0 0 lang="en-US"> Koh Qi Wen, founder of Qwerky Colour deconstructs hair dyes, entrepreneurship and more with TVM – The Vent Machine
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Koh Qi Wen, founder of Qwerky Colour deconstructs hair dyes, entrepreneurship and more with TVM

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In 2019, the Advertising Standards Authority of Singapore (ASAS) discovered several misleading hair product advertisements with no scientific proof supporting their products’ claims, and one such product that falls under this category is hair dye. 

In addition to the discovery, hair dye companies are exposed for commonly practising gimmicks such as “bleach-free hair dye” claims. To the untrained eye, most would be unaware that it contains ammonia, which has the same properties as bleach. Another common frustration for many is that hair dyes on the market typically do not last as long as their marketing claims, and often the colours don’t show up nearly as brightly as advertised. 

To shine a light on the prevalence of this tactic, beauty and wellness retailer Holland & Barrett surveyed 2,000 women in the UK, and the research revealed two patterns

  1. 97 percent want beauty brands to be more transparent about the ingredients in their products. 
  2. More than 90 percent agreed companies should be clearer about the language they use on their packaging.

The constant letdowns have left many frustrated, including Koh Qi Wen, founder of Qwerky Colour, who set out to create her own hair dye business and chart a path towards transparency in the hair dye industry. 

We sat down (virtually) with Koh Qi Wen (KQW) to learn more about her passion for hair dyes, entrepreneurial journey and more.

TVM: Launching a company at just 24 years old is quite a feat! What are some of the advantages of entering the game so young and what were some of the challenges you faced?

KQW: Thanks! One of the major advantages of starting a business at a young age is my ability to understand the needs and wants of my target audience and what’s the best way to get my message across to them as I myself am also part of that target audience. I just think to myself, is this something that I would like to see? But of course, this may not be applicable to all young entrepreneurs especially if their target audience is outside of their age group.

As for challenges, when I first started I didn’t have a mentor or other friends who were on the same path as me so it was quite tough trying to navigate this path on my own, but I definitely learned a lot from the journey and made new friends along the way.

TVM: Why hair dyes? What inspired you?

KQW: I have always been very into beauty, be it hair, makeup, fashion, you name it. My hair is just one of the ways that I express myself, and it became part of my identity, and people started knowing me as “that girl with the colourful hair” so it felt like a natural progression to start a business for hair dyes.

TVM: How is Qwerky different from other hair dyes in the stores? Also, why the name “Qwerky”- what’s the story behind it?

KQW: Qwerky Colour specialises in plant-based semi-permanent hair dyes that typically last between 1 to 3 months, depending on the shade of dye and hair condition. It’s also non-damaging and hydrating, like a hair treatment that also deposits colour as you use it. The colours of our dyes are also very vibrant, yet customisable.

For instance, you can mix different colours together to form a custom blend, and you can also tone down the colour by mixing it with our Suck It Up Hair Mask. Plus they also smell really good!

Qwerky is a combination of the word Quirky and my initials (QW). When I first thought of it I instantly knew this was the right name for the brand as I wanted the brand name to be meaningful, unique and representative of myself. “Quirky” means to be interesting in a good way, is also aligned with the brand messaging, telling people that it’s alright to express themselves unapologetically. 

TVM: What should we know about misleading hair colour ingredients?

KQW: Perhaps a better way to think about it is misleading hair dye myths! For example, people tend to assume that dyeing your hair equates to damage but this is not always the case. This depends on the type of dye that is being used and the ingredients that are present. Box dyes are considered permanent dyes, which means they usually contain harsh ingredients such as ammonia and lightning agents. These are the things that damage your hair if you keep dyeing your hair using box dyes. On the other hand, semi-permanent dyes, such as the ones that we sell, do not contain harsh ingredients and lightning agents. The dye only leaves a coating on the hair instead of permeating it, similar to what conditioners and hair masks do. So if you think about it, dyeing your hair regularly with semi-permanent dyes is a good way to treat your hair. 

TVM: How can we keep our hair healthy while experimenting with all the colours and styles we love?

KQW: The best way to keep your hair healthy while experimenting with different colours is to put in the effort to take care of it. A good hair mask can really save your hair, and not to brag but ours is pretty great and perfect for people with bleached, coloured hair. Use a good hair mask 3 to 4 times a week to get your hair some love. You should also try to avoid washing your hair daily and stay away from heat tools if possible. 

Another way is definitely to plan before going ahead with the bleach or dyes to avoid over-bleaching. To have access to more colours to play with, I definitely suggest bleaching your hair at least once. If you want a low-maintenance look, go with a balayage as it blends in with the roots when it grows out so you don’t have to keep bleaching the roots unless you want to. Once you get your bleach done, you should think about the colours that you want to try and plan the order in which you are going to dye your hair so that you can get the best results from each round of dyeing.

TVM: Can you walk us through your R&D process?

Sure! I take the research portion of R&D very seriously. Even till today, I do a ton of market research before even creating the product so that the product could properly serve the consumer’s needs. I do polls on my Instagram and let my customers vote on different things like the design of my packaging, naming new products etc. This not only keeps them engaged and makes them feel more attached to Qwerky Colour but on my end, I can also get a peace of mind that each product that Qwerky Colour comes up with is more likely to be well received. The next thing to do is just to sample, sample and sample until it’s perfect. 

TVM: What’s next for Qwerky? Any upcoming promotions or events we should know about?

KQW: Qwerky Colour will be having our one-year anniversary on 30 September and we have so many exciting things lined up. First off, we will be launching our first ever limited edition Qwerky Experience Bundle consisting of everything that you need to dye and treat your hair. Our best-selling hair dye Riot that has been out of stock will also be available for pre-orders alongside the Qwerky Experience Bundle from 15 – 30 September


We also got a little extra surprise that can be found in our anniversary video dropping on our YouTube Channel on 30 September, at 9 pm so be sure to tune in!

About Post Author

Surabhi Pandey

Surabhi Pandey, a former Delhi Doordarshan presenter, is a journalist currently based in Singapore. She is the author of ‘Nascent Wings’ and ‘Saturated Agitation’ and has contributed to over 15 anthologies in English and Hindi in India and Singapore. She writes on topics related to lifestyle and travel and is an active reporter on the tech startup ecosystem in Southeast Asia. She is the editor and founder of The Vent Machine.
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