WA winner of our Innov8rs competition, Catherine Randabel shares how she came to create Headbed, a revolutionary product that puts an end to neck pain at the salon sink.
Catherine Randabel never expected to be an entrepreneur. A health and wellness expert, Catherine has run a naturopathy and remedial massage business for close to three decades. However she tells Kochie’s Business Builders (KBB) when a client came to her with severe neck pain, she was inspired to seek a solution.
Upon further investigation, Catherine discovered her patient’s headaches and neck pain coincided with a visit to the hairdressers for a cut and colour.
“Her neck muscles were so inflamed and spasmed after having been at the shampoo basin several times through the process,” Catherine explains.
“I researched the medical literature on this type of injury and I was astounded to find medical evidence of injury and even death, following sessions at the washbasin, named Beauty Parlour Stroke Syndrome.”
Strokes are one of the more extreme and rare consequences of hyperextension of the neck, but Catherine says lesser injuries are also common but may go unreported to medical practitioners. These can range from headaches, slurred speech and numbness down the arms, to neck pain, spasms, and dizziness.
It was an aha moment for Catherine.
“I realised that all hair salon basins only had a thin foam tube cushion on the neck edge, and some salons did not even use them. My product research showed no other device that protected the neck leaning back against a hard ceramic basin edge, supporting a 4 to 5 kgs human head.”
According to Catherine, this position can put up to 20 kgs of pressure against the vertebrae of the neck, its slender muscles, delicate blood vessels and nerves. She needed to find a solution.
“Then it came to me, as I visualised a golf ball on a Tee. A small surface supporting the size and weight of the human head under the occipital bone, would take all the weight and pressure off the neck! Problem solved “
Catherine says the eureka moment was the easiest part.
“The research, the prototypes, the costly IP protection, the testing, the consulting with many professional, experienced hairdressers in Perth for over a year, until we got the model right was the toughest part.
“Also the decision right from the start to use the highest quality, medical-grade silicone for our HeadBed (to eliminate hygiene issues), made our product much more expensive than what hairdressers had been buying for their neck rest/cushions so far.”
Catherine said gaining acceptance of a new product and price point has been amongst the biggest challenges the startup has faced.
“We booked a stand at the Sydney Hair Expo and demonstrated our HeadBed to all who would stop and try it. I loved to see the astonished and impressed reactions as to how much more comfortable they felt reclining back into the basin, as all hairdressers know their clients are mostly not comfortable during the shampoo and rinse process,” she says.
“The CEO of the Australian Hairdressing Council, Sandy Chong, (also of Newcastle SUKI Hairdressing fame) came to see our HeadBed, and she instantly recognised the improvement and the potential of our HeadBed. She ordered six for her salon straightaway, and has been a staunch and vocal supporter ever since.”
Upon Sandy’s advice, Catherine attended the London Salon International to spruik the Headbed to an global audience. There she met with the general manager of Vidal Sassoon Academy who took the Headbed back to her team for trial and tests.
“They loved it! I also went to the Paris MCB hair industry biggest European show, and had the great luck of meeting the CEO of Cindarella, who also loved our HeadBed and signed us up for an exclusive distributorship for France, Europe and UAE. Cindarella work closely with L’Oreal in Paris. We have an agent in the USA, and also in NZ.”
While the Headbed has seen great success in Europe, Catherine says it’s yet to fully crack the Australian market.
“We find that experienced hairdressers and high-end salons adopt the HeadBed very quickly, but we need large public exposure now to educate all hairdressers that they should use this safety device on their shampoo basins.”
And while the Headbed may provide added comfort to a client at a salon sink, Catherine says the most important element of the Headbed is its safety features.
“It is an OHS equipment for the protection of their clients, and also it assists them in preventing RSI to their own wrists and hands,” she says.
“My dream is that HeadBed is recognised as a must-have, safety device for shampoo basins, just like seat belts are now normal equipment in cars and vehicles. Every basin should have a HeadBed.”
Find out more about Headbed
The INNOV8RS is a national competition to find Australia’s most innovative small businesses. This initiative is supported by Peugeot Professional’s range of commercial vans, which combine the luxury of an SUV with the practicality of a van. Good for business, good for life.