a high end top hair salon here in New York City. I had a relationship with the owner. And that started our retail footprint. And now we’re in about 75 Plus hair salons throughout the country. And that number is growing very, very quickly. We also then focused on beauty stores, whether they were small, you know, independent boutiques that might have 123 locations Erawan, which is you know, of course, a grocery but has a very robust beauty section. We launched with them just about a year ago. Exactly. And that business has been absolutely phenomenal. We’ve actually convinced them to build showers and each of the beautiful Scandinavian porcelain tile shower with Jovi and then, you know, copy that, let’s say plays into the cultural cachet that Erawan has. That’s been very successful. And then we’re in more than lifestyle department stores that are you know, bridging the gap between not just fashion but home and beauty and wellness. Nordstrom Bloomingdale’s Moda Operandi, we’re launching soon revolve we do very good business with

Kara Goldin 22:03
football. Yeah. Yeah. That’s awesome. So you launched with, I guess, multiple SKUs. But one product? So how did you get the word out about the company? I mean, it’s it’s definitely you’re going into a lot of different retailers. But it’s so I guess part of it’s probably word of mouth and people trying it and and telling their friends are buying more for their home but but it’s not like you can hand out a bottle of water, right? Your you can’t hand out showerheads, or you probably won’t be in business for for very long. So it’s how did you get the word out about it.

Arjan Singh 22:40
So we actually have that has been the strategy. And the core of it has been driven by this belief that and it sounds silly and obvious, but it drives all that we do. People influence people. The end goal of all of our marketing is create conversation. Water as it relates to skin and hair, but water also as it relates to culture, whether that’s food, art, drink, clothing, the environment, activity, etc. When we started, I’d say day negative 60s of 60 days before launch, we seated product. So we were effectively handing out Jolie’s to those of influence, not necessarily people that would describe themselves as influencers as their day job. But those that, you know, in their lane, whether they’re great chefs, or an interior designer, or someone who talks about beauty, all day, every day, we give to them visually, and they’re certainly not getting gifted showerhead. So there’s no competition that way. They’re excited to use the product, they install it. And because it works. And it’s funny to have to say that a product works. But this is efficacy driven, you notice a difference almost immediately, they start talking about it, whether that’s online, whether that’s in person, the goal is how do we get every person across the country talking about Jolie, you know, at every dinner table. And that strategy of putting product into the market has certainly been the core. And it’s led to a few things, most importantly, now two and a half years into the business over 25,000 unique pieces of content that had been created not by us, but by both paying customers and those that we’ve seen it and then will repurpose some of that content. We do do a bit of paid marketing, but it’s not quarter our strategy, because we don’t think paid ads really drive demand. It might drive awareness. But demand is really driven by someone telling you hey, I use this product. Here’s what it’s done for me. You really got to try it out.

Kara Goldin 24:43
That’s awesome. So when you you’ve raised money, raise capital for this product. So when you’re raising money, what are you really looking for in investors and, and I think this is we have a lot of entrepreneurs For people who are looking to be entrepreneurs, that are that are listening, what do you think is like, the criteria for these investors that that you want to be? Or how have you looked at that world, we

Arjan Singh 25:15
looked at it very specifically. So we we raised friends and family, safe notes, we did not raise any institutional capital, we wanted to stay away from venture capital, we wanted to take capital from those that would, you know, trust us to run the business. And not we didn’t want to be in the business of managing investors are in the business of fundraising, we want to be in the business of our own business. And, you know, I think a lot of investors will set up certain structure to ensure that, you know, the company is moving in a certain direction, and sometimes it does more harm than it does good. And we were really looking for people that would, you know, stay out of our way. And, you know, that’s the only way I’m going to say it. And we wanted to build a business that was profitable very quickly. So from month five, we reached profitability. And you know, it’s amazing. year, year three, we’ll do this year 50 million in revenue profitable last year, 28 million profitable the year before 4.2 million, also reaching profitability on a monthly basis that year. And because of that, we’re in control, and we’re not reliant for our livelihood on outside capital to keep the company afloat. Of course, you know, if we were to go very aggressive into a new market, or develop a ton of new product at once, there might be a need for outside capital, but the way in which we see the business going, we hope to never raise again. Yeah,

Kara Goldin 26:51
that’s amazing. So as an entrepreneur, what has been the most valuable lesson, you’ve learned about creating a brand that’s really challenging the status quo,

Arjan Singh 27:00
I would say, as an entrepreneur, and as someone who always wanted to start something, I’m gonna underline the two words, I just said, start something. And I think that there is a lot of anxiety in, in being an entrepreneur, when you have decisions to make. And the moment that I’m going to go back to is the summer before we launched, so we launched December 2021. This is August 2021. And the product is sort of in a pretty good place. And we’re finishing that up, we’re thinking through the marketing, we’re thinking about all the things that we can do. And when the starting line has not yet been reached. The world is your oyster, there’s so many different paths and lanes that you can take. And this is advice, by the way, not just that is relevant for entrepreneurs, but I think for anyone in life, because we’re always faced with, you know, different paths and decisions. But in the case of being an entrepreneur, from a career perspective, you have to come up with the universe of what there is to do. And then you have to prioritize within that universe what to do. And then you actually have to go ahead and do it. So there’s these three very important components that maybe if you’re working at a more corporate job, or not starting something, the universe of what to do is already handed to you. And the prioritization might also be handed to you. It’s just the doing of it, or in it, maybe as you rise up the ranks that changes. But as an entrepreneur, it can be overwhelming, the decisions that you have to make, and I’d say the most important thing that reduced my anxiety and move things forward was making a decision. Even if that decision wasn’t perfect. Of course, we’re not making decisions without thought behind them. But it’s better to keep the boat moving than it is to just you know, sit in it and wait for a tide to come and take you

Kara Goldin 28:55
Yeah, no, absolutely. So looking to the future what’s next for Jolie I feel like you guys are well on your way for sure. But what would you say is success for for you? Maybe that’s the better way to ask it in a few years from now you look back and kind of think about you know, what’s been accomplished here? What What would you be most proud of?

Arjan Singh 29:21
carries. You started off today talking about? You said the word mission. We have a mission. And we firmly believe that whether it’s 510 1520 years more or less, everyone will be filtering the water that they shower it it will be normalized similar to in the 60s if you bought one bought water bottled water you would get laughed at like why would you buy something that is free Perrier came in Effiong came into the to the US did brilliant marketing and now there’s as you know better than I do and amazing industry around water that you drink. And the water that we shower and being so fundamental to our skin hair, not to mention our well being and health, which we’re not even touching at the moment. But there are implications their success would be to see this as something that everyone is doing. And we know that we were not going to be the only brand to do that. It’s a huge market. So seeing other brands enter the space is for us a good sign because we really want to we believe in the mission. That truly is success.

Kara Goldin 30:34
Arjan Singh, co founder of Jolie, thank you so much. We’ll have everything in the show notes. But best of luck with everything. This is such a great product. As I said, Everyone definitely needs to purchase it. And we’ll have that info in the show notes as well. But thank you again.

Arjan Singh 30:51
Thank you, Kara. This has been great to chat with you.

Kara Goldin 30:53
Thanks again for listening to the Kara Goldin show. If you would, please give us a review and feel free to share this podcast with others who would benefit and of course, feel free to subscribe so you don’t miss a single episode of our podcast. Just a reminder that I can be found on all platforms at Kara Goldin. I would love to hear from you too, so feel free to DM me. And if you want to hear more about my journey, I hope you will have a listen or pick up a copy of my Wall Street Journal, best selling book undaunted, where I share more about my journey including founding and building hint. We are here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Thanks for listening and good bye for now.