Tommy Addison has spent a good part of his life changing directions successfully.
As the star running back for Quince Orchard High School’s 2007 state championship football team, Addison was an exciting scatback whose quickness and shiftiness produced almost nine yards per carry, including three long fourth-quarter touchdown runs to win the state final.
When no NFL openings emerged following his standout career at Shepherd University, Addison changed directions across
the Atlantic to Europe, where he played professional football in Finland and in France.
And when injury ended his playing career, Addison and his wife, Sophia Hyökyvaara, again changed directions. They returned to Maryland, moved to Frederick to market hair-care products from her native Finland, and recently scored a huge business touchdown in placing the first fragrance-free, professional quality line of hair products with the largest professional cosmetic product supplier in the U.S.
“We’re working a lot,” Addison said, describing the whirlwind of activities that led to the couple’s getting an exclusive deal to place their No Nothing line of hair care products in some 1,100 CosmoProf stores, the nation’s largest supplier of professional quality products to hair stylists. As part of their deal, the No Nothing products enjoy an eye-catching display at store entrances.
“We’re excited,” he said.
His wife quickly added, “We don’t sleep.”
The transition from football player to beauty products distributor is one Addison never could have predicted.
“I have no experience in the hair care industry,” Addison said, which probably doesn’t surprise anyone.
But when a hip injury and two surgeries ended his professional playing career in Europe, he had to find his “next steps.”
“When I actually stopped playing football I … didn’t know where to go. I was kind of lost. … I still felt like I could go out there and give them more than what I gave. Kind of knocked me out a little bit.”
But Hyökyvaara, whom Addison met while playing professional football in Finland, and he agreed to parlay their business educations and interests into a business.
“We were looking for products to import-export between Finland and here,” Hyökyvaara said. “And then I fell in love with the product line” produced by KC Professional, the largest professional hair care product maker in Finland.
They decided to contact KC to see if the company needed a U.S. representative, and traveled to Finland to meet with the company.
“Of course they loved her,” Addison said of his wife and business partner. “She was Finnish and she could speak the language. We wrote out a nice, detailed business plan. They said it was the best plan they had seen,” and the company agreed to make the couple their U.S. distributor.
They focused especially on the fragrance-free products, which they believed filled a “white-space” in the market—a product that people wanted but wasn’t available.
“Actually, 30 percent of Americans have experienced some sort of sensitivity to fragrance,” Hyökyvaara said. “So, fragrances are pretty dangerous chemicals.” While some fragrance-free products are available in pharmacies and other stores, they said their hypoallergenic No Nothing line “is the first, professional quality, complete styling and care line that’s fragrance-free.”
“There’s nothing like that out there for people with sensitivities, allergies, asthma who can’t handle harsh chemicals,” she said, “or who just prefer a fragrance-free product that is also professional quality, so the stylist can use it, it can be sold in a salon.”
“We get amazing customer feedback from people who haven’t been able to find products to style their hair,” Hyökyvaara said.
Adina Ford, an associate at the CosmoProf store in Frederick, confirmed the consumer interest.
“Customers are interested in it, mainly because … so many are sensitive, their children are sensitive … we have nothing to go to . . . even in this kind of store that caters to industry,” she said.
“A lot of people don’t know when companies put ‘fragrance’ on their label … they don’t have to disclose the actual fragrance ingredients, because it’s a proprietary formula, so they can hide any chemicals in the word fragrance,” said Hyökyvaara. She said consumer interest is increasing in disclosing fragrance ingredients, “so we’re really riding the wave.”
“It’s not only for people with sensitivities,” she added. “It’s for people who want a cleaner, safer option, like for their kids and
for their families.”
For Addison and Hyökyvaara, the transition to international business partners has also taken them in multiple directions. In addition to Finland, they’ve traveled to Texas to meet with and make the deal with CosmoProf, and to trade shows and expos around the country.
“She’s the CEO,” Addison says. “She’s the face of the brand,” taking care of communications and administrative matters, while Addison handles marketing, advertising and website design.
“It could be challenging sometimes,” they acknowledged, “just because we have different opinions. But we can sit down and talk to each other and figure out which way is the right direction to go.”
Addison said his football experience prepared him in many ways for his business career.
“Football gave me that drive,” he said. “Always want to achieve more. Do my best.”
He added: “We’re not the biggest—well, we’re not big at all—but they took a chance on us,” he said of their business partners, which also describes his football career.
And Addison wants to share his experiences with young athletes.
“I want to tell people to really think about the next steps,” he said. “Think about your education. Get your degree. Stay in school. Football’s like your best friend now,” when you’re young. “It’s not going to always be there your whole life. You can’t play football forever.”