Like many good business ideas, it started with a Google search.

In 2014, Skowhegan-area native Josh Meyer was about to hit his 30s and was thinking about how he needed to start taking better care of his skin.

Meyer searched the web for skin care products made specifically for men and kept running into articles about how “men’s grooming is booming.” But at the same time, he wasn’t seeing a good selection of high-end skin care products for men that contained the natural, organic ingredients he preferred.

Matt Bolduc. left, and Josh Meyer founded Brickell Men’s Products five years ago. The skin care company, based in Portland, is poised to double sales to $20 million this year. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

So Meyer, a serial entrepreneur who now lives in Florida, called up his longtime business partner in Portland, Matt Bolduc.

“I told Matt, ‘Hey, I think there’s a market here,'” Meyer said.

The two high school friends had recently shut the doors on a failed software startup and knew nothing whatsoever about the skin care industry or what goes into its products, but they were undeterred.

“We just Googled,” Meyer said. “Found manufacturers, found suppliers, just what anyone does these days.”

Together, they founded Brickell Men’s Products, named after Brickell, a ritzy urban neighborhood of Miami. In 2018, its fourth year of operation, Brickell Men’s generated about $10 million in product sales, mostly through e-commerce. This year, it is on pace to generate between $20 million and $25 million in sales, Meyer said.

The company now has 44 employees and operates out of a large manufacturing facility off Riverside Street in Portland. Brickell Men’s now ships an average of about 500 orders per day.

RAMPING UP

To get started, Bolduc and Meyer concocted their own recipes for various creams and lotions based on high-end women’s products, tweaking the recipes to make them more appealing to men: less flowery and slippery, more easily absorbed into the skin, more robust to accommodate thicker skin and hair. Whenever possible, they chose natural ingredients over lab-created ones.

For packaging, they aped the most commonly used motif for men’s grooming products: black bottles and labels with white block lettering. Then the two entrepreneurs hired a contract manufacturer to make the recipes and started packaging and shipping their products out of Bolduc’s garage.

For pricing, they looked at what competitors were charging for similar products. Meyer said Brickell Men’s products are not cheap – a bottle of the company’s face moisturizer will cost you $32 – but are only a fraction the price of many comparable products for women.

Meyer, who specializes in sales and marketing, talked his way into getting a write-up about the company included in the popular lifestyle magazine Men’s Journal. That’s when business really took off, he said.

“It was a lucky strike,” Meyer said.

GROWING INDUSTRY

According to industry observers, Meyer and Bolduc happened upon the right idea at the right time. The market for men’s personal care products is growing much faster than the women’s market and is expected to reach global sales of $166 billion by 2022, according to Portland, Oregon-based Allied Market Research.

“The global upsurge in online retail platforms, and the escalation in health and fitness consciousness among men is anticipated to offer more business opportunities,” it said in a 2016 report.

Anti-aging cream by men’s care products company Brickell, Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Another market researcher, Port Washington, New York-based NPD Group, reported in January that men’s skin care product sales in the U.S. rose by more than 7 percent to $122 million in 2018.

“In recent years, the notion that men can’t or shouldn’t be using skin-care products or caring more in general about all aspects of their appearance has been receding,” said Chicago-based research analyst Andrew Stablein of Euromonitor International in a separate report.

Rachel Vrabel, a Florida-based skin care product reviewer and blogger who runs the website WomensBlogTalk.com, has been tracking the beauty products industry for years. Vrabel said another market trend she has witnessed recently is a movement toward greater transparency regarding ingredients, and a growing demand for ingredients that are deemed natural and safe.

After reviewing the company’s website, Vrabel said the marketing of Brickell Men’s fits into that trend, with its emphasis on listing ingredients and choosing ones that are natural and organic in most cases. (Meyer said artificial preservatives are sometimes necessary to prevent products from spoiling.)

Vrabel also complimented the company’s sales strategy, saying Brickell Men’s appears to be avoiding certain aggressive tactics that are prevalent in online skin care product sales, such as “free” trials that trigger an automatic product subscription.

“I had not heard of this line, but I looked at their website, ingredients, terms of service … and it looks really good,” she said. “I actually ordered the free sample pack so my husband can try. I did have to pay $6.95 shipping, but that’s expected. No free trial catch.”

Brickell Men’s recently started offering a separate line of skin care products for women, as well. Meyer said it made sense because the company already had all of the manufacturing, distribution and marketing infrastructure in place for its men’s products.

Meyer and Bolduc said that unlike many startups, Brickell Men’s is a fully bootstrapped company with no outside investors. They said 99 percent of the company’s sales come from the U.S., United Kingdom, European Union and Australia.

While most sales occur online, Brickell Men’s products can now be found in some high-end salons and department stores, including Neiman Marcus.

Meyer said it’s a myth that men don’t care about taking care of their skin, but that it’s something most American men still don’t feel comfortable talking to their friends about.

“They care,” he said. “They just don’t want people to know.”

 


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