Tristan Walker is a grooming genius who spied a missing link in the male grooming business. Creating the first grooming line for Black men, this young entrepreneur talks about his success and what he’s got in store next.
EBONY: What led you into the grooming business to begin with? I feel it’s a very crowded space.
Tristan Walker: Some might think so, but not if you understand the purpose of Bevel and the flagship brand, which is Walker and Company. The goal of Walker and Company is to make health and beauty simple for people of color, which is not the goal of most brands that currently sit on a number of retail shelves at the moment.
Working in the technology space over the past five years, with time at Twitter and Foursquare, allowed me to view the world in a different way. The first view was my belief that all international culture is led by American culture, which is ultimately led by Black culture. And my second view was my belief that a number of traditional consumer packaged goods companies, especially the larger ones, are doomed because of all kinds of business models and structural reasons.
But what really sharpened my point of view was my experience with places like CVS, Duane Reade, or any other retailer for that matter, and walking all the way to aisle 14 which is the “ethinic” aisle, and then having to reach all way to the bottom of the shelf, where the packaging was dirty, with a person on the packaging that I couldn’t relate to.
Therefore I wanted to put those two views of the world together, and build a very special consumer packaged goods company that, again, makes health and beauty simple for people of color. So Bevel is the first manifestation of that vision. We’re focusing on problems that exist within the community, not just building a shaving company for the sake of building a shaving company. We worked to solve the razor bump/razor burn problem. With any brand that we launch, we’re going to make sure to solve problems.
Bevel is the first and only men’s shaving system designed for men with coarse and curly hair; this product solved a problem.
EBONY: So where did the name Bevel come from?
TW: If you look up the word Bevel, it’s described as: where two lines intersect but not at 90-degrees. Which speaks to the Bevel edge of the razor blade, that talks about the 30-degree angle we recommend that you shave at with our razor, which is also reflected in the packaging—you’ll see a 30-degree angle there too. We felt it was the most beautiful way to articulate and talk about the product itself, and the edginess of everything in general.
EBONY: What’s a normal day for a guy like yourself?
TW: I get up, hit the gym first thing in the morning, come back and say goodbye to my wife. Then I head out to work, which is about five blocks away from my house, so I’m usually at the office by 8am.
We have like five different Sonos speaker systems here, so I like to pump it up before everyone gets in. I would say the first few hours of the day are responding to customers, going thru internal e-mails, and making sure we are constantly communicating with customers. It’s so important to me!
Then from the afternoon on, there are meetings about new product development and execution of future marketing initiatives. I usually leave the office around 6:30-7pm, so I can have dinner with my wife. But sometimes I can sneak in a little work here and there at home.
EBONY: So I’ve been watching Bevel Code, the blog for Bevel, for a while now. I must admit, I love the editorials. What was the original idea behind it?
TW: Well, before we even released the product, we started building out the blog back in July. It was important for me to build something authentic. When I think about Bevel Code, I think about solving a problem. I remember one day when I just wanted to look online to see what moisturizer to use for my skin, and I couldn’t find information on that anywhere.
I mean, how do you neglect such an important group? So I thought, wouldn’t it be cool to create the first and only magazine exploring style and grooming, specifically for our culture? We want the reader to feel like they’re having a conversation with whomever we feature.
EBONY: What would you tell any aspiring entrepreneur who may be scared to take that jump and leave their job to start fresh?
TW: I’ll tell you the best advice I ever got, and it actually came from Tyler Perry. While I was at Foursquare, Amex asked me to go on a three-city tour to do an one-on-one interview with Tyler Perry to provide inspiration and advice to small business owners and entrepreneurs. And I’ll never forget the woman who stood up to ask this question.
She said, “Mr. Perry, I’ve been going through so many trials and tribulations. How do you just keep going?” It was so real and honest. And then Tyler said one of the most profound things that I had ever heard. He said he became incredibly successful when he realized that “the trials you go through and the blessings you receive are exactly the same thing.”
The minute I heard that, I just went for it.
EBONY: What would you say you’re looking to achieve with Bevel in the next five years?
TW: The most important thing that we want to focus on is customer satisfaction. And if I had to break that down, I would say, one, you have to have a product that works, it has to do what we say it does. I believe we’ve checked that box. Two, it has to come with a lifestyle that resonates with people. I believe we’re also checking that box. And lastly, three, provide education to the customer so they understand the right way to use your product for their best benefit.
Make sure to check out Bevel Code’s latest interview with Nas here: BevelCode.com
You can purchase the Bevel Shaving Kit here: getbevel.com