How to Start Your Own Grooming Brand, According to Four Recent Founders

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Port Products Marine Layer under eye recovery gel, launched in 2018 / Courtesy of Port Products

If you’ve been dazzled by the ever-expanding men’s grooming aisle at Target recently, or found yourself buying sexy, direct-to-consumer razors after years of dutifully buying plastic 8-packs, you’re probably aware that the grooming market is absolutely booming right now. If you’re an entrepreneurial person, or just a product nerd, maybe you’ve thought about getting into the mix yourself. To help you collect some practical advice on what it takes to launch a business in this exciting but ever-crowded industry, we asked a few recent founders to share some words of wisdom.

Jay Rynenberg / Courtesy of Asarai

Jay Rynenberg, co-founder of Australian unisex skincare line ASARAI (est. 2018)

What's a crucial branding or ideation exercise for anyone wanting to start a grooming line in 2018?

Jay Rynenberg: Question why you’re making the choices you’re making. Is it something you truly believe in or just a trend? My wife Patrice and I chose to lead our brand with our signature bright yellow packaging in an industry where natural skincare is typically represented by earthy or stark white packaging. We try to stay true to our personal interests and passions when making creative decisions. Don’t be afraid to walk alone!

How do you know if your products really work? What types of testing exercises or techniques are most helpful?

Rynenberg: Testing my mother’s formulations was essentially what began ASARAI. My wife and I had been using her formulations that she made at home for some time and decided we couldn’t keep them to ourselves anymore. That said, all of our formulations go through rigorous testing which can take anywhere between six to 12 months. To make sure your product is effective, you need to allow time for this. We’ve had a great response with this first phase of our launch and have found an overwhelmingly positive response from customers who have extremely sensitive skin. That makes all of the waiting worth it.

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Madison Ruggieri / Courtesy of Port Products

Madison Ruggieri, co-founder of grooming e-commerce site The Motley (est. 2010) and grooming line Port Products (est. 2013)

What's the best way (or at least one way) to find someone to make your products? How do you know you can trust them?

Madison Ruggieri: Finding the right manufacturer is a bit like dating. There are manufacturers who specialize in different cosmetic categories, whether that’s hair styling products or natural beauty products. Know what you’re looking for and then set up meetings with the best fits. Ultimately it can be difficult to navigate product manufacturing and it’s easy to make costly mistakes, so though costly, hiring a consultant who has experience in the arena can actually save you a great deal of money in the long run.

What's an innovative or just particularly effective way to find new customers in this space?

Ruggieri: Partner with like-minded brands in other industries and introduce your customers to those while they do the same. You can collaborate on content, limited-edition products, giveaways or events. It’s a lot of work but really does help build brand recognition.

Any general advice for aspiring entrepreneurs or investors looking to get into this space?

Ruggieri: Make friends with other brand founders. Having a network of other entrepreneurs to exchange advice with and partner with can be hugely helpful to everyone involved.

jun lee
Jun Lee / Courtesy of EIR/Nina Choi

Jun Lee, founder of unisex skincare line EiR NYC (est. 2014)

What's a crucial branding/ideation exercise for anyone wanting to start a grooming line in 2018?

Jun Lee: I think staying true to your story and creating something that solves a problem is key. I created my brand while recovering from sports injuries. I started studying green medicine in order to deal with pain management and boost the benefits of physical therapy naturally. My line wasn’t born from a desire to make money or ride a trend, but a gap I saw in the marketplace.

We try to keep every single product in the line super utilitarian so that it really complements an active lifestyle. The branding and formulations are sporty, unisex, and have an athleisure vibe. We make sunblock, sanitizers, oils for bug bites—that kind of thing. I think our positioning is very clear and honest and that resonates with our customers.

How do you navigate all of the conflicting information regarding ingredients, both positive and negative?

Lee: Read, read, read. I think a lot of the conflicting information that’s out there is based on biased opinion and not data or facts. As long as you really do your research, you can get to the bottom of things. Beauty Independent is a great resource for anyone looking to get into this industry. Environmental Working Group, National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy and Personal Care Products Council also have studies and research that are extremely helpful—especially if you’re starting a chemical-free, environmentally conscious brand like EiR, which you should!

Jonathan Keren / Courtesy of Maapilim

Jonathan Keren, co-founder of mediterranean grooming line Maapilim (est. 2015)

Why is now a great time to launch a new grooming brand? Why is it a challenging time?

Jonathan Keren: I think that any time is a great time to create a brand you're passionate about. Specifically, in male grooming, the market is growing very quickly and there's room for products to improve the lives of men of all kinds. There will always be competition, don't be afraid of it. Embrace it and stay true to your brand.

Entrepreneurship in general is like bungee, you just have to jump. Once you do, you can't look back—you just have to make it work.

What's something to keep in mind when scaling a grooming brand? Challenges or opportunities?

Keren: As with anything, when scaling you always need to make sure you're staying true to your brand's DNA. A lot of brands get diluted when they grow, and it's very important to go back to the reason you started and make sure you're still true to that. A lot of it will change along the way, but the core DNA will have to be there.

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