After growing frustrated at the lack of effective, clean and affordable men’s grooming products that could meet the needs of their husbands’ active lifestyles, Mia Saini Duchnowski and Laura Lisowski Cox left their corporate jobs to launch a premium, all-natural men’s skin care line, Oars + Alps. The pair teamed up with a leading chemist from Kiehl’s to develop the collection, which launched in October 2016, using their personal funds as well as prize money won from a 2016 regional Harvard Business New Venture Competition. In June, the company secured $1.3 million in a seed round of funding, bringing their total to $1.7 million raised to-date from investors. Here, CEW Beauty Insider chatted with Mia about the growing company, which now offers five sku’s, including a deodorant, face wash, soaps and a moisturizer + eye cream in-one.
Beauty Insider: What unique insights into men’s grooming does a female’s point of view provide?
Mia Saini Duchnowski: We started this brand because we were the influencers or gatekeepers to our husbands’ skin, and they relied on us to provide them with guidance on what to use. As females, we feel that we are less biased, which forces us to be data driven. We conduct massive focus group of diverse men that we vet on every product, and this determines the iterations we make and what we ultimately go to market with. We also look at search patterns on Google to identify trends in the market, what is driving volume and what is quickly growing.
BI: How are these products different from other male grooming products on the market?
MD: Our key ingredient, Alpine Caribou Moss, is sourced from Northern Finland, and has antioxidant properties and polyphenolic compounds that aim to scavenge and neutralize free radicals, reducing oxidative stress and inflammation in the skin. Additionally, we feel that the men’s grooming industry doesn’t speak to the millennial man because some of the brands are too mass market, full of toxic chemicals, expensive and old-fashioned.
BI: How do you educate consumers about your brand?
MD: We continually convert premium expensive skin care users by focusing on how Oars + Alps products are of superior, natural quality without the upcharge. We convert drugstore users by explaining how, for a few dollars more, they can buy a much more premium product with no toxic ingredients.
BI: Who are your customers?
MD: 90 percent of our customers are men buying for themselves (80 percent of them have heard about us through a female figure in their life). These men are between 22-40 years old and make over $75k annually. They view skin care through the same lens as leading a healthy, active life and are looking for products made with natural ingredients and for brands that have a social mission. 10 percent of our customers are women who are buying for their sons, husbands, brothers, etc. When buying products for “their men” they also want to make sure they are buying healthy products.
BI: Tell us about your marketing/communication plans. How are you spreading the word?
MD: We are currently only selling direct-to-consumer on oarsandalps.com so we are heavily focused on digital channels. Facebook, Instagram and paid search are our core drivers. We are expanding into building a community with industry and social influencers. As we do not have a retail environment, we know that every touch point is critical, from the moment someone lands on our site, receives an email and opens the product. Everything must feel and look excellent. Therefore, we are hyper focused on content, storytelling and of course always trying to exceed expectations especially when it comes to our products.
BI: Are there any growth plans? What’s next for 2018?
MD: We have four people on our team full-time and several others working part-time or as an intern. We are looking to grow our products and team, and we are currently hiring a growth marketer. In 2018, we will be launching additional natural products that are geared towards the active guy – think about what a guy might need when he goes to the gym or on a run.