By Leena Rao
September 28, 2015

People of color often end up with irritated skin after shaving because typical razors aren’t designed for people with coarse or curly hair.

Walker & Company, a startup focused on health and beauty products, is trying to solve the problem by catering to the needs of this massive demographic group. Its first brand, Bevel, is a set of shaving creams and razors that are designed to reduce irritation and prevent razor bumps among men and women who have few other choices.

On Monday, Walker & Company said it had received $24 million in new funding from investors who see promise in the company’s focus. The lead investor is Institutional Venture Partners with Andreessen Horowitz, Upfront Ventures, Daher Capital, Collaborative Fund, Google Ventures, Felicis Ventures, and Melo7 Tech Partners participating.

New individual investors in Walker & Company include celebrities like Earvin “Magic” Johnson, and singer John Legend. The company plans to use the new funding to expand into new products and grow its team.

Walker & Company, which launched in 2013, also announced Monday that it has signed a deal with Target (TGT) to sell Bevel products at select U.S. Target stores and on Target.com, marking the first time Bevel products will be sold at a national retail chain.

Tristan Walker, a former former Foursquare executive and Andreessen Horowitz partner, founded Walker & Company with the idea to sell personal care products to African Americans and other people of color. Catering to the demographic makes sense considering that around 80% of black men and women get frequent skin irritation from shaving compared with 30% of the rest of the population.

Walker & Company is part of a larger push by e-commerce upstarts into the market for health, makeup, and personal care products. It also marks a challenge to major established brands like Gillette and Schick.

 

Dollar Shave Club and Harry’s both sell shaving kits by subscription, in which customers get regular deliveries of their products. Honest Company, co-founded by actress Jessica Alba, has created a line of eco-friendly and natural products including diapers, makeup, and cleaning supplies while Juice Beauty, which has enlisted actress Gwyneth Paltrow as its creative director, recently introduced a line of organic makeup products.

It’s also an area of increasing investment by Silicon Valley venture capitalists. For example, Andreessen Horowitz, a Walker & Company investor, also recently funded startup Mayvenn, a hair extension company initially aimed at extensions bought by African Americans. Meanwhile, Honest Company just raised $100 million at a $1.75 billion valuation.

How does Bevel promise to provide a less irritating shave? Walker says that most razors sold in stores are multi-blade, which can cause irritation because they cut hair beneath the skin. But Bevel’s razor has only one blade that is supposed to cut hair at skin level.

In addition to razors, Walker & Company sells balms and creams geared towards people of color. Walker & Company’s prices, however, are more expensive than the average Gillette razor and shaving cream. A three month supply of Bevel products, which includes a razor, blades, shaving cream, and a soothing balm, costs $90.

Bevel products are typically bought through subscriptions, with supplies delivered every three months. The deal with Target marks the first time that Bevel products will be sole separately instead of being bundled together.

Walker & Company declined to disclose any customer or sales numbers. But it did say that more than 95% of Bevel’s customers continue with their subscriptions after receiving their first delivery.

While shaving products are the current focus, Walker insists that his company is not exclusively focused on shaving. The plan is to expand into other health and beauty products and services aimed at people of color. Next year, for example, Walker said that the startup will unveil a new health and beauty brand aimed at women.

 

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