It’s not very often you see a true game changer in this industry, but that’s exactly what Jeffrey Raider has managed to do. Back in 2010, Raider started a little company called Warby Parker – the “Netflix of eyewear”, according to GQ – with three of his friends from school (Neil Blumenthal, Andrew hunt and David Gilboa.) In a matter of a few short years, the four managed to raise $56 million dollars from a series of funding rounds that included investors like American Express and Mickey Drexler (of J. Crew fame.) Casual, right? Since then, they’ve managed to create an incredible brand built on the idea of quality eyewear at accessible prices thanks to their business model, which includes a strong e-commerce presence and eliminating third party brick-and-mortar retailers with their own number of boutiques and showrooms across the US.
Now, Raider is shaking things up again with his newest venture into the men’s grooming market – you know, the one absolutely dominated by giants like Gillette and Schick. With their move into Canada, I met up with the Harry’s co-founder at a quaint little coffee shop in Toronto’s Little Italy to talk about the brand, grooming and what he considers success. Read below for the full interview!
Can you explain Harry’s and the whole concept behind it? Why did you decide to go into shaving?
Harry’s is a brand of really high-quality shaving products that we sell to customers at, what we think, is exceptional value. We make all of our own products – really well-designed razor handles that are ergonomic and fit well in your hand. They’re the type of handles that you will feel proud to use every day. We make our own razor blades in our factory in Germany. They’re engineered in a specific way so that they’re very strong at the base and sharp at the tip so you get an amazing shave. And then, we make our own shaving cream that is not only something that protects you during the shave, but something that moisturizes and conditions your skin afterwards, which we think is super important. Through that we hope to deliver guys just an incredible shaving experience, and then to do that at a price that is half of leading brands or less. And in doing so, over time, get to know our customers super well, make sure that they know we’re here for them, that we’re here to help them and we want to make the process of getting more of our products as easy as possible, as well as help them to use our products effectively.
At the end of the day, we just want to make people like to shave more. When people do shave, we want it to be a more enjoyable experience for them – from buying the product to using it, to the way they feel afterwards. In terms of why we started Harry’s, we started it because my co-founder Andy had this experience where he went to a drug store and waited for ten minutes for someone to unlock the case where the razors are being held, you know twenty-five dollars for four razor blades and shaving cream. The products didn’t resonate as a consumer and he was bummed out by the whole thing. So, he called me and said, “hey, I bet we could do this better.” He and I got really excited about the opportunity to try and do that. And in doing so, have the added benefit of having a real positive impact.
Who would you say is the “Harry’s” man?
The Harry’s man is really well-rounded, forward-thinking, considerate and embraces new and interesting things in his life all the time. He wants to make himself better and is always looking for better and better products to do that. He cares about the products that he uses. He takes pride in them and understands where they come from. He buys the brands he buys and he cares a lot. He really values choice and today, he hasn’t had choice until Harry’s has come along.
When you were starting Harry’s, what exactly did you think was missing from the marketplace that you thought you could fill?
We felt in some ways that guys didn’t have a choice for an exceptionally high-quality product; they didn’t have great value. They either had to pay lots of money for products they thought were high-quality or not spend much money and get inexpensive razors that wouldn’t be great for their face. And so with Harry’s, we want them to finally be able to have it all: an amazing product, an amazing experience using the product at great value. And that’s what we hope to bring to the market.
When you were building Harry’s, how was the experience different from when you started Warby Parker? What were the biggest lessons you learned?
I think the biggest lessons were, one, never compromise on the product. Make sure that it’s amazing and that you care about every single detail. And an example of Harry’s is, we spent a ton of time focused on how the end of the razor would pivot in your palm so that, as you manipulated it, it would glide smoothly across your palm so that you get an incredibly smooth contour experience. The second thing is, care a ton about every single customer and do whatever you can to make every customer happy. And we do that every single day. I’m actually at our Warby Parker offices right now and we do that every single day here. We do that every single day at Harry’s. And so, we actually have a bunch of our customer service team here and we have a shared ethos of making every single customer incredibly happy. I think the last part is, have a positive impact beyond the company. Really impact the community in a positive way. With Harry’s, what we do is donate one percent of our team’s time and one percent of our sales to organizations that prepare people for personal and professional success. At Warby Parker, we have a very robust share-giving model as well, and I think that’s such an incredibly important reason for why we’re starting to have a positive impact on our customers as well as our community.
What do you wish you knew about business when you were first starting out that you know now?
Starting a business is an emotional roller coaster. There are incredibly high highs and incredibly low lows when they happen. And I think starting a business is really about enjoying that roller coaster. That was something that we learned when we were starting Warby Parker. And you have days when something may not go exactly the right way, you feel like you shouldn’t be doing this. But I think it’s really about embracing the experience and trying to put it in perspective, which is probably the most valuable thing i’ve learned to do.
Do you think the Canadian marketplace is different from the American market?
I think that fundamentally, customers value the same things. They value exceptionally high-quality products that are really well-designed and thoughtfully made. They desire companies and brands that really care for them and I think that they want choice. There are lots of really amazing and considerate guys in Canada who want a great choice and we made it a priority for us as a company to come to Canada faster and offer them that choice.
How do you differentiate yourself from your competitors in the grooming industry?
It starts with the fact that we really have a unique view on design and on product in the market. We are one of the only companies in the world that make all of our own products. We make our shaving creams and we make our own razor handles ourselves in our own factory. Our competitors who sell online don’t do that. As a result, we can really control the whole experience from start to finish and take customer feedback and drive it back into the products that we’re making to improve the experience over time. And that, I think, is an incredible advantage we have and over time, it will enable us to give our customers better and better experiences and offer them tremendous value while doing it because again, we own the whole process.
To survive, brands must do more than just sell a product – they must sell a lifestyle. Five O’Clock magazine is one way that you seem to be doing this. What is the overall message and lifestyle that you are trying to communicate? Why is that important?
So, we sort of think about Five O’Clock as a field guide for the modern man. And by field guide, we mean we want to shed light on some undiscovered moments in guys’ lives that maybe guys don’t talk about, and shaving is one of those moments. Many guys don’t talk to each other about shaving. There’s lots of other similar moments that really sophisticated and thoughtful guys don’t’ necessarily talk about all the time. And for us to be able to, in our own way, bring to light some of these moments, we hope we can become a really interesting resource for guys to go and sort of learn, think and engage in the discussion around how other similarly-considered dudes are doing things. So examples are, how do guys get ready to go to work in the morning? What happens in the barber chair when you’re talking to your barber? And what do the best barbers in the world say about taking care of yourself? What do the older and younger, edgier dudes think about specific issues? We have this section that we call “The Madness”, where we interview old-school, amazing journalists who are well-taken care of and put together, and the younger guy who is sort of a little edgier, but also thoughtful. And we get their perspectives on specific issues. And what do girls think? So we try to bring a variety of perspectives together to help guys just think about the moments in their lives that are undiscovered and hopefully we can be. It all comes back to wanting to be of service to guys as a brand and really be there for them and be the trusted voice and help them in any way we can over time. It’s that whole experience.
Can you speak a little more about the technology that is used to develop the product?
Our blades are some of the most highly engineered in the world. They’re made in our factory in Germany, which has been in operation since 1920. So they have almost a century of experience making incredibly high-quality blades. They grind steel in the process so that it is incredibly sharp at its tip and incredibly strong at its base. So, you have stability and sharpness on cutting surface to give you an amazing shave – both close and comfortable. And then the handles we designed ourselves. We started with amazing ergonomic tools guys love to use, like pens and knives, and we thought about how you hold those in your hand, especially having that feeling of pride you get when you use them. Then we adapted them to modern shaving systems and we thought about where you, for instance, get fine motor control at the top of the razor and how you’re gonna want to manipulate the bottom end in your palm. All those things lead to a razor handle that is highly ergonomic, highly efficient and, hopefully, something many of our guys will think is well-designed. Ultimately, it’s something they want to use and are proud using it.
What makes a good blade, and consequently, a good shave?
Great blades make great shaves. That’s the most important thing. That’s where we’re truly differentiated from virtually every other company in the world – we make amazing blades. That is the foundation for a great shave.
Grooming is symbolic in that it is an art form and skill that men pass down to their sons. How did you first learn to shave?
From my dad. My dad taught me.
What is the end goal for Harry’s and why does it matter?
Our end goal is to have impact, to have a really positive impact on people’s lives and the community. And if we can help guys to have a better experience for a few minutes every morning or every evening – whenever they shave – then we feel like we have a really positive impact. And if we can use that, whatever money we make to reinvest back into making better products for our guys, then awesome. And if we can take our team’s resources and invest them into improving outcomes of lots of folks in the community, even better. So, I think that as we grow as a brand, we want to make sure that we’re considering the growing impact in a really positive way. In doing so, we hope to continue to make customers really happy and that will hopefully feed the business, which in turn will fuel more impact that we can have.
What do you consider success?
For me, the thing that’s most rewarding is hearing from customers that they had a great experience with our product. By far. We just go an e-mail from a friend the other day who had never shaved with Harry’s before. We got him a set and he was like, “oh my god, this is amazing! I just threw away all my other blades. I’m a Harry’s customer for life. It’s the best shave i’ve had in ten years.” Man, that makes me feel really good. And so, hopefully we are improving his experience every morning, and if we can do that for lots of people then I feel like we’ll be in a good place. And it’s not just the actual shave, it’s the whole experience that they have with the shaving brand. The brand that likes them, that’s there for them, is one that is human and cares for them in any way they can. It makes it easy for them to get the products, helps them figure out how to use the and can be a resource for them for other, sort of undiscovered moments in their lives. I think it’s valuable.