BY ANN BROWN
Men’s grooming products are a growing market worldwide. And in London, one company is hoping to corner the UK market. Shear & Shine Grooming products was founded by Aaron Wallace and Lina Gadi, 28, in January 2016 and offers a range of products for men of color, including Argan Infused Shampoo, the company’s most popular product; Deep Cleansing Shampoo with Tea Tree; Hair and Body Shampoo; Cleansing and Softening Conditioner; Regal Beard Oil, Fix & Hold Spray.
Wallace actually opened the Shear & Shine barbershop in 2013, with the grooming line following three years later when he partnered with Gadi.
Wallace studied business growing up but was also very passionate about music and pursued a career as an independent artist, before becoming an entrepreneur.
Wallace and Gadi told TNJ why they wanted to expand into men’s grooming products.
TNJ.com: Shear and Shine Grooming is the UK’s first Black-owned, men’s grooming brand. Why do you think no one else had started such a company prior?
Aaron Wallace: Honestly, I’m not sure as the need has always been there, Black men have always used creams and oils to keep themselves groomed and raised to look our best when we leave the house.
If I had to make an assessment, I would say there are many contributing factors but it’s largely to do with timing, 5-10 years ago the landscape was different; the age we live in now is far more visual, adding to that the growing popularity of men’s grooming as a whole and the popularity of beards now introducing more men to the benefits of grooming.
Lina Gadi: I am not too sure. I would think that with the vast amount of options available to Black women, there would be a male equivalent in the market by now. Although, I do believe it’s worth noting the change in attitudes towards male grooming and particularly male grooming in the black community.
With the rising popularity of beards comes the increasing demand for products that will help men maintain their beards. Which in turn has led to more and more Black men taking an interest in taking better care of their hair and skin in general.
TNJ.com: Why men’s grooming products?
A.W.: It was a natural progression since I had the barber shop. Cutting customers of Afro-caribbean descent daily highlighted to me some of the important issues we faced as a collective. It made sense being a barber that I was in the best position to offer help in this area.
TNJ.com: How did you fund the startup?
L.G.: A lot of our initial investment came from Aaron’s barber shop and personal investments.
TNJ.com: What made you want to be an entrepreneur?
A.W.: When I began, I simply wanted the freedom to live life on my own terms, to be in control of my decisions and my destiny.
These days, my focus has changed. My reasons now are more focused on being the best version of me possible, really taking something I’m passionate about and sharing with the world, and giving our niche some much-needed attention.
TNJ.com: What prompted you to open the business?
L.G.: Aaron Wallace has always had the vision of opening a barbershop that would create a customer experience not often seen in the Blalck community and that’s what led to the start of the Shear & Shine brand.
Over time, he saw a gap in the market for a grooming range that would address the needs of Black men specifically, which is when the idea to launch a grooming range was born. We then tested and developed the range using feedback from customers in the barbershop before launching to the general public in January.
We are both extremely passionate about redefining the perception of Black men. It’s this underlying motivation that is the guiding principle of our brand. Every product we develop, every partnership we form and every decision we make is with this in mind.
TNJ.com: What services do you provide?
L.G.: We currently have a diverse grooming range available online on our website and in select retailers, including one in Brooklyn, New York, soon. Our range of products includes shampoo, conditioner, beard oil, body oil, styling spray, and five fragrances.
TNJ.com: Lina, I understand you are British-born Dutch-raised Tanzanian. How does your worldly background and heritage help you in business?
L.G.: I think given my diverse background, I have a unique perspective on people and cultures. Through my upbringing I have been exposed to many different ways of thinking and this in turn has broadened my own thinking. I tend to look at things through more of a world-like lens, that can sometimes come in handy.
Adding to that, speaking more than one language always offers an advantage. I speak three and that sometimes proves beneficial.
TNJ.com: What aspects of the business do you oversee?
A.W: Right now, as a small business we oversee everything between myself and Lina. For organizational and efficiency purposes, we have areas where we each focus but on a whole most aspects of the business are handled collaboratively.
L.G.: I take care of all the marketing and PR activities. Although as an entrepreneur, you often have to wear more than one hat which means that whilst I have my area of responsibility, I can still often be found handling other areas of the business. Aaron and I make a very good team and complement each other in our strengths and weaknesses, which is great.
TNJ.com: What are your goals for 2017?
Lina Gadi: I have very ambitious plans this year. Most I can’t mention yet, although I am desperate to.
What we do intend to work on this year is developing new products and forming partnerships that will benefit our customers beyond our products.
An example of this is that we are now official supporters of Prostate Cancer UK, a campaign specifically targeting the Black community called Stronger Knowing More to raise awareness of the fact that black men have an increased risk of developing the disease. 1 in 4 Black Men will be diagnosed in their lifetime when with other men it’s 1 in 8, yet only 18% of Black men in the UK are aware. This is something that we hope we can help change through this partnership.