Denver Business Journal Article
Modefi is attacking dry hair victimized by Colorado’s arid climate. He’s showing fellow hairdressers how to thrive by being better business people. And he’s rebelling against the mass retail market and even online sales.
Morrill, 39, already has earned accolades through a successful career begun at age 16, which led to hairstyling jobs at renowned Hollywood, Beverly Hills and Los Angeles salons and with celebrities on shows such as the “Young and the Restless” and “The Arsenio Hall Show.”
Today his success is evident by a Denver-area clientele that he’s grown to 1,000 in just two years, and by those clients’ loyalty and praise.
He owns Modefi Salon in Littleton, which recently was ranked among the top 10 hair salons in Colorado for gross revenue. And Morrill is president of the 12,000-member United States Hairdressers Guild, a trade organization.
While Morrill’s appointments can number 16 a day, and it can take a month to get in at his salon, he still finds time to spend with his family — wife and three sons — as well as tinker in his basement with hair-care formulas and inventions, such as a hair dryer for disabled people.
His latest creation is a patent-pending styling comb — the 6-by-4 inch iTeeze (www.iteeze.com) — with flexible, large teeth designed to give hair volume by teasing it but without breakage. .
The comb is the most recent entry in Morrill’s quest to battle Colorado’s dry hair.
When he moved to Colorado in 2006, he was shocked by how badly the dry climate damaged hair. “Everything is so dry here, none of the hair care worked,” Morrill said. “I couldn’t figure out if it was dry air or dry hair.”
He had invented the Modefi line of hair-care products in 2003 while in California, so he spent a year re-formulating the products for Colorado’s climate.
“I noticed my hair care [line] wasn’t working as well as it did in California, so we altered all the products by putting silk and humectants in them,” he said, explaining silk’s a better solution than oil, which weighs down hair.
The result is the line of Modefi hair-care products — shampoos, conditioners, hair sprays, styling gels and more — that users say do the trick.
The shampoos and conditioners sell for an average price of $20 — a low price tag as far as salon-only products go, which Morrill attributes to the fact that “we’re the manufacturer and the middleman.”
He said he often hears customers say “how soft their hair is, the manageability, because the hair’s not weighed down” by oily moisturizers.
Agreeing wholeheartedly is Jason Schwind, a stylist, director of education and retail products manager at Vain Salon, at 1890 Pennsylvania St. in Denver. He began using and selling the Modefi line about five years ago at a salon he owned in Boulder.
“When he adjusted it [for the dry climate], that’s when it really took off,” Schwind said. “It addresses our No. 1 problem with hair here in Denver.”
He said Modefi products create “a lot of volume, bouncy and full hair ... Normally what we would be a slave to as a hairdresser, our only option to combat dry hair, is to go with products that are moisturizing but in a heavier manner” than the “natural emollients that Richard uses.”
Schwind added that just like a piece of dried-out wood, “you can put water on it all day ... and that will work for awhile, but eventually it evaporates away. [Modefi products] deal with the pH, vitamins and keratin protein .. and seals in the emollients that keep the shine and volume.
“We get a repair versus a patch. ... There’s never been a clear-cut way to do that before.”
Schwind said his clients “say it makes their hair feel like it did when they were 12 — before highlights and flat irons.”
Morrill’s client Jimara McFarlen said she likes the Modefi styling gel, which keeps her hair from being frizzy in this “very tough” dry climate.
“It’s selling great,” Morrill said of the entire Modefi line.
The products are sold only through salons: about 85 in California and about a dozen in the Denver area — including, of course, his own. Two of the other area salons that sell the Modefi products are Vain Salon and PaceSetters Hair Salon, at 615 Garrison St. in Lakewood.
The fact that you can buy Modefi products at only a limited number of places is just fine with Morrill.
While most entrepreneurs are searching for where else they can sell their products, Morrill’s content with his current market — and his slow expansion plans.
He says putting his hair-care line on the shelves of just any retail store or even online would “dilute the brand.”
And he believes strongly that selling the product in salons beats the web any day — it gives the brand exclusivity; it gives salons bragging rights with their clients; and it keeps the “masses” away.
Apparently it’s working.
Morrill said the product line is raking in $1.2 million a year, and “we’ve grown about 15 percent in the last year ... and I’m betting it doesn’t fade.”
Succeeding where most don’t
With 23 years’ experience as a hairstylist, Morrill is in the minority in his industry — where, he says, nine out of 10 people who get their hairdressing license quit in the first five years.
In fact, he said, only 2 percent go on to make professional hairstyling their career.
But he’s hoping to put a dent in that trend by sharing his secrets for succeeding in this highly competitive business where trends, attitudes, client retention, record-keeping, even the workplace aren’t the same as in a “normal” 8-to-5 job.
A year ago, he published a 90-page paperback, “Thinking In the Box — Making It as a Professional Hairdresser in Any Economy,” that tells hairstylists how to become more business-savvy.
The book has sold 1,100 copies nationally, Morrill said.
“It’s hard to find people to take this business seriously,” Morrill said. “It’s a business like any other — you have to show up on time, do a good job, keep good records ... If you don’t, you’re outta luck.”
His No. 1 business philosophy is simply giving great service — “Have an inch worth of customers, but serve them a mile deep.”
In other words, Morrill said, “Competition lies with yourself.”