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The Bootstrap Men’s Grooming Brand That Just Got $4M in Funding

The Tel Aviv-based brand Maapilim is making quick gains

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Courtesy of Maapilim

In our new series “Straight from the Founder’s Mouth,” we’re asking entrepreneurs in emerging and fast-growing categories to share intel on what it took to launch their business and explain how they’re continuing to thrive during growth. Last week we checked in with Gunhee Park, cofounder of the CBD body-care line Populum, who told us going against the grain was key to his company’s success.

This week’s featured entrepreneur—Jonathan Keren, cofounder of Tel Aviv–based grooming brand Maapilim—has a similar message. Keren stresses the importance of trusting your gut as an entrepreneur, even when it tells you to take the path less traveled. Simple advice and so darn true. Oh, and he’s got a killer app recommendation every founder and professional stress ball needs to download, stat.

Can you give us the rapid-fire download on your brand?

Jonathan Keren: Maapilim is a men’s DTC skin- and hair-care brand offering a full range of products. Coming from the Mediterranean, we were born out of the belief that using high-quality local ingredients, eating well, traveling, nourishing meaningful relationships and taking some of the stress out of our lives makes us happier, healthier and more confident people.

If we were potential investors or brand partners, what would you tell us about your business?

Keren: Male grooming is one of the fastest-growing sectors in cosmetics. We’re one of the only players in this field to offer a full range of high-quality wellness-focused skin- and hair-care products.

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned from running this business?

Keren: As a founder, you’re the only one who sees the full picture. You’re the world’s best expert in your brand, so always listen to good advice, but stick with your gut instinct.

What’s one aspect of your business you knew nothing about when you started it and how did you solve for that?

Keren: I knew nothing about the way the beauty industry worked or the chemistry behind it for that matter. I spent day and night learning, and I acquired my most valuable knowledge through constantly talking to anyone I could. Suppliers, colleagues, buyers, manufacturers, chemists, packaging specialists—you name it.

What do you consider the biggest milestone or breakthrough moment in your brand’s history?

Keren: Launching the brand in the U.S. last year. It was a big game changer for us and continues to be the best decision we’ve made so far.

What mistake or challenge have you gotten through and how did you prevail?

Keren: I work with my family. My sister and my husband both work at Maapilim, and sometimes it’s just tough. My agreement with Doron, my husband, is that when we’re in the office we talk about work, and when we’re at home we don’t. It doesn’t always work, but it improves everything when we’re able to do that.

What important projects or business challenges are you currently grinding on? Why do they require your time and energy?

Keren: We’re currently working on an offline activation in New York. It’s a big project for us, because it’ll be the first time the brand will have a physical manifestation, one in which we’re able to meet and talk directly with our audience. We love it, and it’s something that makes us super excited at the moment.

What advice would you give to someone looking to start a business similar to yours?

Keren: Find something that’s your own personal, unique perspective. I believe the founder needs to be very connected with the brand’s mission. You may pivot and change a lot along the way, but eventually I believe you’ll always be able to find that spark that made you want to do it to begin with.

How much money did you start your business with and how much have you raised?

Keren: We started bootstrap, then raised $500K to launch in the U.S. Once that showed good signs, we closed a $4M round to fuel our growth, expand our range and bring in more talented people.

How does your background—educational, professional or otherwise—contribute to your ability to run this business?

Keren: I have zero experience in the beauty or CPG [consumer packaged goods] industries, and a lot of experience in marketing and tech. I think it helps me think outside the box and not try to solve new problems with existing solutions. It also makes everything I learn about the beauty and the CPG industries super interesting and new.

What do you look for in people you hire, other than the basic “good employee” traits?

Keren: We’re now seven people, and we are hiring new online product specialists, developers, marketing [staff? specialists? managers?] and business development managers. We’re a small team that moves fast, and we’re looking for people who will be connected to the brand and to the need it has in the market, along with being fast, intelligent and self-managing. We like people who bring unorthodox thinking and can get things done (with elegance).

How do you take care of your mental and physical health as an entrepreneur?

Keren: Something that helped me a lot, especially during the capital raises, was meditation. I use Headspace to meditate every morning. I also work with an app I love called Endel. It helps me focus when I work and relax when I don’t.

Read more: Here’s What it Takes to Stand Out in the Crowded CBD Space

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