How I Battled My Own Hair Loss And Created A $1M Product

Published: April 11th, 2019
Zee Schwab
Founder, Sayar Care
Sayar Care
from New York, New York, USA
started October 2017
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Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

Hi! I’m Zee, I started Sayar Care.

Many medications just mask symptoms, and don’t solve a problem at its root. We change this in a healthy way. For example, consider hair loss. While there are plenty of drugs with intense side effects and a rate of effectiveness, there is no method to treat hair loss at its root.

Retain is our flagship product. Retain prevents+reverses hair loss by preventing the source of the problem (DHT). Using clinically proven ingredients, we effectively stop what causes hair to fall out. We then go a step further, and promote healthy hair growth. 🚀

The way we create new formulas brings medicine forward—our method means targeted solutions, available immediately. People want a better way to heal. We give them best. We discover new ways to treat old problems, and help you understand how we did it. ✨

Prior to our method, new drugs held a price tag of over $2B, with a discovery success rate under 15%. The old, luck based method required an average to-market time of 14 years. Contrast this to us. We reduce the cost of drug development to under $10K per new formula, have a 95% success rate, and have a go-to market time under 12 months. In addition, our formulas work comprehensively. This means people receive smart, targeted care through simple understanding.


What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

I created Sayar because I needed something better.

I dealt with hair loss, and wanted a safe way to stop it. In medicine, the ideal approach in treatment is to treat the actual causes. Treating underlying conditions is comprehensive and highly effective.

If your “entrepreneurship” is due to a desire for something you need to see in this world, the journey can bring you the highest point of satisfaction a human can find.

My background is a love and passion for biology, chemistry, and the human body—at 8, I wanted to be a doctor. In university, I followed a biology and chemistry track; in my 2nd year, I started a position in a lab creating biofuel. The lab used a novel method to grow biofuel from algae, with the project funded by ExxonMobil. The lab had the working product, and was conducting research on how their method worked.

To create is to add happiness, to bring long term good to people. With the biofuel, posting videos of the biofuel used by actual people would have built a brand able to give users a cheaper, more environmentally sound fuel option.

Scientific research is distracted and slow. Research culture largely focuses on grants, papers, and board approval. On average, most studies never directly contribute to our lives. The biofuel was a great product, but their public exposure happened around the same time as Tesla began offering a mid-range EV.

A year later, I interned under the director of pediatric oncology at a major hospital. Just before I completed the internship, Dr. Michael spoke with me about what it was like being front line in treating diseases—it meant he was able to treat his patients, but it meant he had to rely on what research made available.

To him, pharmaceutical discovery’s stagnancy was obvious. To cure his patients, Dr. Michael was forced to use non-targeted treatments with high risk of side effects. He loved helping heal people, but knowing that profits were dictating the rate of drug discovery frustrated him. He explained to me how drug discovery works—drug companies rely on luck-based algorithms, with the most focus placed on making medically insignificant changes to existing drugs. Eventually, this method experienced diminishing returns, and companies placed their focus on maintaining old drug patents by making small changes to existing molecules.

When I started studies in biology and chemistry, I planned to be a doctor. Dr. Michael completely shifted my worldview. When I looked into the rate of discovery over time, I found that pharmaceutical discovery is affected by Eroom’s Law (opposite of Moore’s). Dr. Michael’s info was the first in a series of small things that tore my “life plan” apart.

A few months later, I ended a relationship I had planned to start a family with. The stressors that came with caused me to score low grades in my final semester in university. Reality came to a head, and I sat down to three options: do extremely well on my MCAT, go be a shepherd and live in a cave, or follow a small, growing idea in the back of my mind and see what it brought me. I was starting to see that my formerly planned life was based around what I thought “I” was. I saw that the life I thought I needed came from externals, not from something greater.

I followed the idea in the back of my head. I went on a research hunt to see what I could create. I used clinical studies to understand the causes of male pattern baldness, and found what would treat them. While I worked, I watched how following this idea affected me, and watched how a small idea was something able to bring real change to an industry that needed it. [I tested alpha formulas on myself, beta formulas on groups of volunteers, and finalized a finished product now called Retain.]

Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.

To start, it was incredibly important to me that the solutions we created were designed for the problem at hand, and would treat the causes behind what we wanted to solve. This keeps our products cruelty free and derived from science.

Our alpha formula focused on maximally treating underlying causes. I wanted it at highest possible effectiveness, so first iterations were slightly more concentrated and caused some skin irritation. I modified the formula to maintain max effective dose level with no irritation.

Making sure Retain is easy to use was important. We studied the maximum absorption level of skin, and how delivery tapers off over application time. We ended up with what became a slogan: wait a half hour, then shower. ⏰


The beta test was a group of volunteers—primarily friends and friends-of-friends. Imagine telling dudes with hair loss that you have a way to solve it without causing sexual side effects— THEY WERE THRILLED!

The process is radically different than pharma industry standard. The chemicals we use have minimal regulations, obtaining them is extremely easy. FDA regulations require a reputable level of science behind all claims. This led us to start with third party clinical studies. This approach was beneficial for our testers and later, our users. It essentially guarantees that our claims are real, and guarantees that our formulas are safe.

To create the test group, I reached out to some friends and completely schooled them on the science. We then had everyone sign off on risk, and started observing. I handed out beta product and told them how to use it. Observations were checked weekly, and I would meet monthly to check results and give refills. I continued this for 6 months, observed a 100% success rate at stopping hair loss/hair fall, and 70% success rate at stimulating new hair growth. Above is the bottle design we used.

In beta production, we manufactured Retain in my basement. We created a clean room up to GMP standards, set up bottling, and labeled by hand. We We continued production in my basement until we had the release version, and then transferred production out to a lab that licensed our formula for production.

With Retain’s formula finalized, we moved on to packaging. My cofounder Eli happened to have been in China at the time, the mecca of manufacturing. He went from factory to factory until found what we were looking for: biodegradable, environmentally friendly packaging that imputed what Retain is and how to use it. He schlepped a few hundred pieces back to the US and we were in business!

We’ve been modifying ever since to find the perfect design. We are working toward a completely new bottle design that focuses on simplest use, on making traveling with Retain easier, and on better imputing how Retain works.

Describe the process of launching the business.

We started offering Retain on As we started to understand our message, we were offered us to join Amazon’s Launchpad program. Launchpad is Amazon’s response to Kickstarter. They offer a marketplace for startups with products that they assume will do well on Amazon, and presumably for products Amazon considers possible to sell well under their in house brands.

Happiness in one’s life comes from stripping away anything the past has made you, and finding what is beyond all the things a noisy mind likes to say.

We had no experience selling on Amazon, and used Launchpad as a learning tool. Four months in, we shifted to Seller Central. Seller Central offers a lot more access to product appearance on, how we get to interact with users, etc.

Eight months in, we began working with hair professionals that matched Sayar Care. Our idea was to find hair salons & upscale barbers with dedicated customers, and help the stylists & barbers better understand hair loss. Our theory was that consumers are at their utmost vulnerability while in the barber’s chair. They have deep relationships with barbers, and barbers see their hair loss first (no combover or toupée fools a barber!).

Understanding this meant barbers are now able to help their customers understand their hair loss. We created a network of hair salons that want to help their customers. While we made Retain available for purchase at these locations, our primary reason was to create conversation and understanding. When you understand the why, the how becomes simple.

We’re self-financed, from zero to one. My cofounder Eli [Weiss] likes to say he’ll someday write a book on what it’s like to start an actual lean startup. Starting a business with no angels or round F’s, rather with lots and lots of hard work (and frugality). It’s worlds away from what is portrayed by “lean” startups. It means working in any place with free wifi, eating a meal a day to save money for the company, living at friends, working always.

It took us nearly 6 months to see satisfying user uptrend. We worked with completely organic exposure. Being bootstrapped means real work, not just plastering subway cars with pictures of cacti. I prefer this to the now in-vogue method of spending on PPC ads. The way people discover Sayar Care means we’re upfront, real, honest. Users hear about us from f riends experiencing Retain’s results, not from an Instagram ad. A brand optimizing for PPC discovery is a sleazy brand. They cause their users to be consumers. A brand aspiring to give something wonderful to the world does not treat people this way.

There’s just one easy to give over lesson I can think of. Actively protecting intellectual property is less vital than you’d imagine. We used to make sure to register or list trademarks; in reality, the basic protection offered by ™️ is more than enough to move forward with. Obsessing over the registration side costs time and money.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

Ha, Retain, I get it. With hair loss, attraction is a hard point. The bad publicity related to finasteride’s side effects and minoxidil’s limited function caused a deep fear of treating hair loss. It’s to the point that people are afraid and embarrassed to even discuss hair loss. Getting to people becomes about creating curiosity and a want to learn more.

What works for our retention? What people experience when they use Retain 😉

For the most part, we don’t run ads. We may change this in the near future, and run ads for people actively interested in Retain. Our ads will be there to educate, serve, and give. We will not make people into consumers. We find new users by giving Retain free of charge to people with Instagram accounts bringing joy to their followers. We also acquire people by word of mouth; this is especially effective with our Amazon purchases. Word of mouth happens through personal user recommendation with referral codes, or from Amazon reviews that result in purchase and future referrals to our website. It also happens through our salon presence.

Spending on ads is worthwhile for an audience with a genuine interest—when you understand what your demo wants. Give to your users. It’s worlds better than pouring $ into PPC. Help people learn something new. Make their mornings fun. Give people something that isn’t the cost of them clicking through. Everyone instantly spots an ad, ads are an invasive species. A purchase made through a paid ad creates a negative attitude towards a brand, regardless of product. It’s about helping people. Giving. Creating.

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

We’re doing pretty well. We’re pleased to see that our R&D concept works. We’re profitable. Our users love us.

We are able to offer Retain at physical locations as well; working alongside hair stylists is wonderful. We help people already extremely knowledgeable about hair fully understand hair loss. This means their customers get to better know their own bodies. We’ve had requests from users out of the US for product, and we are dealing with international fulfillment.

The near future will involve the release of a product that keeps skin young, wrinkle-free, pliable. We’re finalizing the formula. Obviously, it will be naturally derived and cruelty free. 🐰

As a company, Sayar is changing the way new medications are discovered. We’ve created an approach that discovers medications for a fraction of the current cost and directly affects consumers’ lives.

What’s next? Acne cures. Anti-aging. General enlightenment. What else would you like? We’re on it. 👨‍🔬

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

Happiness in one’s life comes from stripping away anything the past has made you, and finding what is beyond all the things a noisy mind likes to say.

In this place, one can find something s/he wants from a place deep down inside. This is the greatest fulfilment a human can find.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

We use Shopify for online sales. We’ve found it most convenient for what we do, and we use its system for shipping and tracking. We use a recurring order app by Bold for subscriptions.

For Amazon, we used to use Sellics for managing keywords, discovery, sales; for various reasons, we shifted back to using Amazon’s front facing platform. We found we had better access to advanced tools by working inside seller central.

MailChimp is our email platform, and our email approach is to never sell by email. We send info we find fascinating, knowledge we know our users enjoy, and send as few emails as possible.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

Some of my favorite reads are Zero to One by Peter Thiel; Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashlee Vance; Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature by Janine M. Benyus. My book selection constantly changes as I change, as where I am changes.

There a few podcasts featuring Dr. Kapil Gupta, and he has a few solo podcasts on his site. If you want to go beyond and not endlessly journey, his words are a point of beginning. Also, listening to Joe Rogan interview Wim Hof is wonderful. Hearing Wim’s journey is a trampoline into a new state of consciousness.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

Only act as an entrepreneur if what you want is rooted in the etymology of the word entrepreneur: one who undertakes heavy risk for an idea s/he truly desires.

What is traditionally fun has nothing in common with the experience of going out on your own to accomplish something you want. If your “entrepreneurship” is due to a desire for something you need to see in this world, the journey can bring you the highest point of satisfaction a human can find.

Is it worth it? Depends on who you are.

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

Not at the moment, but we’re planning to eventually hire scientists/scientifically minded people who can help develop more formulas.

If you have an idea for a formulation you want to get out there, come talk to us.

Where can we go to learn more?

Oh, and email us at [email protected].

If you want to reach me, DM me on Instagram: @hereiszee 🌺⚡

Questions or comments? Drop a comment below!