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:: Spotlight :: Spotlight on the rise of Instant Rockstar

By: Carmine Pascuzzi

The co-owners of Instant Rockstar are Margaret Ardono and Craig Delmo. They have taken this hair product brand from an efficient grassroots campaign and built up the brand in a creative fashion that targets the right people into believing they can improve their look. There has been, and continues to be, great dedication by the business partners towards growing the Instant Rockstar formula into the global sphere. I had a chat to Margaret about the background behind the idea to implement the creative forces and attitude into making Instant Rockstar what it is today.

Q.How did the idea eventuate?

A.A friend of Craig’s couldn’t find a wax that would wash out. He was using other brands that had been around for many years but that constantly built up in his hair and wouldn’t wash out. He had a haircut once in the suburbs and the hairdresser had a jar of wax that was unlabelled in the salon. He tried it and loved it. He then took it to a chemist. Then, the Hero product was developed (our Hard Rock type). He teamed with Craig, who was a DJ who was working two-three nights a week. They met me. I was doing freelance PR at the time. Together, we took it to the next level as far as packaging, and brought out new products. We sold them out of the back of our cars and worked out of a garage.

Q.What has it meant to the business now?

A.In a year or two, we’re turning over enough to call ourselves a small business. We moved into an office, gave it a name, and now I would say that, in Victoria, we are probably market leaders for styling aids for men. We started to distribute nationally. We export to New Zealand and are negotiating with other countries.

Q.What has been the key to success?

A.The key to success is that we’ve built a niche market. Multi-national companies are patronising to men. They’ll bring out Wella For Men, Goldwell For Men, Redken for men, etc. They have the female as the primary audience. They realise men are starting to use the product so they’ll change the label and call it “For Men”. It’s like telling me, a female, that I should drink “VB for chicks”. It doesn’t understand the consumer very well. Our point of difference has been that we didn’t say it’s for men; it’s made for men and target them in their social surroundings: nightclubs, football clubs, etc. It filled the niche as a quality product.

Q.You were originally called I.R.S…

A.Yes, we changed our name from I.R.S. as it conflicted with the Internal Revenue Service. It’s simply Instant Rockstar.

Q.How have you proceeded in gathering the awareness in the marketplace?

A.Marketing is done at a grass roots level because of not having the ad dollars to do anything else. Not much research is done at the corporate level because our whole team is the target market. We’re all twenty-something and don’t have to sit around a boardroom table thinking of that, because it’s about people like us. We take out the products to our salons and retailers to get opinions. Every State in Australia has Instant Rockstar products and people can buy from the Internet from some of our retailers. We have regular customers in far north Darwin and pockets of regional Western Australia. We also have a website, which is used as an online brochure so people can check from which Instant Rockstar can be purchased.

Q.Obviously, you must have done much preparatory work in the business set-up…

A.In regards to formulating a business plan, if you don’t have a solicitor and an accountant as a friend, or at least a financial advisor, don’t bother. We didn’t take two steps forward until we had forecasts of cash flow, a business plan, and marketing strategy. We collected pages and pages of spreadsheets, documents, and PowerPoint presentations. We had to work to a feasible bottom line and work out a budget.

Q.Tell us a little about your background?

A.I went to school in Mentone, Victoria. I then studied at Victoria University – the course was International Trade and Business. I moved to a Bachelor Of Arts in Asian Studies and studied on a scholarship in Indonesia. I returned and worked at nightclubs doing promotions. I got straight into things like S&M nights and working the bar. It was pretty confronting but good education. After that, I worked on my own, doing freelance promotions work; like the St.Kilda Festival and fashion events. I then fell pregnant and had to juggle having a baby and to work. Then I met the guys and started on this business. My child is 3-years-old now.

Q.Are men more preoccupied with their look these days?

A.The fact is yes. Men are preoccupied with their look now. Statistics show (WGFN website) that men have gone from bathroom time of four minutes in the morning to seventeen minutes. That has a lot to do with media, female pressure, etc. There has definitely been a transformation in the grooming and you can walk into a club like Seven nightclub as a 35-year-old and think, “This is not what it was like when I was eighteen.” Hair, solarium, and after-shave are all part of it now. I’m talking inner-city clubs.

Q.What does it mean for guys?

A.It’s all good. It means a better lifestyle – healthier –and where mental health can improve.

Q.Is there much time spent on research and testing?

A.Our new products are the Hard Rock, Soft Rock, and the Punk Rock Gel. All the ingredients are laboratory tested. Usually it takes three months for each ingredient to get approval. Then we test it in here. It then goes to the salons for feedback and off we go with it. Our competitors spend lots of money on researching what products they should bring out. We do it one by one as we feel is the right time. With more money behind us now, we can do more serious research, go overseas or subscribe to overseas trade magazines. It’s not guess work or instinct any longer.

Q.Word of mouth has also been of great benefit to you…

A.Craig had seen much in his DJ experiences and told everyone about Instant Rockstar in the clubs. It was the best form of advertising at the time.

Q.What does the future hold for Instant Rockstar?

A.There are several factors to consider:
 Filling the niche on a more corporate scale
 Trying to compete with bigger manufacturing
 Tapping into new markets.
 Formalising our set up for retail
 Making more money (We’re investing every cent back into the business)

For more information, check the Instant Rockstar website and telephone (03) 9421.0691

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