Interviews

Lotte Davis

We caught up with Lotte Davis, co-owner of AG Hair. Chatters is pleased to work with the AG Hair team in the past and their products are top sellers within our salons and on our website.

We’ve heard how you and your husband John started AG Hair with humble beginnings and have enjoyed long-standing success. There’s a link to your great journey on your website (https://www.aghair.com/about-ag/).  Congratulations for 29 years of success.

So how many products does AG currently have in production?
Thank you, it feels truly remarkable and I’m excited to say that we have approximately 72 products in circulation right now.  There are two new ones released this March, another in May and September, plus another 5 or 6 coming after that. At any given time, we are working on 5 to 10 products in different phases. Not all of these necessarily make it to market and the reason why is we are extremely careful about adding new products. Sometimes with product evolution it means when we add something new to the lineup, we may eliminate another one. It’s how the system of product manufacturing works.

Can you share what’s happening at AG’s head office?
We have an opportunity to expand on the Natural line. We received incredible feedback when we first launched the line and the demand continues to grow.  I can also share that some of our existing products are being reformulated to include more natural ingredients. Each of our products are over 85% naturally-derived and we are continually increasing that percentage. This is a major focus for us at AG Hair. But as always, superior product performance is our main goal.

Every brand has best selling products. Can you name some that have reached this status?
Definitely! Firewall has been a consistent top seller, along with Sterling Silver and Re:coil.
After these we can point to Fast Food leave on conditioner, Color Savour, Tousled Texture, Simply Dry Shampoo, and Sea Spray, just to name a few.

We know philanthropy is important to you and John, which is how you established a foundation in Africa called One Girl Can. Can you give us an update on on the charity?
Yes, and I have to say, the way our customers, business and other community supporters have rallied to this cause is amazing.

In 2014, we started with two university students. This year we will have approximately 110. We are just finalizing applications. In 2016, we have 280 students in high school and today we are seeing close to 400. By 2025, we are anticipating seeing an enrollment of 1,000 students combined. We are about to begin working on our  seventh school. Since 2008, we have raised approximately 4.5 million dollars.

Congratulations on reaching this level of growth in the program and significant amount of dollars raised. For more information, visit  onegirlcan.com.

 As a business owner how do you help motivate and inspire your team?
We have a lot of connection with our team and we invest time in keeping that connection strong. We host events that bring everyone together to inspire and motivate each other. Four times a year we host a town hall meeting where we share business updates from a departmental perspective. It’s very informative and feedback is an integral part of these meetings. Our teams crave social events and we organize one every quarter.  We offer a lot of training and development with Insights Discovery, where team members get to know each other on a different level than just office life. These interactions have a great impact on how our teams perform every day. We also host at least one event every year at our home or on our boat to bring the whole team together.

What is one of AG Hair’s core differences?
We create products that work. This also speaks to the fact that we are one of the only independent manufactures left in North America. Nobody manufactures any more. We have to have the ability to constantly fine tune our products and create new ones. There is a noticeable difference in our products. Stylists tell us that our products “just work.” We are able to formulate products and ensure they deliver results. This is key to our success.

Looking back on the years and all the efforts you put into this company, share with us your view on success. What does it mean to you now?
Culture is created with our people. Having a talented team that is completely aligned on objectives is crucial. I’m proud to say we have a highly functional team. Everyone is working on the same level. Our team members like being together and their families spend time together. This is our biggest achievement, to love the people you work with and the company you work for.

Secondly, giving back is a reward for our success. There’s no better reward in life. You can change someone’s entire life with the smallest gesture. I believe profitable businesses should give back. My definition of success has changed, it’s much more satisfying to leverage your skills and resources to give back to others. For me the real mark of success is when you start sharing what you have made.

What does the future hold for you, in business and your philanthropy?
From a business standpoint I’m looking forward to moving in to our innovative, beautiful new building. Everyone, from manufacturing, distribution, sales and marketing, will all be under one roof.

Our philanthropy is going to see some changes as well. I’m now focused on making sure One Girl Can can continue on beyond me. I’ve hired extremely talented and passionate people to ensure One Girl Can thrives and continues making a difference. I have hired a program manager in Kenya and one here in Canada to oversee projects and ensure One Girl Can’s success.

The longer you’re in business and the more you grow, the more you need to refine your team. How have you found success in translating your vision to your team?
John and I have always worked collaboratively with our teams. Communication and collaboration is key – setting goals, identifying opportunities and celebrating achievements. Communication is the most important and difficullt to nail. You have to listen to people and offer feedback.

What advice do you have for young people just coming into the beauty industry?
At one point I would have said, be passionate and love what you are doing. This is still true, but it’s not enough. With my mentoring and coaching work in Africa I have learned the critical importance of setting goals. This came about because I had to understand what I had I common with a girl living in poverty and me living in Canada. We can both set goals and achieve them. This is the basis for my mentoring program and workshops. Goal setting is important to achieving the life you want to live. A girl living in a mud hut in Africa can aim for more in her life. If she can do it, we can too. People are thinking about all the things they want to achieve in life. This needs to be articulated clearly year after year and it’s one thing nobody can take away from you.

How much time do you spend mentoring?
Its become a huge part of One Girl Can. We build, we educate and we mentor. Mentoring is so vital. Anyone can be a mentor to someone else. You draw on the strength you developed over time in your own life. You develop how to relay information to people who have no idea where to start.

We begin mentoring in Grade 9 and there are 4,000 students. Every year they go through goal setting, vision exercises, and career planning. By they time they get to Grade 12 they have an idea of skills sets, a career they can go into and a sense of how to get there.

In Nairobi, we offer a two-day workshop. Successful Kenyan women teach the girls about confidence building, how to prepare for an interview, success tips on what they need to start a career, and more. It’s one thing to build buildings, or write a cheque to pay for their tuition fees, but  mentoring is massive. Their mothers are illiterate and there is nobody to show them the way.  This program is marvellous and they are prepared by the time they get to Grade 12. We are on the tipping point of building an even bigger mentoring program offering more workshops.

How often do you travel to Africa  with this program?
I go twice a year: at the beginning of the school year and in September when they begin university. I get to see every single girl in every program, every year.

Congratulations on reaching this level of growth in the program and significant amount of dollars raised. For more information, visit  onegirlcan.com.