Ones to Watch | Summer 2021
By Andrew Barone
Andrew Barone is a Vice President at Rosenthal & Rosenthal, a privately held commercial finance firm helping entrepreneurs grow their businesses.
Teaming up with makeup mogul and renowned entrepreneur Bobbi Brown was a dream come true for Ariel Gold, General Manager of Jones Road Beauty. Gold was introduced to Brown through a mentor and there was an immediate connection. Along with a very lean team of five full-time employees, the two launched Jones Road in 2020. The beauty brand truly stands out in an increasingly saturated market — a market where the margins are so good and barriers to entry so low that new brands seem to be cropping up by the day.
“If you’re motivated,” says Gold, “virtually anyone can Google the name of a manufacturer and create a new product.” But not everyone has the experience and know-how that the iconic Brown does. Nor the discipline and operational expertise that Gold does. With this powerful combination, Jones Road was born. The innovative product line – the ultimate “no makeup, makeup collection,” as Gold calls it – is formulated by Brown herself, one of the most trusted voices in the industry with a four-decade track record.
Launched during the COVID-19 pandemic, when it was clear that brick-and-mortar traffic would be a challenge, Jones Road was conceived from the get-go as a strictly direct-to-consumer online business. They started with a strategically curated product assortment based on the premise that consumers would be choosy with their spend, knowing that certain products would outperform others.
Yet, even in this climate, Jones Road has outperformed expectations. The company is now focused on maintaining momentum and working toward incremental growth via revenue, Instagram followers, and distribution channels. Meeting consumer demand is a top priority for Brown and Gold, who are heavily focused on expanding their reach globally (Jones Road currently ships in the US, UK, and Canada). Brick-and-mortar opportunities are also on their radar, with retail opportunities in the works, in addition to a Jones Road concept store opening this fall.
Nichole Powell is from an “outdoorsy family”. She grew up in Minnesota where she would spend weekends backpacking, racing mountain bikes, and cross-country skiing. Years later, while working at the apparel brand Modern Citizen, Powell took a weekend trip to Yosemite and realized there were no clean alternatives to the outdoor products she grew up using. It was in this “aha” moment, coupled with Powell’s passion for the outdoors, clean beauty, and entrepreneurship, that Kinfield was born.
Established in 2019, Kinfield is focused on creating personal care products for the outdoors that are meant to feel more inclusive than other rugged, hyper-masculine products on the market. With the company’s mission of sustainability and transparency, their ‘clean’ products are safe for both people and the planet.
While Kinfield products can withstand the most extreme outdoor tests, including triathlons and backcountry backpacking trips, the brand’s marketing approach is not “farther, faster, harder.” Instead, the brand celebrates all things outdoors—from backyard BBQs to casual walks around town. “We’re here to celebrate all forms of being outdoors, whether you’re outdoorsy or maybe just outdoors-ish,” says Powell.
DTC sales still make up 75% of the brand’s revenue each month. However, Kinfield recognizes that not every customer is willing to wait for their order to ship, so the brand has established a strong and growing cohort of over 120 independent brick-and-mortar stores. Kinfield has also partnered with numerous online retailers for brand awareness, including Goop, Grove Collaborative, Madewell, and Free People. Additionally, in key markets, they have partnered with FastAF to offer two-hour delivery, meeting the needs of last-minute vacation packers and “can’t live without” fans.
After doubling its SKU count this past year with a variety of new products, this ‘One-to-Watch’ is focusing efforts on connecting with customers in person via its summer events tour. Looking ahead, Kinfield will prioritize its content strategy with product education, experimentation on popular content platforms like TikTok, and more.
Growing up as an athlete, Matt Mullenax battled with skin issues. In his 20s, he tried numerous drugstore remedies, consulted with dermatologists, and spent entirely too much money on high-end products before he finally found something that worked. Mullenax knew he couldn’t be alone in this experience and his quest for clean skin. He was onto something.
Armed with considerable consumer and retail experience as an investor, investment banker, and former employee at Nike and Bonobos, Mullenax founded Huron in 2018 with Co-Founder Matt Teri, the mastermind behind the product line. Its mission — to deliver premium skin and personal care products to men, without the premium price tag.
What sets Huron apart in the ever-growing men’s personal care category is both the brand’s relatability and its product quality. Products, which are 100% vegan and made without chemicals in the USA, are developed thoughtfully and deliberately, often years in the making. “This is not a ‘lipstick on a pig’ exercise,” said Mullenax. The brand has built its customer base (and its social media following) with honest and compelling content educating men about self-care through its “Let’s Talk About” blog series and its Instagram.
2020’s COVID-related challenges coupled with a mostly work-from-home environment tested Huron as a company, but the brand doubled down on its 1-on-1s, feedback, and strategy sessions to enhance efficiency across the organization. Huron’s kits, offering customers the chance to try out an assortment of products in smaller sizes before committing, have become some of the most sought-after men’s care must-haves.
The coming months will be exciting for this ‘One-to-Watch’, with new products in the pipeline and new sales channels on the horizon. We look forward to seeing what’s next.
Andrew Barone (@AndrewBarone) is a Vice President at Rosenthal & Rosenthal, a privately held commercial finance firm helping entrepreneurs grow their businesses.