At the start of 2020 Foil Me turned six, and we’re celebrating the innovative eye of a teacher and food industry businessman, turned national, then international, hair product dynasty. This Adelaide-based business is now truly global; in six countries and with its own staff of five. In just six short years, Foil Me has revolutionised the world of foils, with dynamic partnerships, philanthropic endeavours and new and bold creations constantly hitting the market.
With six impressive years in the rearview mirror, and some more game changing products on the horizon to expand the range, we chatted to co-founding couple Emily and Iliano Ciardiello about their humble beginnings, meteoric rise, love of design and approach to business.
How did a school teacher and a food service industry person wind up in the hairdressing industry, and operating a successful business that has seen Foils become a luxury accessory for colourists?
Ever since I met Ili (in 2001), he has always been an ‘out of the box’ thinker and entrepreneur where he has started and sold businesses, so when he suggested in late 2013 that we start a business providing pre-cut foils, I trusted him and looked forward to it!
At the time we made this decision, I was a high school teacher on child-rearing leave, looking after our two boys (aged 1.5 and 4.5 years,) whilst Ili was running a business that was in the food industry and where he had already sourced aluminium foil for his customers.
The idea came about when he saw foil in my hair at the hairdressers and asked me about it when I arrived home. My best friend, Amy, was/is a hairdresser and we asked her what she thought about a pre-cut foil. We actually had no clue what was out there already at this stage and just thought it would be a great idea.
A few weeks later, we had “interviewed” other hairdressers in our local area about what they wanted and needed in a foil. From the ensuing feedback, we created what is known now as the ‘Original’ and a 12cm wide foil roll.
We named the business Foil Me and based our marketing on fashion where foil was to be seen not only as a need, but a want and something that could emphasize a salon’s décor and not be hidden away. Now, when we create new products, I try to emulate the feeling I get when I receive or see luxury products in the fashion industry; I have a strong belief that hairdressers should work with tools that not only perform exceptionally, but look and feel incredible too.
What is the journey of design for each Foil Me product?
Usually our designs begin with an idea of either a certain size or a graphic and then we begin the laborious (but fun) process of creating it with our manufacturer.
If it is a new size we are creating, then we base it off our existing Foil Me customers’ requests. Lately, the new graphics on our foils have begun with a notion of what I want to achieve from the end result.
For example, The Pride Collection was specifically designed to help raise funds for the LGBTQ+ community and become a symbol of happiness, freedom and optimism.
I wanted hairdressers and their clients to feel these emotions when foiling with them. Likewise, with our latest release – the So Serene collection – I really wanted hairdressers to foil with a graphic and colour that could help them feel calm, happy, creative and relaxed. I wanted our Foil Me lovers to feel special, recognising that this design is unique and does not exist anywhere else in the world because it was hand drawn by me!
How do fashion trends influence the Foil Me brand and product design?
To me, fashion is mainly about feeling and looking good in the clothes and accessories you wear. When you wear a piece of clothing that you love and that you look amazing in, you feel a sense of confidence and happiness you can’t buy – excuse the cliché.
Hairdressers are such wonderful people who are inherently happy and so proud of their work and jobs and they do so much for society in helping people feel good about themselves; why can’t hairdressers have tools that say to them ‘you deserve to have nice things that make you feel good’ and at the same time actually work to their advantage and help them perform their work more effectively.
We all want to be surrounded by and work with tools that help us do our daily tasks better and that bring a smile to our faces, so why can’t hairdressers have the same thing?
What are your favourite tools you have created and why?
This is a really difficult one to pin point because each foil and brush we have created has had so much effort and thought put into it!
However I would have to say that The Knobel Collection is probably my favourite because it was the first pastel pink foil to ever be created in the world. It was also the foundation for our designer foils that followed. The Knobel Collection was the first foil that assisted in raising funds for the National Breast Cancer Foundation, and it represents the close relationship I/we have with Sheree Knobel our Australian Foil Me ambassador.
It was named after Sheree and her pink hair which was in commemoration of her sister who passed away the same year as my dad, and it is the most beautiful colour – one that Foil Me is now very closely associated with.
Does design influence you on a daily basis?
I’m naturally attracted to different, unusual and artistic things – I am in awe of, and fascinated by, the sheer raw and unbridled talent of great artists such as Rembrandt, Monet, Picasso and my fave – Van Gogh.
I love a story or meaning behind why things are created, which is why Gucci is also a fave brand of mine – every item has been meticulously thought through and has a story behind it. When I see anything that is artistic, out of the ordinary and has meaning below the surface to its construction, I’m instantly a fan.
I guess that and our dedication to transcendental meditation is why we designed a Maharishi Vastu home and office. Everything in, on and about our home has been meticulously thought and designed to follow the Sthapatya Veda principles of the natural law.
In short, it’s a home and office that is built to enhance health, wealth and prosperity – its design makes the most of the sunlight so no matter what room you are in, you always feel embraced by the light.
How do you choose the brand’s ambassadors?
We choose our ambassadors based on the love, loyalty and support they show us in the first place. All of our ambassadors were Foil Me lovers for at least a year before they became ambassadors; this allowed us to see consistent support for the brand, not just on social media but everywhere they went! They also need to share the same values as us such as integrity, gratefulness, optimism and just be an overall kind person!
Was global domination always on the agenda? How do you choose your distribution points around the globe?
No, definitely not – we just wanted to help as many hairdressers as we could! When people from other countries were enquiring how they could get Foil Me, we would do all we could to help them.
Our stockists have been chosen very organically – no strategy involved. I wish I could sound a little more ‘business savvy,’ but we just tried to answer their calls – some we have succeeded and others we are yet to help like in the USA for example – so many Foil Me lovers want us there directly, but it’s been really hard to find a suitable master distributor.
Why is it a must that Foil Me gives back to the industry and charitable causes?
We believe that in every success in life, we should give back. Both in our personal and business lives we give to charities that we know make a difference to the receiver’s life – whether they be animal or human.
I believe it is just the natural way of things – you can’t just keep taking even though it is your hard work and investment that results in the success you have. It’s imperative we also give, to say thank you to the universe for what it has provided you with – this way of being feels right to Ili and myself, and that flows through into our business too.
Why do you think it’s important to be transparent in business?
Integrity is everything. If you don’t have this, you won’t be as successful in both your work and personal life. Being transparent comes very easy to us. I’m a big believer in telling the truth no matter how hard it is or what the repercussions are – I guess that is also reflected in our business.
Ili and I won’t work with someone if we don’t believe they have integrity – we will be kind and try to be as civil as possible, but we refuse to jeopardise our soul for ‘a quick buck’ or for a customer that will bring in a substantial influx of profit. In the short term it may seem like it is okay, but in the long run, you will realise it wasn’t the right decision to make.
What has been Foil Me’s secret to success over six years?
We listen to what our customers need, develop close relationships with our Foil Me lovers, innovate existing products by creating from scratch, provide outstanding service both during and after ordering with us and we are constantly thinking about how we can make the lives of hairdressers easier in every aspect of our business. We both attribute Transcendental Meditation in assisting us in being able to do all of the above too and our past experiences have contributed to both who we are and what we are capable of.
Sticking to your core values is paramount. When we are faced with an important and difficult decision to make, we always ask ourselves if the answer meets our core values. My favourite saying that I created is ‘be kind during your grind’ as it really sums up who we are and what we want to continue being.
What is the main advice you would give as a business owner?
Decide what your core values are as a person and every decision you make should be based from that. Don’t make decisions based on profit or sales or ‘potential exposure.’
What are your final thoughts on the hairdressing industry?
Having been involved in several successful businesses over the years, with my husband, and having held various jobs since my school days, I can honestly say that working with hairdressers and in this industry, we are so humbled by how nice, honest and kind-hearted hairdressers are; it is such a pleasure to work in this industry. I wake up every day looking forward to what the day will bring! Yes, we have our challenging times, but without those we wouldn’t learn and grow, and our company would become stagnant. If there is one thing I have learned running our own businesses, it’s that you have got to keep evolving – fortunately for us, we love doing this!
For more information visit www.foilme.com.au