Andy Katz-Mayfield earned an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business in 2011. Jeff Raider graduated from the Wharton School of Business in 2010. They first met as interns at Bain and Company – the beginning of a very strong friendship. As is the case with countless friends with the entrepreneurial spirit, they shared an interest in one day starting a company together.
Jeff went on to be a co-founder of Warby Parker in 2010, a company selling vintage inspired prescription glasses at a value price. Selling online and in a limited number of showrooms throughout the U.S. and Canada, that company was valued at $1.2 billion by 2015.
Much like Warby Parker, the friendship between Andy and Jeff continued to grow. Together, they continued to discuss business opportunities. Before long, their interest began to center on the men’s grooming industry. This was driven in part by unsatisfactory personal experiences with the limited choices and poor performance of razors available at retail. They saw an opportunity and turned their focus to learning everything they could about the shaving and razor business.
What they discovered was opportunity – the opportunity to disrupt the industry paradigm by selling high-quality razors, with a user-friendly design at a better price than the two industry leaders. The new business model was to sell online rather than attempting to compete with the industry giants at retail.
The first order of business, literally, was to source the best blade available. That search brought the two to the German village of Eisfeld, home to the Feintechnik, a company which had been manufacturing razor blades since 1922. The factory owners were hesitant to do business with two Americans with big dreams and very little backing.
Andy and Jeff were persistent if nothing else. Eventually they were able to strike a deal for the factory to produce blades to their specifications. Having succeeded in creating the product they desired, the two turned their attention to the company’s pre-launch. Shifting paradigms requires business to be conducted in different ways. The two chose the path of influencer marketing rather than the more traditional media blitz.
They initiated a program of social media teasers which drove consumers to sign up for the company’s email list. Incentives were offered to people who got friends to also register. Personal notes and sample product were sent to grooming editors at major magazines. The editors wrote favorable reviews because they were impressed with the quality, style and performance of the razors. Jeff was able to write a guest post on Tim Ferriss’ blog (4-Hour Workweek) with a favorable introduction.
Some saw competing with industry giants Schick and Gillette as a reach. Another competitor had launched an online sales model the year prior. However, when the company finally launched, they were able to send emails to a mailing list of over 100,000 people. It took just two weeks to sell all of their inventory, including what was intended to be a 12-week backup supply. That led to the pair making an exceptionally high-risk move – they bought Feintechnik. The nine-month-old company would buy the 90-year-old factory for $100 million.
Today, the company built by Andy and Jeff – and a highly talented and valued team – has over 1,000,000 customers and is estimated to be worth nearly $1 billion. These results have been achieved because its founders were determined to make Harry’s Shave Club a fearless brand.
Fearless Brands achieve phenomenal results
Harry’s Shave Club continues to grow sales market share. Driven by their acquisition of Feintechnik, which sells blades to several other customers, their company is profitable. Technically, the razor company is not showing a profit as all proceeds are being reinvested into the company.
Jeff and Andy are co-founders – they are also co-CEOs. Importantly, they remain very close friends – and are committed to continuing that relationship. They think of their 400+ employees as family and consider all vendors to be their partners. Ensuring that everyone is on the same page has been a key to Harry’s success. Further, Andy and Jeff have the confidence to hire and work with people that are “100 times smarter” than they are. Working with the best talent they can find leads to greater insight and ideas which, in turn, yields powerful results.
As with all fearless brands, there’s a great deal to learn about branding – and business – from Andy, Jeff and Harry’s Shave Club.
Start with quality – Harry’s Shave Club was started by seeking the best blade available in the world. Quality is the greatest differentiation between Harry’s and its competition. Dollar Shave Club was created on a premise of offering convenience and price. Their blades are essentially a commodity, sold by dozens of companies. Harry’s blade is exclusively their own. Owning the factory ensures that quality standards are met. Their customers recognize and appreciate the quality that Harry’s delivers. Be committed to quality.
Be persistent – Finding the best blade available was relatively simple – striking a deal with the German factory was not. Jeff and Andy were determined. Finding investors willing to commit $100 million to a startup’s purchase of a factory was not easy. The pair remained diligent. Learning about the shaving industry, understanding consumer’s needs and wants and designing the right product required. persistence. When building your brand and your business, be persistent.
Love your idea – Jeff put it this way in a recent interview with the NBC Today Show – “Be so deeply passionate about it,” he said. “All you can do is think about it.” Whether you call it love, passion or your why – embrace your emotional drive. Not only will it help you get through the challenges that arise when building a brand and a business – your passion will be reflected in the brand you create.
Jeff Raider and Andy Katz-Mayfield have built a fearless brand. You can too. Learn from Harry’s Shave Club. Identify an opportunity. Create a quality solution. Be persistent. Mainly, love what you do.