Walker & Company Brands, the health and beauty startup founded by former Foursquare biz-dev lead Tristan Walker, has announced a $7 million Series A funding round headed up by Andreessen Horowitz—where Walker served as entrepreneur in residence—with participation from other firms including Upfront Ventures and the Collaborative Fund.
Since its founding a year ago, Walker & Co. has focused primarily on launching and marketing its core product, Bevel—a shaving system, which includes a high-end razor, that is engineered to fight skin irritation among men with coarse or curly hair. The new funding, Walker says, will be geared toward the company’s next phase: accelerating distribution.
"What we mean by that is more Bevel in more places," says Walker, who has thus far sold the system—which includes a six-piece starter kit for $60, and $30 for monthly replenishments of the natural creams and oils—direct to consumers via its website, where 90% of Bevel customers are returning buyers. But Walker says he hopes to learn, from the 15 or so barbershops where Bevel is currently distributed, how the product is being sold and how customers interact with it. "That means, not only selling Bevel at other retail shops, things like barbershops and traditional retail, but also potentially our own."
Whether or not a physical store is in the company’s near future, focusing on barbershops—which are, for black men across the country (Bevel’s target customer), epicenters of culture and community—is a smart approach to strengthening the company's base, refining its current and future product lines over time, and perhaps eventually modeling a retail store experience.
"I think he wants to connect to that traditional community that exists in the barbershop—where they talk sports, and politics, and it’s a part of life," says former J.C. Penney CEO Ron Johnson, who also pioneered the Apple retail store and Genius Bar concepts, and is an investor in Walker & Co. "Over time you can move into places where we buy traditional consumer packaged goods and products," he says. "But I think he’s gotta build his brand first."
No stakes have been planted yet—either in retail stores or in new soil—but Walker says the new funding has also helped beef up staff to 13 people, with new hires primarily in distribution and supply chain-related roles. Jeff Jordan, a general partner at Andreessen Horowitz who has helped scale e-commerce companies like Julep and Warby Parker, also joins the company’s board.
[Image: Flickr user Doug Geisler]