A product that just works.
Also you all know about all the millionaires created by US black entrepreneurs of health and beauty products for the black consumer before the 1960s, right?
Before shaving with Bevel, I figured I would take a before/after picture, to really scrutinize how well it worked. You can see them below.
My face is, to borrow a joke from Twitter, like a Nestlé crunch bar. Nasty. I probably have the curliest hair you will ever see. I break combs at the barbershop, even when I’ve combed my hair beforehand. I had dreadlocks when I was younger, and could shower every day and they wouldn’t come out, because of how curly my hair was. I have had folliculitis thrice in the last 12 months: wherein the ingrown hairs create an infection, enlarging my lymph nodes to golf balls and causing very, painful migraines, and sometimes other complications. And here’s the rub, if you’ll allow the pun: until I spoke to Tristan Walker about it, I had no idea how incredibly common this issue is. 45-83% of black men have it. I could have sworn I was just unlucky. Or not shaving right.
When I first tried out Bevel, a razor specifically designed for people with coarse and curly hair — the unboxing experience, the form factor on the bottles of primer, lotion, and the razor itself are all world class consumer products, but that’s actually not the point — I followed the instructions to a T, applied the restorative balm, and went to sleep. When I woke up, my chin felt great. It seriously felt great. And in that moment I felt like I was finally being taken care of, in a way that I had never realized I even needed taking care of.
As a person of color in America, that is a common refrain. Even though Blacks overindex on Twitter, take a guess at the company’s demographics, to say nothing of their executive leadership or board of directors. While TV consumption and social media participation skew to Black and Latino women more than any other demographic, the advertisers, producers, platforms, and networks don’t take care of them. We invested in Walker & Company Brands, Tristan Walker’s company to create a consumer products group for people of color, because he was building into a very large market, because he has insane hustle and a varsity team, because ads targeted to the “World Star Hip Hop” demographic convert at eye-popping premiums over the average, and because by 2040, the United States will be a nation of color again. But I invested in Walker & Company Brands because it pushes the world forward by taking care of people who don’t even realize they need taking care of.
When venture investors speak about “signals” that point to their comfort level in an investment, they often don’t speak about unconscious bias. Game recognize game, and investors, like all people, react well to things they recognize. And just as good salesmen are trained to mimic the body language of their target, we are social beings, and so the more common ground the better. In the case of Walker & Company, as an investor, the common ground was that in Tristan, I saw someone I recognized — someone who had been on the outside looking in, and knew there was huge opportunity in solving that problem.
Bevel’s attention to detail in the packaging is fantastic. It’s hard to open the box fast when it first arrives, so you have to reflect on it. The obsession with the extrasensory, so to speak, elements of the experience, are delightful. The little side-box for the used razors makes my shelf and trashcan look that much better. The shapes of the tops of the bottles are intentionally wrought, and fresh. Their Zappos-like customer service is natural, personal, and quirky enough to be real. Bevel makes me feel like I was using a product that was designed to be world class, but that was designed for me. And for someone for whom my demographics are instinctively a disadvantage, it was an utter revelation. People who crack business models like these will win big.
And after, two days later:
Two days. It works.