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How I Developed A Line of Products That Became A Game Changer in Men's Grooming Regimen

Rachel Steinford
Rachel Steinford

Michael James is the founder of  Frederick Benjamin Grooming. He was inspired to find a better way for black men to feel powerful with their products.

Michael James

Here is where the development of Frederick Benjamin Grooming came about - a regimen you can trust as all products are formulated with Active Natural Oils and Clinical ingredients that work with your hair and nourish the skin of men of color. These grooming products are an ultimate game changer - including their NEW launches: Crown Control, Beard Wash, Beard Crème

Was it a lightbulb moment or gradual moment to start Frederick Benjamin Grooming?

For me, it was gradual – Frederick Benjamin Grooming was an idea that was building over time with as I had a few realizations when it came to the line:

1) Daily frustrations when it came to quality product options, so I continuously had to use women’s products to find true effective, quality products

2) My experience and time while at L’Oreal Labs making women’s products what they came up with. After that…I told myself i could do this.

3) Last, while working in a corporate job, I was sitting in a large meeting listening to a team stumbling on their upcoming men’s launch. As I was listening, I was able to identify a few key mistakes and misses just from their discussion. After that, I told myself I could successfully create a line of my own. I think this meeting is what really pushed me over the edge to create my line.

How did you get your first three customers?

My very first customer was Level’s Barbershop on 125th Street in Harlem. I loaded up the trunk of my car with products from our first production, drove over and sat in the car for a minute just to catch my breath. I needed to get my confident and walk in and pitch Frederick Benjamin. At first, I received a “not interested”, but I didn’t let that stop me. I gifted him one of each product and kindly asked if I can come back next week to receive feedback on the products. As soon as I returned the following week, he was more than ready to make a purchase!

How did you validate the idea?

I validated my idea, concept and formulas all within the barbershops. Once the shops continued onto placing 3rd, 4th (and so on) orders, I knew I was onto something.

Did you have any experience/expertise in the area?

Yes, I spent about 8 years prior in beauty w/ Revlon and L’Oreal.

Have you raised any money? How much?

Yes, mostly from friends and family. It was about a few hundred thousand dollars.

What regulatory approvals did you have to go through?

We didn’t go through any regulatory approvals, yet we focused on conducting a Clinical Trial on one of our star products we knew was a winner.

Who is your target demographic and how did you fund the idea initially?

We focus on Men of Color, age 18+. I self-funded initially, which took me through branding, product development and first production.

Where did you meet your co-founder/founding team?

I took a different approach here: I found great work, found out who was doing this great work by researching that person, contacted and offered a 3-month contract. After a few trial and errors, I found my team and it’s working really well.

Any tips for finding first employees?

A personal suggestion is to comb over your competitor’s teams to see who has worked there. Plenty of times you’ll find the individuals on LinkedIn or other platforms to see they are no longer with that company and have started their own consultancy. Contact them and offer them a project. I’d approach it much like dating first.

Did you run any companies prior? What motivated you to start your own business?

No, this is the first. I am a third-generation entrepreneur. I always knew that I wanted to own and run my business. It just took me many years to figure out what exactly that business would be.

What were your family and friends first thoughts on your company?

All thoughts were mixed. Some of my friends told me, “men don’t buy product.” My parents actually begged me to stay in cooperate, while others really encouraged me to pursue my dream as my idea was right up my alley.

What motivates you when things go wrong? What is the end goal?

I normally like to put a spin on things, my own personal spin room. So, I tend to focus on the positivity first and then see what actually tipped the scale over, making something go wrong. Once that reflection has happened, I will move on because I know I’m not where I want to be. Over time, I realized mistakes will happen. They say you only have to be right once, so I try my best to make sure the mistakes are deadly.

fdg products

Our end goal is to be an accessible brand of truly high-quality products for men of color around the world.

Do you have any advice for someone just starting out?

Do not let perfection impede progress! Start small, gather real feedback (a paying customer) and optimize for growth.

What has driven the most sales?

Google has driven the most sales but Instagram, Facebook, email and all the above all play a role in closing a customer.

How do you protect yourself from competition?

I don’t really think about protecting the brand from competition. My focus is on executing our own strategy and doing what’s right/best for our business at the given time.

fdg brand

I’m confident to say that if we can do this well, the competition will be looking at us for inspiration.

Do you have any trademarks/IP/patents?

Our after shave is patented. It’s designed to clear and prevent razor bumps and ingrown hairs.

What are the top 3-5 apps your business could not run without?

  • Monday – for project management and team collaboration
  • Planoly- to pre-plan our social feed and messaging
  • Upwork- to find freelancers to fill in gaps where we need it

What are the next products you’re working on?

We just launch 3 new items and will begin thinking about a new category to jump into next, like body, skin or extensions of existing categories.  Not really sure at this moment.

Are there any releases you can tell us about?

We just launch our beard regimen of products as well as a new styling cream.

beard and styling cream

Where do you see the company in 5 years?

We would like to be in the mass volume outlets and drug stores in the US that’s close to our customers.

What is current revenue? If you don’t mind sharing..

We don’t share that type of information…I guess that’s one way we protect ourselves from our competitors…lol.

Would you ever sell?

If the time is right and we just can’t take it any further…I would.

Interview

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