Tristan Walker is no stranger to success. Now, his Walker & Company is poised to make major headway in the health and beauty industry. Its Bevel brand razors and shave products, the first end-to-end shaving system specifically for coarse, curly hair, has already become a favorite.
Walker had been the Director of Business Development for local search and discovery service mobile app foursquare, where he oversaw strategic partnerships and monetization and worked with such brands as American Express, The New York Times, CNN, MTV, Starwood Hotels & Resorts, and Starbucks. Named to Ebony Magazine’s 100 Most Powerful People list, The Hollywood Reporter’s Digital Power 50, and Black Enterprise’s 40 Next, Walker was fast gaining attention in the corporate world. He went on to found CODE2040, a much-needed program that matches high-performing Black and Latino undergraduate and graduate coders and software engineering students with tech firms for internships. Walker, who holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from Stony Brook University, where he was valedictorian, and an MBA from the Stanford University Graduate School of Business, was an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Andreessen Horowitz prior to launching Walker & Co.
And Walker had declared he wants his company to become the “Procter & Gamble for people of color.” The company creates health and beauty products with a focus on minorities. It’s all in an effort to solve grooming problems most often overlooked by the general market. “Its first product is a single-blade razor system, called Bevel, which makes it possible for men with coarse or curly hair—the kind that I and most other black men have—to shave without developing razor bumps or other skin irritation,” Walker shares.
Born and raised in South Jamaica, Queens, New York, Walker is based in Palo Alto, Ca. He recently told TNJ.com more about Walker & Company.
TNJ..com: How would you describe Walker & Company?
Tristan Walker: We’re on a mission to make health and beauty simple for people of color. Right now, we offer the Bevel shave kit, a five-step system designed to eliminate bumps and skin irritation for people with coarse and curly hair. We are also excited about our new Bevel Trimmer that offers superior battery life, power, and cleanliness in a sleek, modern design. Beyond simply meeting the needs of our community, we’ve tried to create experiences that make grooming enjoyable, not just a chore. Part of that experience is an online community, Bevel Code, dedicated to lifestyle and grooming for men of color.
TNJ.com: How do you plan to build the brand during 2016?
TW: Our customers are our first priority. So when they let us know that they wanted the option to purchase Bevel products a la carte and they also wanted to be able to clean up hair without shaving, we launched an exclusive partnership with Target where our products can be bought separately, and we announced the Bevel Trimmer earlier this year. As we scale, these will continue to drive our brand in 2016.
This said, we’re also working on a new product line that I can’t say too much about now, but let’s just say we’re keeping the ladies in mind, too.
TNJ.com: What have been some challenges to building the brand?
TW: In the early days, we had a few investors write us off since they didn’t understand the market. Something that is so important to me is helping people understand that people of color are not a “niche” demographic. In fact, by 2040, people of color will be a majority in the U.S. The industry is also a $400 billion market, so it’s really a huge opportunity. We have been so fortunate to have so many supporters and investors who understand this and want to help us with our mission.
TNJ.com: Why is the brand needed?
TW: For a long time, consumers of color have been treated like second class citizens. When you walk into a drugstore, the “ethnic” aisle is usually just a dusty, outdated shelf. With Walker & Company and Bevel, we’re elevating the health and beauty experience for this growing, culturally influential community.
And personally, shaving irritation was a problem I have had to deal with for 15 years. From the bumps I’d get from shaving to the harsh chemicals of depilatory creams, I know how important a product designed for my hair type is, and I’m just one of the 80 percent of African-American men and 30 percent of men of other ethnicities who suffer from these issues.
TNJ.com: What has been your biggest business lesson?
TW: While I was an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Andreessen Horowitz, a founding partner, Ben Horowitz, shared some invaluable advice with me: to remain true to my authentic self. I’d been playing around with a few ideas for a company, but after hearing that, I knew I wanted to solve this hair removal problem. So, I took a leap and here we are with Bevel!
TNJ.com: What do you like the most about what you do?
TW: Hearing from customers that Bevel has changed their lives for the better. From the single mom who taught her son how to shave, to the soldier in the army who has to shave everyday and finally has a solution to fix the dreaded irritation issue, to the gentleman who shaved for the first time in fifteen years, these stories keep my amazing team at Walker & Company inspired.