Boss Babes: Britta Cox, Founder of AQUIS Hair Care

As a company created by two women, we know how important it is to celebrate women who are trailblazers in their respective fields. That’s why we’ve started our Boss Babes series. Each month we’ll highlight one woman who’s leading the way and is absolutely crushing it, in business and in life. Here, they’ll answer questions on everything from how they started out and advice they think every woman should know, plus their beauty routines and how they take care of themselves. This month: Britta Cox, founder of AQUIS Hair Care.

For someone who founded a haircare brand, Britta Cox is surprisingly minimalist in taking care of her own hair. Coincidentally, it was her simple wash-and-go habit that in 1990 led her to create AQUIS, a hair-drying towel that actually speeds up drying time and reduces frizz. The brand has since grown to include a line of nourishing haircare formulas. Meanwhile, in addition to running AQUIS, Britta has become a certified organic farmer who finds her zen in nature. Here, she shares her thoughts on leadership, why bees are essential, and her easy good-skin trick.

Tell us a bit about yourself! How did you start your business?

I’m very curious and adventurous, and get a strange sense of satisfaction from trying to figure things out. I find it to be my creative outlet. I was working in the ski industry and using the first functional fabrics when I had my “aha” moment that became AQUIS. Thin, lightweight base layers were being worn under ski and outdoor wear to draw sweat away from your body and keep you comfortable while doing outdoor activities.

At the time, the only thing available to dry hair was the cotton bath towel. The experience of trying to balance a big heavy towel on your head (which didn’t work and left hair dripping wet) triggered the idea to create a towel designed to dry hair. I knew there was a better solution to the struggle every time I washed my hair, a solution that would offer me and every woman I knew a better experience and get us out of the house faster in the morning. I worked with the Japanese lab that invented the technical fibers and performance fabrics used in outdoor wear, to create a towel that would dry hair fast, be lightweight so it would stay on and be gentle on hair. AQUIS was founded in 1990. Eight years later I patented the Turban shape with the button/loop closure. Now women could dry their hair hands-free, and be able to do other things while their hair dried. 

Finding solutions to problems and sharing learnings, continues to be my passion. Once consumers shared abundantly through social media that the AQUIS hair towel was not only helping their hair to dry 50% faster, but also that their hair was less frizzy and easier to style, we took a deep dive into the science and biology of hair to understand the effects of water on hair every time we wash it. The learning has been enlightening — how we traditionally wash our hair is not helping us get our best hair. A few tweaks to our products and routine, can make all the difference. We launched the AQUIS Prime Hair Care System in fall of 2018, launching with Sephora, QVC, and on AQUIS.com. It’s a gamechanger, supporting hair’s intrinsic strength through the hair wash routine.

Free hair hack alert: wash your hair at the end of the shower, not the beginning.  The less time hair is wet, the stronger it stays and less hair breakage you will see in the shower!

What were some of the challenges you faced as a female founder? How did you overcome them?

The first challenge was getting the Japanese lab to take me seriously. At first, they ignored my repeated requests to even have a conversation. At the time, all we had was fax and phone, so I was using both to try to connect with the right person in the right department of a very large Japanese company located in Tokyo.  Eventually, they responded as they realized I was not going away quietly. Three years later, when we sold our millionth towel, they treated me to a first-class trip to their HQ in Tokyo and shared a 2-page spread in their company newsletter on the experience, from their perspective, of working with a young girl from California. They came to realize that I had a unique vantage point and tenacity, and came to respect both. This kind of persistence is a very common theme throughout my journey; it is what make or breaks you being able to make things happen. You know what you can do. Don’t let others deter or hold you back. Keep going!

What was your biggest achievement, the one you are most proud of?

I’m most proud of how much joy people get from our products and what a difference it makes to their lives. I am moved by all the letters and comments we get from people expressing what the towel and hair care system means to their daily lives; it makes all the hard work and sacrifices worth it!

Are there any particular moments that stand out as a defining moment for you?

Personally, there are so many moments over the years, that culminate to make you who you are and influence your journey.  One year out of college, in 1984, a unique opportunity that I helped to create, brought a team of us to Shenzhen, China to do a joint-venture deal with the post-Mao government, leveraging Foreign Joint Ventures to expand economically. Living there for six months, being a part of such change, and interacting with people and cultures that were so different helped to give me the confidence to not only be comfortable, but to thrive in unfamiliar territories and create opportunities.   

On the professional side, when the industry started to refer to AQUIS as “iconic”, I felt a huge sense of accomplishment. I don’t have children, AQUIS has been my child, so this reference made me feel like a proud mama!

I was very honored when Poosh reached out to do a partnership last April, because Kourtney [Kardashian] loved her turban so much! The 2-layer leopard turban is so fun!

Why do you think it’s important for more women to start their own business?

I believe society and humankind would be better off if there were more equal participation by women in leadership roles. We need more women leaders across all sectors of our society to bring more of a balance of empathy and understanding to the critical decisions that form our very existence.

Britta working with her factory team in Japan

What do you do to unwind?

Spend time in nature, breathe, move. Hiking in the hills alone and letting my mind wander is super rejuvenating for me. It’s when my best thoughts come.

Best skincare advice you’ve ever received?

Sleep on your back and let gravity work for you overnight. Another thing [that] I find makes a big difference is sleeping with the windows wide open, so you can get nice fresh airflow.

Who is your biggest inspiration and why?

My mom has always inspired me.  She just turned 78 and continues to have limitless energy, a can-do attitude and be fun. She never puts limitations on herself or us.  I appreciate that she gave me a tremendous amount of freedom at a young age and let me do things that most parents would have been too fearful to have allowed, in fear their kid would get hurt. 

When I was 11 years old, my mom let us ride our horses into the hills for a couple of days at a time. We had a fort up there and felt fully capable of taking care of ourselves and sleeping in the wild. It taught me to control my fear. I could let the sound in the bushes or an animal in the distance scare me, or I could be confident that they didn’t want to hurt me and that everything would be okay. This experience gave me the confidence to put myself into situations that would normally feel uncomfortable and to be able to find a solid place to stand on. 

Professionally, I’m inspired by people who offer something with a unique viewpoint, who are authentic and make a meaningful difference to people’s lives. Often taking that position is the harder path, which is why I respect, admire, and am inspired by it. Today, I am celebrating that Ruth Bader Ginsberg was discharged from the hospital on Wednesday and able to go home. She is 87 and our nation would be very vulnerable without her. We need more women leaders who can make change for the good.

What is something surprising people might not know about you?

I’ve been a certified organic gardener for almost 14 years and I keep bees. I believe nature is perfect and enjoy learning from it and doing what I can to support it, which is increasingly more important as she struggles from human intervention.  

Please, anyone who wants to keep bees, do not buy them online!  Get them from a local beekeeper instead. We must support the local native bees so they can thrive in their local habitat. Monocropping, lack of natural habitats, and the introduction of different bees has brought tremendous pressures on them. Without bees, most of our food supply would be non-existent. In fact, and I’ve witnessed, expansive areas in China where fruit orchards cannot pollenate themselves and people are literally climbing into trees to brush pollen on each and every flower. Frankly, that frightens me more than COVID-19. If our food supply becomes threatened, that would trigger a series of problems that could more devastating than anything we’ve yet experienced.

SHOP THE LOOK

Glow Recipe

At Home Spa Kit

$164

https://www.glowrecipe.com/products/at-home-spa-kit