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Tristan Walker has been struggling with shaving for years. The 29-year-old Stanford business school graduate and former Foursquare employee never liked the standard shaving products on the market, and felt they did not cater properly to the African American community.
Now, Walker has targeted his frustration and start-up experience to create a company of his own which will aim to change the way the black male community approaches shaving.
Walker's Silicon Valley company, Walker & Company Brands, launched last week with a shaving kit product called Bevel. A six-piece shaving mail subscription kit, Bevel includes a razor, shaving brush, priming oil, shaving cream, after-shave, and restoring balm. The starter kit costs $59.95, and Bevel sends subscribers new 90-day kits every three months for $29.95.
After raising $2.4 million in funds back in May, product preorders opened last week, and shipments will start going out later in January. The shaving products feature an old-school design made of brass, and it is a first product of Walker's larger vision, which is to make the health and beauty market simple for the African American community.
"Folks of color get second class treatment and that needs to go," Walker told Racked. "When I'd need to pick up shaving products, I'd have to go find the ethnic aisle, all the way to Aisle 14, but it was really more like a shelf, and I'd have to buy the package that's dirty and has a picture of a bald black guy. That second class experience has to go, especially since folks of color spend more money on beauty than anyone else."
Walker certainly has a point: according to a September Nielsen consumer report, African American consumers are more relevant than ever, making eight times more shopping trips and buying nine times more beauty and grooming products than white consumers.
Walker's enthusiasm for his product stems from years of bad shaving experience. Most of shaving products have a multi-blade razor, which Walker said is bad men with curly hair. After suffering from razor bumps and ingrown hair for many years, Walked tried everything, from electric shaves to depilatory cream before learning single-bladed razors were ideal for men with curly hair. Walker estimates 80 percent of black men suffer the same problems he did and is confident his product will solve the common shaving problems.
Bevel targets the black community with a single-bladed razor.
"When you ask corporations why they don't make products which target the color community, they tell you they want to target Mass America and make products for a broad audience," Walker noted. "But in 15, 20 years, mass America will look totally different and there's a better way to target the community of color."
The market of men's shaving is certainly popular these days. Shortly after Gillette-company Proctor & Gamble purchased the luxury shaving chain Art of Shaving in 2009, the affordable Dollar Shave Club launched in 2011, offering cheap subscriptions for razors. Earlier this year, Warby Parker co-founders launched Harry's, a tiny barbershop with purchasable quality shaving products.
But Walker isn't worried about the competition out there; he doesn't see Bevel as just a shaving product company, but rather a problem-solving company. None of the current shaving businesses market a single bladed razor, and Bevel's subscription is cheaper than other competitors.
"Barbershops have always been popular with black culture, so its nothing new for me," Walker said. "We're not about being a new cool hipster barber ship, we're just continuing a rich tradition and reimaging the classic black barber shop."
Pictured above: Tristan Walker while working for Foursquare in 2011. photo via Bloomberg/Getty Images.