Carl Sandler has been involved with biotech and Internet start-ups, but his latest creation hit a personal note.
“When I turned 40, my father suggested I dye my beard,” said Sandler, who promptly went to the drugstore to buy a box of the leading men’s hair color. “I put it on, waited five minutes and it was completely black. I couldn’t leave my house and eventually shaved my beard.”
The experience prompted him to research the options in the $200 million men’s at-home hair-color market. “I figured out I had picked the wrong shade and had used it too long. It took me over a year to learn how to dye well and I found out others had the same problem.”
Sandler uncovered that there was a lack of choices for men looking to dye. Since 1987, Just for Men has dominated the segment. For the 12-week period ended Aug. 12, according to IRI, Just for Men’s portfolio of hair colors produced sales in food, drug and mass doors exceeding $43 million. The closest competitor’s sales totaled less than $1.5 million. Sandler, noting an opportunity, decided to make men’s hair color his next start-up.
Borrowing from direct-to-consumer models such as Harry’s, Dollar Shave Club and Warby Parker, he’s launched True Sons, a dye system that lets men color their head, beard and body hair at home without a trip to a store. His kit has everything needed from gloves and wipes to a unique hair dye foam. True Sons is currently only available on the brand’s web site (truesons.com) through a monthly ($30) or quarterly ($72) subscription model and offers men a personal dye and grooming expert to provide tips for those who may be leery of taking the plunge. There are six shades with more in the works.
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“I hated going to the store to purchase that product. It was embarrassing and overwhelming with 15 different boxes and you don’t know if you could use [them] on hair or beard,” he recalled. Mixing the formulas was cumbersome and there was very little education available. “I started thinking about what I’d want from as a product. I didn’t want to have to mix and I wanted it to be as easy as shaving.” The patent-pending foam is similar to a shaving cream that doesn’t require mixing. “I had to find my own chemists and get an aerosol manufacturer. It was a labor that took over three years.”
He is vying for a slice of a large market. Men actually start graying earlier than women — at age 30 versus 35. Fifty percent of the population will have 50 percent of their gray hair by the age of 50. However, Sandler said fewer than 8 percent of men color their hair versus 80 percent of women. He thinks his system, where men can easily control the amount of coverage, will help build users. While direct-to-consumer is his vehicle for the launch, he does think physical stores could work for True Sons.