Warby Parker Co-Founder Brings Style (At a Discount) to Shaving)

Andy Katz-Mayfield (left) and Warby Parker co-founder Jeff Raider have launched shaving startup Harry’s. Photo: Harry’s
Warby Parker did it for eyeglasses, offering style at a discount. Now one of the co-founders of the trendy retailer is tackling something almost every guy needs: razors. Warby Parker co-founder Jeff Raider and his longtime friend Andy Katz-Mayfield have built Harry’s, a startup selling more than just blades and handles, but what they are calling “shaving experiences.”

It all started in October 2011, when Katz-Mayfield had a lousy experience while running out to pick up a razor at the drugstore. “It took me ten minutes to flag down a store associate to unlock the case,” he says. “I picked up four razor blades and a tube of shaving cream, which came out to around $20.” Shocked by the nosebleed price, and turned off by the space-age design cues of all the razors he saw, Katz-Mayfield was convinced there was a better way. He convinced Raider of the same thing.

The two decided they would build razors for the “more discerning guy” and make them cheaper than both the dominant brands – Schick and Gillette – and what you’d find at a shaving boutique like Art of Shaving. They called their new brand Harry’s, after a grandfather figure in Raider’s life.

Next they spent nine months to learn as much as they could about shaving technology and the business. “That journey took us to Germany where we formed a partnership with company that makes some of the highest-quality razor blades in the world,” says Raider. From there the duo designed their own razor handles, packaging and shaving cream that would work perfectly with the blades, and spent many months refining, tweaking, and using the products to before landing on the final designs.

The finished razors don’t resemble the safety razors of the past, nor do they look like a Mach 3. “We took aesthetic inspiration from older ballpoint pens and old knives that have unique handles,” says Katz-Mayfield. “From there we linked up with industrial designers to take that aesthetic to create handles that are stylish and ergonomic.”

Harry’s The Truman handle Photo: Alex Washburn/Wired
For $15 you can buy Harry’s The Truman shaving kit, which includes a plastic weighted razor handle, three blade cartridges (with five blades), plus a tube of shaving cream that the two concocted themselves. Ten dollars more will get you The Winston, which has an aluminum handle. “A similar product at a high-end boutique would cost multiples of that,” says Raider. Indeed, shaving kits from The Art of  Shaving Travel Kit-Unscented start at $139.00.

But the shaving business is all about the razor blades, and Harry’s real value comes from the replacement razor cartridges, which the startup is selling in packs of four, eight, 12, and 16. Four cartridges cost $8 and 16 sell for $25. To put that in perspective, a six-pack of  Gilette Fusion Proglide Power (8 pack) (with five blades) cartridges cost $21 on Amazon. A four-pack refill of  Schick Hydro 5 Blade Refill, 4-count blades are cheaper, at $12 on Amazon, but still not as cheap as Harry’s.

However, Harry’s doesn’t quite beat the prices of its shaving startup rival Dollar Shave Club, which will send you a metal razor handle, plus four four-blade cartridges for six bucks (there’s also the $1 razor option and a $9 six-blade model). Unlike Dollar Shave Club, Harry’s isn’t a subscription service, though Raider says the company will give customers the option to automatically order new supplies if they want that.

Katz-Mayfield and Raider say they like founder Michael Dubin’s funny video, but argue they are pursuing a different business goal. “Our approach is to customize and design our own product, we’re trying to build a brand, as opposed to just being a retailer,” says Katz-Mayfield.

Part of that brand includes the tongue-in-cheek motto “We give a shave,” which Raider says reflects Harry’s commitment to quality and philanthropy. In the same way that Warby Parker’s “Buy a Pair, Give a Pair” program donates glasses to someone in need every time you make a purchase, Harry will donate a razor or a dollar to an organization that “shares the mission of helping guys look and feel their best,” notes Raider. The first charity is The Mission Continues, which helps veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan reintegrate into society.

While Harry’s has a long way to go to disrupt the massive incumbents in shaving (as Warby Parker has done with Luxottica), Raider still draws parallels between his work at both companies. “Today there is a really interesting opportunity to make super high quality products that you can make yourself and make accessible to people by just selling to them directly,” he says. “We found that to be really powerful at Warby Parker and lot of those lessons we’re applying to Harry’s.”

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