Kate Assaraf, our NJ Mompreneur of the Week, has cared about the planet for as long as she can remember, and she knows that almost no one changes their habits long-term if it feels like a sacrifice. Her business, Dip Sustainable Hair Care, is a beauty brand with attitude that promotes sustainability by manufacturing hair care products that are so great you’d choose them over top salon luxury brands anyway — the fact that they’re plastic-free is just a perk. Yes, her business is a beauty brand, but more than that, Kate sees it as a way to do small, meaningful things that make the world a better place. We chatted with this Sparta-based mom of two boys to discover why she’ll never sell on Amazon, how running has helped her be a mompreneur, and her family’s favorite place to see pro waterskiers perform.
Tell us a little bit about your family and background. I’m New Jersey born and raised, but I have lived all over—Los Angeles, Paris, New York, and even Sri Lanka for a short period—but out of all the places I’ve been, I always knew I wanted to raise my family in New Jersey—there’s a NJ sense of humor that’s like nothing else. My husband, Jonathan Assaraf, and I live in Sparta with our two boys, Dante, 7, and Desmond, 5. Dante was born when we still lived in Manhattan, and soon after we moved to Sparta, Desmond arrived. The community came together and did so much for us as a family–they sent us meals for the first three weeks. I’ve never experienced such a collaborative and kind community, and I’m proud to raise my family here.
Tell us about Dip and what makes it different from other beauty brands. Dip is formulated for people who love salon-type results but want to ditch plastic. Our shampoo and conditioner bars genuinely perform like luxury salon brands, but they simplify choice since one hair bar can be used on all hair types and will save you lots of money by lasting a long time (our conditioner alone can save you $200+ in your expensive conditioner habit). Our bars can last up to 6 months of use — this means less consumption overall– plus, they’re specifically formulated to work with all hair types and textures and are even color and keratin safe. They come with easy instructions on how to use them, so the results are healthy-looking, gorgeous hair each time. The bars are also unisex and come in various fragrances, including the bestsellers Coconut & Almond and Tobacco & Driftwood, to other favorites, including Tangerine & Honeydew, Wild Sage & Vetiver, and Mimosa & Sandalwood.
What “aha” moment made you decide to start this particular business? It was fun to be a rolling stone in my 20’s — I’ve lived all over the world and worked in beauty, marketing, toys, and even for one of the Kardashian brands—but eventually, I became frustrated and realized I needed to be proactive to make the world better for our children. I knew that reducing plastic consumption would make a difference. Since I worked in the beauty industry, I decided to develop a premium hair care line that looks and acts like luxury hair care but is kinder to our planet. Kate working on her business.
Have the beauty brands that you grew up with influenced your own business? When I was young, a very specific beauty look –think Victoria’s Secret and the Supermodels of the 90s—was what was considered beautiful. I wanted more than anything to be that kind of beautiful. But then I grew up and realized that way of thinking excludes too many of us and there are all kinds of beautiful. Thankfully, the beauty standard has shifted, and the industry is much more inclusive of all ethnicities, body types, hair colors, and hair types, as well as those with body art. Having my own brand now, it’s important to me to do my part so that everyone embraces their uniqueness.
Has your business changed since its launch? I officially launched in October 2021, and the biggest thing that has changed since launch is the number of stores we’re in, which is now 154 salons and small shops. I expressly set out to celebrate small businesses—we don’t sell on Amazon because it’s important to me that we support the small store owners, most of whom are women and moms who can’t compete with Amazon. Too many women business owners are treated as if their businesses are a hobby when they’re actually doing great things and working hard to support their families.
Does your family ever get involved in DIP? My husband is an industrial designer who was also in the beauty world— he’s a real support and helps me with the packaging, and he engineered the shower rack we just launched. He’s my secret weapon because he’s super talented and knows the industry and the manufacturing side of things; plus, he’s my biggest champion and support.
Where did you come up with the name for your business? Dip, the name of my company, was inspired by my mom, who was impulsive in the best way—she’d always say, “Never dip your toe in the water; always dive right in.” In other words, never give yourself an excuse to talk your way out of fun or a wonderful experience. Despite Dip being a fun, humorous brand, I think of and miss my mom every single day. Knowing how I like to joke around a lot, many might be surprised that I, like many other people, struggle with grief –it’s a strange feeling having triumphs in my life that can’t be shared with my mom.
Was there anything in your career background (or life) that’s proven helpful in this business? It might sound weird, but being an endurance and trail runner has helped me because it’s like being an entrepreneur. I like to run in the woods, and the thing about it is that you have to do it often to be good at it, and even when it sucks, you have to pull yourself together and keep going. Entrepreneurship isn’t very different—some days will be more challenging than others, but you must keep going to find success.
Is there a cause or charity that’s particularly important to you? Dip supports small charities all the time. The one that’s local to New Jersey that we strongly support is the Friend2Friend Sussex County Women’s Forum, a free 3D mammogram, support, and resource program because I don’t think it’s fair that due to someone’s socioeconomic status, they find out too late that they have breast cancer.
What are some of your favorite NJ businesses? Simple Bare Necessities is the refill store in Sparta, and Michaela, the owner, brought plastic-free grocery options to our little town—she’s a pioneer in our community. I also love Salon FiG, an eco-friendly, fume-free salon and the first place I ever experienced my hair getting lightened without any smell. They do excellent work. And because I’m a runner, I love Root Runners, an excellent resource for those in the running community. It’s amazing and the place to go if you’re a runner and you like to shop locally and small like I do.
Please share some places in NJ that you and your family enjoy visiting. We spend a lot of time at the Jersey Shore, especially Asbury Park. It’s so family-friendly, yet very cool, and it’s where my oldest son learned to surf. It’s also a great 4-season place where you can go and still be close to the ocean. One year, we dressed the kids warmly and did a garbage beach pickup there. Another favorite is Blue Heron Park, on the border of Sparta and Jefferson, which is perfect for running. And, of course, Lake Mohawk, where we live, is where we spend almost every day in the summer. It’s so beautiful and timeless, almost like you’re back in the 1920s–I can’t believe this place exists outside of Europe. We love watching the Ski Hawks waterski team practice and perform. They’re so much fun to watch.
What’s your best piece of advice for an NJ Mompreneur just starting? Don’t listen to anyone’s advice—when you have something that drives you to start a business, a lot of people will come and give you unsolicited advice, which can cloud your vision. If you can’t close your ears to it, then take it with a grain of salt.
For more information on Kate Assaraf and Dip Sustainable Hair Care, please see their website, Facebook, and Instagram pages.