jeff raider harrys

My biggest mistake: Jeff Raider, co-founder of Harry’s

The grooming entrepreneur tells us why it pays, at all times, to put the customer first

How do you disrupt something as fundamental and mundane as the morning shave? A blade or two, a handle, some foam — this isn’t rocket science, despite what the six-sabered, Bluetooth-enabled, Roger Federer-grinning-in-a-futuristic-mirror market leaders will tell you. But when Jeff Raider and Andy Katz-Mayfield set up Harry’s in 2013, they weren’t hoping to re-invent the wheel — they were just trying to make a slightly better one. One that loved its customers and really cared about their faces. One that put results, value and convenience above gaudy endorsements and trifling gizmos. One that just did what it said it would do: nothing more, nothing less.

Turns out, most men rather liked the new tack — and the company has glided from a small but punchy start up to a serious industry player in just over five years. In May this year, Harry’s was acquired by Edgewell Personal Care (the owners of Wilkinson Sword and others) for $1.3 billion. Here, co-founder Jeff Raider tells us why it pays, at all times, to put the customer first.

“As an entrepreneur I’ve learned that things are never as good or as bad as they seem”

Our biggest mistake at Harry’s was saying we were “Direct to Consumer” first, as opposed to “customer first”. When we started out in 2013, our business was entirely online. The majority of sales came through the website, which was great — a great way to build the brand, a great way to get to know the customers better. As we grew the company, we realised there were lots of guys who would be excited to buy us in big retail stores. When we spoke to our customers we were told: “I’d love to see you on our Sunday shopping trip, in Walmart and Target.”

So we decided in 2016 to launch a partnership with Target, and in the UK we launched with Boots at the same time. That relationship significantly raised our expectations with its ability to connect with customers. We sold five times as many products as we expected to.

When people would talk to us, they’d ask us: “So tell us about your business — how much is sold through Target, and how much is DTC?” It all led us to this crossroads decision about how we truly want to think about the brand. Are we a DTC company? Or are we a brand that is a customer-centric and that is going to be wherever people want, and be exceptional in all of those channels?

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