Episode 140 // Building a Quality Product with Karen Young of Oui Shave

September 5, 2017

The secret to a successful product-based business? Make the quality so great that your customers can’t help but be fiercely loyal. At least that’s what Karen Young of Oui Shave did when she decided to take on the women’s razor industry. We’re talking with her about building a quality product, creating lasting relationships with your clients, and taking a chance on a product-based business that challenges a system.

Learn More about the Topics Discussed in this Episode
This Episode Brought to You By:
"There's always room to grow, but seek out the absolute best that you can to offer to your customers."
- Karen Young

Discussed in this Episode

  • Having an inventor/problem-solving mindset as a kid and how that ties with a product-based business
  • Why razors? The history of women's razors
  • Taking a chance on putting a product out there that challenges a system
  • What it takes to start a product-based business
  • Overcoming price barriers when you're sourcing quality products


More from Karen Young

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Braid Creative

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Almanac Supply Co.


Kathleen Shannon 0:01
Hello, and welcome to being boss,

Emily Thompson 0:03
a podcast for creative entrepreneurs. I'm Emily Thompson.

Kathleen Shannon 0:07
And I'm Kathleen Shannon.

Karen Young 0:08
I'm Karen young with cliches and I'm being boss. You guys,

Kathleen Shannon 0:16
today's episode is a treat. We talk to a lot of authors and service providers. But we also love getting in with the makers and people who are inventing new things and disrupting markets. And that is exactly what Karen young, the CEO and founder of we shave is doing. She has designed the first luxury shaving brand created for women by women we shave creates an experience around shaving that women are raving about offering high quality razors, blades, and non toxic grooming products that actually cater to our skincare needs. Now, I promise this is not an ad, we're not only talking about shaving and razors, but what it's like to be a creative entrepreneur creating a product like this, and the specific challenges that come with marketing and distributing physical product. So Since launching in 2015, we shave has been featured in Harper's Bazaar, Vogue real simple Town and Country and now being boss. You guys, it takes a lot of talent, grit and determination to be a creative entrepreneur. Not only do you have to be good at what you do, you have to get paid for it. And that's where fresh books cloud accounting comes in. Money conversations can be awkward, but freshbooks makes billing painless, and it makes you look legit, like the pro you want to be keep track of your expenses and income like a boss. Fresh books cloud accounting is easy to use, but it's also robust with all the things you need to grow your business and make more money doing what you love. Try fresh books cloud accounting for free by going to freshbooks comm slash being boss and enter being boss in the How did you hear about us section?

Unknown Speaker 2:03
Karen, it's

Kathleen Shannon 2:03
so nice to meet you.

Unknown Speaker 2:05
You too you to

Kathleen Shannon 2:07
tell us a little bit about your story. Like Where Where are you from? Where are you now? And what are you making?

Karen Young 2:15
So I am I'm from Brooklyn. Well, I'm actually from two very interesting places. So I'm from Brooklyn, but my family is actually from South America, Guyana. So we are right next to Brazil, Venezuela. We're the only English speaking country in South America. And so I grew up there from about two months old to seven years old, came back to Brooklyn where my son was born in Brooklyn. But my parents had both immigrated from Guyana to Brooklyn. And I have been here since I was seven years old. So I'm always sort of torn in between those two worlds, you know, I identify very heavily with being this like South American, you know, we get called Caribbean every once in a while type girl, and a Brooklyn girl. And so I am in Brooklyn, and I'm currently I'm the CEO of a line of women's razors and grooming products called we shave.

Kathleen Shannon 3:21
Okay, so whenever we first got your pitch in our inbox, and you guys, we're like 20 pitches a day, at this point, we get so many but yours really stood out because I was thinking, one, why razors, and then to the way that you articulated your passion for razors it release it out. So I really want to dig into this. And I was really excited to speak to someone who's making products because for Emily and myself, we are kind of more service based entrepreneurs, consultants, where we code out websites in the past designing logos, everything that we're doing, we can literally do from our keyboard, we can come up with an idea and launch it an hour later, right. But whenever you're manufacturing something I just feel like it ties back to probably our days of being little kids thinking I want to be an inventor. I don't know if you had any of that in your soul. Emily, did you ever want to be an inventor? Like thinking of like fun things to make? And do

Emily Thompson 4:25
you know it for sure. And I even started my online business Never making jewelry. So I was I was making things back then. And services certainly easier. But I think there's so much more. No, there definitely is so much more satisfaction that comes from creating products from from having this or having this thing in your hand is so much better than you know sending off a digital file somewhere, I think.

Kathleen Shannon 4:52
But there's got to be so much more like prototyping and testing and bumps in the road I can only imagine so I want to hear about all of that. So first though, razors, why razors?

Karen Young 5:04
Why razors? So first I will tell you that at least once a month I go, What the hell was I thinking? Why didn't I get into service? When you're dealing with inventory and prototyping, and prototyping, and sampling and all of that, and just the price of upkeeping, a product based business can definitely the daunting. So why razors? I have always been, you are right, I have always been obsessed with product. And actually, when I was really young, I think I was in junior high school, maybe I had this assignment in school. And they asked us, like, if there was anything that we could invent, like, you know, they asked us to put our little invention hat on. And they say, Well, what, you know, what would it? What would it be, and I went home, and I drew this sort of like, really funky sketch of a renewed, you know, redone street sweeper, because I was so annoyed by Street Sweepers, like, I'd be walking to school, and they would come blazing up, you know, the street. And I was just like, What is wrong with these things? They're just basically pushing dirt and water all over the place. They're not actually doing their job. And so

Kathleen Shannon 6:15
leaf blowers.

Unknown Speaker 6:16
Yes, exactly, is the leaf blower the street.

Kathleen Shannon 6:22
And the noise, it's been proven to make people unhappy.

Karen Young 6:25
I didn't know that. But I completely understand I completely understand. So that young, I was just like, okay, there's something wrong with this. And I'm going to figure out how to fix it. And so I went, and I took my little drawing in. And I was just like, if there's anything that I'm going to reinvent, it's going to be this and this is what's going to happen. And it's going to actually, you know, push the dirt and everything off the street, the garbage off the street into this little receptacle, and then what is going to come behind, it's going to have a broom and soap, and it actually does its job, right. So I totally redid that. And my whole goal in doing that was to was to actually run a fleet of them. Like I was just like, I want to build this thing, do it better and run a fleet. And so I think that I you know, it was interesting when you when you kind of brought up from young, like, Is there something that in you that you sort of carry through? And for me, I do think that is maybe that's the case. So now as an adult, you know, the problem for me was shaving hen in this particular case, I have from the time I picked up my mother's razor at like 1230 you know, whatever. And I was just like, I'm gonna take care of this business myself, never mind what she says. I went to doubt on my skin turn around, and I it was like, my whole body was on fire. It was just an awful experience. And, you know, for years, I just kept thinking, Oh, my God, I must just have extra sensitive skin because it didn't matter what type of razor I picked up. It was, you know, the cheap plastic ones with like a couple blades or, you know, seven blades, like whatever they came out with, I tried. And it only resulted in ingrown hairs and razor burn every single time. And I've actually always found myself around product. And so I was working in beauty at the time. And you know, I remember, like very vividly a couple of my friends. It was springtime 2014 around and a couple of my friends said you know, let's get together and it's beautiful that let's get together and go for like Manny Petty's or whatever. And, as is the case with most women. How is this like, Oh, I'm gonna go have someone do my toes. I'm gonna shave my legs.

Kathleen Shannon 8:48
I love shaving my legs for the pedicurist before I'm shaving my legs for my husband.

Karen Young 8:58
I mean, it was really bad. I would call being single at the time. And I was just like this. This actually really sucks. Like, seriously. I mean, it was winter going into spring, beautiful day. And Karen decides to shave her legs for the woman giving her a pedicure. So you know times are rough.

Kathleen Shannon 9:19
And did you have the same like did it chew up your legs?

Karen Young 9:22
Yeah, yeah. So I got there. And you know, I rolled up my leg, my pant legs, I put my my foot on the base and on the inside of my right leg was covered in razor burn. And this was no more than 30 minutes after I had to shave. And I think one reason it stands out in my mind besides the horror, the horror on my friend's face, right? But the other reason it stands out in my mind is I remember looking at the pack of razors that I had just bought, you know, like a day or two before and I said to myself, I'm so over this I'm just Nothing ever works. Let me see if you know finally this this one, you know, I think it was the cheap ones with like the two blades or whatever I was like maybe less blades will work. Let me just see if something will work. And after that experience so my friend looks over at my leg and she's like, what, like what just happened? Your your entire leg is mangled. And I was just like, that's my thing that happens every single time I shave. And then so she started talking about her issues with shaving and my other friend is like, Oh, hell no, she's like I'm lasered from head to toe. She's like, I can't deal. You know, basically, we just kind of all started batting around these real horror stories. And it just really stuck with me for some reason. You know, it was like the streetsweeper. I was like, Okay, I have to go home and figure this out.

Kathleen Shannon 10:46
I think that it's pretty genius. Because who of us haven't had razor burn? Emily, you have? Yeah,

Emily Thompson 10:53
yeah, for sure.

Kathleen Shannon 10:55
You still get it?

Unknown Speaker 10:57

Emily Thompson 10:57
I shave so much less now.

Kathleen Shannon 11:03
To this point where I was like, Well, why why am I even shaving? Like it sent me into this feminist philosophical like, what is this something that is handed down from Puritans? Am I even participating in something that I want to participate in? And I've actually been reading this book on beauty called face value. I'll link to it in the show notes. I've had a couple people ask me, so I'll link to it in the show notes. But it's been a really interesting book to read on, like the deeper impacts of beauty and how we have these conversations and how women will bond over beauty and really meaningful ways. And so it sounds like that moment that you had with your friend, getting pedicures was an opportunity not only to start a new business, but to really bond over like holy shit, what are we doing to our legs, and our watches. And so and I also want to mention that I've actually tried lasering after dealing with razor burn, only to get my crotch burned. Oh, and the hair still grows back. So no, I'm like, I'm just gonna rock the 70s. Have to Karen So tell me about like, how you actually started to approach the solution to the problem?

Unknown Speaker 12:24

Kathleen Shannon 12:24
you ever have any like, maybe I just shouldn't shave like, do you?

Karen Young 12:28
Oh, I wish I could girlfriend. No, no, I wish I could, but I'm a black woman, there is just it would be that just can't happen. And I mean, to each their own, but I let my hair grows with a vengeance. And it gets like really hot really quickly. So you know, I just basically always succumb to the torture. And when I say the torture, I mean, over the years, I have tried a variety of things as well. You know, I remember the last time I whacked the woman flipped me over so many times. I was just like, you are taking me to dinner after this. Right? Like, that was next level. Like I'm pretty sure you've got a thing for me. And I might have a thing for you now. I don't know. That was amazing. Laughter that was just like, Okay, I'm done. I'm done. I can't I can't do this. Yeah.

Emily Thompson 13:25
So at what point though, did you think All right, I'm fixing this for myself? And what did that process look like? Like,

Unknown Speaker 13:32
just What did it look like?

Emily Thompson 13:34
I'm imagining so many things right now.

Karen Young 13:38
So I thankfully, I'm a born researcher. And you know, I love sort of digging into things, especially when there's an inkling of a solution in there. And so I really just started researching the history of razors themselves. Like I took the whole shaving thing out of the way. Because if you just take a moment and look up the history of women shaving it's really sad. And there's a lot of shame as

Kathleen Shannon 14:08
a Puritan thing.

Karen Young 14:10
So what like, what you'll see is the the entire history of like ads aimed at women for you know, probe shaving or hair removal, have just really been so sexist. And, you know, it'll be like, you know, some of the older ads that we saw from like, even as late as the 50s 70s. were basically like, you know, if you don't remove your hair, if you don't shave, you won't be loved. You won't be you know, found attractive. You won't get married. Yeah, yeah. So I was just like, Okay, let me just put that aside for a second. That's a whole other topic and that has informed my business as well in some ways in terms of how I approach marketing, but I just kind of went down the path of learning about razors And so I found that in 1915, the first razor that women were actually using was called a safety razor. And that is that single blade razor that you see on on our site. And then I did a little bit more research. And normally when you when you research this at this point, you'll mostly find things sort of geared towards men. So some of the things that I found was that it's, it's better because it has this single blade. So it's only removing hair at the surface of the skin, as opposed to pulling and tugging the hair like multi blade mechanisms, because you know, those are meant those, what those do is sort of remove hair below the surface of the skin. And that's how you get the ingrown hairs and so on, because now your hair is trapped under the skin. And then the skin heals because you've just removed a little bit of a layer of skin as well while you're while you're shaving. So the skin and the body does what it's supposed to. And it heals and it grows over. And now that hair is struggling to push through your skin. And quite often it'll dive back below. And so when it doesn't even get to break through your skin, that's when you have like those really sort of inflamed and infected

Kathleen Shannon 16:16
Indian hair pulling out the tweezers as a surgeon. Yeah,

Karen Young 16:21
yeah. And it's so funny, I've had that exact comment and conversation from from women before I once went to, I once went to like a desk side with the to sit down and talk to an editor about the line. And she literally,

Kathleen Shannon 16:35
you tell us what a desk side is. I was on a podcast, and I hear that and I don't know what it means.

Karen Young 16:41
So a deaf side is basically it's almost like you're sitting at the side of their desk, but you could meet them anywhere, you know, in the in the building or whatever. But that's what it means. And you're basically taking the product to them and introducing it to them in person. Nice. Oh, yeah.

Kathleen Shannon 16:58
Yeah. And so you had a beauty editor tell you that she went,

Karen Young 17:01
yes. Yeah. So those commonalities. Those commonalities are the things you know, like when you say early, how we bond over beauty stories, like that's one of the the ways like we can all literally if we have ever picked up a razor, if 10 women have picked up a razor, nine of them are gonna sit there and talk about how insane and awful the processes and you know, the surgical removal of ingrown hairs after that, and the one woman who doesn't say anything is used previously, like yeah, whatever, but

Kathleen Shannon 17:36
not a part of this conversation.

Karen Young 17:39
And moving on. So yeah, I I did that research I found you know, that the razor, it was actually familiar to me, because when I was growing up in Ghana, my my uncle's used to use this type of razor. And I always really admired the process and the care with which they took to, to shaping, you know, and that was something so my grandmother, you know, I saw her put on makeup and lipstick and powder, you know, fluff that comb shaped bra and all that. It was just like, okay, that's womanhood, but something about what my uncle's were doing, which is so magnetic, you know, they fill the the sink with water, and they use this beautiful brush, and they would put the, you know, put this foam all over their faces. And then, you know, they would take these really slow, very thoughtful, careful shades with this beautiful razor. And then I would hear it to clink against the sink while they wash it out. And then, you know, this whole process of like packing it and putting it away, or just putting it up for display, and so on. And so when I saw that all of this stuff came flooding back, and I said, I wonder if we could like, what is the difference? Like, why can't we use it. So I went a little further in. And I started to learn about the differences in exposure and aggressive level and so on. Basically, a safety razor is a tool. And so it you know, it really does have to be treated with respect, but it's it's really beautifully made. And it has all of these elements that are that are taken into context when it comes to making it so for a woman, because we don't have very coarse hair to contend with. Well, I do sometimes, but that's enough. That's another show.

Kathleen Shannon 19:32
Some here in places it's pretty cool.

Karen Young 19:39
But generally, most of our Exposed Area. We don't need anything terribly aggressive. So I had to learn the difference, you know, with the language and how razors are made and so on. And then I ordered a sample. Now it's just like let me see how this thing works and Kathleen, let me tell you, I first of all, so the joke is that I took my phone in the bathroom in the shower with me that day. And I had like 911 setup for speed dial because it's just like, never use this thing before. single blade, not sure what's gonna happen because

Kathleen Shannon 20:17
it's like a straight razor like the kind of like the switch blade razor that you see. No.

Unknown Speaker 20:22

Karen Young 20:23
it's called as like a razor. Yeah, yeah. So it's called a safety razor, in part because there is a bar at the front of the razor that actually keeps it back from your skin and the the curve and exposure of that bar is what determines how aggressive that razor is against your skin, whether it's going to shave through a really coarse beard or whether it's going to shave, you know, under arms, kind of so you

Kathleen Shannon 20:48
still just have to be a little more careful than like the pink razor that you might get. Yeah,

Unknown Speaker 20:53
yes, we're

Kathleen Shannon 20:54
talking about the kind of ritual of shaving I was taking back to remembering the first time I saw my mom shave her legs. I remember she pulled a razor like a big pink razor. This big make razors are just they do.

Unknown Speaker 21:09
Yeah, cuz that was

Kathleen Shannon 21:10
the last one I use that was it. Okay, so they make pens and razors clearly not specializing. And I remember her taking that pink razor and her legs aren't even wet out of the side of her drawer and just changed and that's the sound it made. Yeah. And then getting her big toe too. Yeah.

Unknown Speaker 21:29
And there's nothing big,

Kathleen Shannon 21:30
sexy or glamorous, or ritualistic or self carry about it. It was like we're about to go to the pool. I gotta get this. I'm gonna get my nails off my leg.

Unknown Speaker 21:42
Gotta get my Yeah, let

Unknown Speaker 21:44
me get my knee.

Kathleen Shannon 21:48
Mr. Spock.

Karen Young 21:51
Right. Okay, so you get this razor that you have to deal with with care, you are maybe afraid of cutting yourself you've got 911 on speed dial 911 on dial, and then I get in the shower, and I use it and I like the fucking angels. Can I curse on the show? Is that? Okay? Great, big ready. The angels came out of the sky and started singing. I mean, the most incredible, most gentle shave that I have ever experienced in my life. I had to keep I kept feeling my skin while I was shaving because I thought I wasn't doing anything. And I was just like, oh, but the hair is gone. But there's not that, you know, that sounded describe. Like, there's not that there's none of that sound. There's none of the pain discomfort. And so I said okay, I'm gonna let this sit overnight because I need to see you know, maybe maybe by morning I'll I'll see you know, I'll probably wake up covered in in razor burn. Got up the next day, smooth as silk incredible skin. And I was just like, Well, shit. I mean, number one. I think I need to figure out how to teach women how to use this. And even if I can't, I'm never going back. And yeah, I have been. I need to start a club. Right? There's like, I have been free of ingrowns for over two years. Like that. What is it the IFC maybe in grown free club or something? Yeah, I got to trademark that one. I just came up with that one before anybody takes it off YouTube.

Kathleen Shannon 23:35
Okay, so you did your legs. Ben is this razor for all the things

Karen Young 23:39
I did all the things? I did all the things. It's great. It is great. It was great. It still is great. Yeah. Um, you know, one of the things is that, like, you know, your exposure to learning how to shave was it you saw your mom shave?

Kathleen Shannon 23:58
My rate example things.

Karen Young 24:03
My mom, the nerves like barely grows any hair. So when I grabbed her bazer up shower that time it probably was like a year old and rusty. So you know, double down on on on just the goodness right there. But she didn't shave that often. She didn't need to shave that often. And so there was no there was none of that. Like, let me show you how this is done or anything. Whereas for like my uncle's like I saw them. You know, they were taught by my grandfather, they were taught how to shave. And so one of the things that I realized is that we have completely missed an education on that, you know, and that was something that I really wanted to implement into. We shave I really wanted it to be focused on educating women on shaving. It doesn't have to suck it doesn't have to be awful. And it Doesn't have to, you know, ravaged your skin.

Emily Thompson 25:05
We know that you struggle with how to officially set up your business and incorporate comm is here to help you eliminate the guesswork of making your business legit. They don't offer legal or financial advice, but they are here to help you with all the paperwork and filings for you to set up an LLC corporation or nonprofit. And they're offering our boss listeners a free toolkit that includes a business plan template, incorporation guide, and discounts to help you make it do to get this guide go to incorporate.com slash being boss. So whenever you got in the shower, that time with that razor the first time, were you planning on making a business out of it? Or were you just trying to find a razor that worked?

Karen Young 25:55
I was just desperate to find a razor that worked.

Emily Thompson 25:58
So when did the business idea for itself born itself birth itself? what point did I miss out of these razors?

Karen Young 26:10
So the experience sat with me for a while and I think it it married with the you know, experience that I have in product. You know I am I truly believe I'm a born entrepreneur. This was also my second business. So I had been in product product before so I had a sense of Okay, these are the elements of you know how I would take something bring it to market. At the time, I was actually working in packaging for a prestigious beauty company, one of the largest in the US. So I had a sense of Okay, these are the you know, the sort of channels that things would go through before they would get to the consumer. So I knew how to pull something together. And, you know, figure out how to package it and sell it. And so that really sat with me for I'd say I probably sat with it for about three to four months, because in all honesty, I thought I had lost my mind. I was just like, okay, yeah, you know, it was great. It was a teenager make it a business to you like what, who said you needed to do that?

Emily Thompson 27:20
All the best business ideas and make you feel a little fucking crazy. At some point,

Karen Young 27:24
you feel a little crazy. I mean, even you know, I will speak to other female founders. And they'll be like, yo, you are like, this is disruptive. And I'm like, is it? Huh? I guess it is

Kathleen Shannon 27:38
kind of cool. A lot of what you know the thinks period panties are doing it's kind of like the shaving version of this, like why have we not readdress how women are shaving their legs in a way that isn't for the profit of the people way at the top, you know, where they're adding probably a fourth blade to things as a marketing tactic, when in fact, it's probably doing terrible things for legs. Yeah, so that's me, I actually wanted to talk about a little bit. Um, but maybe we'll circle back around to that, because I want to talk about bringing this thing to market and the fact that this hasn't happened yet. Actually, yeah, let's talk about it now. Like, why hasn't this happened yet? And I think that this is something that keeps a lot of creative entrepreneurs back from creating the thing. Like they think Well, I was just listening to the Spanx interview on how I built this. And the founder of Spanx. Whenever she would tell her friends about it, they would say, Well, if this was such a good idea, someone would have created it already. And so I wonder if you had any of those inner doubts, like, well, if this is so amazing, then why aren't other women doing it? Or why hasn't it gone to market yet? Did you experience any of that? And then how did you overcome that and just do the damn thing.

Karen Young 28:53
So I did a lot of research on women shaving with safety razors, and nothing really came up in the US. But I would find every once in a while, like a little thread that was happening somewhere in the UK, or you know, like a video or something. And I was just like, okay, okay, so it is being done somewhere. And more than anything, I'm not the only one. I'm not crazy, you know, like, this is an experience that other people are having. And this is an experience that other people have sought out because of how fantastic it is the experiences. And so I just, I really, really just thought about, you know, the other the other brands that I saw bringing products to market at the time and I was really inspired by like the Warby Parker's of the world thinks, you know, even as you mentioned before, and I was just like, I really feel like women need to know about this and even if I fail, or even in If it's like a super niche business, you know, I think there's something powerful in solving a woman's problem. And that went back to that sense of community, you know, and the fact that we can all get together and talk about beauty, what we love, what we hate what we need to see change. And so I was just like, okay, I feel like if I can marry that sense of community, with this, you know, a direct to consumer type of business, you know, deliver it right to your door. It's convenient, it's accessible, it's sexy. And on top of that, it solves your problems, as like, I really feel like I have something there. And those were the things that I said, I don't feel like anyone else can say that right now. And because I can, I think that's one reason that I could take a chance on digging this out there.

Kathleen Shannon 30:57
Okay, so you've not only got the razor, which has to do an impeccable job of, you know, getting the hair off of our legs and crutches and armpits and whatever else we want to shave, and big toes.

Unknown Speaker 31:10
Big, big toe,

Kathleen Shannon 31:12
maybe maybe my face. You guys, shave, I shave my face, sometimes. I've admitted this on the podcast. And I recently got razor burn on my upper lip and look like Oh, no way. Anyway, I've stopped shaving my face since But anyway, whatever you want to shave, it not only has to be a really great razor, but then you started thinking about business model. So when I want to talk about kind of the process of if as much as you can, like, there might be some proprietary or some secrets or whatever, but just getting the product. Is it more about distribution, like finding the right one, and then packaging it and marketing it and distributing it for the target audience? Or is it you know, did you do some invention along the way? were you working with manufacturers to say I need this guard to be half a millimeter to the left or you know, whatever it might look like? So not only getting the razor, right? But then the business model? Like how did you start to even think about what that was going to look like and how you would actually literally ship the razor? Yeah.

Karen Young 32:24
So with regards to the razor, I didn't know squat about razors, then. Except that I knew what experience I had had with this particular one. And I kind of knew enough with regards to like the level of aggressive and so on. And I said, Okay, if I can prove product market fit by taking the razor that I have, and pairing that with these really beautiful skincare products that sort of expose women to this ritual of shaving in this in this manner and shaving with better, you know, all natural products, in addition, then I think that's the way to go. And so I said, I'm going to take that and I'm going to pair it with the direct to consumer model, you know, just launch the website and sell directly to our customers through that model. Because I need to know, with no middleman, what their experience has been. If this is going to be something and it's going to be big, I need to have a direct line of communication with these women. So what I did is the razor that I fell in love with, I went and found the source of them in Germany. And so we worked through the process of me selling the razors here. And so I started that way, and we kept doing I've been doing that for about two years now. And so this year, what I did, because I always knew that I wanted to own the channel, I don't think you don't come out with something like this that is you know, so special and unique and my truly solving problem unless you can figure out how to own the channel. So that was something that I kind of always had in the back of my mind.

Kathleen Shannon 34:17
And can you just say what you like what do you really mean whenever you say own the channel,

Karen Young 34:21
on the channel, as in, you know, sometimes they'll use the terminology vertical, in, in product manufacturing, and vertical can often mean that you know, you like only everything from the factory and so on. But in my case it means that I will own the razor I'll own that angle. I'll own that aggressive, you know, level like I'll own every aspect to how this particular

Kathleen Shannon 34:48
razor works cornering the market and cornering the market with Yeah, here is probably luxury razors for women. Yes. Okay.

Karen Young 34:57
Yes. And so that was always in the back of my mind. But I think I'm humble enough to say, I'm bold enough to say that I can corner the market. But I'm humble enough to know that I can't do that without my customers. So we spent about two years, getting a sense of how women actually truly experienced the product. And so, this year, one of the things that I did I always keep in very close contact with our customers. And I'm always, you know, I read every review, like see what, like, what are we doing? Well, what can we do better. And so this year paxi, reached out early in the year and it was like, Alright, guys, to your anniversary, you know, we just hit it. And, you know, we're ready. Like, it's time for us to take your feedback and make this line better. Because when I launched it was like, I had my friends feedback, I had my feedback, but there was still an inkling of, Okay, I'm building this product. And I'm building it with with all of this great information. But I don't know as yet, if it's, it's that amazing, you know, I need to see how people truly experience it. And so I felt after two years, we had had enough customers, in order to give us some feedback for our next iteration, which is where we are now.

Kathleen Shannon 36:19
And also in those first two years. Are you making a profit yet? Are you really just using anything that you make to grow the business? Are you working a day job? Like, what is that situation? Like

Karen Young 36:30
I said, so I was up at six o'clock every morning, packing orders, you know, making product, I would come home, and there would be stacks of boxes in front of my apartment door from you know, deliveries that I gotten that day for raw materials, and bottles and jars and so on.

Kathleen Shannon 36:51
Are you making your own product?

Karen Young 36:53
At that time? I was Yeah, at that time. Like I was pouring oil putting

Kathleen Shannon 36:57
together the oil. Yep. And yeah, yep.

Karen Young 37:04
We started really simply because that was all I could handle. So when we launched literally, it was like one oil in two cents and a couple of razors. Yeah, I think maybe even one razor at the time. And then it was like incrementally, like six months. And I was like, Hey, I think they like this. I had this other thing. And hey, you know, and I, I just really tried to reimagine everything that I had ever used, and every experience and every problem that I had ever tried to solve post, shaving, waxing, and so on. And I was just like, yep, I remember using that product. It absolutely sucked. It was like pouring rocket fuel on my bikini line, I've got to come up with something better. So yeah, that was the The, the, you know, the process. And every every six months or so I grow, but we have been profitable from year one. We're growing, like gangbusters. I mean, it's really fantastic. We go 300%. year two. Yeah. So it's it's been, it's been a really fantastic journey. But the business has been primarily running itself. Unless I needed to take on large leaps, like I'm doing currently, it's been pretty much running itself.

Emily Thompson 38:17
That's fantastic. And I love that you really just started with the basics, I think there's so much power in there, it's such an important thing to sort of bring out for a second, this idea that you went into it with a couple of products minimum viable, you went in there, you started the thing, and you grew it really organically from there. And by listening to your people, I think that is that's how you're supposed to start things like this.

Karen Young 38:42
Yeah, yeah. And so I'm really excited because I'm actually going to Germany in September, to oversee the making of our very own razor, and, you know, I took our customer feedback, in order to do that, you know, in terms of the experience that they had everything down to the length of the handle. It's going to be really fantastic. And and I'm so excited. But, you know, I remember reaching out to my customers, and I said, Hey, you know, when when I started this business, I we had to start based, like, there's no way I if there was one thing I knew for sure, was that like, I was not going to put an $85 razor up onto a website and say, hey, go over here and buy it. You know, it was just like I needed to prove myself I needed to prove the company, I needed to prove the product. And I needed to see if other people would have that similar sort of almost life changing experience. And now, you know, a couple years in when I knew that we had done that successfully. I was able to reach back out to those very same people who are wonderful, loyal, and very chatty customers. And they let me have it. This is what I love. This is what you could do better. This is what I hate, you know. And we really just took that and went back to, to a new factory, and even our lab and so we're we're doing the entire product line to make it even better, which I'm really excited about.

Kathleen Shannon 40:18
I think that one of the things that's so cool about your business and businesses like yours, including anything that's disrupting a system that's profiting off of women's hygiene, including our periods, or, I mean, that when I think of the most like with using things like diva cups and the thinks underwear, and now with this, a razor is the sustainability and the environmental factors to it. So there is an upfront cost. But I think that to women who really care about the environment, and who really care about really even just leaving more of a minimal lifestyle, Emily and I were just talking about, you know, purging our closets and getting organized, having one less thing that you're just having one thing that's really beautiful, kind of that quality over quantity thing really matters. But I was wondering if you could even speak to some of the I think that a lot of people are more aware to have things like parabens and toxins in their products. So does your razor solve some of those problems? Do you think that current razors I mean, without being too slanderous? And if you guys love your pink razors, you know, go for it, I guess. But are there things that we don't know about those products that are maybe a little bit shady or dangerous? Yeah, product addresses.

Karen Young 41:39
Yeah. So with the razor itself, as, as you mentioned, so this razor is basically an heirloom, it's something and one of the things that I loved about it also is that, you know, as we talked earlier about the fact that women never actually learn to shave. I have a customer that if they choose to have a daughter down the line, they're going to be able to teach their daughter how to shave with this razor. And I just thought that was so special and wonderful and unique, and definitely something that has never been addressed for us. And then, you know, with regards to grooming products, in general, for women, I mean, oh my gosh, I like everyone else, I totally spent my days most weeks and Dwayne Reed, you know, picking up like, it will make your leg feel like cashmere, it's strawberry scented foam, and you're like, Oh, I don't think that strawberry distills down into an oil. I don't know how you manage that, but that's not possible. And so I wanted to address that in particular, you know, once again, you know, solve your own problem. So in particular, for me, I have always been very, very sensitive to synthetic ingredients and fillers and so on. And, you know, I would experience things like XML and like legs and everything after shaving as well. And so I thought, you know, when you think about shaving, waxing anything, it's one of the most intimate things that a woman can do and you think about the times before you know, she does it, it's normally you know, she's she's going out getting laid before she's getting

Kathleen Shannon 43:24
real. Thank you. It's my signal. I shaved my legs I better be getting some

Karen Young 43:32
Well, now I come out the shower. My fiance is like, Oh, you shaved and I'm like, Oh, it's 90 degrees don't think about it. But now but it really is it really is it marks so many things in in our lives and what I've actually been finding from my customers is that quite often the experience that they had using conventional razors you know, in terms of how their skin reacted after really impacted how they felt as women you know, did they feel sexy? Did they feel confident? I've we've had customers email us after and say that they haven't worn shorts in 10 years and they did for the first time after using the razor and the the oil and the products. So yeah, yeah, it was overall it was something that I would not put my foot down at all and use anything but all natural ingredients to to address women's skin. So all of our products are you know, vegetable based cold pressed oils, everything is scented with essential oils. The the partner that we're working with now, even as we expand, understood that and really, really adhere to our conditions and you know we have a new line coming out. That is absolutely stunning. Yeah. And that has some incredible ingredients. So it definitely be true to the brand.

Kathleen Shannon 45:06
So one of the things that the creative entrepreneurs that we work with a lot and speak with a lot, they offer really quality things. So I'm thinking about my friends who have retail who want to offer these really nice products, or my friends who have restaurants who source really quality ingredients. But it means that a shake might cost $8, or a solid might cost $10. It's not the Walmart situation where they're cutting corners and able to sell things for $1. So how have you overcome some of those barriers or challenges of having a very quality but expensive product where people are used to buying a $5 or $15 razor? To then sell one for $65? Or $85? How is it education? Is it community? Is it having a story behind your product? How are you getting? Or is it just the quality? Like how do you get through that?

Karen Young 45:58
Yeah, um, so we rely a lot on education. And I think the story is definitely a part of it. You know, I'm really excited. Because once we get back from Germany in September, you know, even on my Instagram stories, I'll be taking our customers and our followers along on that journey, to see how a safety razor is made. I mean, that is just insane, and so exciting, you know. But yeah, for us, it is definitely about storytelling, it's definitely about imparting the quality to it, it's about talking about how long the razor last, you know, so similar to how we're conditioned to buy from Walmart, and h&m and so on up the world and not knocking, you know, any brand or anything, but I think that we have succumb to this sense of more is better. And I think that more makes us feel rich to have more things in volume and more things in number, you look at your closet, and it's packed with things you know. And so there's a, there's a portion of it as well, where, you know, I do have to figure out how to communicate to my customer that this is the very last razor you will ever buy. You know, you're not going back to the store two months from now to try the next seven blade that came out. Not only is it a beautiful tool that's actually built to last by hand by an artisan by a factory that's over 100 years old. But it is also a tool that actually works so well that you don't even have to think about replacing it. Like, as if we don't have enough to think about as women, here's one less thing off your plate, that's great cover itself done, you know? Yeah, and education is really big for us. So I get to know our customer, I get to know what their, what their lives are, like what they're interested in, in general. And so I make sure that I don't want to be a one note brand. And I wouldn't want anyone speaking to me as if I were a one note, you know, individual. So I get to know like, what their favorite shows are, what do they like to do when they're off, which

Kathleen Shannon 48:10
is their favorite show Sex in the City.

Unknown Speaker 48:15
You talk about

Unknown Speaker 48:17
your razor name,

Karen Young 48:19
the name, they're funny. So I was a big fan of Sex and the City turns out my audience so when I launched, I thought that my audience was going to be more my age, and I'm not going to give my age away. But let's just say I was as a sex in the city. Hey, Episode One, thank you very much. And so I you know, that's another thing about about launching a brand is that you have this idea of Okay, I'm launching from scratch, this is who I think my customer is going to be. And then you know, you see what happens from there. And so what I ended up learning was that I had a largely millennial audience. But everyone knows Sex in the City. And that's the funny thing is that like, they're all like, Yeah, whatever. It's not like they were watching it on HBO last night or anything, but everyone gets to reference the room for our listeners that there is a carry razor, which is 14 karat gold. It's beautiful. And then there is a Samantha razor. Yes. The reason it's it's Sex in the City been named after sex, ethnicity characters is number one. I do not take myself too seriously. And I didn't want to take this brand so darn seriously. And number two. I wanted women to know, automatically the second they got to the page with the product or whatever, that this was for you. One of my issues around shaving is that we have always been an afterthought. We have always been Oh yeah, just use this men's razor. Oh yeah, it's fine. Whatever you can use it to And it's just been really frustrating, you know, you go over to these websites and you know, or wherever to buy a razor and, and it's kind of like, yeah, you know, it's for your, it's, it's for your beard and so on. And we just always are an afterthought. And we always are sort of left out. And I wanted women to automatically feel similar to when I put my leg up on the basin, and I had the razor burn, and my friend was like, What the hell is going on? That's something that a girlfriend will say to you. And so I wanted people to know that you had hit on a brand that was for you. And by someone who looked like you and had the same experiences you do.

Kathleen Shannon 50:41
Yeah, it makes me think about like, all the old white dudes making our products in a boardroom like nothing. Like, and we'll call it the carry razor. I think that is that really subtle nod that like, Okay, this is by a woman who watches shows that I watch. So Emily, do you have any other questions?

Emily Thompson 50:59
I don't think so. I think I think just generally advice that you may have, for anyone out there who's wanting to invent things or disrupt a product market or whatever it may be, what have you learned along the way that you would like to distill down for folks who may be wanting to walk a similar path?

Karen Young 51:20
Um, I would say, to definitely start start small. And I also think, so I remember thinking that there, there are like, a lot of companies that I kind of will see pop up in my, my, you know, Facebook feed with, like ads, and so on. And sometimes I will, I'll fall for it. Like, I'll be like, Oh, this is great, or, oh, this is really pretty, and I'll buy something, and then I get it. And I feel as if they're sort of beta testing on me just to kind of get started. And I, you know, I received the sort of crappy version of something, I think there's always room to grow, we are definitely growing and getting better. But I made it a point to seek out the absolute best that I could, at that time. And I offered that to my customers. And I knew that when it came to the price point, I would definitely lose some people. But I knew I couldn't fulfill and solve everything at one time. So I literally said, let me focus on the absolute best. And I know that there'll be that customer that's out there that has this problem. And that wants to solve this problem enough that they will take the chance on me. And then that turned from one customer which was like, my good friend to like to customers to five to 10 to 100. And, and we've been growing from there. That's my advice.

Emily Thompson 52:52
With that kind of advice. I think there will be less junk in the world.

Kathleen Shannon 52:57
Amen. I feel like you know, you've got a business with a ton of integrity whenever you put yourself out of business after people buy you once, like businesses that aren't repeatable, right, because that's what razors are right now. You've got to buy a new one. Dispose of one a good shave, now they're disposed. Exactly. They're disposable. So I love that you're bringing permanence to this market. I cannot wait to shave my legs with your razor. So let our audience know where they can find you.

Karen Young 53:30
Yeah, you can find this at we shave calm. That's o u ISHAV. v. And just a little note that oh UI is also supposed to sound like we when you say it, so I really wanted women to definitely feel like they belong. So that's a little play on Yes. We the whole thing there. And we we exactly. And we're on Instagram at V shave as well.

Emily Thompson 54:00
Awesome. All right, one more question for you. What makes you feel most boss?

Karen Young 54:07
Um, I would say that a booking a flight to a factory to be like, yeah, we're gonna do this. I'll see you in September. You know that? Definitely. And I had a moment where I was like, What would a white male do? Hey, book a motherfucking flight. Yeah, so I'm gonna do that. Yeah,

Emily Thompson 54:35
yeah. I love that.

Unknown Speaker 54:36

Emily Thompson 54:37
never thought about going to a factory. But I agree that I feel like that would be one of the most badass days of my life. Yeah, for sure. Yeah,

Kathleen Shannon 54:45
traveling for work always makes me feel the most boss for sure. And get you an upgrade that'll make you feel real. All right. Thank you so much for joining us. I've had so much fun. I had no idea. Yeah, that I would have so much fun talking about razors. But your story has been incredibly inspiring, not only from wanting to shave my legs inspiring, but just wanting to make something and to make something really well. So thanks for joining us, Karen.

Karen Young 55:14
Thanks for having me guys. This was a lot of fun.

Emily Thompson 55:18
We have gotten so much amazing feedback over the years from listeners about how our podcast has helped them start to grow and uplevel their businesses. So we want to celebrate you. Here's the boss we're celebrating this week.

Unknown Speaker 55:32
Hello bosses. My name is Daniel Joseph and I am being boss. I am a brand stylist and a web designer at my company function creative co founder at WWW dot Hello function.com and this week, I'm celebrating being boss by taking off three full days

Unknown Speaker 55:48
to prep and get my sister ready for her wedding.

Unknown Speaker 55:51
I've literally been able to take Monday Thursday and Friday off without any feelings of guilt

Unknown Speaker 55:57
without really checking my email or social media very much

Unknown Speaker 56:00
and just focusing on my family and it has felt so good because guess what? I didn't have to ask anyone for permission. That's my being boss celebration for this week. You guys I'm so pumped to keep hearing about what you guys are doing. And Kathleen and Emily thanks for featuring these. V boss Bye guys.

Kathleen Shannon 56:18
If you're feeling boss and want to submit your own boss moment or win go to WWW dot being boss club slash I am being boss. This episode of being boss was brought to you by fresh books cloud accounting, thank you to fresh books for sponsoring us and you guys can try it for free by going to freshbooks comm slash being boss. Thank you so much to our team and sponsors who make being boss possible our sound engineer and web developer Corey winter. Our editorial director and content manager Caitlin brain, our community manager and social media director Sharon lukey and are being countered David Austin, with support from braid creative and indicia biography.

Emily Thompson 56:58
Do the work. Be boss and we'll see you next week.