Andrea Polk was very serious about her entrepreneurial dreams. So serious she routinely socked away money from her corporate day job to fund her purpose.
Her vision — a skin care business targeting men. Her first venture was hit and miss, but eventually she struck success with the launch of Solo Noir, an organic grooming line for men of color.
“I funded Solo Noir through my own savings. While working in Corporate America I set aside 60 percent of my income to invest in pursuing my dream of being an entrepreneur,” says Polk, who wanted to reach what she felt was an underserved market–ethnic grooming.
Solo Noir products are made with organic and all-natural ingredients, and specialize in 2-in-1 facial and shaving products. The products also address common male issues, such as skin imperfections, blemishes, ingrown hairs and dry skin. Among the product offers are “Dapper” Cleanser and Toner, $18; “Refined” Buff and Cleanse $19; “Smooth” Skin Conditioner and Smoother $25; “Sleek” Preshave and Shave Cream $29; “Brave” Aftershave and Toner $13; and Lux Double Edge Razor $38.
While Solo Noir is now on solid footing, Polk did face challenges. “There were quite a few startup challenges when I launched Solo Noir, most I have overcome,” she shares. “There were the typical challenges when starting a consumer goods company, which included sourcing vendors and raw materials. One of the challenges in sourcing vendors is obtaining a partners that offer premium products and services that would in turn allow us to offer our products at an affordable price. Another challenge was marketing to the masses and conveying a message that would drive consumers to try our brand. The first two challenges were overcome by research, testing, and negotiating and the third will continue to be a challenge but we will work diligently to continue to understand our consumer and provide content and products that address their needs.”
Why skincare for men? “What inspired me to focus on the male demographic was the opportunity to not just offer men a grooming product but use this platform to educate men as well. I have always had a vested interest in the overlooked consumer,” explains Polk, who is also a licensed aesthetician. “What makes my focus difficult is that men don’t realize they need a regimen and that grooming is not a feminine routine. Although it is a tougher niche it will be quite rewarding for men to look at grooming differently because of my efforts.”
The whole process has taught Polk valuable business lessons. “My biggest lesson has been in the details. I have learned that if you overlook the details in initial planning, fixing errors is more costly and time consuming than examining the details initially,” says Polk.
Now, Polk is looking ahead to expand her brand. “2016 shall be a great year for us. We are positioning ourselves to compete with major brands, and we are looking forward to expanding our national reach,” she says.
Polk is more than happy with her entrepreneurial jump. “What I enjoy the most about what I do is seeing the growth of Solo Noir and enjoying each milestone along the way. The best experience for me thus far has been building the Solo Noir brand to become a viable product and company that people enjoy and want to see grow. Words cannot explain the feeling of making a vision become a reality,” says Polk. “I’m sure there will be plenty of ups and downs through this journey, but with every valley there is a peak. It is an amazing feeling since it was a concept and the personal growth I’ve experienced going through this journey.”
(CLICK HERE for a related story about shaving products for men.)