Redheaded alumnae make a splash on “Shark Tank”

Adrienne Vendetti Hodges, B.B.A. ’09, and Stephanie Vendetti Thomas, B.B.A. ’11, share the inspiration behind their highly successful business.
Redheaded alumnae make a splash on “Shark Tank”
Adrienne Vendetti Hodges, left, and Stephanie Vendetti Thomas. Photo: How to be a Redhead

Long before sisters Adrienne Vendetti Hodges, B.B.A. ’09, and Stephanie Vendetti Thomas, B.B.A. ’11, were successful entrepreneurs taking the beauty world by storm with their innovative line of products specifically marketed to fellow redheads, they were two young girls growing up in Providence, Rhode Island, who looked up to their grandmother and her beautiful red hair.

“Our grandmother was a redhead who loved makeup,” Stephanie said. “Adrienne and I have vivid memories of watching our Nana at the kitchen table, curling her long lashes and carefully applying her dark mascara.”

Their grandmother became a role model to them in all things beauty and in how to be a redhead. Still, the sisters found it challenging to rock their red hair and fair features.

Stephanie recalls: “I remember always struggling to find a concealer that was light enough for my complexion or brow products to fill in my brows; meanwhile, Adrienne would test out new products only to break out really, really badly.”

Even though the sisters shared their frustrations around makeup, they differed in how they related to their fiery features.

“I always loved my red hair,” Adrienne said, “but Stephanie had a hard time embracing it.”

“I think growing up that I just wanted to fit in,” Stephanie said. “And if all my friends could lay out on the beach and tan, I couldn’t change the fact that I would just sunburn, but I felt that if I could change my hair, maybe people wouldn’t as easily notice that I stood out.”

Stephanie began bleaching her hair blonde beginning in middle school and continued until her sophomore year of college.

“I was trying to hide who I was,” Stephanie said reflecting on that period of her life.

It wasn’t until the sisters attended the University of Miami, their father’s alma mater, that they came into their own as redheads and as businesswomen.

“The University of Miami opened our eyes, I think, to the world,” Adrienne said.

For Stephanie, the diversity on campus helped her to realize the beauty of being different.

“I remember walking to class hearing different languages being spoken all around me and it really made me feel that uniqueness is something to embrace,” Stephanie said. “I came to college bleaching my hair and not really knowing who I was, but I think the beauty of the U is that it helped me to realize that it’s cool to be different.”

Adrienne found the culture at the University inspiring as a budding entrepreneur.

“I remember being surrounded by people who were looking to start their own businesses and realizing it’s not so out of the ordinary to just start up a company,” Adrienne said. “Being at the U really pushed us to start our own business.”

Stephanie agreed, adding: “I think that what makes the U special is that you have a chance to think outside the box, and no one thinks you’re crazy.”

The sisters put their heads together and determined to create an empowering space for redheads, celebrating their uniqueness and catering to their needs.

In 2011, they launched the website How to be a Redhead (H2BAR) as a place for redheads to find community, guidance, and beauty products specifically for redheads.

“We created H2BAR so that redheads wouldn't have to go through what we did growing up, wasting all this money on products that won’t work for you or your features,” Stephanie said.

In February 2024, the Vendetti sisters brought H2BAR to ABC’s “Shark Tank,” the hit television show in which entrepreneurs deliver business pitches to a panel of five potential investors. 

Two sharks, Mark Cuban and Kevin O’Leary, wanted to invest in H2BAR, but in the end the sisters accepted Cuban’s offer of $350,000 for 15 percent equity.

Stephanie said that watching their episode air on TV felt surreal, adding:

“We definitely teared up watching our episode. It just felt really validating. Some people said our idea to start a beauty brand for redheads was crazy, but no one on “Shark Tank” thought we were crazy. They really loved and understood our idea.”

“We often hear people say that catering to redheads must be a small market, but it’s actually a huge market, representing millions of people,” Adrienne said. “We are really excited to prove that this is a market worth investing in.”

They intend to use the investment to expand their audiences, embracing redheads of all genders. Their dream is to see their line represented at major beauty stores like Sephora and Ulta.

For now, they are content engaging with their audience directly through their website, where it’s not uncommon to receive thank you letters nestled among all their orders.

“Every day we receive emails thanking us, whether it be from moms for helping their daughters to love their hair or from the customers who are grateful to have finally found a product that works,” Adrienne said. “It makes us feel proud of what we’ve created, because at the end of the day we created our business to help people to feel empowered, confident, and beautiful.”

Looking back, they would offer their younger selves this advice:

Stephanie would tell herself: “Everyone is unique and special in their own way, and that is actually our greatest blessing. You were given this uniqueness, so embrace it.”

Adrienne would say: “Life is too short to worry about what others think of you or to waste your time doing something that you don't enjoy, so pursue your passions and follow your dreams. At the end of my life, I want to be able to look back and say I did what I wanted and I gave it my all.”

To see Adrienne and Stephanie on “Shark Tank,” stream their episode (Season 15, Episode 14) on Hulu, ABC, and Disney Plus.