“In the past decade, I think most guys have really stepped up their grooming game.” That’s Kevin Keller, a co-founder of new men’s grooming company Fulton & Roark.
Keller, along with friend Allen Shafer, founded Fulton & Roark in an effort to cater to men who care about looking (and smelling) good. They wanted to make products that fit with this lifestyle yet weren’t too cumbersome to carry around.
They decided to address cologne first. “Carrying around a glass bottle of flammable liquid that becomes a disaster if it breaks or leaks seems like a really bad idea for a guy who hops on an airplane a couple of times a week—or for the guy who gets ready at the gym in the morning,” Keller told Opportunity Lives.
Fulton & Roark currently offers three scents of solid cologne. Each one, made of blended wax and oils, comes in a small .2oz solid metal container. The container opens easily but is much more durable than glass bottles. Guys can toss it into their gym bag or stuff it into their pocket without worrying about any disasters. It’s also easier to freshen up during the day without carrying around a giant glass bottle.
Solid cologne also has other benefits. The fragrance wears more evenly, for example. “And while there are other solid colognes on the market, I think one of the things that sets us apart is that we created a base that is completely fragrance free, meaning that the fragrance is completely there by design and not the result of beeswax, or other materials that have a fragrance,” said Keller.
After creating the cologne, Fulton & Roark started rethinking shaving cream and soap. Keller said that with each product, the team tries to envision how men use it currently and how they could make the process easier or more pleasurable. The company now sells high-quality shaving cream and bars of soap as well.
Though Fulton & Roark has sold thousands of product from the website, Keller said the majority of business comes through retail stores. Currently in 80 locations in 30 states (with some international), people are probably more likely to buy a scented product when they can smell it in person.
One of the biggest challenges for the founders was raising enough money to start the company. Though they received a little bit from Wake Forest University (where they were studying) and a business competition, they had to put up the rest themselves. But these challenges really helped build their determination to succeed, said Keller. “Having a tight budget meant that we had to be laser-focused about what we wanted to make, and how we would execute.”
Fulton & Roark hopes to grow the number of products, retail stores, and customers in the future. For now, relationships with customers are the most important aspect of their growth plan. “We’ll keep acting on what we learn and as our team of experts grows, we’re going to going to keep finding new ways to delight our customers,” said Keller. “I think if we can do that, the rest will be pretty straightforward.”
Keller’s advice to entrepreneurs is fascinating: “Remember what you learned in 7th grade science class. And be an optimist.”
The science part comes in because Keller advises testing your concept in a small way before getting too ahead of yourself with a creative idea for a new company. It’s like a hypothesis test in a science project. “As you learn things, you’ll likely have to pivot and adapt —your concept will evolve,” said Keller.
On optimism, Keller wants current or future entrepreneurs to remember to have confidence in their abilities. Don’t despair by comparing yourself to more successful people! He also remembered many instances in which people freely gave their time to talk about their grooming habits or offer advice on the business, so he recommends asking people if you have a question. “The vast majority of people are really kind and want an opportunity to help.”