Having worked with brands such as Revlon and L’Oreal, Owner Michael James knows what quality products should look and feel like. When he was unable to find those products for purchase, he set out to create them. He shared more insight into his story with us, along with his advice for other young males who might be afraid to follow their own entrepreneurial dreams in this Inside the Brand feature.
The Frederick Benjamin story begins with your being unable to find grooming products for your hair that were suitable to your taste and lifestyle. What were the first three steps you took towards creating your own line of products?
I first identified the issues I was having with the current options: starting with products that were drying my hair and scalp, products that smelled like perfume and styling products that were heavy and greasy. From there I did research to find out the causes of dry scalp and hair in shampoos and found it was the kinds of alcohols used that were de-hydrating my scalp and hair. I also found out that it was the petroleum and mineral oil base in most styling products that caused it to be so thick, heavy and greasy; and lastly it was not hard to determine I didn’t want to have a cologne type of product using synthetic fragrances. I wanted to take more of a natural and neutral approach to the scent. With that, I worked tirelessly with a chemist to identify a problem/solution approach to normal-to-dry scalp and hair, set up a complete 3 step regimen and tested hundreds of formula submissions before finalizing our products that are on the market today.
How long did it take to get the formula just right, and what are some of the things you learned about the personal grooming business along the way?
It took what seemed like forever to get the formulas to where they are today. I personally tested every batch and passed out other samples to barbers, stylist and others, hounding and bombarding them with questions about what they liked or disliked, and how to make the product better. I still want to tweak them a bit. Through the process I have learned that the grooming business is a very different animal. Men have to be educated and given real reasons to use products, otherwise they go on dealing with the same issues in the same way. We have to be very creative in opening their eyes to a problem they are having and then getting them to invest in the solution. I feel like we are on our way in doing this effectively.
Which Frederick Benjamin product is your favorite?
My personal favorite is the Daily Hydrator. It’s a light-weight, grease free styling crème that acts as a leave-in conditioner with styling properties. I use it daily on wet hair, putting it in my hair just before leaving the shower. I let my hair air dry (no towel, blow dryer etc) and it is great for defining my curls without the crunch of a gel, as well as keeping my hair moisturized and soft. This is also the #1 seller for the brand.
What has been the biggest change in your lifestyle as an entrepreneur, versus when you were working for brands like Revlon and L'Oreal?
I have become much more resourceful in my new role. Being without internal cross-functional support it all rests on you to drive projects forward. But going without a consistent paycheck has probably been the biggest lifestyle change.
What advice would you give to young men with their own dreams of entrepreneurship?
Don’t put your dreams on hold, don’t be afraid to start small and don’t let perfection get in the way of progress.
Can consumers look forward to a more expanded line of natural products in the future--bath and body, perhaps?
Yes, we are working on a few other things as we speak. We aim to offer men great products from head to toe, but we are taking a measured approached to building this business. I am definitely taking a long term view with Frederick Benjamin.