Walker & Co. Brands, which has raised $24 million in a Series B round of financing, is working with Target Corp. in the retailer’s push to expand its multiculture personal-care offerings.
Tristan Walker, Walker & Co. Brands’ founder and chief executive officer, said the distribution deal with Target is for its single-edge Bevel razor and shaving product line, a system targeting the men’s grooming category. The products will be available at select stores in the U.S. and on target.com beginning in 2016.
Target has been looking to expand product offerings in the multicultural category. Walker called the market “significant,” noting that there are still not enough products catering to the audience. He explained that “people of color” tend to spend big on beauty and personal care products.
Walker said his firm is working on a razor and complementary product line for women. The company hasn’t yet determined whether the two lines need to be different or if it’s just a matter of tweaking the existing line for men. The company is also working on a few product lines, with at least one that is expected to become available in 2016, for women. There’s also the possibility of a second brand that will be available for women as well. Walker declined to provide details about any of its brands in development for women.
Helping the company boost its research and development initiatives is the $24 million it raised. The round was led by Institutional Venture Partners, a venture capital firm. Also participating in the round are Andreessen Horowitz; Upfront Ventures; Daher Capital; Collaborative Fund; Google Ventures; Felicis Ventures and Melo7 Tech Partners. Individual investors include Earvin “Magic” Johnson; John Legend; Ron Johnson, as well as both the ceo and president of the San Francisco 49ers, Jed York and Paraag Marathe, respectively, among others. The previous raise was $9.3 million in June 2014, giving the company an aggregate raise of $33.3 million.
Walker said a “good portion” of its Series A raise is still in the bank, but it elected to do the Series B so it could get “a little more aggressive” on the research and development front.
The current Bevel shaving system, until the Target deal, was sold only on the company Web site. Consumers from 15 countries routinely order the system and use a forwarding service to receive the order, Walker said. The ceo said that for the women’s lines that are planned, they too will first be sold on the company site. There are no current plans to have them be available at Target, although that option could be a possibility depending on how the Bevel line is received by consumers.
And while the goal of Walker & Co. is reportedly to be the “Black P&G,” Walker said, “Those words never came out of my mouth.” He explained that his goal is to build a company whose legacy is like a Procter & Gamble, a Johnson & Johnson or a Unilever.
Walker said he started the Bevel line based on a problem he’s had with razor bumps. Bevel’s single blade razor is meant for men with coarse and curly hair. Walker said that while the fix may be for a problem that’s led by men of color, the “audience for the product is not 100 percent black.”
As for the new women’s lines slated for next year that are in development, Walker declined to identify the category they’re in, such as skin care, cosmetics or hair care. Instead, Walker shifts the focus to problems that many cultures face, but where “people of color overindex on, such as hyper-pigmentation or a vitamin D deficiency.”
The R&D process for the women’s lines began at the beginning of this year, and feedback from the past three months on initial results now has the company “racing toward an introduction to the market.”
Somesh Dash, general partner at Institutional Ventures Partners, said, “Walker & Co. Brands is doing something that has not been done before — addressing the overlooked and unmet health and beauty needs of consumers of color.”
Earvin “Magic” Johnson, the retired NBA player and ceo of Magic Johnson Enterprises, said, “Magic Johnson Enterprises and Walker & Co. Brands share the same mission of making a positive impact on multicultural communities. African-Americans want quality products that meet our unique needs and we overindex in spending when it comes to consumer goods.”