Read the Transcript to the Audio: EP30 Building a great brand with Eric Malka


TRANSCRIPT: Serial Entrepreneur: Building a great brand with Eric Malka. Ep.30 (10/1/21)

[00:00:00] Today we have a very interesting session. I don’t know about you, but I use the product, uh, the artist shaving product. It’s phenomenal. It’s uh, probably one of the nicest, um, shaving products I’ve ever used.

[00:00:26] Every year. I get a present for my wife. She restocks all my artist shaving stuff. And today we have the founder. This is exciting. I just want to let you know too, if you haven’t already done. So go to and enter your name in the email list. Last night at 6:00 PM, we had Mr. Wonderful on from shark tank and we had a great time.

[00:00:50] Uh, by the way, we did record that session. So it’s available on, And let me tell you this show, this show is all about finding the secret code that entrepreneurs like Eric have when it comes to starting scaling, exiting, and repeating that over and over again. This is the serial entrepreneur hour every Friday at two o’clock.

[00:01:19] And we’re trying to figure out the secret sauce. What is it that Eric does that makes him so successful over and over again? And that’s what we’re trying to figure out. Today’s all about branding. We have Jeff, who is our moderator and branding expert, uh, along with Olivia. I think she’s not in today, but we have Jeff.

[00:01:37] He’s going to take it away. Thank you Colin and welcome everyone. And welcome Eric. Before we begin, I do want to remind everyone that this show is also being recorded. And if you do raise your hand, when we open it up later for questions and ask Erica question, uh, you are giving us permission to record you.

[00:01:55] And as Colin mentioned, recordings of this show and all episodes of the serial entrepreneur hour can be found, the website for startup club, and you can sign up for our mailing list there and get informed of upcoming shows and special events like yesterday. Having Mr. Wonderful and today having the wonderful Eric Malka.

[00:02:14] So with that, Eric, welcome to serial entrepreneur hour.

[00:02:21] Eric, you can go ahead and unmute yourself and say hello and introduce yourself,

[00:02:29] tap that microphone in the lower right corner. And you should be good to go. So these darn movies go. Here we go. I just gave up my age. Um, hi guys. Thanks for having me like calling Jeff. Thanks for being here, Eric. And I know, um, you know, you’ve got a great origin story, um, with you and your wife, starting the artist shaving together.

[00:02:53] Do you want to just give a little bit of background and then, then we’ll get into some questions for you? Yeah. Um, I’ll give you the short story. Um, met my wife in 94. Um, in Miami, we moved to New York. Uh, broke with, um, with a dream and, uh, stumbled onto the shaving category by coincidence and, uh, sold our car and from our kitchen and in our Chelsea apartment, we started, um, we started the brand and opened a small, tiny shop in the upper east side of Manhattan.

[00:03:31] And, uh, it just took off, eh, we quickly realized that we had stumbled onto a unique, uh, category and that we had an opportunity to turn it into an household brand. So we built it from there. That’s great, Eric, and, and, you know, you started with one, a physical store in Manhattan. Um, when did e-commerce become part of the model was, was e-commerce part of your vision from day one or did that evolve over time?

[00:04:04] Well, we started the art of shaving in 1996. There was no e-commerce. So the time, uh, we were the OJI of direct to consumer, we were retailers. Uh, that’s what direct to consumer men bag. The hint is opening up a brick and mortar store. It’s not until, uh, early 2000, 2001 that we started having our first website, actually a static website that then sell products and a year later having, um, having an e-commerce, um, website and I think 2002.

[00:04:38] So at the time you, you launched e-commerce how many retail locations did you have at that point? In 2002, we had only four locations because we had shifted our focus to distribution, to luxury retailers around the world. And so between 19, uh, between 2001 and 2003, we ramped up about 800 door distributions in the us and abroad.

[00:05:08] And after that, we started to, uh, wrap up our retail stores starting in 2003. Uh, so we were very visible on the shelves of Neiman Marcus Bloomingdale’s and the likes, uh, which drove, uh, internet sells almost instantly, but we weren’t pushing internet itself. They were just another way for consumers to, uh, reorder their favorite products.

[00:05:38] It accounted for about 10% of our overall. So really the, the exposure you had at the retailers was the driver for people to then find you online and, and, um, reorder the products. And I remember when I first started getting artist shaving products, they were from stores like, you know, um, Neiman Marcus and others.

[00:05:59] But then I noticed the store is showing up the retail stores. And one thing that stood out and then I’ll F this is the last question I’ll ask, and then I’ll let others talk. But the one thing that stood out was of course, you had the barber chair in the store and the opportunity for people to get an actual shave, which was a brilliant bit of marketing, especially in a high traffic, uh, location.

[00:06:20] Cause people walking by could see right through the window, someone’s sitting there experiencing the art of shaving, you know, firsthand. Right. Was that something you did from the beginning and your very first store or did that come later on? That came about six months after we started our first store and, uh, From the second store on, we had Barbara chose because it really drove a much more interesting experience and journey for the consumer and drove sales.

[00:06:53] Yeah. Really ma made it stood out. And it’s interesting because you really were ahead of your time because that was an experience in a retail location. And now of course, in today’s world, everything is shifting towards much more experiential, uh, shopping experiences. And, and many would argue that that’s the only future left for physical re retail is, is if you can turn it into an experience since everything else you can literally do online.

[00:07:18] So you’re way ahead of the game. Well, thank you for saying that because, you know, we, we were, um, innovators and in a few different ways and, um, you know, people don’t really give us any credit for it, but yes, we were already realizing that there was no reason to go to a retail store. Like ours, because you could get our products almost anywhere.

[00:07:43] And we had to rethink retail into an experiential journey. We called it a consumer journey. Once they come into the store, all senses have to be, um, um, catered to, and I’ll tell you an anecdote. I mean, you know, we dealt with affluent male consumers, and I remember one guy early on at the register after getting a haircut saying, how do you survive on Madison avenue, charging $40 for a haircut.

[00:08:14] And I was having this conversation with them while I was reading about $400 with the products that he was buying at the same time. So, uh, the answer became evident when I gave him his. So the, the loss leader concept, the lost leader concept was not lost on us. That’s great. Well, let me open it up for, um, Colin or Michelle or anyone on stage to ask questions.

[00:08:40] And while we’re doing that, if you’re listening in the audience and you have a question for Eric, um, please raise your hand and Rachel will bring you up and you’ll have a chance to ask that question, Michelle, go ahead. Yeah. Hi Eric, just so great to have you here today. Um, like, you know, I’m, I’m, I’m so impressed when I think about what you did for the bigger vertical, which is men’s skincare, which by the way, is becoming a massive industry.

[00:09:11] I think I just read a statistics recently. It’s going to be close to a $20 billion industry by the year 2027. What you told me. Was not particularly innovative, but you made the old new again in such an elegant refined way. Like what really was the aha moment for you? What really brought this to your attention?

[00:09:37] And, you know, just a little bit for me, my family actually ran old school barber shops. So I remember very distinctly when you came about, we were so impressed. You know, we were, they were giving like $5 haircuts, but they were, Barbara’s using straight razors, but you, you know, in your wife and your team came along and really changed the paradigm to make it a profitable, you know, sector.

[00:10:03] So I’m really interested in, at what point did you realize I could take this old thing and really like, make it new and glamorous? Like, like what was that moment?

[00:10:18] Well, thank you for that question. That’s a. Okay, you guys are showering me with a lot of, a lot of pride with it’s true that we have ignited, you know, before the art of shaving, uh, men’s grooming was really, uh, shaving cream tube and a throwaway raise where you, you took to the gym. Uh, we gave men permission to groom because we, we made it extremely masculine.

[00:10:47] Uh, I don’t think we had an aha moment. I think my wife and I were just instinctive, uh, and lucky entrepreneur being at the right place at the right time with the right ideas and the right background. Um, when I started discovering these old shaving accoutrements that I was working with, uh, our, our only idea was to open.

[00:11:09] Uh, we said. We probably can get enough money to script up and open a tiny little mom and pop store, uh, and the execution of it. And the development of it is, is what we infused into the category. We brought our own DNA to that, to that category. And I think, um, really by instinct, more than by sheer genius, we, we created something that was really appealing at the perfect time in the past hundred years for the category, uh, when men’s grooming and metro-sexual movement was really starting.

[00:11:51] But our biggest challenge is we did not have a distribution channel. We would do business with the Barneys of the Neiman Marcus of the world. Uh, but they would sell very little merchandise. Uh, and it was very frustrating for us because we already had two stores. You know, one of them was doing more than a million dollars a year in revenue.

[00:12:12] So we knew the demand was there. And that really drove us to, uh, focus on driving our own, um, retail concept. And just to back up a little bit, really the magic behind the art of shaving was a combination of my wife’s, um, impeccable taste for luxury packaging and, and branding and our mutual love for natural health and wellness.

[00:12:39] So all of the art of shaving products were made with the most natural ingredients and essential oils, which really was also something very, very novel, not only for men, but in the industry as a whole, which we now know as the clean industry, but way, way back in the mid nineties. And I’m getting off subject from your questions.

[00:13:01] We started to have our blacklists. We don’t use the. Chemicals in our products, we use only botanical ingredients. Uh, so the aha moment, I think, you know, was a work in progress. We, we immediately within, I think within three months we realized that we had inadvertently stumbled onto something that was much bigger than we set out to build.

[00:13:26] Uh, and that’s when we really started to look at it and say, how do we turn this into a brand? How do we create an offering? We don’t want, you know, we don’t want to just be a multi-brand retailer with a cool, uh, service concept. We want to become a household brand. So we started creating a line of, uh, uh, of products.

[00:13:48] So it was really a work in progress to, uh, to come into our own because, you know, from selling a car in 1996 to selling the company to Procter and gamble in 2008, um, that was quite a journey, uh, But there was not that one single aha moment. And to this day, my wife and I are building more brands and this is the same process.

[00:14:11] We just, you know, it’s just something we do instinctively. We basically build things that we wish we, we had access to in the marketplace that we can’t find. Let me ask a question, Eric, is it, I mean, it’s phenomenal what you created here and all your other projects are amazing as well, but how do you think about it before you start these businesses?

[00:14:35] Was it 1996? Were you thinking, you know, I could create this brand and, and, and then you built a company around it or did you sort of build a company and, and create the brand later? Yeah, the way we did it back then is not the way we’ve been doing it ever since. Uh, uh, back then, w you know, my wife was 22 years old.

[00:14:58] I was 28 years old. I had. Close the, uh, business that that was not successful. Um, and really we were thinking about creating a tiny little business, a little mom and pop shop where we could sell products that I have access to from, from England and Europe. And, uh, we started to develop our skills, uh, at the art of shaving.

[00:15:29] And this is where we discovered our own individual talents and, uh, our ability to create, uh, this grind that we became brand builders. Uh, today, when we sit down to create a brand, um, we really put pen to paper thinking, how do we create an iconic brand? You know, it’s almost impossible to create an iconic brand, but it is the mindset that we use to, uh, to develop.

[00:16:01] We start with a very, very big vision and iconic vision. Uh, but back then we were too naive. You know, we were, we were, we had very good instincts. We now realize that, uh, and we had a lot of luck. Um, and with those two things, we were able to create something that allowed us to have a platform, to develop our brand building skills, to create a real brand, to, uh, scale it and eventually, um, sell it.

[00:16:38] So it was a very different time for us. Yeah, but, um, you’ve done a great job. And like you said, the instincts were right. And I think one of the things that a great brand needs is consistency. And I think the artist shaving did a great job of keeping that consistency of wanting, you know, organic natural products throughout.

[00:17:02] I still have the wooden, um, shaving. So bowls, you know, so when everyone else was selling, um, you know, uh, plastic and metal soap bowls, you came out with these beautiful shaving bowls that were made of wood and you put the sandalwood soap in it and you had the natural hairbrush and, and all of a sudden shaving became fun.

[00:17:25] It became something interesting instead of a chore you did every day. Um, so that all tied into building that, that iconic brand, um, I have other questions, but let’s go to Sasha, Sasha, welcome to the serial entrepreneur hour. Did you have a question for Eric? Thank you. Yes, I’m thrilled to be here, Eric.

[00:17:43] It’s so lovely to hear you describe the, um, the senses and how you incorporated the senses into building a brand. And I think in this time it might be unpopular. I’m in marketing, alongside Jeffery. So pardon me for being crazy here, but in this time of performance and growth and this advertising silo that we’re really struck down and I’d love to have you talk a little bit about, more about the deepening of the brand storytelling and they ascetic and design value that you shaped the art of shaving with, because I think that’s what we recall.

[00:18:17] And that was what, when I first entered your store was so intriguing and exciting to me, it was the engagement of the senses. And I think that still has a value even as we eventually into the metaverse. So I’d love to hear your sentiments on the state of things. Now we’re just having. Began to incorporate the senses either naive at later, or just as you continued love to hear more about that.

[00:18:39] Thank you. Yeah, sure. Thanks for that. Uh, well, we’ve just launched, uh, our, our, our new brand called the ingredients wellness nine months ago. And, um, you know, in the nineties and early 2000, we were trying to create a, um, a sensorial experience for the consumer because we were not digital yet. So it was about touching, smelling, hearing, feeling, you know, transporting you into a different era and so forth.

[00:19:17] But at the core of every iconic brand is a purpose. And, um, in, in our latest brand, um, we’re extremely purpose driven. It’s all about. Promoting, you know, uh, empowering consumers to reduce toxicity in their daily lives, in pursuit of optimal wellness to lead a natural lifestyle, if you will. So, um, times have changed, but there’s some, um, elements, uh, that, that still stayed true to this day.

[00:19:54] Um, I think that consumers today, um, really want to connect emotionally as they are. They have always connected emotionally with brands. I mean, if you want to create an iconic brand, you need to have an emotional connection. And that’s where the purpose is so important. Not only for your consumers to, to, uh, To build a community around you, but also your employees, your vendors, everyone, you know, uh, we talk a lot about culture at EO and in business in general, but, um, I call it just cult.

[00:20:35] Um, every, every company has a culture, whether you want to or not, but we always created cult like following, um, And, and that is done primarily by having a purpose greater than just selling products for making profits. It has to go much beyond that. And my wife and I have always been extremely passionate about natural health and wellness and, uh, through our own experiences, we’ve detoxified our lives, uh, to achieve a higher level of health.

[00:21:11] And that’s always been our driving principle behind every company that we build. We, we don’t want to sell products. We want to improve people’s lives and primarily, um, help them improve, um, their health. So whether it is by making them happy with the environment, having beautiful music, educating them with great content.

[00:21:34] Uh, providing them with products that are free of toxic chemicals. All of these things are, um, in my opinion, a sensory journey in many ways that can translate from the physical world into the digital world, uh, today. Uh, for example, one of the, well, I’ll leave it at that unless you have a follow up, I’ll give the example.

[00:22:03] Well, one of the very innovative thing we’re doing with ingredients wellness is where the first personal care brand to actually disclose our exact formulation on the front of the bottle. This has never been done before because most brands consider that to be proprietary secrets of, of the company. Um, so by doing that, uh, we’re creating.

[00:22:28] A relationship with that customer based on transparency. And if you think about every relationship that you can have in the world, whether it’s with a loved one or intimate relationship, transparency is at the, is the, is the building block of these relationships, right? Uh, if you have something to hide, you know, there’s no honesty, there’s no intimacy.

[00:22:53] This is where our brand ingredients starts by saying to the world. Um, we have no secrets. What you see is what you get we’re fully transparent and all we care about is your well-being and your best interest. So the world is changing, uh, but, but Brendan, Brendan principals, um, are the same. They really are focused on a purpose and on, um, The wellbeing of your customers and developing this emotional relationship.

[00:23:25] And at the art of shaving, we were very, very, very fortunate. And we realized this after a couple of years, uh, how strong the emotional connection was between shaving and men. Uh, first of all, it is the, one of the only thing that separates men from women as an act, right, shaving your face is this is a solely masculine thing.

[00:23:49] And what we kept hearing in our stores, they in day out, because the first two years, my wife and I were physically in the store, catering to consumers is that, um, we hear stories. Oh, last time I had a straight razor shave was a day of my wedding, 40 years ago. Oh. I remember my grandfather taking me to the barbershop.

[00:24:09] Oh, you know, my uncle was a barber in Brooklyn. Oh. You know, all day long we heard. And these are emotional stories as you can get. So. Uh, that was a hugely important factor that we discovered to have that emotional connection between your brand and the consumer. And I think even in the digital age, If you focus on that emotional connection and you treat your brand like your person and you treat your customer like the loved one, then you can create an emotional relationship with that customer.

[00:24:46] And that’s really the foundation of an iconic brand. Yeah. That that’s, um, really great Eric and a great question, Sasha, because I think at the heart of it, that transparency, that emotional connection creates trust. And at the end of the day, People want to deal with a brand. They trust they want to have a trusted brand.

[00:25:06] And I think that’s probably, as you alluded to Eric more important today than ever before, you have all these micro brands now where we’re almost anyone can, can whip up a Shopify site, find some products to resell and sort of create this brand. But a lot of them be by nature of being a micro micro brand in that regard don’t have that trust.

[00:25:27] They don’t have that level of transparency. They don’t have, uh, they haven’t put the effort in to create that emotional connection you’re talking about. They’re just out there to sell a product, as you said earlier, as opposed to, um, really creating that connection, creating that trust. So I think it’s very relevant to everything you said.

[00:25:46] Yeah. Thank you. Right. We feel very strongly about that and that’s where it starts. It doesn’t start with what are we going to send? Who are we going to sell it to how much money we’re going to make? How are we going to fund it? It starts with what is it that the consumer needs? What’s their pain point right now for us, what we realized as our pain point, because we are a customer and we’re catering to ourselves thinking that there are many people like us out there.

[00:26:12] The pain point is that we’re bombarded with petrochemicals in our daily lives and it is making us sick. Um, and that is a huge pain point that we’re addressing. So our starting point is completely slow, selfless. It’s completely about the consumer wellbeing, the best interest, and, uh, And, and, and fairness, uh, uh, in how we deal with them and that doesn’t prevent you from doing well, by the way, you can make a lot of money doing good out there.

[00:26:50] Uh, it’s great, Eric, I don’t think we often hear, uh, brands refer to themselves as selfless. So I think that that’s a great, a great word in that association, Stacy, welcome to the serial entrepreneur hour. Did you have a question for Eric? Yes, I do. And, uh, first, just a really big shout out to the moderators in the room, um, for bringing Eric and the art of shaving.

[00:27:14] I mean, what a disruptive of course, in a good way. And I tonic brand and Eric, it’s so nice to meet you. And, um, of course, um, branding marketing is, is my profession. And I’m just wondering and forgive me because I came in a little late to the room if this was already discussed, but the name itself. The art of shaving, you know, because again, um, my self, my, my, my company, I run an agency, we have named a lot of brands.

[00:27:47] And when I start to think about the name, the art of shaving, it was like, wow, well, shaving is really like an art and a science. And so I just wanted to get into your, into your mindset a little bit. And how you came up with the name. Well, um, yeah, it’s a cool story. Uh, we were already involved with the shaving industry, but, uh, we lived in Chelsea on 23rd street, then behind our house every weekend was the flea markets of antique dealers.

[00:28:19] If you’re from the city, you may remember them. I don’t know if they’re still around and my wife and I used to love, love going there every weekend and picking up this and that. And one day we found. Somewhat that sell sold these old shaving razors and you know, old Gillette things. And, uh, we started buying some of them and there was a book there, a book on shaving that was written in the 18 hundreds to teach men, um, how to, how to shape, because, uh, you know, in the old days you had, if you were wealthy, you had your valet shave you.

[00:28:59] If you were poor, you had your wife. Uh Shavey basically. So this book was entitled the art of shaving, and we thought it was a great, a great name to adopt for, for our new store. So that’s how, that’s how we came up. I love it. Well, it, it works. It’s all good. And just one other quick, follow-up question, Eric.

[00:29:22] Um, I, I believe you’re, um, the art or shaving is registered. Did you apply for, for the registration or is a PNG? Oh no, we did. Uh, first thing we did, uh, I’m, I’m a nightmare, you know, every trademark I’ve ever filed with my lawyer, he told me this will never go through. He’s never once not said that, uh, this is too descriptive.

[00:29:50] It’s never going to go through. So yes, we absolutely, you know, when we sold our company, I think 95% of the price, uh, was about that trademark and what it represented. Uh, so yes, we filed that trademark, both in the us as well as abroad, um, very early. No, it’s funny because we’ve been told the same with

[00:30:15] Jeff and I have been told that we cannot trademark it. Well, you know what? the Supreme court ruled you can trademark it. And, uh, we’re gonna try, we’re gonna try, we’ll see how it goes. Well, I got a, I got a trademark for the word ingredients, so that’s, I don’t know how lucky I was with that one, but, uh, we got it.

[00:30:36] Yeah. I noticed that when I visited ingredients wellness, that that was pretty, pretty remarkable. And, um, um, important to, again, building that iconic brand, you know, you want to own every aspect of it and having the trademark, uh, having the right name is, is clearly an important part of it. Stacy. Thanks for bringing that up.

[00:30:55] Uh, Peter, welcome to the serial entrepreneur hour. Do you have a question for Eric? Yes. Hello everybody. Hi, Eric. Um, have I heard you saying, um, I was lucky we were lucky. Right when you were starting up. Um, I’m just curious if you were lucky ones then, or you’re our lucky steel and you’ve been lucky your whole life.

[00:31:21] And if you can elaborate however you can on this topic. Yeah, I truly believe, I mean, I don’t understand luck as, as much as the next guy. Um, we don’t know where it comes from, whether we create luck or it just happens to us. Uh, I’ve been very lucky. I’ve been, I’ve been blessed in so many ways. Uh, I have so many examples of things.

[00:31:48] Uh, I was lucky about that. Had nothing to do with, with, uh, any kind of, uh, intelligence or resources. You know, when we opened our second store on Madison avenue, we didn’t realize we were across the streets from the, uh, headquarters of, um, of that publishing house that has all the greatest magazines in the world.

[00:32:14] Um, I, I forget the name, you know, print magazines, but they used to, these two have 50, you know, magazines under one roof, uh, Condit hats. So that was extremely lucky. Every day we had the editors of every magazine you’ve you would ever want to be in a walk in front of our store. Um, you know, and we got so much press on that.

[00:32:43] That was extremely lucky. Um, Two years. You know, when I, when I presented the brand to the president of Neiman Marcus in 1998, uh, he didn’t say a word for 30 minutes. And then he turned to, you know, when I finished my presentation turned to his team and he said, you guys probably don’t know this, but my, uh, grandfather was a barber, you know, game over, you know, that was the end of that.

[00:33:09] Uh, th there was so many situations that I felt, uh, we were extremely blessed. I’m blessed with, um, being, being asked to, um, give my review of the new razor P and G was launching as, as part of their Gillette, um, acquisition. And that was on CNN talking about the fusion razor before it launched in the marketplace then, and the group president at P and G was like, who’s this guy, we should go talk.

[00:33:41] You know, that became a whole, a whole window that opened to the world. So, and even today we feel, you know, we continue to have a lot of blessings. I think, I think we can attract luck by, by doing certain things. But, um, you know, I still don’t understand how that happens. I just, uh, I’m very grateful for, uh, and also conscious that lock is the fifth element that you don’t control in, um, in creating an iconic brand, you know, you can control the idea, the execution, the funding, um, you know, all the elements you need to create a successful company, but you just do not control that element.

[00:34:29] Some people call it timing, some people call it luck. Um, but that’s the one thing we don’t control. That is an essential part of, of, uh, building a great. Hey, Eric, you brought it up the word PR did you hire a PR firm? Um, and if you did, what, what point in the branding’s brand’s development did you hire that firm?

[00:34:52] Well, about six months into our first door, uh, I knew a barber from England that came to the U S once in a while, did events at Bergdorf Goodman. And I said, Hey, why don’t you do a day at my store? We’ll we’ll buy a mentee barber chair and you can shape customers. We’ll do an event. We have about 400 names in our database.

[00:35:15] We’ll send out invitations. And my wife designed a little postcard and we said, you know, he used to be the barber to John majors, the, the prime minister of England and Elsa did an obscure member of the Royal family. So we said Barbara to the Royal family and to the prime minister of England is coming to our store.

[00:35:39] And we literally at a 400 cards, we sent out, we received a hundred appointments. So we extended the event for four days. And one of the postcard landed on a young PR executive who came to see us and said, I love this thing. I want to promote you. And he said, no, we have no money whatsoever. She said, I’ll do it for free.

[00:36:03] And if I do a good job, uh, you can hire me said, uh, yeah, that’s a great idea. We’ll take that deal. Um, and the event was such a success. We had CNN, uh, do a three minute spot on us. We had a New York time articles in the Sunday time, almost two pages long. Um, So many magazines, Forbes, so many magazines wrote about us.

[00:36:29] So it was a humongous success, but just the, just the, a New York times article in the Sunday Metro section in 1997, uh, turn our store from doing, you know, a few hundred dollars on a Monday to doing close to $10,000. The day after the article came out then, and that, and that, um, level of sales lasted for three months, people were calling us from all over the world to order products.

[00:37:02] We had a line outside our little store and we realized, uh, we realized that we were, we were agreeing. Brand for PR this was a great thing people wanted to talk about. So from that point on, we hired an agency and we never looked back. We had probably 10,000 mentions or articles written about us at the art of shaving over 10 years.

[00:37:26] And it was really our marketing budget. We didn’t have, you know, uh, we didn’t have money to buy a page in GQ magazine or to put billboards in subways or even television ads. So PR was our way to get the word out and it was a driving force, uh, behind the artist, shady marketing. That’s great. And thank you for bringing that up.

[00:37:49] Colin, because PR I think isn’t traditional PR that you’re talking about using PR to get earned media, not paid media is in some respects, a lost art and an underutilized benefit for businesses, especially building a brand. So clearly you were able to leverage. Yeah. And when we launched ingredients, we immediately hired RPR from which we’d been working with for the last 20 years.

[00:38:15] And, uh, you know, we leveraged it in a different way this time because we really wanted to announce ourselves to the industry more than to the consumers. So it was hugely important to get on the map and to, and to get everyone out there knowing that we’re here and starting the conversation with us. And he really, you know, propelled us forward.

[00:38:41] We’re now talking to distributors around the world, signing contracts, talking to every retailers you can think of in the U S and PR was a real catalyst for, for achieving that. And the young woman who worked for free that she got hired, she did get hired. And, uh, eventually, uh, with us and other clients, she opened her own PR firm and became very successful.

[00:39:06] That’s great. So you’re a part of her success as well. Well, I have a few more questions, but I want to get to chief throw. Who’s been waiting very patiently. Good to see you. Do you have a question for Eric? Thanks, Jeffrey. I appreciate that as nice to talk to you, Eric. Um, this is a great discussion because I think that, you know, for myself, someone who’s really into audio branding and voice skills is great to see your story from beginning to where you are now.

[00:39:33] So thanks for sharing that. Um, I’m curious, actually, um, when you started your journey, how did you go about validating your idea and what you were doing given that you have other competitors who may not be doing your exact same product, but they’re trying to also, um, get the same customer. Are you talking about the art of shaving or, oh yeah, we, we’re not that sophisticated, but we did learn a great lesson from that.

[00:40:05] Uh, when we were thinking about open that little store on 62nd street, we, we spoke to people around us. You know, my father-in-law, uh, was a businessman, uh, uh, a friend of ours who had a restaurant right across the street from that location. And everybody told us not to do it. Uh, so, you know, we were not sophisticated like that.

[00:40:29] We were not validating, um, the idea, uh, formally with focus groups or anything like that. But we did ask people, we respected around us and it led us to one of our principles, which is, uh, never ask for people’s opinions about our business endeavors. Um, what we did do, uh, What we didn’t do at the art of shaving early on was probably the best thing we ever did, which is if you were to do focus groups in 1996 with a group of men and ask them what they wanted from a shade brand, they would tell you the opposite of what we did.

[00:41:18] And if I had any experience, if I had the experience I have now back then, I would have probably failed miserably. The fact that we had no clue that we were outsiders, that we were young, that we really broke all the rules without even realizing it recreated a very complicated four step system, uh, with glass bottles and natural ingredients and, and lavender sense and, you know, shaving brush isn’t fancy razors and expensive stuff and retail stores.

[00:41:53] I mean, it was suicidal if you think about it from a rational industry professional point of view. So we did the exact opposite. And it turned out pretty well. Yeah. That’s such a classic entrepreneur story that we hear again and again, you know, I think it was Henry Ford. Right. Who said, if he asked customers, you know, what they’d want, they, they would’ve said a faster horse.

[00:42:18] Right. They wouldn’t have wanted a car. Exactly. Yeah. So that’s great. Thank you for sharing that. Um, Johan welcome to the serial entrepreneur hour. Did you have a question for Eric? Yeah, I did take your, thank you. Um, it’s nice to meet you, Eric. I actually, um, Ashley worked for Nike communications and um, in 2015 and I read shaving, um, for a couple of months, uh, um, before moving to Miami.

[00:42:45] So it was, uh, it was very exciting and I knew the brand in and out. Um, um, and just launching it and introducing it to, um, to influencers. I was sort of like in charge of a lot of like the social media marketing and kind of like the influence. Um, engagement. Um, that was really, really exciting. This it’s nice to hear your voice and know who’s the man behind the brand.

[00:43:08] Um, so my question is, um, um, basically launching or basically putting together the business lead for my own wellness brand and I’m having a hard time, just kinda like there’s a lot that I want to do. Um, I’ve been, you know, kind of like jumping into the whole kind of like breath work and meditation. And I know that there’s a lot of products out there.

[00:43:30] Um, Gwyneth Paltrow sort of like does this whole, like, you know, she partnered herself with other brands and kind of like promotes them. And I guess it’s kind of like called commission-based marketing. Um, so you’re basically generating return of investment from partnering up with other companies. Um, but I also want to.

[00:43:49] Share the wisdom and kind of like the experience that I’ve had with like breath work and meditation, and just kind of like studying, you know, just like on society in general. So it’s this whole sort of like wellness brand that, um, there’s a lot that I want to do. And I just kinda wanted to get your input on like, you know, how, you know, someone who’s so successful, you know, can narrow it down.

[00:44:15] You know, maybe these are some of the practices that I did, you know? Um, so yeah. Hi. Hi John. Nice to meet you. Um, yeah, I mean, you’re, you’re, you’re spot on. I mean, anxiety, anxiety is a huge, huge issue and, um, wellness is, is, is the business I’m in, uh, from a different angle. Uh, but, uh, Anxiety and other, you know, wellbeing, um, issues are really, really relevant today.

[00:44:52] And I think that entrepreneurs that, uh, get on board with wellness are going to be part of a mega mega industry. Um, it’s a very broad question you asked me, but you know, one thing I learned with the art of shaving is, you know, I had just came out of a failure. I lost everything I had made up to that point.

[00:45:16] And what I realized is that my ambitions and my big visions for myself and my career were overwhelming. So it’s like thinking about climbing the Himalayas in 30 minutes or less. I mean, that is extremely impossible. Uh, that’s how I felt. And when I changed my mindset, um, to thinking. Very small. I started realizing that philosophy I have, which I tell entrepreneurialism, which is, uh, start small to grow big, not think small, but start small to grow big.

[00:46:00] It’s all about being able to, um, to manage that start. And for me, it was opening a tiny little store on the upper east side, a tiny, tiny little shop, 200 square feet by selling my car and investing $15,000 and look what it turned out to become. So, you know, don’t be afraid to start with tiny, tiny steps.

[00:46:25] Uh, you’ll be surprised where that leads you. Thank you. Thank you. I appreciate it. Uh that’s that’s great advice, Eric. I had one question too, before we get to ed ed there. So when you think about your experience with the artist shaving, it’s kind of a two-sided. What’s one thing from the art of shaving that you made sure.

[00:46:46] A hundred percent you also wanted to do with ingredients. And conversely, what’s the one thing you, you learn to experience with our artist shaving that you absolutely positively wanted to make sure you didn’t do with ingredients. Yeah. I mean, it’s very clear. Um, we, uh, with ingredients, we are so purpose driven.

[00:47:10] We are really looking to have a social impact. Uh, we want to shift the way the industry operates and we want to minimize or eliminate petrochemicals from personal care products. Uh, so that’s one thing we’ve learned from, um, the art of shaving is that we want to go full tilt with our purpose and our philosophy.

[00:47:36] What we did learn the art of shaving. We were the most vertical company in the industry. I think we, we had our own laboratory in our offices, in Miami, where we made our formulas and we sold those formulas in our own brick and mortar scores that we operated. We were completely vertical. There was absolutely zero outsourcing.

[00:48:01] I had hundreds of employees all over the country and with ingredients, we said, we want to build a, you know, we want to build a hundred million dollar brand with five employees or less. And we want to outsource, automate, you know, the technology is obviously available today that it wasn’t in those days, but we really wanted to have an efficient cash flow business in the sense that, uh, by outsourcing and, uh, automating everything we could really.

[00:48:35] Scale rapidly or slow down when, when the need need be, and really, uh, not have a heavy structure, uh, internally. That’s interesting. Cause with, with that in mind, when, when you’re doing everything internally, aside from the challenges that has, it does give you complete control. So you were a hundred percent in control of the quality of the products and everything else as you move to this new model of, of, of spreading out and outsourcing more, is it a challenge or how do you address the challenge of still maintaining the level of quality and control, um, that you want to have over your products?

[00:49:16] Well, it’s, it’s simple. We only control and do internally what we do better than the rest of the world. Everything else we outsource the people that do it better than us and that worry about it so that we can continue to do the things we do. Really really well. And we still do our formulation in house.

[00:49:40] We control, you know, our, our, our control over the quality of the product is key. And today we really were in a different place in our career. And we realized with the art of shaving, that when you really front load the work, when you win the war before you fight it, when you, when you really put everything you have at creating the best, most compelling value proposition of a brand before you launch, you know, chances are, you’re going to have to hang on to the back of the car.

[00:50:14] It’s going to be dragging you. Whereas if you don’t do that, you might find yourself pulling that weight, um, of that car on your shoulders. Uh, so we control the factors right now that we do extremely well and that are essentially. To, um, to making everything else about building a business simpler or less relevant in the future.

[00:50:45] That’s great. And, and I think the point you make there, you know, relates to, and as an entrepreneur, it’s important to be self-aware to be able to recognize what are those things that you can do better than anyone else. Um, so you know how to prioritize what you outsource. So that, that’s a great lesson in that.

[00:51:01] Uh, we’ve got a few minutes left before we finish up. So I want to give ed a chance to ask his question. Now, just from your profile picture at, I have a feeling you have some insights or interest in the shaving industry. So what’s your question for. Hey, thanks, Jeff. Appreciate it. Um, and thanks startup club for putting this together and Eric, thank you very much.

[00:51:23] We never met, but, uh, the art of brand story, um, and brand, and, you know, inspired me to open up a small chain of luxury barbershops called razor bar. Uh, so that’s what Jeff was reacting to our logo there. So again, thanks for that inspiration, Eric. Uh, you’re very welcome. Yep. The question is, could you describe a little more the customer portrait, um, of like the ideal, the ideal customer for the artist shaving brand, you know, elaborate a little bit on.

[00:51:54] Um, maybe not so much demographics, but even behavioral, behavioral, and attitudinal, uh, just really in depth on customer portrait and maybe how that’s evolved over time. Yeah. I, it definitely evolved that I exited the art of shaving at a pivotal time in that evolution, by the way, when the, in 2010, the, uh, hipster movement started with, you know, beard fashions, which was, um, a detriment to brands like Gillette and the art of shaving.

[00:52:28] Um, our customer was we knew our customer well, uh, because we catered to him from day one, we had our own laboratory, our stores were laboratory where we’re 10, 15 guys came in every single day and they all spoke. Verbiage, right. They were all psychographically in a very similar, uh, in our case, we catered to a more traditional guy.

[00:52:59] And sometimes that meant a 17 year old high school, or that likes to wear a tie to school. Sometimes it was a nine year old guy sometimes, you know, across across many, many demographics. You know, I remember, you know, being on Madison avenue store and the bus that came by Madison avenue. I remember one day he just slammed his brake in front of the store, opened the door and the driver ran into the store, picked up his favorite shaving cream, paid for it.

[00:53:30] Really good clan, went back into the store, into the bus and drove off. Uh, so, you know, we, we consider ourselves an affordable luxury, but we really catered to a guy that really took pleasure. First of all, we catered to someone. I’m not going to say that enjoy shaving because most men did not, but really had to, you know, they were in a position where they have to shape for their jobs today.

[00:53:55] The world has changed considerably in that regard. But back then, um, if you worked as a professional and in many jobs, it was considered appropriate to shave. So we dealt with a more conservative, uh, what we call the gentlemen and a gentlemen, wouldn’t leave the house with the five o’clock shadow. Like I would, you know, um, myself.

[00:54:21] Uh, so that was a little bit the, the profile. Um, of course, you know, we catered to a more affluent consumer most of the time, but as I said, um, almost anyone can afford $20 shaving cream, right. You don’t have, you know, as we, as we used to say back then as being an aspirational brand, um, You may not be able to drive this, the Ferrari that the wealthy guy drives, but you can buy the same shaving cream he uses.

[00:54:54] Right. So, um, it was really what we really discovered with the artist shaving, um, after we sold because P and G explained it to us through heavy research about what we had created was that we had taken a ritual and, um, and rituals, you know, when we talk about, uh, creating a brand, um, being able to own and to create experience around that ritual for men is it goes back to the caveman, um, uh, brain, right?

[00:55:34] Uh, so. We created an experience where guys took some pleasure in the morning to take care of themselves by, by having that massaging that oil and taking that, that beautiful, expensive brush they bought and whipping up that ladder and putting it on their face and then gliding that razor and, you know, using these, uh, the, the steam in the shower, you know, that whole experience, the aftershave, the smells, the feeling, uh, this is something that guys longed for, that they were not given permission to really do.

[00:56:12] And, and this is where the magic happened. That’s where the connection happened between that very masculine ritual and the experiential side of our, of our shading system. What a, what a fantastic way to end this discussion, Eric. I mean, really ed, thank you for that question. Cause you’re really tapped in to what’s at the core of, of, of the success of this brand.

[00:56:40] And if you’re thinking about building an iconic brand, how can you, you know, what can you own that, that really dives deep into our DNA, into rituals, into history. I love, I love that Eric and I really want to thank you for taking the time to speak with us this afternoon. And uh, I want to thank everyone who came on stage and asked Eric any questions, Eric, any final remarks you want to mention before I hand it off to Colin to kind of close this out?

[00:57:09] No, thank you for having me. I’ve done a lot of podcasts. This is one of the most fun ones I’ve done and the most interesting one and really appreciate you having me on. Thank you, Eric. We really appreciate it. There’s a lot of nuggets in here. I encourage everyone to listen to the recording when it’s posted over at start-up dot club, because you’ll want to take more notes and pull out some of the nuggets that, um, Eric shared with us today.

[00:57:33] Colin, do you want to take us out? Yeah. Well, this is what it’s all about. It’s all about listening and learning from other serial entrepreneurs. I mean, today was just amazing. And we learned about, you know, being a little bit edgy and, you know, with the, with the, uh, barbershop chairs, we learned about, you know, I like when you said build an iconic brand before you launched now, like think of it as an iconic brand before your launch, which was different than your approach at art of shaving, um, transporting your customer to a different era.

[00:58:05] Mixing this idea of mixing sensory with branding is what sounds like a shaving right now. My friends. Um, to put your idea out there, absolute transparency. Uh, I thought that was interesting with this ingredients, wellness focusing, you know, on the customer, uh, trademarking PR events, 10,000 articles. My gosh, we learned a lot today and you also said something which is similar to what our topic is next week on serial entrepreneur hour at two o’clock next Friday, you said start small to grow big.

[00:58:45] My daughter has been struggling with this idea of getting her startup off the ground. So this is next. Week’s all about from idea to startup. Let’s just do it. Let’s just get it off the ground. Let’s just launch it. What does it take? What’s the mentality that we have to have as entrepreneurs to just get that idea to launch that’s next week.

[00:59:07] Thank you everyone. Thank you again, everyone. Eric. Thanks so much. We really appreciate your sharing with us today. 


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