Interview With The Bang Wrangler Founders

Do you get mad-not-so-rad hair when you’re in the pool or on the beach with your friends? The Bang Wrangler can tame your wavy beach hair with its simple yet stylish and sophisticated approach to tackling the problem in a fantastic shade of turquoise.

There’s a brilliant old-style film that’s been made to show exactly what The Bang Wrangler does and why it’s a fashion accessory that could really improve your life if you love watersports.

Earlier today I got the chance to ask The Bang Wrangler’s very talented and especially sexy and sophisticated founders, Ashley Reta and Diana Klochkova, some questions about The Bang Wrangler.

Hammy Havoc: What exactly is The Bang Wrangler? Is it comfortable to wear all day?

Ashley Reta: The Bang Wrangler is comfortable silicone headband that will stay in place in the water and keep wet hair held back and out of your face.

Diana Klochkova: And it’s definitely comfortable to wear all day, because it’s non-slip material keeps it in place. I always keep it on even after I’m out of the water, before I can hit the shower. It keeps that post-ocean hair under control and looks cool, too!

HH: So because of what The Bang Wrangler is made of, this means it won’t catch and pull on your hair or slip off?

DK: Exactly. It’s silicone, not latex, so it won’t stick to your hair and rip it out, but it will stay in place. Makes it great for the water, or even land sports where getting sweaty means regular headbands slide off.

HH: You’re obviously very switched on when it comes to doing good business, what are your backgrounds? Have you always been interested in business?

AR: My professional background is actually in interior design, I currently work for an architecture firm in Shanghai as my day job, but I was born and raised in California. I’ve always had a broad range of interests and developing a product has been a new experience for me, but has also been a ton of fun working on this project together with Diana.

DK: I majored in economics and my experience is in sports and retail marketing. That makes The Bang Wrangler a pretty natural project for me, but I couldn’t do it without Ashley. It’s all her when it comes to design and the visual brand identity. She’s incredibly talented in that area, and she has great business sensibilities, too. So we’re pretty different professionally, but we’re also united by our California roots and background in swimming and water polo. I was actually born in Russia, but I grew up in the San Francisco area. Ashley’s from Orange County.

HH: Is this the first product either of you have thought of?

AR: We definitely have more ideas up our sleeves but we’ll keep those to ourselves for now!

HH: How did you two meet in Shanghai? It seems like the classic story of being in the right place at the right time, why were you both there?

AR: Diana was heading over to China for a business trip and a mutual friend connected us together. We have a ton of common interests, obviously! We instantly hit it off. It was one of those “I feel like we’ve been friends forever” types of situation.

DK: Ashley was my hero in Shanghai. Without her to guide me, I would’ve been stuck in touristy restaurants every day, but she took me to see all the good stuff. I got lucky on meeting such an awesome new friend, and the business partnership was a very nice little bonus. Shoutout to our friend Mark Rafferty for connecting us!

Diana Klochkova

HH: I love your accents, you’re both shamelessly Californian and seem to wholeheartedly embrace the surfer-chick stereotype the rest of the world has become acquainted with through the television and movie industry, do you really live, eat and sleep surfing, scuba diving and whitewater kayaking? Did your family introduce you to the water or did growing up in California make it a natural part of life?

AR: I don’t remember learning to swim, as far as I can remember I’ve loved the water and have taken advantage of that every chance I get. When I was little, I got into swimming and water polo mostly because I wanted to be like my older brother who did both, and later on he also got me into surfing. Unfortunately for me, living in Shanghai for the last five years, I’ve had to travel around to get my water sport fixes, but that’s gotten me more into snorkeling, scuba and kayaking.

DK: I actually started really late on swimming. I remember my parents were renovating a bathroom, and we found out one of the construction workers used to be the fastest swimmer in Russia. He learned that I couldn’t swim yet and took me on as his student. Since then, I haven’t been able to stay out of the water. I grew up swimming and playing water polo, then rowed crew in college and fell in love with scuba diving when I lived in Panama for a while. Most recently, I learned to whitewater kayak and loved the totally new style of water adventure!

 Ashley Reta Posing With Previous and The Bang Wrangler In The Sand

HH: Here you both are showing just how professional two surfers can be whilst remaining authentic to their roots and passions, what inspired you to build on your love of watersports and create The Bang Wrangler? Was it the desire to fix something that has always lessened your enjoyment of what you were doing so you could enjoy it as much as possible? Was it always a business idea or just something you wanted to do to make what you loved even more loveable?

DK: Being from the cold waters of Northern California, I was actually in the pool more than the ocean, and the idea came to me back when I was playing water polo in high school. Even during casual practices, we had to wear swim caps or risk being blinded when hair fell in our face. I honestly just hated looking ridiculous in the cap and always wondered why it couldn’t be a head band. When I got into diving and kayaking, I realized just how much this product was needed for all watersports, and it inspired me to finally make it a reality!

AR: When Diana let me in on her idea with me for The Bang Wrangler… I just really, really wanted one! I figured I felt this way, then a bunch of other water loving girls that would also want one, so why not try to make the idea a reality? It really kicked off from there.

DK: And it was perfect that Ashley got inspired by the idea, because living in China, she ran across a manufacturer who could actually produce it for us, which had been the part I’d struggled to figure out prior to that.

Ashley Reta, Co-Founder Of The Bang Wrangler

HH: What does an average day handling The Bang Wrangler look like for you both? Who wrangles what? Do you work very closely together? Do you have a specific workflow for how you get things done?

AR: We both work full time so we have to do all our wranglin’ at nights and on weekends. Diana and I make a great team, our individual strengths really compliment each other! At this point we are both still involved with all aspect of the business, but I’m dealing more with production and the visual marketing.

DK: And I’m more on the business development and marketing strategy/PR side. We have our own strengths, but we keep the lines blurry and collaborate. We love to bounce ideas off each other – it really helps to have that gut check from someone you trust. We all need someone to tell us when our ideas suck, or to help us improve them when they’re good.

HH: Earlier today Ashley told me she been over in Shanghai overseeing the manufacturing process of The Bang Wrangler and you’ll be going back over there in a few days, can you tell us some more about what that’s like? Do you ever get homesick for California and just want to go surfing?

AR: Yep, heading back this weekend. The factories are ready to rock and roll now we’ve finalised the last few packaging details.

DK: I think it’s awesome that our business is international from the start with me in SF and Ashley in Shanghai. A lot of the water-loving ladies of the world are constantly traveling to explore new frontiers in their sports, so we can’t just limit The Bang Wrangler to one corner of the world! It’s all about the total global domination.

HH: You both obviously play hard, but do you both work hard too? Do the late nights and the travel ever exhaust you? Are you gluttons for punishment? Do you enjoy being challenged like I do?

AR: Gluttons for punishment! [Laughter] I like that. I definitely have been and probably will always be a very ambitious person so I’m accustomed to traveling, late nights and all that. However, we enjoy working on our product and are excited to start wranglin’ some bangs, so while it can be challenging at times, it’s never feels like punishment.

DK: Totally agree. This project has been hard work, I guess, but it also is my fun. After working a more traditional job during the day, it’s really exciting to stay up at night to work on something where we get to make it exactly what we want it to be. And with it being something I’ve been thinking about for years now, it’s incredible to think that every day I come a step closer to making it a real product that others can enjoy.

Previous Magazine + The Bang Wrangler

HH: Do either of you speak any other languages other than English? Does this help in business negotiations?

DK: I was born in Russia, so I’m a native Russian speaker, which is mostly only useful for understanding the bad guys in movies. [Laughter] I’m also fluent in Spanish, though, and that’s going to be a massive market for us in the future. Can’t wait to share The Bang Wrangler with people in all the amazing surf and dive spots throughout Latin America!

AR: My Spanish needs a bit of a refresher! But I do speak Mandarin and that definitely helps not only the negotiations but is also super important in making sure our product concept and quality is conveyed correctly to the factories. After our successful Kickstarter campaign it has proven to be even more useful during production of the first batch of Bang Wranglers.

HH: Is being a woman in business more difficult than being a man in your opinion? What’s it like doing business in Shanghai? Have you had any bad experiences with sexism or has it all been good?

DK: Everyone faces their own unique challenges in business, and women are no exception. But where there is challenge there’s also opportunity, and The Bang Wrangler is a perfect example of that. Sure, water sports tend to be dominated by men. However, more and more women are getting into them, and those women have some very unique equipment needs. That means Ashley and I have a special advantage in understanding those needs, creating solutions, and then sharing them with these women in a relatable way. So, sure, it can be more difficult, but we choose not to let it be. On that note, it’s particularly exciting for us to be launching The Bang Wrangler on Kickstarter, where we know that only 25% of project backers are women. It’s such a missed opportunity for women to support each other in launching businesses focused on women’s products, and we’re glad that we are contributing in a small way to reversing the imbalance.

AR: We do like challenges! China is it’s own ballgame, it’s even more male dominated than the USA. But I’m accustomed to working around it by now, and sometimes being this random green-eyed, blonde haired girl from California can have it’s advantages!

HH: What has the prototyping process for The Bang Wrangler been like? As well as sketching, do you use CAD? What programs do you use? How’ve you found that to be versus working with paper and pencil? Intuitive?

AR: We started with sketches and moved to CAD when we started vetting factories. I’m sketching and using CAD everyday for my interior design projects so that part of the process is pretty intuitive for me.

DK: Physically testing the materials and sizing was really key to us, too. Ashley’s been great about getting samples and scraps and anything else she can get from the factories to do some rapid prototyping and get in the water with them to zero in on the right specs for the final product.

Previous Magazine In The Sand With Bang Wranglers

HH: It’s really interesting to see the different prototypes you went through to arrive at the finalised design of The Bang Wrangler, and with this being quite the fashionable product, it must be quite difficult to always make something that doesn’t sacrifice the form over function, do you have any absurd or really weird designs that won’t see the light of day?

AR: We did really want to use recycled silicone to be as low impact as possible but through some prototype testing, we found that not only were they breaking easily, they also pulled on the hairs. The Bang Wrangler is 100% silicone, so it is recyclable!

HH: You raised your goal on Kickstarter really quickly, how did you find the experience?

DK: We’re honestly floored by the overwhelmingly positive response we’ve received. The majority of our funds came in immediately upon launch, from people who were really excited to get in there and support us, and in the days following we still had a consistent stream of backers coming in as more people find out about it. We’re even getting offers for bigger rounds of investment beyond the Kickstarter, so it’s awesome to see that people not only want one for themselves but also believe in the long-term success of the product as much as we do!

AR: Ditto on that! It’s been a super positive experience! We have big ideas for The Bang Wrangler and we really excited this first step is going so well.

HH: Have you got any tips for a successful Kickstarter that you would like to share with any enterprising product designers out there? Is crowdfunding the way to go for startups?

DK: What’s worked well for us so far is just being super prepared. Know your audience and how you’re going to spread the word to them once you launch, and make sure you have a great video, visuals, and text to tell your story clearly and concisely.

HH: Although The Bang Wrangler is evidently aimed at women from the video on The Bang Wrangler Kickstarter page, could you see The Bang Wrangler being somewhat of a unisex product for those long-haired beach dudes?

AR: YEAH definitely! We already have some dudes backing the project. We see tons of applications for the future, including different colors, patterns and sizes.

HH: I’ve noticed that your Kickstarter doesn’t mention The Bang Wrangler being available in purple, only in a rather lovely turquoise, yet purple is what’s seen in the video, did you decide that turquoise was a more gender neutral colour?

AR: Yes, but also because we feel turquoise looks great and stands out on all hair colors.

HH: I noticed that you’re offering a “team pack” on your Kickstarter, is sponsoring a professional synchronised swim team something that you’ve considered?

DK: [Laughter] Why not?! Being former water polo players, we both just immediately thought about how cool it would be to have matching Bang Wranglers for a whole team. Hopefully we’ll be able to expand the business to a point where custom team colors are a possibility!

AR: Funny you suggest synchronized swimming, I’ve SERIOUSLY always wanted to do that! I would love to see a team sporting The Bang Wrangler… We might even sponsor one if they let Diana and I be honorary team members!

HH: What are your plans to get The Bang Wrangler seen be as many people as possible aside from media coverage and word of mouth? You’re both gorgeous and seem to enjoy travelling, do you have plans to promote this round the world at surfing hotspots in person? I know I’d buy one!

AR: We are still developing our plans, but we’ve got more of an idea post-Kickstarter with it being a success, we know we want to start off with some e-commerce, so that’s the first step. Traveling the world doing some promotion doesn’t sound like a bad idea either.

DK: And we’d obviously love to start making personal connections with the most active people in water sports so they can help us spread the word. Not a bad excuse to hit up some ASP events, right?

HH: The Bang Wrangler is an amazing name for a product that’s so addictive and enjoyable to say aloud, is the name something you put a lot of thought into or did it just come to you?

DK: The Bang Wrangler came from a friend of mine who just spit out as we were discussing the idea. I immediately knew that would be the right name for it. How do you hear “Bang Wrangler” and not want to know more?

HH: I just had to ask, do you ever find yourselves humming Skrillex’s “Bangarang” whilst working on anything related to The Bang Wrangler?

DK: Well NOW we will. [Lots of laughter]

HH: What does your average day consist of as human beings? Do you have any unusual or unexpected hobbies or interests? What’s one thing you both want to do relating to watersports before you die? Any particular places you want to visit and any particular waves you want to catch or reefs you want to explore?

AR: I went to the west coast of Australia a couple years ago and was really disappointed that I didn’t make it over to the Great Barrier Reef, so I would still love to go diving there.

DK: I wholeheartedly agree with Ashley. The Great Barrier Reef is probably number one, and I hear great things about the Blue Hole and Cozumel. There’s also a 2-mile annual ocean race in Waikiki that I’d love to do. I did my first race last year in Huntington Beach with massive waves and cold water, so I think Hawaii might be a little more enjoyable for my next one.

HH: Have you had any thrilling or scary experiences in water? Ever caught off guard by an unexpected swell?

AR: My first season playing water polo for SDSU, I got a kick in the face that broke my nose. I might still be bitter about that. [Laughter] That definitely caught me off guard.

HH: That’s seriously horrific!

DK: I once found myself caught in a wave and hurtling toward a reef in Oahu. I had decided I was too cool to boogie board with the tourists and should try out the bigger break, where the Hawaiian dudes were. They were NOT happy about having to save me. I believe the exact words were, “I thought I told you not to drown on me, white girl!”. [Laughter]

HH: Is working on The Bang Wrangler a constant learning process? Are you learning new things about the industry, the processes involved and about yourself as you go along? What’s the most important thing that you’ve each learned?

DK: Absolutely. Again, that’s where an awesome partner comes in handy. There are SO many decisions to make on a daily basis when you have full control and unlimited options. I think figuring out the best way to do it all is 2 parts strategic thinking and 1 part failing and trying again!

AR: Yeah, there has been a large learning curve for me on the business development end of things, a lot of trial and error but luckily I don’t have to go at it alone!

HH: It’s been great talking to you both today, we’ll be looking forward to checking out the finished product once your Kickstarter backers start to receive their rewards. Where can people find out more about you? Twitter? Facebook?

DK: All of the above! We’re on TwitterInstagram, and on Facebook. And if anyone has comments or questions, we’re happy to answer them directly! Just shoot us a note: [email protected]. Thank you so much for your time and support, Hammy!

AR: Yeah, thanks Hammy! It was a really fun interview!

HH: You’re both very welcome. If you want to be as awesome as these two then you can purchase The Bang Wrangler from www.thebangwrangler.com when the online store goes up now that their Kickstarter has been a success, they’re happy to ship worldwide so anyone from Black Beach, California to Supertubes, South Africa to Hossegor, France can enjoy their time in the water that much more without the irritation of hair in their eyes and on their face.