The Birth of a Brand
When Giselle Fermin (seen above) approached me to trademark her newly conceived natural haircare product line, GRACE BY G®, she signaled her intent to turn her part-time business venture into a powerful brand that could help women of all ages achieve healthy, lustrous and strong hair in a market expected to reach a $105 billion valuation by the year 2024.
JOHN RIZVI, ESQ. // THE PATENT PROFESSOR®
Her story is a deeply personal one after she spent years struggling with thin, dry, damaged hair that broke easily and never achieved a fullness she desired as she pursued her full time career as a dental hygienist and balanced the challenges of bringing up two tiny toddlers.
Her struggles were not lost on her mother, who shared her daughter’s plight with family members on her next visit to the old country in the Dominican Republic. They had some suggestions for natural herbs from the surrounding countryside they believed could help.
Giselle, a trained professional in advising and counseling patients on oral hygiene strategies, studied the raw ingredients brought over by her mom. They were densely and messily packed together in a plastic container. Over the next several months, she separated the natural constituents, studying each leaf and herb to determine if it may offer some benefit to her hair.
Buried in books outlining the chemical composition, benefits, risks and history of each element, she found herself fascinated by the potential for natural healing. But it was also a challenging process as she patiently studied FDA guidelines and painstakingly removed elements which carried any regulatory risks or had been dismissed by academic studies.
She soon realized that while some of the ingredients showed promise she would need to amplify the compound with additional herbs, vitamins, oils – even onion – if it was truly going to moisturize and thicken her hair ravaged by modern day shampoos and conditioners, increasingly under the spotlight for the presence of toxic substances.
A breakthrough moment for Giselle came late at night after work when she found an elegant method to squeeze and compress the raw goodness into a pleasing aqueous solution she could apply to her own hair. While earlier efforts had simply involved dabbing and loosely experimenting with each raw material on her wettened hair, she could now fully apply a liquid solution and record her results.
On around the third or fourth day of using her carefully-crafted elixir she literally leapt for joy. There was a remarkable improvement in sheen and tone; overall her hair started to feel nourished and moisturized. Family members and friends began to comment that her hair seemed shinier and fuller than before. It was evident her potion was triggering a natural healing process in her hair follicles.
What on earth, they asked, was she using?
It now dawned on her that this potion made from natural ingredients had the ability to heal ALL women’s’ hair without removing its natural goodness, a typical byproduct of modern day shampoos and conditioners.
Motivated and empowered, she spent several months seeking out a reputable haircare lab that could mass reproduce the aqueous natural liquid she had perfected in her spare time.
It also required additional research into the FDA approval process, licensing, and examining reviews of leading brands online. She eventually discarded the idea of manufacturing the product in Asia, which her research indicated could compromise quality, instead pinpointing a local U.S. lab partner.
While assembling the platform to develop her retail line, she shared her improved shampoo formula with friends and family who all reported significant improvements in hair quality.
Some of her customers were cancer survivors who had undergone chemotherapy for breast cancer. They all reported significant hair growth - full of shine and volume – that gave Giselle the faith and belief that her experience had not been a one-off event.
In fact, faith played a key role in Giselle’s journey, after she made a silent prayer to higher powers to help her come up with a meaningful name that would represent her haircare line.
After a restful night’s sleep she woke up with the name on her lips:
“The ‘G’ stands for God. I cannot thank Him enough for that,” said Giselle. She also knew it was time to protect her brand from copycats and establish her presence and brand in the marketplace.
“I recalled that my boss, and owner of My Dentist For Life, Dr. Saba Rizvi, was married to a Patent & Trademark Attorney and a Professor of Patent Law at Nova Law School. He was well known by the moniker, The Patent Professor ®, and was Board Certified”, Giselle recalled, as she wanted to deal with a specialist to secure her intellectual property.
After watching one of my educational videos on Trademarks (see below) Giselle called me up to discuss her product line which was rapidly morphing into a formidable array of shampoos and conditioners MINUS toxins, including sulphate parabens which continue to generate negative press in the hair industry.
Our first conversation touched upon the value of a trademark which protects a brand - specifically its name, symbols, words, phrases, designs and logos - from rivals who may wish to slipstream her marketing efforts. The brand differentiation built into GRACE BY G® could be protected by a federally registered trademark confirming the source of goods and services came from her and no other entity.
A trademark, which also loosely encompasses service marks, would thus protect her symphony of brand assets which sets GRACE BY G apart from the competition. We agreed that once she had more market share she could use the funds to pursue additional IP protection for her brand, including any new proprietary products she developed and perfected.
This strategy to protect her intellectual property or IP is a critical step in Giselle’s journey to shake up the haircare sector which includes aging giants such as Procter & Gamble Co., L’Oréal S.A., and Unilever plc, not to mention a plethora of brave startups seeking to disrupt this thriving arena.
I reported recently on my Medical & Dental Device Patenting Blog that HairMax, the makers of a new personal laser device to stimulate hair growth in men and woman, considers its Intellectual Property to be a strategic weapon in growing and protecting market share.
“We vigorously enforce and protect our IP to ensure that every customer of HairMax® receives a genuine product that’s laden with high-end technological and design features; and not a cheap ‘knockoff’”.
Giselle sees GRACE BY G® no differently; neither do I.
By federally protecting her brand assets with the United States Patent Office (USPTO) she can confidently refine her product and marketing efforts without the fear that copycats could impact her financially.
“I am very grateful for John’s expertise. He was extremely detailed and professional. His entire team takes care to carefully write up each step, which is clear and actionable. He always made sure we were going in the right direction and I’m ecstatic my Trademark has been awarded by the USPTO,” said Giselle.
Indeed, Giselle is part of a growing army of women who are making new inroads into selling their products directly to the consumer over websites and social media. The Direct Selling Association estimates that there are around 19 million “direct selling representatives” in the United States, with about 76% of this number being women.
This accounts for roughly $25 billion in estimated retail sales showing the value entrepreneurs bring to the American marketplace. Giselle, by the way, reports that she gets a significant amount of sales from Facebook, but the dominant platform in her opinion, is Instagram.
Being a part-time entrepreneur is both a blessing and a curse, since it gives her the funds and stability to capitalize the venture while limiting the time she can engage in improving the manufacturing, distribution and marketing aspects. At the same time she has to be a mom to two kids, who by the way, also use her products. It’s safe for any age group!
“Friends, family and co-workers all support me which makes a HUGE difference. All areas of being an entrepreneur are hard when you have a family, job, home and gym, commitments,“ said Giselle.
One piece of advice she has for new entrepreneurs is to focus on getting samples to potential clients, which requires a strong focus on branding and packaging.
“It was hard in the beginning because when you promote a natural product line, people are naturally skeptical since it usually indicates a higher price point. If I could have had more samples at the beginning of my marketing efforts, I may have reached more people,” said Giselle.
She also stressed the importance of knowing your product line inside and out. Be prepared for difficult questions when a stranger approaches you because they often have very specific queries which they want answered immediately.
Over the next year Giselle intends solidifying her marketing platform and exploring new ways to improve the manufacturing process for her range of natural hair shampoos, standard conditioners, and leave-in conditioners.
Reaching for the Stars
“One of my key goals, however, is to acquire additional IP protection for GRACE BY G®, as I bring new products online. When the time comes, I will be going straight to John, who I 100% trust and rely upon to get the job done right. It’s the ultimate piece of mind for any serious entrepreneur,” said Giselle.
GISELLE FERMIN // INVENTOR OF GRACE BY G®
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