South Australian hairbrush business Ugly Swan takes off and will be stocked at Price Attack

Two Australian moms are raising money after coming up with a million-dollar idea thanks to their kids’ screaming.

Marissa McLoughlin, 48, and Annette Short, 49, from Adelaide, started a business together that surpassed $1 million in revenue in the last fiscal year.

The women were friends through their sales job and were on a business trip several years ago when they had a lightbulb moment.

“My husband called saying my daughter was screaming because her hair had been brushed,” Ms McLoughlin told

“It was such a horrible way to start the day, he just pulled her hair into a ponytail and sent her away.”

But the screaming emanated from the phone call and soon she had to explain the situation to Mrs. Short.

“With two girls, I had been through this for years,” Ms. Short recalled.

Moms commiserated how difficult it was to drag their daughters’ already tangled hair through a painful brush.

“We started joking about how to design our own brush. So we thought ‘there really is a need for this,’” said Ms. McLoughlin.

They soon launched their “no-cry” hair detangling brush business called Ugly Swan.

This week, they struck a deal with a national hair salon company, Price Attack, to stock their products in 65 salons starting in October.

The two friends had been working the same job for 15 years and had been looking for an idea to launch their own business when they discovered the gap in the hairbrush market.

Ms. McLoughlin and Ms. Short put together $50,000 in seed money to get the idea off the ground, much of it spent on back-and-forth talks with manufacturers as they tweaked their prototype.

“We went back to what had changed in hairbrushes, in the old days we had ball bristles,” said Ms. McLoughlin.

“We looked at the fact that we needed some hand-grip nylon pins for untangling.”

They tested the products with their own daughters, as well as with friends and family. They also waited outside their daughters’ schools handing out the free brushes, knowing that parents “kids tell their moms and dads” would make up most of the business.

In 2017, the couple released Ugly Swan.

However, things were “slow at first”. They had to invest another $100,000 in the business and then the salaries were not paid until 2020.

With sales backgrounds, both women wanted to work on the face-to-face side of the business and mostly stayed away from online marketing.

His goal was to participate in 100 road shows to present his products, but this had to be canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“It really wasn’t until the third year that we started hiring people to help with our website,” said Ms. McLoughlin.

They had a lucky break late last year when Australian influencer Chloe Morello, who has 1.2 million followers on Instagram, discovered their product and shared a positive review on her social media.

Since then, they have dedicated more resources to the e-commerce side of marketing.

They now have 40 employees, and in total Ugly Swan has over 280 wholesalers, which are mainly hair salons, but also some pharmacies and sensory stores for children with sensory issues.

Since its launch, the company has sold more than 5,200 products.

They have also expanded into other hair-related products, absorbent towels, after observing how long it took for their daughters’ hair to dry.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.