A longtime beauty brand CEO, Melisse Shaban (seen below with Virtue’s creative director, Adir Abergel) wasn’t looking to start a biotech haircare company in 2012. But when presented with the opportunity (in the form of groundbreaking, damage-repairing technology), she couldn’t say no. The result is Virtue, a haircare line beloved for its ability to transform even the most ravaged strands.
What drove you to start your own brand?I haven’t always been an entrepreneur, but I have had the privilege of working alongside some legendary entrepreneurs, like Horst Rechelbacher of Aveda and Anita Roddick of The Body Shop, and that has shaped me and given me what you might call an entrepreneurial spirit.
The idea for Virtue really started with this technology that was unlike anything I had ever seen before in beauty, and certainly not in haircare. I saw an opportunity to deliver something completely revolutionary. Dr. Luke Burnett, the chief scientist behind the development of this technology, is a retired colonel from the U.S. Army. After two tours in Iraq, he made it his mission back home to find ways to speed healing and improve quality of life for wounded soldiers, and it was all based on his development of this newly patented form of a human keratin protein. Most “keratin” you’ve heard of on the market is a substance derived from animal sources (like sheep's wool or feathers) and harshly treated and broken down into little more than amino acids. It’s no longer a whole, functional protein. Dr. Burnett’s breakthrough was the development of a fully functional, human-identical protein that the body could recognize as its own and use to help with wound-healing.
"Dr. Burnett’s breakthrough was the development of a fully functional, human-identical protein that the body could recognize as its own and use to help with wound-healing."
A young female PhD candidate working in his lab had family members in the salon industry and asked if she could perform some experiments using leftover material. She’d heard of keratin in haircare and wanted to test and see if this new protein could also have benefits for hair. A few experiments later, they liked what they saw, but haircare was not their mission, nor their expertise. That’s when I was called in to take a look, really as a favor for a friend. Seeing the extraordinary results that this technology had on damaged hair made me want to share it with the world. And about five years after that, Virtue was born.
What’s your favorite product in the line?Our Virtue Healing Oil. I love it not only for the incredible results it gives your hair, but also for just how hard it was to achieve the right formula. We went through dozens of submissions, and it took about a year longer than we’d planned, but it was worth it. It’s extraordinary, and a bestseller around the world.
What’s your morning and evening routine?I’m the founder and CEO of a fast-growing beauty brand, but it’s still very much a startup. So the first thing I do when I wake up is look at the daily sales results. I get a report at 5:00 AM, and it’s literally the way I start my day. Before going to sleep, I do my skincare routine and apply my Virtue Topical Scalp Supplement, and then try to find a little space in between the various kids and dogs that always seem to crowd my bed.What would people be surprised to learn about you?People might be surprised to learn what an avid sports fan I am—it feeds the competitive spirit in me. I can also be a bit of a daredevil. I’m drawn to things like paragliding and heli-skiing.What advice would you give to someone thinking about starting their own business?Ask yourself some hard questions: Is this something you feel passionate about? Does your idea meet an unmet need, or provide a better product or solution than what’s currently out there? And then really understand that, just like birthing a child, it takes total commitment and a lot of hard work and sleepless nights. But if you surround yourself with the right people, it can also be a lot of fun along the way.