This 24-year-old S’porean created plant-based “qwerky” hair dyes

qwerky colour hair dye

Beauty has always been Koh Qi Wen’s area of interest. To keep up with the latest trends and explore various styles, she often found herself experimenting with different hair colours.

When she was thinking about what hair colour she should dye next, she couldn’t really find one that fully met her requirements. The 24-year-old then started conceptualising her own hair dyes and launched her own hair dye brand, Qwerky Colour, in 2021.   

Specialising in plant-based semi-permanent hair dyes, Qi Wen shares that an added benefit of hair dyes from Qwerky Colour is that they are non-damaging and hydrating. “You can think of it as a hair treatment that also deposits colour”, she explains.

Free from harsh ingredients like ammonia, peroxide and alcohols, Qwerky Colour’s hair dyes definitely set themselves apart from other hair dye brands that end up damaging one’s hair after multiple usage. 

Qwerky Colour also ensures that their hair dyes are user-friendly for those who have no prior experience.

Qwerky Colour hair dye
Qwerky Colour hair dyes being used / Image credit: Qwerky Colour

Qi Wen adds that one can even mix and match the dyes to create custom colours themselves, or use their Suck It Up Hair Mask to tone down the colours, giving the user full control to experiment how they want their hair colour to look like. 

Even though all their dyes are formulated to look their best on level 8 bleached hair and above, their Barbie and Riot hair dyes still work great for unbleached black hair as they have a high colour payoff that leaves a reddish tint that becomes more obvious under sunlight. 

Taking a leap of faith

Qi Wen shares that starting a full-blown business at the age of 23 was not an easy one, for she had to learn how to manage the business through hands-on experience. 

She previously worked as a marketing executive for a startup after she graduated from university with a major in marketing, so she has some experience in graphic design and branding.

She was juggling Qwerky Colour and her full-time job simultaneously before she made a decision to leave her job to focus on building her startup. 

While Qi Wen has dabbled in other small business ventures before, she was worried about her decision as she never started anything of this scale before. “I was quite worried at first. I was most concerned about whether people would like the product that I put so much thought and effort into making”, she recounts. 

However, when Qwerky Colour launched, she was overwhelmed by the response. People were supportive and excited to try their dyes, and those who tried it offered good reviews and encouraging messages on Instagram. 

Qwerky Colour pop-up booth
Qwerky Colour’s pop-up booth / Image credit: Qwerky Colour

Their first pop-up in May this year also received a heartwarming response. Many customers who had been following Qwerky Colour’s journey since its inception came down to support them.

At the start, I was quite worried about the logistics portion and whether people will like the dyes, but after a while, when I saw that packages were reaching people safely and people saying that they love the results, my worries faded away.

– Koh Qi Wen, founder of Qwerky Colour

Being prepared for the worst

So how exactly did Qi Wen create those dyes to gain such a positive response upon launch?

She shares that the development process always requires in-depth and extensive market research in order to understand the customer’s needs and preferences. 

For Qwerky Colour, Qi Wen conducted polls on their Instagram account — somewhat like a focus group research — where their customers could vote on various aspects of the business. This ranged from packaging, to product names and colours. 

“I believe this is why my customers feel more attached to Qwerky Colour, because they know that their views are taken into serious consideration,” she adds. 

After which, Qwerky Colour does rounds of sampling based on the gathered customers’ preferences, until the product is satisfactory and perfect before its official launch.  

To Qi Wen, the development process is the most tedious part of the business. She emphasises that time management is key. 

“[T]here are so many things that can go wrong in the development process. It’s hard to predict how long it will take for the final product to be produced”, she says, highlighting that there could be shipment delays or manufacturing issues that can cause the timeline to be pushed back. 

Running a business is harder than it looks, especially when you are starting from scratch, with limited time, money and resources. I learned that it’s important to prioritise and make the most out of the limited resources. Planning ahead is also very important to make sure everything runs smoothly, like a well-oiled machine, but I’m still working on that.

– Koh Qi Wen, founder of Qwerky Colour

Qwerky Colour
One of Qwerky Colour’s concepts / Image credit: Qwerky Colour

As for where she got their colour ideas from, Qi Wen said she often gets inspiration from her surroundings and constantly thinks about how she can apply something new she observed into her business. 

“One of my greatest sources of inspiration is definitely music, especially K-pop”, she says, adding that she tries to put her own spin on the concepts used for their styling and music video concepts.

Celebrating one year of “Qwerkiness”

Qi Wen had invested a few thousand dollars of her savings to build Qwerky Colour, and within just two weeks of launching, she managed to successfully break even.

They also sold out half of their shade range within two months of launching, and have since inked partnerships with a few local brands like Arcade Studio, Studio An and Heaven Spot.  

This month, Qwerky Colour will be celebrating their one year anniversary on September 30, and they have already rolled out some initiatives to make it an exciting period for all. 

From mid to end September, customers can look forward to the new launch of their limited edition Qwerky Experience Bundle that consists of tools and accessories to dye and treat one’s hair. Moreover, their best selling hair dye Riot that has been out of stock will also be available for pre-orders alongside the bundle. 

Qwerky Colour hair dye
Koh Qi Wen holding Qwerky Colour’s hair dye / Image credit: Qwerky Colour

With the business continuing to come up with creative hair dyes that are good for the (hair’s) soul, Qwerky Colour is definitely living up to its name. 

“To me, the word/brand ‘Qwerky’ is telling people to be their most unapologetic selves, to let people’s judgement just fade to the background, and our products give people a means to do so,” sums up Qi Wen.

Featured Image Credit: Qwerky Colour

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