Few companies have seen such a meteoric rise as Olaplex. What started with a few products made one at a time in a California garage is now a number one brand tucked on the shelves at upscale salons and hair boutiques in more than one hundred countries around the world.
The company’s impressive story begins with a process created by renowned chemist Craig Hawker. The influential Australian native holds dozens of patents, has authored hundreds of papers, and has engineered everything from 3-D printing processes to the unique bond-building treatments that power Olaplex products. His most recent innovations evolved Olaplex into a true sensation and have taken it to an IPO with nearly $600 million in annual revenue.
Heather Harper is Olaplex’s vice president of human resources. She joined the fledgling company in 2019 as employee number 33 and has helped it grow head count to about 160. The veteran leader quit her private practice in marriage and family therapy to work for leading companies like the Walt Disney Company and Discovery. Such a unique background helps Harper plan with executives, understand the needs of managers, and coach her department as she helps Olaplex build future-forward teams.
“Heather continues to be instrumental in the growth and evolution at Olaplex. Her dedication and leadership have been an integral part in cultivating a strong and dynamic organizational culture,” says Barbara Guimaraes Driggers, managing director of B&G Executive Group, Inc. “I feel honored to partner with Heather and Olaplex in their recruiting needs.”
The brand’s success is attracting more than social media attention and celebrity clients—it has also made Olaplex a target for knockoffs and competitors. That’s why the company and its leaders are doubling down on culture and identity to attract and retain the best employees. The brand that is on a mission “to improve hair health” says that it is dedicated to science, innovation, community, and elevating wellness without taxing the environment.
During her tenure, Harper has introduced employee experience initiatives to boost engagement health scores by twenty-three points. She’s done this in an era of rapid growth, during which head count spiked by more than 450 percent in just two years.
Those numbers include key hires to lead marketing, technology, strategy, legal, research and development, operations, finales, and sales. A new onboarding process ensures these departments and all other employees integrate into the company and have the tools, relationships, and resources they need to thrive.
Employee growth isn’t the only challenge Olaplex has faced in recent years. The company has become a social media juggernaut, and popularity often leads to scrutiny. Olaplex appears to have weathered a TikTok and meme storm related to an ingredient allegedly linked to infertility. While the claims came from high-dose animal test reports based on consumption and not topical usage, the company removed the ingredient to put its customers at ease.
Now, Olapex sees organic promotion from thousands of professionals and fans who snap product pictures, post about it, and engage with the brand on platforms like Instagram, where it has 2.3 million followers. The private Olaplex Facebook group boasts more than 250,000 approved members.
These viral efforts are ensuring Olaplex builds on its considerable momentum. In 2021, it rolled out a product called No. 8 in what instantly became its biggest launch ever. CEO JuE Wong says the company plans to expand beyond its core products and bring other professional and retail SKUs without overextending itself. “We are very deliberate about what we launch. All our products complement each other, meaning that none of them can be substituted for another. There is no cannibalisation,” she told Vogue Business in June 2022.
Today, Olaplex seems to be everywhere you look and has been talked about by celebrities like Kim Kardashian, Margot Robbie, and Jennifer Lopez. But Wong, Harper, and their colleagues have the company positioned for more. They’ve worked to build a strong workforce and to position Olaplex not as a haircare treatment but as a science and tech-driven beauty company—and that means they’re poised to cross over into other products this year and beyond.