New hair care line has local roots
APPLETON - What do you get if you put Wisconsin ginseng, cranberries and sunflower oil in shampoos and hair products?
You might just get the next big thing in hair care.
Antidote 1848 is the name of a new natural hair care line created by Appleton-based entrepreneurs Abigail Kuehl and David Calle.
“Antidote” signifies that the product is an alternative to harsh chemicals found in many other shampoos and hair products.
Antidote 1848's shampoos, conditioners and styling products are plant-based and natural enough to – almost – eat.
The 1848 part references the year Wisconsin became a state.
Some ingredients are Wisconsin's homegrown products, like ginseng from the Wausau area.
“Ginseng is good for the scalp. It has a cooling and moisturizing effect,” said Kuehl, who is also co-owner of Bold Salon on College Avenue in downtown Appleton.
While the new line has strong Wisconsin roots, its creators say the sky’s the limit for its future.
“In my opinion, there’s nothing like this out there yet,” said Kuehl.
“We hope this is the future of hair care,” said Calle.
Calle has national and international experience as a veteran consumer products executive. He was previously with international giant Unilever, maker of lines including Dove, Tresemme, Suave and Nexxus.
After moving here because of his spouse’s job, he saw an opportunity to fulfill his longstanding dream of starting a business from the ground up.
The two owners are self-funding the company. Calle handles finances and strategy.
Creating and manufacturing the line right here, and stamping “Made in Appleton, Wisconsin” on the label, are part of the allure.
“People think it’s cool. They love it in New York,” Calle said.
At the heart of it, however, are products that have to work.
“These products are professional meets natural. Under the pressure of a professional salon, they have to perform,” he said.
Kuehl said the line was inspired by her clients’ needs and tested in her salon.
“A lot of clients with scalp issues and dandruff have those conditions because of shampoos that have harsh chemicals in them,” she said. “They clean, but strip out the oils. Ours cleans, but leaves the natural oils in the hair.”
“If you look at 99.5 percent of products, they have water and essentially dish detergent in them,” said Calle. “We wanted to provide an alternative. ‘Nature is the answer’ is our motto.”
Antidote 1848 is used and sold in salons. It isn't available in drug stores or on Amazon. Consumers can order bottles directly at www.antidote1848.com. Prices range from $18 to $36.
Salon owners who’ve gotten Antidote 1848 products over the last few weeks or months say they like the apothecary style packaging, ingredients and scents.
“We carry paraben-free and cruelty-free products, and this goes with our mission at the salon. We love that they’re natural and local,” said Shannon Kadlec, owner of Modify Hair Studio in Menasha. “The scent is what hooks customers right away. They love it. We’re on our third order in just under two months.”
Christopher Jensen of the Freshair Salon in De Pere describes the aroma as the “scent of fresh air.”
“We took on the line because it’s natural, has essential oils and has ethics behind it. It’s plant-based and stylist-inspired. We’ve had quite a reaction to it,” he said. “I like the fragrance, the vitamin E oils and that it’s a very clean product line. It doesn’t have the weight and waxes and sodium lauryl sulfates in it. I like all that.”
Drawbacks could be the cost, which is higher than mainstream salon products, and the fact that shampoos without sulfates don’t lather as much.
“Once I got used to it, I loved it,” Jensen said of the low-lather shampoo.
“We try to weed through the BS and find the best products available in skincare, haircare and nutritional supplements,” said Trey Rosenkranz of Triple Three Athletics and Wellness in Appleton. “This stuff is incredible.”
Beauty blogger Katelyn Capko tried the line and wrote, “This type of ultra clean and natural haircare is hard to find in the U.S. and it is particularly exciting to have the standard Antidote 1848 offers launching in salons.”
Kuehl and Calle created the company in late 2015, then took a year to develop the first two products. In June, they started rolling products out to salons and broadened the line to include a total of 14 products. The newest are a hair and beard oil and a light detangler spray.
The next step, in perhaps next year, is finding a larger manufacturer to produce the line for them.
If if takes off as they think it can, it could be a multi-million dollar business in five years.
“It could be a national brand for sure,” Kuehl said.