Walker & Company Brands, the health and beauty startup founded by entrepreneur Tristan Walker, announced today a $24 million Series B funding round and a deal to distribute its Bevel shaving system in select Target stores, as well as through the retailer's website.
"The one thing we hear a lot from our customers is that they want more Bevel in more places," Walker says. "The omnichannel approach has been one that we've always wanted to take, and we couldn't think of any better partner to launch our offline distribution list than Target—from their care for design, to their care of the customer."
Starting in 2016, components of the Bevel system—which includes a weighted safety razor and an assortment of creams and balms to help fight razor bumps common among men of color—will be sold a la carte in a "select group of Target stores in various regions" and online. Walker declined to specify store locations and a la carte pricing, but says product sizes will be smaller and closer to a one-month supply, as opposed to the three-month refills that come with the company's subscription service. Target currently operates nearly 2,000 stores in the U.S.
"For the folks who actually haven't gone to getbevel.com, Target actually might be their first interaction or experience with the brand," Walker says.
The distribution deal was a selling point for the long and star-studded list of participants in Walker & Company's latest investment round, which is led by Institutional Venture Partners and includes Andreessen Horowitz, Upfront Ventures, Google Ventures, and Melo7 Tech Partners, founded by Carmelo Anthony. Individual investors include Earvin "Magic" Johnson, John Legend, Ron Johnson, designer John Maeda, and Vine and YouTube star King Bach.
Somesh Dash, general partner at Institutional Venture Partners, says he invested in Walker & Company in part because "This company has essentially gotten a fast growth rate and nice scale almost exclusively through word of mouth. We looked at the numbers and said wow, they're almost burning no money on marketing."
Another thing Dash looked at was the company's "churn." "If a customer signs up, how many pause or cancel? What emerged is a pattern like Honest Company, where churn is really low. People would sign up—and keep going," Dash says, adding that the company's churn is low compared to other similar businesses in the industry. "It's so sticky that once you have people signed up and really excited about it, no one leaves. In fact, if anything, they're telling friends that they should join."
Walker plans to use the funding to hire more employees in engineering and customer service, and to strengthen R&D in hopes of launching another brand within the next year.
"We're going to get in a good cadence of launching new, innovative, and rich products that solve acute health and beauty problems for people of color," Walker says. "The future is very bright."
It's an exciting time for Walker & Company, but it's still got a way to go to catch up with some of its competitors' coffers. Shaving startup competitors Dollar Shave Club and Harry's both recently raised three times as much as Walker & Company's latest round.