Mary Centofanti can talk shoes and handbags with the best of the fashion pack but don’t underestimate her business acumen.
Written by CATHERINE CLIFTON as published in Adelaide Matters – 22 June 2016
John and Mary Centofanti run Davroe, a hair care company at Newton
Together with husband John she has reinvented the Davroe hair care company, at Newton, and has her sights set on the US market.
Their first delivery to America arrived just over a month ago and they’re optimistic it marks the start of a new phase for Davroe.
“People have been asking us about distributing the brand overseas for some time but until now we’ve not been ready,” Mary says.
The couple, who have two children, Sophia, 15, and Michael, 13, took over the ailing small business in 2006 and has slowly changed its focus from salon supplier to niche manufacturer with 37 shampoos, conditioners, and styling products.
“When we took over we had to look at what we could do differently,” Mary says.
“We could see a gap in the market for paraben-free, petrochemical-free products. We’d never tested on animals so we were always cruelty free but then we took out animal products and animal byproducts.
“We thought ‘OK, this is going to be the game changer for us’.
Back then there was a lot of scaremongering about sulphates, that they were carcinogens, we did a lot of research and felt there was no real evidence about that but in the end we decided to remove the sulphates because they are harsh chemicals.”
But at the time, Mary says, consumers were not switched onto vegan products and hairdressers were sceptical about natural products.
In a short amount of time, that has changed. Improved formulations have resulted in natural products which lather and smell nice, while people are looking for vegan alternatives in food, cosmetics and hair care.
“The whole thing has turned around in the last four or five years and the consumer has become very aware of what they’re eating and what they’re using on their bodies,” Mary says.
It was while visiting trade show Cosmoprof in Las Vegas, in 2012, they realised their brand had export potential.
“You always think other countries must be doing it better but we went to Cosmoprof and we had one of those lightbulb moments and thought we could be doing something here. But we needed to make sure our home market was strong first.
“We concentrated on our distributors and belief in our products … that year we had 28 per cent growth on previous year, then 26 per cent growth and currently we’re tracking at 30 per cent growth.”
Last year they went back to Las Vegas as exhibitors at Cosmoprof but were dealt a blow when their products and banners didn’t arrive in time.
Ever resourceful, the couple hired a television and ran a presentation via a USB, while Mary used the products from her suitcase to show potential clients.
Despite the low-key display, people showed interest and Davroe is being trialled in several outlets, including Birchbox which has an online store and shops in Washington and New York.
“The US has potential. They are patriotic and love their own brands but they love products from Australia and they look at us as fresh and clean,” Mary says.
“In September we’re heading to New York and we’re the official hair sponsors for Fashion Palette, part of New York Fashion Week … it’s a fantastic platform if you’re ready and we’re looking forward to getting our name out in New York.
“We’re not saving lives, we make shampoo, but we’re passionate about it.”
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