Taking over an established business is never an easy task, especially one crippled by debt, but it was an opportunity Mary and John Centofanti simply could not pass up.
Having worked for Davroe Hair Care (also known as Dresslier Hairdressing Supplies) for over 30 years, Mary couldn’t bear to see the doors close forever.
“One of the deciding factors was that the company had been around since 1930 and it would be a real shame to see it fall by the wayside. We looked at it and thought there was a lot of potential,” Mary told Business SA.
“We took over the company in all its small glory and big debts.”
Mary and John took ownership of Davroe in 2007 and immediately set out to discover what they could do differently.
“Our competition in most cases were the large multi-national companies, so we looked at what was happening not only in Australia but in the world – from a hair care perspective and also from a lifestyle perspective – and we could see a shift in focus towards wellbeing. So we asked ourselves if this was something we could bring into our hair care range and what ingredients in our current products did we need to remove,” Mary explained.
It’s worth noting that Davroe has always been cruelty free and has never tested on animals, however Mary and John decided to take this one step further, and one of the first big decisions they made after taking over the business was to make the brand vegan.
“It wasn’t a big deal back then – even to consumers – but that was one of the things we wanted to do because we didn’t feel there was a need to use those animal by-products anymore,” Mary said.
“We also re-branded and changed the packaging pretty much straight away, and we completely reformulated all of the harsh chemicals out of the entire range.”
These bold new moves did not come without (calculated) risk.
“Initially those types of products (vegan, cruelty free) were found in health food stores and were considered alternative,” Mary explained.
“It took us out of the mainstream, which was fine as we didn’t want to just keep going with the flow alongside everyone because that’s a big marketplace. But that puts you in a corner and you then have to fight your way out and make yourself known and heard, promote your product and explain why people should be using it.”
The philosophy of the new-look Davroe was quickly embraced by customers. Salons and stockists followed suit and word soon spread overseas. Destination: USA.
“John and I made a decision four years ago to visit Cosmoprof (the leading trade fair for the beauty and wellness industry) in Las Vegas, to see what was happening in the market space over there,” Mary said.
“Once we got there, we visited salons, we walked around, we talked to different people, and saw that there was a perhaps a spot in that massive marketplace for our brand. We had a lightbulb moment and said to each other, I think we can do something here with Davroe.”
Fast forward to 2015, and Davroe made the decision to showcase their brand at Cosmoprof in Las Vegas.
“We managed to get good traction over there and met people who are now our agents in the US,” Mary explained.
2015 also saw Davroe support SA designer Simmone Standing’s show at Fashion Palette during New York Fashion Week. This year, that association was taken to the next level with Davroe featuring as a major partner of Fashion Palette New York Fashion Week.
Another item on the US agenda for 2016: Davroe’s partnership with Birchbox – an online monthly hair and beauty subscription service that also has stores in New York and Washington.
“We’ve got the product in the US selling currently and getting great reviews,” Mary said.
International interest in Davroe has not been limited to the States.
“There is a lot of interest in the brand in Europe and Asia,” Mary explained.
“We’re of the opinion that if there’s a new market we’re entering, we want to do it right. It may be a slow process, but it’s one we’re comfortable with. It’s easy to get caught up in the grandeur of everything, but we want to make sure everything is achievable.”
“When it comes down to it, we employ people who have families and mortgages, it’s not just about John and I and our family. It’s about the people who are working with us who put in their time and effort, and love the brand. They are on this journey with us and are making things possible for us.”
“I think we’ve got something great that we can offer the world and I don’t have any hesitation in thinking that Davroe can achieve great things.”
You can read the original story at BusinessSA here