A cut above the rest: How these young British entrepreneurs are changing the grooming game for black men
October 25, 2016 at 4:00 pm
One particular brand that caused a social media frenzy was Shear and Shine, the UK’s first black-owned grooming brand for black men. The brand – which launched in January – has already been featured in major publications such as Buzzfeed UK, Telegraph Men, Black Beauty mag and The Voice News. It has appeared on stations such as London Live and SBTV, not to mention, they’re currently running a competition alongside the MOBO awards.
At their barber shop in Surrey, I sat down with the Shear and Shine founders Aaron Wallace and Lina Gadi to speak about their brand that has been making waves (pun intended), the overwhelming response to the brand and more.
So shear and shine barbers opened in 2014, and then you developed a line specifically aimed at black men. Why did you decide to venture that way?
Aaron: My customers would often ask me what products would work best for their hair. There weren’t many retailers I could point them to where specific products were easy to access. I also found that when looking for products for myself, there wasn’t anything specific to me as a black man. I didn’t see bottles with my face on it, so I decided that it was time to give black guys a voice and a choice. Until we created Shear and Shine, I didn’t even realize how big the need was. So many people have reached out and said they’ve been looking for these products.
The Shear and Shine range has beard oils, two types of conditioner and two types of shampoo. We also have shower gels, five different aftershaves and two types of body oil.
I know you say there isn’t anything for black men, but black women have products and our hair is the same. What’s the difference between products for black women and black men?
Lina: Female products can be used by men, but the people who make the products aren’t branding it for men. A pink bottle with a girl on it isn’t going to speak to a man. They need something more masculine. As a consumer, it’s nice to know that you are on the minds of the product developers.
Men also experience different problems to us such as ingrown hair and skin sensitivity.
From conception to completion, can you tell me about the making of the products? Did you have a direct hand in picking ingredients?
Lina: We’re very involved in making sure the products smell and feel how we want, but we trust our manufacturing developers to deal with other areas with because we don’t have a pharmaceutical background. We always try different things, and are constantly working to make our products better.
Aaron: We always have quality as our staple. Our aim is to be a brand that people can trust and know is worth paying for.
What has been the hardest thing about running Shear and Shine so far? How have you overcome hurdles?
Aaron: For me, my hurdles have been with the barbershop itself rather than the products. From finding the location to raising the capital and opening the shop, it has been one long learning process. A lot of my grey hairs have come from things such as building a solid client base and getting the building up to scratch because they’re physical things. But it’s all a learning process and a blessing because once you’ve jumped a hurdle; you gain enough understanding to not go through it again.
Lina: I don’t easily stress over things, but I do have “oh crap” moments. When we first sent out the product launch press release to media outlets, I thought: “Ok, this is hopefully going to get one or two shares.” But then it blew up all over the internet and everyone was sharing it. We did originally launch two weeks before but had no response. But after the press release, we had a backlog of orders and hadn’t come up with an efficient way of processing the orders. Of course, it was amazing but also overwhelming at the same time. It definitely taught me about having a good structure in place.
The product line launched in January and you’ve had an incredibly amazing year, what has been the best thing so far?
Aaron: The amount of people that have reached out and said: “Thank you for doing this, you’ve inspired me.” I didn’t initially set out to be an inspiration, my thought process was: “This is what I need, this is what my brothers need, and this is what my customer needs.” Now I’m seeing the bigger picture and the impact it has had, I realize how much of a big deal it really is.
Lina: It’s heartwarming to see the whole community rally around the brand and us. I spend a lot of time searching hashtags or keywords just to see what people are saying about the brand, and it’s been nothing but positivity. People have been sharing the brand with their friends and having conversations in the comment section. Without this level of support, we wouldn’t have gotten to the stage that we’re at now.
Aaron: I tweeted saying that there’s a stigma that black people don’t stick together, but I personally can’t subscribe to that notion because in my experience, the support has been solid.
So many young people who are working towards, or hope to one day make a difference in their communities and better yet, the world, are looking up to you and all you have achieved. What advice do you have for them?
Lina: Network, network, network. Have perseverance and patience, and don’t always expect something to work out on the first try. When you fall down, don’t stay down for too long. Lick your wounds and get back up.
Aaron: Write everything down. I get a lot of people who come to me with business ideas jumbled around in their head. Get your business plan on paper, because that will allow you to trim the fat off things you don’t actually need or want. If you have an idea and it’s something that you’re not familiar with, you can always study and learn it. Every expert was once a beginner.
For products and stockist listings, go to shearandshinegrooming.co.uk