Q&A: Upgrading the hairdressing foil experience | Inside Small Business

By Karl Aguilar

Originally posted insidesmallbusiness.com.au, April 2023

Today, we talk to Emily Ciardello, who, along with her husband Iliano, is co-founder of the global hairdressing foil brand Foil Me. The couple sought to upgrade the cheap foil hairdressers use into something that is made of quality materials with a flair of artistry put into it. Foil Me was developed through years of research and has become a standout product in the market as it is being sold not only across Australia but also in the UK, Canada, Germany, Sweden, and Croatia.

ISB: What inspired you to come up with a business based on foils for hairdressing?

EC: In mid-2013, I returned home from the hairdresser and my husband Ili asked me “What was that silver stuff in your hair?” as he had popped in to pick up our 14month old son, Orlando, mid-appointment. I could see his cogs turning as I answered him, “Foils – used by hairdressers to lighten hair”. We were already supplying pre-cut foils to the food industry, so after some initial research and ‘surveying’ of hairdressers in the area of what the ideal perfect hair foil would be, we collated the information and contacted our manufacturer to create foils specifically for hairdressers. Little did we know that we were on the precipice of a million-dollar-plus idea.

ISB: How does Foil Me stand out from other hairdressing foils in the market?

EC: Ili and I just don’t accept that because something hasn’t been done before that it shouldn’t be attempted. Before us, hairdressers were ripping cheap, flimsy, and inefficient supermarket foil. We thought – why can’t they have aesthetically pleasing foil that helped them with their job rather than hinder? The interesting thing is, when we started, we had no idea that foil could be so unique – our foils are like a secret recipe, without the correct alloy or embossing, they simply don’t perform as well. Add to that our hand-drawn illustrations, the relationships we have built and the support we provide, and you have your USP.

ISB: How were you able to turn around the challenge of being unfamiliar with the hairdressing field initially?

EC: Initially, in Adelaide and surrounding suburbs, I would visit salons twice a week with our foils and when I came back two weeks later to see how they found them, I would take on their feedback, learning about the techniques and skills needed to be a colourist and what makes their life easier when it came to foiling. I would also spend hours on social media – I joined forums, watched YouTube videos, became friends with lots of hairdressers on Facebook Groups, started a Periscope and, of course, engaged and posted regularly on Instagram; learning what I could, but also developing beautiful relationships with hairdressers.

ISB: In what way has your dynamic as a husband-and-wife team helped in running the business?

EC: Ili and I are very much yin and yang so it works because we even each other out. We have immense respect for each other, a good sense of humour and we have no issue with being vulnerable; we are best friends as well as husband and wife. Due to this dynamic, Foil Me thrives because it has each of us in it – Ili will soften an email when I’m being too harsh, and I remind Ili that hard conversations are necessary for the success of the company even if he is reluctant to have them.

How important is it for you to give back and support charities and non-profits?

EC: One of our motivators in business is to leave a positive effect, not just on the hairdressing industry, but on society; it is so important to us that we give back as much as we can. In 2017, we began using our product collections as a vehicle to raise funds and awareness for causes that are close to our hearts. We support numerous charities where we specifically design foils and organise campaigns to raise funds and awareness such as the National Breast Cancer Foundation, where, collectively, we have raised over $120,000, Wheen Bee Foundation (raising over $7,000), The Equality Project (raising over $4,000) and Animals Australia (donating over $10,000).

ISB: What is your vision for Foil Me in the next couple of years?

EC: Over overriding vision is to be the most extraordinary global hair industry company with artistic, sustainable, efficient hair tools. For the next couple of years, we will continue to build out further our range of innovative tools, to make hairdressers’ lives easier and happier. We also want to continue to expand our foil collections, collaborating and showcasing rising artists in the process. Our aim is to elevate the hair industry in society’s eyes, and we want to do this across the globe because we know that hairdressers deserve more.

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