For far too long, the global grooming and cosmetic industry has ignored an entire segment of the population, neglecting a massive market opportunity in the process. The health and beauty aisle of the average grocery store and pharmacy overflows with commoditized goods promising to solve a myriad of problems, yet they fail to address the unique needs of people of color.
But as easy as it is to point to a group that represents more than 35% of the US population and recognize opportunity, there’s a reason that traditional CPG companies have proven unable to tap into this market opportunity. Only an entrepreneur and a brand with authentic empathy and insights for this community’s needs could establish the credibility and insight necessary to solve these long-standing problems. Thus creating compelling opportunity for a massive new business.
Two years after entering the market to solve these problems, it’s clear that Tristan Walker
that entrepreneur and Walker & Company will be that dominant brand. With this week’s news that W&C has raised an additional $24 million led by Institutional Venture Partners (IVP), we at Upfront Ventures could not be more excited to double down on our initial investment after leading the original seed funding and participating in the subsequent Andreessen Horowitz-led Series A.
While on the surface, Tristan and his great team at Walker & Co. get credit for offering clinically proven relief to the 80% of black and afro-latino men who suffer from “razor bumps” — the “Bevel” shaving system being just the first of many products to come — their success goes far deeper. The more impressive and valuable accomplishment has been the creation of a brand, and by some measures a movement, which the entire target market wants an association with.
In a short time, Walker & Co. has grown from within the culture of its customer community and has come to stand for more than just the products it sells. Much like the neighborhood barber shops that have been at the center of grooming culture in many American communities for centuries, Walker & Co. has grown into a trusted source of not only quality personal care, but also of what’s cool.
The resulting affinity and loyalty that consumers feel for Tristan and his brand is profound. This affinity can be seen in metrics like Net Promoter Score — which while we can’t disclose specifically is among the some of the highest we have seen in ecommerce. It’s also evident in the company’s social channels, which are overflowing with glowing customer feedback. Perhaps more impressive, Walker & Co. has high profile individuals like Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Nas, John Legend, and Carmelo Anthony, among others, finding the company first as customers and then later coming on board as investors.
On the strength of this brand and the community that has blossomed around it, it’s easy to see Walker & Company growing well beyond the shaving category — a sizable $4B global opportunity in itself within the demographic-specific category — to meet the many other needs of its customer base. Whereas other companies may be forced to guess at what their customers want, Walker & Co’s direct relationship with its community, means the company has both a deep understanding of current pain points, wants, and desires, but also the credibility to deliver solutions that will be not just purchased but coveted.
Looking ahead, we are confident Walker & Co. will become a household brand in the $290 billion personal care market. We are honored to join Tristan and his team on this journey.
Why Walker & Company is about so much more than just CPG products was originally published in Upfront Insights on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.