Calvin Quallis, the CEO and founder of men’s grooming brand, Scotch Porter, has as his entrepreneurial mantra “act and move.” These words led him from an unfulfilling job in finance to creating his own brand in 2015. “I was very unhappy with what I was doing. The one thing I sort of forced on myself was to act and move and do something. I made a conscious decision that [finance] is not where I wanted to be. Although I didn’t know what I wanted to do, I knew I had to move, I had to act,” says Calvin. “My mom’s shop, which she operated in the late Eighties, was located in Brentwood, Long Island. That shop hasn’t existed for some time. I was coming home from work one day and spotted a brownstone building and that reminded me of those amazing memories from my mom’s shop, and that’s what inspired me to launch a barbershop. I recalled how they made folks feel good. I was really intrigued by how folks would walk in one way and walk out another, and that led me to launch a barbershop of my own.”
His barbershop, Center Stage Cuts in Newark, New Jersey, has since closed, but in its heyday it served as a living lab for what would become his product line, Scotch Porter, with some of the first products addressing a common issue: dry, frizzy, damaged hair and beards. “I went home and learned about natural ingredients to help resolve these issues. I became a kitchen chemist, crafting products I’d bring to our barbers and get feedback on.”
With no background in chemistry, Calvin’s problem/solution for dry beards inspired him to keep going. “It started out as a hobby…but when you have the ability to do good, you have an obligation to do it.”
These products began selling out via word of mouth, and his next project was not far off: gaining retail distribution.
“Opening a barbershop is not something one would think of as a career change. I wasn’t searching for prosperity or riches but for internal fulfillment by creating a cultural hub for the community where there might be a mayoral debate, conversations around mental health, wellness, art, music, all the things in our lives. This rolled over into Scotch Porter, which has allowed us to do what we did in the barber shop while reaching more people,” says Calvin.
Here, the 10 things you likely didn’t know about Calvin, who is a millennial.
- Entrepreneurship runs deep in Calvin’s family: both his mom and grandmother were business owners. Calvin’s grandmother moved from Guyana to Flatbush, Brooklyn where she started a successful bakery, C&R, eventually convincing her landlord to sell her the building, and financing it as well. After renting out several units, Calvin’s mom and other family members came to America. “At a very young age, I realized the importance of building something from nothing,” Calvin says.
- Scotch Porter is committed to solving big and little issues for its community and customers. To that end, the brand donates 2% of online sales and 1% of retail sales to initiatives such as recidivism. “Our business is grounded in our ability to bring in the consumer for the journey and just really listen to our community,” Calvin says, adding that he’s contributed more than $250,000 since the brand’s launch.
- After mentoring his “little brother” for eight years, providing a steady influence towards manhood, responsibility, and stability, Calvin was named Big Brother of the Year for New Jersey in 2015.
- Monday morning team meetings begin bright and early at Scotch Porter with company members talking about the brand’s core values they’ve leveraged to help customers feel their best. Education, job training, entrepreneurship, and recidivism are the pillars addressed at these meetings that ultimately look to affect the broader community.
- One of Scotch Porter’s partner manufacturers employs nearly 97% of formerly incarcerated individuals. “Everybody deserves a second chance and they do make the most of [the opportunity],” Calvin says.
- Calvin is Earth-friendly and uses a 40-oz, dark blue Takeya water bottle.
- Calvin prefers Chai tea over coffee, and opts for leaf tea when he’s feeling “more meditative and has a little bit of extra time.”
- Give Calvin a documentary, or any background TV noise, to help lull him into sleep. Otherwise, he prefers music or podcasts to keep his mind moving. Grammy award winner Gregory Porter (the inspiration for half of the Scotch Porter name) is one of his favorite musical artists, while Scotch (another favorite that inspired the company name) is his drink of choice. Glenfiddich, McCallen 12-year-old from a cherry cask, and a 23-year-old McCallen Grand Cru are three he enjoys and recommends.
- Calvin’s advice for up-and-coming entrepreneurs is to move on something. “Move with passion and intentionality on something you feel good about, the universe will help you figure it out.”
- Next up for Scotch Porter is a line of Hydrating Body Washes launching in Target stores nationwide the first week of March. The washes are inspired by the brand’s line of fragrances, infused with high-performing natural ingredients, including shea butter, moringa and marula oils, niacinamide and oat and rice proteins. The plant-based cleansers are available in two scents inspired by Scotch Porter’s fine fragrance collection. One uses notes of amber, tonka bean, and saffron, while ethe other features grapefruit, balsam, and Haitian vetiver. Both are available at ScotchPorter.com, Target.com, and select Target stores for $7.99.