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KELLEY THORTON BUSINESS UNVEILED

How to Disrupt an Industry

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How to Disrupt an Industry

Think of your business. Are you a disrupter in your industry? Now, I know being a disruptive can be viewed negatively, but I'm here to tell you that for change to happen and industries to evolve there HAS to be disruption. How else would we grow?!  Today I am chatting with entrepreneur, Kelley Thorton, co-founder and CEO of Tiege Hanley, a subscription-based skincare line for men.

MAIN TOPICS
  • How to make the decision to jump and start your business
  • How to find and collaborate with co-founders
  • How to stand out amongst competition in your industry
KEY TAKEAWAYS

Find a great team, doing things alone is really hard or almost impossible.

You can succeed in a competitive space, but you need to have some sort of “special sauce” that makes you unique.

Specific tactics on growth and marketing.

MORE ABOUT THIS GUEST

The Tiege Hanley story is simple and uncomplicated, just like our products. Founded by four “regular guys,” we created a product system and brand that makes skin care meaningful, accessible, affordable and clinically relevant—for regular guys. Drawing on his marketing and brand management experience, Kelley got to work, enlisting his college roommate turned software industry guru, Rob Hoxie, to help mastermind a skin care solution for men that hits all three points—it has to be sensible, simple and affordable. Four regular guys—inspired by real life experience, passion, insight and the desire to do good for our fellow men—who have reinvented men’s skin care and changed the way regular guys think about their skin. Tiege Hanley's sole mission is to help guys look and feel amazing by providing a simplified skin care system. We are truly “Uncomplicated Skin Care for Men.”

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EPISODE TRANSCRIBED

Hi, y'all, it's Angela. I'm back for another episode of Business Unveiled, and we are going to unveil something really fun and really different and really unique today. I know a lot of you listening, you're ladies, and I know a lot of you are married, and you have a significant other, and so you're really going to want to listen up. But most importantly is we're going to talk to you about the entrepreneur journey of a co-founder who founded this amazing company. It is a simple skin care line for men. Continue Reading

And so, there's going to be lots of fun takeaways here, because if you're looking or you are wondering… I know you've been hearing this buzzword “disrupt,” like how do you disrupt an industry, how do you find your crowd? And this is what Kelley Thornton, co-founder of Tiege Hanley… And it's T-I-E-G-E, because you're going to want to go on YouTube and watch their videos. They're really, really funny. And so, we'll put all this in the show notes, but I want to welcome Kelley to the show. How are you?

Kelley Thornton:
Good, Angela. Thanks for having me.

Angela Proffitt:
I'm so excited that you can share your entrepreneur story with us today. So, before we were starting to record, we were chatting all about creatives, and how we're a different breed. We know we're a different breed, but some people know that, and some people don't know that. You were telling me a little bit about your background, but before you even founded this skin care line specifically for men, take us way back. How'd you grow up? I know you've had other companies. Tell us about those companies, and what inspired you to start Tiege Hanley?

Kelley Thornton:
Yeah, that's cool. I don't get this question very much so… You know, I always knew that I wanted to have my own business, and I think that question that you probably have addressed in some of your podcasts before, like, are you an entrepreneur by nature, or are you forced to be one, or how does it happen for you, I always knew that I wanted to own my own business, and when I was… After I graduated from university, I was fortunate enough to get a job at a company that my father was in, and we were driving to work, literally my first day. This happened to be outside of New York City. And I said to him, “Dad, I don't know if I want to do this.” I was going to go into a sales job. I said, “I'm not sure if I want to do this. I really want to own my own business.” And my father's very traditional, conservative, he's like, “Just work, get plenty of years of experience, and then if you still feel that way, you can go out and do it.”

Kelley Thornton:
And it took me like 25 years to start my second company, because I had a company while I was in college; started my second company after about 20-some years of working. So I always knew that I wanted to start a business, and so, I've always had it in my heart to want to own my own business and to be the master of my own destiny.

Angela Proffitt:
That's amazing. So, where did you come up with the name for this skin care line?

Kelley Thornton:
Yeah. This is actually really coincidental. I was visiting… It's a good segue from my last story. My father and I were having coffee one morning, he lived right outside of New York, Manhattan, in New Jersey, and he mentioned something to me about our family Bible, which I had not heard anything about ever before in my life. My father was getting a little older, so I think he was getting, he was at the point… He's deceased now, but he was at the point where he was kind of nostalgic about things, and he said, “Well, I've got this family Bible upstairs.” So he leaves the kitchen table and goes upstairs and comes down a minute later with this very big, kind of wrapped in linen cloth type of thing, and it literally was our family Bible from, going back all the way from the 1400s.

Angela Proffitt:
Wow.

Kelley Thornton:
My family emigrated originally from Ireland, and so it was our family Bible. And, you know, in those days, 23andMe and Ancestry.com was, yeah, obviously not a thing, and so people actually wrote the family tree in their Bibles, like the back 30 pages was all family tree. I'd never seen this before, so I spent many hours flipping through it. When I got to the back, I was fascinated with our family tree, and we were the Hanley family. My last name is Thornton, but we were the Hanley family in Ireland, and Tiege Hanley was one of my great-great ancestors, and I just love the name, and I'm like, “I'm going to have a business called Tiege one day.” I also have another bad habit of buying URLs. I've been buying them for-

Angela Proffitt:
Me too.

Kelley Thornton:
Right. We all, all of us entrepreneurs do that.

Angela Proffitt:
Yes.

Kelley Thornton:
And so, I was like… And the worst thing, too, Angela, is I… You know, it's always at night, late at night, and I've got this great idea, and I'm drinking a glass of wine, and I think it's a great idea to go buy a URL. And none of them have done anything for me except Tiege; I bought tiege.com in the early 2000s. So that's how I got the name for the business, and good old Uncle Tiege would be proud of me now if he knows what I've done with his name.

Angela Proffitt:
That's so cool. Well, and it means something. Like, it's not just some random name. I don't really know a lot about my past ancestors; I've learned more since my grandmother passed away and my dad passed away. It's crazy how it takes someone passing away to go through your family tree and shit.

Kelley Thornton:
Yes.

Angela Proffitt:
And so, when my grandmother passed away, which was after my dad… I don't know, it was maybe like a year ago, I'm really bad with time. Yeah, actually, was right a year ago last week, because my brother was going to have his first child, and they had the baby, and then we flew to my grandmother's funeral and flew back in the same day, because his baby and wife were in the hospital. And so, that's how I remember that really well, and her first birthday was this past weekend, so I'm really bad with time, but I can at least remember that.

Kelley Thornton:
Sorry about all that.

Angela Proffitt:
But my brother told his wife, he's like, “Even if… Whether it's a boy or a girl, I'd really like to use the name of my great-great-great grandfather,” that he had just gone through our family tree, and the name was Orie, like O-R-I-E. And then her family, they carry out the name Rose, like R-O-S-E, and I'm like, “If you name her Orie Rose, people are going to call her Oreos.” But he did, they named her Orie Rose, and everyone's like, “Where's that name?” They've never heard the name, but it was our grandfather. But it's like a story, right?

Kelley Thornton:
So cool.

Angela Proffitt:
I mean, it's a conversation starter.

Kelley Thornton:
Yup, so cool.

Angela Proffitt:
And his wife's so cool, because she was just like, “All right, that's cool, you name her Orie and I'll do the Rose.” So, it was neat. So yeah, that's really meaningful, that's really cool. How long have you had the company, and when did you start it, and what inspired you to actually start a skin care product line for men? Does this have to do with your own skin?

Kelley Thornton:
It does, although my skin doesn't look very good today, but I-

Angela Proffitt:
Your skin looks great.

Kelley Thornton:
Thank you, thank you, and so does yours, by the way, it looks [inaudible 00:10:18]. You know, I started in 2009 with a global in-store design and strategy company, and we were spending most of our time helping big consumer product good companies understand how consumers shop, so we were studying consumer shopping behavior in different channels, so like how people behave in drugstore versus mass-market versus grocery versus hypers, and then we were actually studying people globally, like how different people would shop in different countries and different… And so we spent, with that company, with my company, my design company, it was called Purchase Point, we were going, traveling globally with our customers. And our customers were these big, global CPGs, you know, the P&Gs of the world, right, the SC Johnson, Unilever, J&J, those companies. We were also doing a lot of stuff with pharma companies, so, OTC pharma like Claritin and Aleve and things like that.

Kelley Thornton:
But through that journey, they were really focused on… A lot of the big CPG companies were focused on understanding gender-specific segmentation of personal care products, and they really identified early on that men shop very differently, and they wanted us to help understand how guys shopped, and help them sell more product at retail. And we spent most of our time either in South America or in Asia, and I realized that the norms and the behaviors of men, specifically in Asia but certainly in South America, were very, very, very different from the Western male or from the American male, and also different from the European male, especially the Western European side of the EU.

Kelley Thornton:
So, the opportunity that I saw was tremendous, to understand, help American males understand skin care. And so, in that researching, you know, my wife would say to me, “You really need to start using those products too, because you're not looking any better.” I was like, thanks, hon.

Angela Proffitt:
Oh my gosh.

Kelley Thornton:
Yeah. So, for all you ladies out there, I wouldn't necessarily suggest you take that exact tact, but… It didn't feel too good, but she was right, you know? And then I found myself kind of stealing and borrowing from my wife over the years. And as I was doing my research, I just was really overwhelmed. I mean, any guy that's ever looked at skin care, we just don't have the patience for it. We don't have the patience to shop, and the idea of some of the… I mean, like a BB tint or a mask or a toner, or… That kind of stuff, like serum, that scares the shit out of guys.

Angela Proffitt:
Right?

Kelley Thornton:
So, we just need to… We need simple, we need uncomplicated. So I started Tiege Hanley with the idea of being an uncomplicated skin care company. We sell skin care systems, and we're a monthly subscription, so we sell… A basic system would just be a wash and a daytime moisturizer. We just want to help guys understand, you need to take care of your skin, it's really simple, like two minutes a day. When you get up in the morning, wash your face with a really high-quality face wash, and put a daytime moisturizer on, this is at the minimum, right, that has an SPF of… Ours is 20, so a 20 or higher. And just start there, just like, when you brush your teeth morning and night, wash your face and put a good moisturizer on.

Kelley Thornton:
And, you know, it's so important to take care of your skin. It's so important to use an SPF, even if you live… I'm in Chicago, and we don't have a lot of sun up here all year round. It's still super important; you get the harmful rays of the sun no matter where you live, and no matter what time of the year it is.

Kelley Thornton:
So, that was the idea, and we launched it in 2016, in July, and our business took off, and we got to cash flow positive in five months of being-

Angela Proffitt:
Wow.

Kelley Thornton:
Yeah. So, we got, our business took off, and it's exploded year over year the last several years.

Angela Proffitt:
That's amazing. So, did you know that you for sure, when you started in 2016, did you know you wanted to be subscription-based, after doing all the research?

Kelley Thornton:
That's a great question. Actually, no.

Angela Proffitt:
No?

Kelley Thornton:
There's a little bit of backstory there. I have to actually rewind; I skipped a small little part, and actually an important part. I actually launched the company in 2015, and I launched it as like a pet project to my design agency. And I had one of my very good friends, Rob Hoxie, from college, who had just gotten out of… He'd been working for a company for 20-some years, and the company had a very good exit, and he was able to kind of exit out of that company, and he was kind of looking around to see what he wanted to do next. And I tossed him the business plan, and I said, “This is the idea, what do you think?”

Kelley Thornton:
And we launched the company as a box of a routine around education, but what we didn't do is we didn't put our own products in there; we put this highly curated product, a lot of stuff from South Korea and from Asia that I became aware of, in a routine in a box. And we were just… That was our idea, and it was around educating guys about how to use skin care and follow a simple routine. It failed. Within two or three months, we were pretty much, couldn't sell anything except for someone we knew and paid for to buy for us, gave him the money to buy-

Angela Proffitt:
Really?

Kelley Thornton:
So it was really kind of, didn't work very well, you know, classic case of starting a business and failing fast. And we reached out to Aaron Marino, who's a YouTube influencer. He had about 750,000 YouTube followers, which was really pretty massive at the time, and he'd been on Shark Tank, so he had some notoriety. And we wanted Aaron to pitch our business, our Tiege business on his YouTube channel, Alpha M. And through those conversations, we came to realize Aaron really was very interested in being a partner in the business, and so I… After the first call or two, I called back Aaron and I said, “It really sounds like you love this business. You want to be a partner?” And he says, “I do.” He said, “Keep your money, give me equity in the company, and I believe in it so much, I'll sell it on my YouTube channel. But I want us to build our own brand, and I want us to be a subscription company.” So that's how we ended up going into subscription.

Kelley Thornton:
And at the same time, we had another super-duper lucky thing. Rob was playing golf with someone he knew in his… where he plays up in Connecticut frequently, and he started talking to this gentleman who he'd known for a while, and he was actually a skin care… a chemist for a skin care company in New York. And so, we brought our chemist in and gave him a small portion of the business, and he formulated all of our products, and still is heavily engaged in our brand ever day and formulates all of our products and a lot of the new products we've been developing. So that's how we got started. It was kind of a fairy tale story; we got really, really lucky.

Angela Proffitt:
Well, I don't… So, when people say to me, “Oh my God, you're so lucky,” I want to barf on them, because I'm like, “Oh my God, I've worked my ass off.” And all these life experiences, which a lot of people perceive as like bad things that would happen, it's just teaching us quicker how to get better. And so, I don't think that's a bad thing at all. But it sounds to me like you all knew that you needed a face of the company and the brand who already had a strong audience, and so, that was a huge strategic play. And then, you know, your buddy playing golf just had to be in the right place at the right time, and God has a plan for everybody.

Kelley Thornton:
Exactly. [crosstalk 00:19:08].

Angela Proffitt:
So, when I'm like, I don't know if it's lucky, it's just, you know, you are in the right places and in the right time for a certain reason. And so, is Aaron the guy mainly in the YouTube videos, like he's the face of…

Kelley Thornton:
Yup.

Angela Proffitt:
“Let me show you how this simple routine works” kind of thing?

Kelley Thornton:
Exactly. Exactly, he's… You know, what makes Aaron so great, and the reason why he's… And just fast-forward to today, and he has over six million followers on YouTube. But what makes him so great is that he's very relatable, and he's very empathetic, and I think that speaks to why he's been so successful. And he talks about the broader topics that's important to Tiege, right?

Kelley Thornton:
So, Tiege is a men's skin care business, and we're helping guys look and feel amazing, which is our mission. But he's having, Aaron's having a broader conversation with guys about what it means to be a male today. And that could be something simple about, you know, how do you ask her out on a date, or what's appropriate texting manners, to what do you wear on your first interview, or how do you choose what's the right business to get into, those type of things. So he's talking about, generally speaking, important issues to guys today, and so, our business about guys wanting to look and feel amazing kind of fits right into this overall topic of men's health, men's wellness. So that's kind of overarching, the space that we're in right now is men's health.

Angela Proffitt:
So, for everybody listening, the big, big, big takeaway here is right now you keep hearing all these buzzwords like “be relevant” and “make sure that things are in alignment,” and this is a great example of that, making sure that he already has the trust of an audience, and he's just not out there selling one thing or selling something, he has a brand around connecting with men, period, the end. And then, if he connects with those men and he's relevant and he's having those uncomfortable, weird conversations for Q&A, then I can see where his audience would definitely trust him.

Angela Proffitt:
So, did you guys… So your chemist got together, and then was he like, “Let me try this for 30 days and see what the outcome is,” kind of thing? I mean, how does that even work with chemists? How do you all test these things for… I know with, like I've done some stuff with Obagi, and so, they… So I know way more than I care to know about their skin care line, but we did some brand stuff with them, and over the years, to look at the pictures, OMG, of some of the women who, they're like 60, but they look 35.

Kelley Thornton:
Yup.

Angela Proffitt:
Because they've been following this process. And then, for women, when I looked at y'all's skin care line, I'm like, “Oh, this is like the men's version of an Obagi,” because it has the AM and the PM, and you've mastered making it easy and quick and a routine, which is the key thing here. And Obagi did this… When they handed me all this stuff and they were like, “These are six steps,” I'm like, “Oh, hell no.” Ain't nobody got time for that, especially busy entrepreneurs.

Kelley Thornton:
Right.

Angela Proffitt:
But then, you know, they explained it to me, and then they showed me before and after pictures, and I was like, “Holy shit. Okay, I'll do it. Two minutes every morning and every night.” I want to look younger; you know, the older we get, the more it's like, “Oh my God, those lines.” But it all comes down to a good foundation to cleaning your skin, and then keeping your skin, like the moisturizer in, like you said, the SPF. I think mine is like 50, and if I'm in the sun, I'll put it on four times throughout the day, like if I'm working outside, because… And if y'all don't read the directions on these sunscreen things, really, like if you're in Mexico working, we put it on every hour or every 45 minutes, because you're just sweating.

Angela Proffitt:
And so, it's so important, the long-term payoffs. But has Aaron done any before and after, like… It'll be fun in 10 years to go back and look at your skin and his skin, right?

Kelley Thornton:
Yup. Yeah, this is a really interesting question. For the guys out there, most guys really just weren't aware of this. There's just no contextual relevance, Angela, for a guy to understand skin care, because we just don't get those courses from growing up. Like, our father tossed us a Schick razor and says, “This is what you do, you shave up and you shave down, you warm up your face and that's it.” That's the total tutorial that we get as guys on how to take care of ourselves. Women fortunately hear a little bit more, many women hear a lot more from their mothers about how to take care of their skin, and so they've known it for a long time, that good skin habits do pay off and do get results.

Kelley Thornton:
When our chemist designed our formulas, we knew nothing about skin care, like zero, and we started taking those formulas to manufacturers to make for us, and the manufacturers came back to us, and they were like, “You really don't need all these ingredients. We could just reduce your costs by like half.”

Angela Proffitt:
Really?

Kelley Thornton:
We're like, “No, you don't have to do that,” and then we literally… The company that we landed on to manufacture it, they said to us, they literally said to us, “These formulas are like the Ferrari formulas.” We were just like “fake it till you make it,” right? We were just like, “Of course they are. We know that.” We had no idea. I think the moral of the story is, for us, is we didn't really have any understanding of how important it is to have great ingredients and the percentage of active ingredients, how efficacious they really are. Our chemist really knew that, and so we ended up, and we still do now, lean really, really hard into having phenomenal products. Our products are really, really good.

Kelley Thornton:
And so, we get people pretty much every day, we have thousands, like five or six thousand verified reviews on our website. Anybody that doesn't know what a verified review is, just a tidbit of information, when you go to websites, make sure all the reviews are verified. We can't censor what those reviews are. We can try, if people give us bad reviews, there's like a 24-hour window of time that we can try to go back and rectify it, but we can't edit out reviews. So, we have super high reviews, like 4.6 or 7 out of 5, and we have great products, and we get calls pretty much every day or emails every day. We have about 300,000 visitors to our website every month, so we get calls all the time about our product, and people send us before and after pictures all the time saying they're [crosstalk 00:27:01]-

Angela Proffitt:
That's awesome.

Kelley Thornton:
… and how well our products do. So, to your point, if you have great products and you use them consistently, you will see long-term results. I think a lot of women understand that; guys are just learning it now.

Angela Proffitt:
Yeah, and you're so right. I don't know why, but I think back to growing up and my own dad. He didn't… Yeah, it was like a straight razor, and then maybe there was some aftershave stuff, but it's like, some of the stuff now, he's like, “That's hoity-toity shit.” I guess it's like when you pass a certain age, maybe, you're just like, “Oh, you know, whatever.”

Angela Proffitt:
But when you're in your 30s and your 40s, oh my gosh, I'm so glad that from a very young age… Like, I planned the very first Botox conference when I was 21 years old in Nashville. There was like 800 women there, and all these plastic surgeons, and I learned all about Botox. And my mom was like, “You better not put those needles in your face.” And I'm like, “No, actually, I am going to try it.” But I would do it like twice a year, and, I mean, I've been doing it for 20 years, but it was like a preventative measure. But I didn't really know what I was doing; it's just, I just trusted the dermatologists, and one of the doctors, I really liked her, and she gave me a bunch of free products that were nice. And so, I'm so thankful for that relationship. She's the one who brought me in with Obagi and some other branding opportunities, and so those relationships matter.

Angela Proffitt:
Okay, so we know how you got into the business, and obviously you've learned over time that taking care of your skin is very important. And you have co-founders, and so, how did you find them, and how do you make it work? Because I've heard great stories and I've heard not-so-great stories.

Kelley Thornton:
Yeah. So, it all came [inaudible 00:29:06] very quickly. I kind of alluded to it, I mean, I called Rob, I had a business idea, so I founded the idea, had a business plan written, kind of tossed over to Rob, we started playing around with it in '15. But when Aaron, when we reached out to Aaron and we brought Aaron into the business, that's when we got really serious and we created an operating agreement. It's kind of Business 101, so sorry if this is too [inaudible 00:29:36], but, you know-

Angela Proffitt:
No, no, no, no, we need to hear it.

Kelley Thornton:
Yeah, make sure you start off with really great operating agreements. It's a real, real pain in the ass thing to do. It's not too, too expensive, but it does cost some money. And getting great operating agreements are the absolute critical to a successful partnership. It'll guide decision making for years and years to come.

Kelley Thornton:
So, once we got the operating agreement pounded out, it really helped us establish what everybody would be doing in the partnership and what we would be doing for years. Operating agreements are that funny thing; they're almost like… It's like planning for everything that could go wrong and why it would go wrong, what you would do in those cases. So it really helps you early on to think about, like, what happens if someone gets thrown in jail? Does he get kicked out of the partnership? What if someone doesn't meet certain obligations? Can we take his shares back? All those things. So it's really kind of an awkward and difficult, especially if you don't know your partners very well, to go through it, but it's so helpful.

Kelley Thornton:
I just got really fortunate, because Aaron and Rob are phenomenal partners. Aaron is a spokesperson for our company, he doesn't work day-to-day in our business, and Rob does work day-to-day in the business and is really an instrumental part of our success. So we have a great partnership. If we didn't have our operating agreement, we'd probably have a lot more problems, and even with that, you know, we get into our occasional disagreements, but I always win out, so that's all important to me.

Angela Proffitt:
How did y'all… Did you know to do that because of your previous business experience, or was it one of the co-founders that were like, “Hey, we need to get an…” Like, I just went through that with a business partner; we had to meet with three attorneys, and they sent us this 35-page document, and I'm like, “You want me to read that fucking thing? That's too long.” But I'll do Command-S and let my computer read it to me. And do you know, it took like three hours for that computer? I put it on the slowest mode, and I'm like, okay, some of these things I totally understand, and I would never do that, and you better never do that, but it's intimidating. How did you know to do that?

Kelley Thornton:
You ask great questions, Angela. I was really, really fortunate, because in my businesses, I've always put together an advisory board.

Angela Proffitt:
Yeah.

Kelley Thornton:
An advisory board's similar to a board of directors or a paid board. I've always put together advisory boards, non-paid advisory boards. And really, I just want to be able to ask them questions and bounce ideas off of them. I usually take them to dinner twice a year, the whole board, and kind of, very transparent with them, lay out information about our financials and stuff like that. And I had put an advisory board together in '15 for this, for Tiege, a separate advisory board from my first company. And so, they right away help mentor through the steps of what are important and what aren't important, and really kind of vet the ideas. And a lot of the stuff they didn't like about our business.

Kelley Thornton:
So, that's what good practice is around starting a business, is at least… If you can't… You got to get at least a couple people and say, “I want to take you to dinner, and can I…” And treat them right, too, right? Don't take them to, like, the Cracker Barrel, I mean, take them to the best you can afford and say, “I just really value your opinion. I just want to talk to you about my ideas, and I want to get your feedback.” It's a great way to start a business, and I still have my advisory board for Tiege, so, that's what led us to it.

Angela Proffitt:
Yeah, so, for any of you listening, if you're a brand-new entrepreneur, you have no effing clue what we're talking about, that's okay, because I didn't know what this was until I got into partnerships, because my first business, my uncle, my family had a venue for a long time, and he's like, “Don't ever have partners, and meh meh meh meh meh.” But then it's like, with tech companies and with software companies, and with some other things, opportunities come your way because you have a valuable strategic piece in your brain from your past experiences that is needed to grow a new company.

Angela Proffitt:
And so, I sit on multiple tech advisory boards, some paid, some not, some have equity, some not. But I learned about it years ago, more in the technology space, and so, in the creative space, we don't, because we're all like, “Whatever, nothing bad will ever happen to us,” like we're just carefree children running around, making things look pretty. Until something happens to you, you don't know you freaking need it. And so, it is so important, and the other thing I'll say with advisory boards is these are people that are going to tell you straight up how it is. These are not your friends, these are not your family, these are vetted business owners who have been there, done that.

Angela Proffitt:
And make sure, at least put together, I would say a healthy start is like four people on your advisory board, and make sure you have some diversity. Men [inaudible 00:35:29] differently than women, and vice versa. And so, really good advisory boards, at least the ones I'm part of, we have around 10 to 15 members; after 15, it's like too many hands in the pot. But we all come from very different backgrounds, so we can help add value to growing that company and making that company better.

Angela Proffitt:
And again, we're not there to make things… sugarcoat things. We're there to just freaking tell you how it is, and you've got to be able to take feedback and constructive criticism, and again, reframe your thinking of, like, this is your baby. You know, when you're doing a product line, it's like this is your baby, and it's like, but remember, those people are there to help you better your baby. Because I know it's hard sometimes. I feel like some of the board meetings I'm in, I'm like a therapist, like I'm the mediator. I'm like, “What she really means is this, and what he really means is this, right? That's what you're trying to say, right?” I'm like, “Fuck, people, we're not here to shove people… We're not trying to bulldoze over each other; we are all on the same team here. We're not going to be in arguments.” But it does help mediate that… The whole operating agreement definitely helps mediate those things.

Kelley Thornton:
Hundred percent.

Angela Proffitt:
And then, in the future, if you decide to sell it or have an exit, or one of you have an exit, there's a clear path to where it doesn't have to ruin a personal relationship, if there is one there.

Angela Proffitt:
So, let's talk about disruption. How have you all… As a founder, how do you think you disrupted the men's skin care market, because… Well, before you answer it, I don't know anybody that's doing this for a men's subscription service. Were you kind of the first, or was it really disruptive? Because, did it exist?

Kelley Thornton:
Yeah, I mean, we were really early on. There was two kind of giants out there that approached it from a different angle. We're still one of the only real hardcore pure-play subscription, meaning we don't really… You can't go to our website and just buy our face wash; we only sell systems, and we sell them on monthly subscription, although you can buy at a premium a single box of product, one of our various boxes, our simple boxes or our more age-defined boxes. But we're one of the only pure-play subscription models out there. We've loosened our model up a bit to allow for more flexibility for guys.

Kelley Thornton:
But we were… You know, Dollar Shave was out there, and Harry's was out there, and we started in '16. Dollar Shave sold in '16 for a billion dollars to Unilever. They were very shave led, and then Harry's was also very shave led, so they were very much about shave, and then getting into the grooming space behind that. And we're very face led, so we're very face and skin led, and we really just focus on guys focusing on their face. So we're pretty much… There's only a few other companies, and then there's a few legacy brands that were really out there. Most of them were owned by the big skin care companies like Lab Series and Baxter of California, which is owned by L'Oréal, and Jack Black, which is owned by Edgewell, so they were a lot of these legacy brands that were out there. There wasn't any challenger brands like us. Really, there's like one or two other ones.

Angela Proffitt:
So, for people who don't know what a legacy brand is, what does that mean?

Kelley Thornton:
You know, those are brands pretty much that you grow up with, right? So, Tide's a legacy brand, brands that are part of a portfolio of a large consumer product good company like Pond's or Axe or Dove or Suave. These are brands that really are kind of pioneers in the industry and have been around for a long time. Legacy brands in the men's skin care industry, probably only 10 or 15 years old, Old Spice obviously being really probably the hundred-pound gorilla. But, you know, Dollar Shave starting, like I said, Jack Black, which was one of the first skin care companies for men focused, Anthony's for men out of New York. These were the first guys that really entered into this space.

Angela Proffitt:
I kind of learned about… And again, I didn't… You don't think about legacy brands and the big brands that own the small brands, but as I got more into branding, I got pulled into this space to help branding companies understand psychology and how to write copy for sales funnels, and for lead magnets, and for pop-ups on their website and stuff. And then I just sort of liked learning more and more, and a friend of mine who, I helped him and his partner open up their salon, and they wanted to carry a makeup line, and then a hairspray line, and they… I feel like they have a small men's line kind of over in the corner, because most of their clientele are women.

Angela Proffitt:
But they, as we were literally sitting on the floor really late at night, going through all the catalogs and doing all the numbers and seeing what products are we going to apply for, because you can't just go in and carry a luxury product, you have to apply for it, and then there's so many stores in a specific state that can only carry that product. It's crazy; I learned so much. It was fascinating.

Angela Proffitt:
But what I didn't know is, my friend, he was like, “Oh, L'Oréal owns that. Oh, L'Oréal owns that. Oh, L'Oréal owns that.” And I'm like, “What?” And so, it's like, what they've done is they… The consumer doesn't know it, because you've got a, I don't know the nicest way to say it, but you've got a cheap product, and then you've got a mid-range product, and then you have your higher-end luxury product, but L'Oréal doesn't want the consumer to know that, because it's a completely different marketing campaign, it's a completely different store. But I'm just like, “Ah, that's really smart.”

Kelley Thornton:
That's very, very, very, very common.

Angela Proffitt:
Yeah, I didn't know that.

Kelley Thornton:
Yeah. A good example of that, my kids are… I have a couple in high school and college. We were on holiday last week in upstate New York, and we were having Ben & Jerry's, and I asked the person at Ben & Jerry's, “Who owns Ben & Jerry's,” and she's like, “I don't know, I think a guy named Ben or Jerry,” and-

Angela Proffitt:
What?

Kelley Thornton:
Which was a cute answer, right?

Angela Proffitt:
Oh my God.

Kelley Thornton:
And, you know, I mean, Ben & Jerry's was bought probably over 10 years ago, probably even longer than that, by Unilever. Unilever is one of the biggest global food and personal care brands in the world, and they own… Pretty much anything that's sold on a stick in the grocery store, like a ice cream bar or Eskimo bars or anything, is highly likely that it's produced by Unilever. But they would never put the Unilever name on Ben & Jerry's, right?

Angela Proffitt:
Mm-mm (negative).

Kelley Thornton:
It would destroy the brand. Ben & Jerry's has their own mystique to it about these guys in Vermont that are hippies and everything else. So, it's very common. I mean, Unilever owns many, many, many, many, many brands that they're… And many prestige brands as well, both in women's and men's skin care, et cetera, et cetera, hair care, that you would never know that they owned.

Kelley Thornton:
And that goes back to the very heart of your question, Angela, which is being disruptive. If it wasn't for that, it would be hard for us entrepreneurs and our small companies out there to be truly disruptive. These brands are very traditional in their thinking, very traditional in their marketing approach. They don't understand DTC, they are… And we are a fully DTC brand.

Angela Proffitt:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Kelley Thornton:
The only place to buy our product is either at Amazon or tiege.com. And, you know, these companies just don't really understand it. We spend a huge amount of our resources talking to our customers and just understanding our customers, and focusing on every aspect of our customer, and these big CPG companies just can't do it, they just… They're like big battleships, and you just can't even… You can't even steer them in a different direction very easily. So that's how companies like Tiege can be really successful and be growth brands [inaudible 00:44:46] disruptive, because these big companies just don't have the agility and the flexibility, and really, the wherewithal to really focus on the customer and create products that customers really like.

Angela Proffitt:
Well, and just to loop it back around is, like, the number one thing that you guys did that I feel like helped you really take off so quickly was finding a relevant person of the age, with the following, who very quickly accelerated the growth, and then, with your previous experience, you made this amazing company so quick. Do you think you'll ever sell it?

Kelley Thornton:
Probably. I mean, I don't think… There's no intention of keeping it in the family for the next hundred years. We're trying to build a brand that is standalone, really strong, doing the right things for our customers, that we're really, really proud of. And, you know, at some point, if we do sell the company, or when I retire, I just want to look back and realize that we were part of a revolution of guys really starting to take care of their skin. And I think if that happens, and the concept that all guys should be able to take care of their skin, and it's not really that big a deal, culturally acceptable, and guys see the importance of it, I think that would make me feel fulfilled. So we're just trying to build a really, really good company, and I think there is an exit at some point, but I think that if we build a great company and a profitable one, that people will eventually take interest in trying to buy it.

Angela Proffitt:
Well, I think that what you have built is amazing. And just the brand, the marketing, the message, it is what it is. It is simple, and I love that, because so many people in the beauty space try to be cutesy. And so, when I was reading about it, I'm like, “‘Uncomplicated skin care for men,' because men think skin care is complicated.” So it's like you automatically put that out front, so whoever's doing your branding and your marketing, they're doing an awesome job.

Kelley Thornton:
Thank you.

Angela Proffitt:
Ladies who are listening, if you are interested, we'll put this in the show notes, but go to tiege.com, it's T as in Tom, I-E-G-E dot com, and Tiege Hanley. And now you know where the name comes from, and I guarantee you people will remember the name because it's unique, and then it coming from your great-uncle or great-great uncle?

Kelley Thornton:
Yeah, great-great uncle. And by the way, I didn't tell you this book's from the 1400s; it's really an old name-

Angela Proffitt:
Really?

Kelley Thornton:
… in our family Bible, and so, in our family tree. So it's a really, really, really old name, 1463, so, yeah.

Angela Proffitt:
Wow.

Kelley Thornton:
It's really cool.

Angela Proffitt:
That's so neat. It's so neat.

Kelley Thornton:
Thank you so much, and I really… I'm really grateful for you to share the opportunity with your listeners that… You know, encourage everybody that men should really think about their skin care health. They're going to the gym, they're taking care of themselves, they're watching what they eat, you know? They should be thinking… You know, they're brushing their teeth, they should be taking care of their skin. And they should stop stealing their significant other's skin care, right, and get their own routine.

Angela Proffitt:
Right? Right? Get your own routine. Get your own routine. Okay, ladies, you got to look at it, and any men listening, we'll put it all in the show notes. Kelley, thank you so, so much for your time today. And everyone listening, thank you so much for your time today, and be sure to tune in next week for another episode of Business Unveiled. Bye.

Angela Proffitt:
That's it for this week's episode of Business Unveiled. Now that you have all the tools that you need to conquer the world and GSD, get shit done, would you share this with your friends and fellow business leaders? One thing that would really, really help us and help new listeners is for you to rate the show and leave a comment in Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever you tune in and listen to Business Unveiled. You can check out the show notes at angelaproffitt.com/podcast, and link up with us on social media so you can share your biggest insights, and I want to know your aha moments. Until next week, remember, the profitable shifts and structures you're creating in your business help you be more present in your life, so get out there and GSD.

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