In just three years time, Michael Haddad has gone from complaining about the itchy beginnings of a new beard to selling hundreds of handmade grooming products per week.
Haddad is CEO of Detroit Grooming Company and, along with co-founders Shaun Walford and Chad Buchanan, has grown the company from one handmade product to approximately 200 products. The company started in from a 300 sq. ft. self-characterized closet and has now grown into a 7,000 sq. ft. light industrial building on Wolcott Street in Ferndale. Detroit Grooming Company also has its own barber shop on Woodward Avenue in Ferndale and is building a second one in Detroit's Corktown neighborhood.
Detroit Grooming Company didn't start with a grand vision but instead a genuine curiosity. In 2013, Haddad and Walford, both employees of Buchanan at a local jewelry shop, decided that they were going to grow their beards out for No Shave November, aka Movember, a grassroots movement to raise awareness and funds for cancer research.
Photo courtesy Detroit Grooming Company.
With the duo scratching their faces as their beards grew in, they purchased a beard oil to share, hoping it would alleviate the itchiness.
Displeased with the product, Haddad and Walford wondered if they couldn't make one themselves. Fast-forward three years later, and Detroit Grooming Company
has launched the Black Label Collection, a limited line of grooming products that include beard oils, butters, and cleansers. Fifteen percent of sales from the Black Label Collection will go to No-Shave.org, which benefits a number of non-profit cancer organizations.
"It's crazy what a little bit of time and a little bit of research actually does," says Haddad. "Because you can be a complete novice at something and the Internet, although it's used for cat pictures and pictures of people's dinner, can also be used to actually make change in your life and affect the outcome of other people's lives, too, in a positive way."
After a period of research and trial-and-error, Haddad and Walford showed what would become their first product, Corktown Beard Oil, to Buchanan. Immediately taken by the tobacco and vanilla scent, Buchanan wanted in, and the three became business partners, launching what would become the Detroit Grooming Company.
Expanding from one product to 200 didn't just happen overnight. Much of what Detroit Grooming Company sells comes from either instances of personal need, customer suggestion, or wondering if they can do something better than their competitors. And it's the co-founders that test the products on themselves. Get an idea, see if it works, and adjust accordingly.
"It's accidental how some things happen, but you have to have deliberate actions afterwards," says Haddad. "Each one of us have contributed to the creation of these products."
Starting in that 300 sq. ft. closet, Detroit Grooming moved to a space on Fort Street in Detroit before outgrowing that and moving to a bigger space in Ferndale. They've since moved to the even bigger 7,000 sq. ft. space in Ferndale.
A barber chair from the 1920s sits near the front, awaiting restoration and an eventual installation in the Corktown barber shop. One row of shelves has hundreds of finished products, awaiting shipment. Another row contains hundreds of ingredients. An enormous vat sits atop two table-top heaters (the vat too big for one heater to handle on its own).
The co-founders are heavily involved, making their products by hand, preparing packages to ship, the majority of which they do themselves. All this despite the fact that they've gone from selling 10 orders per week to selling over 100 orders per day.
Haddad says that for all their success, the same desire to create back in 2013 is the same that drives them today. They're just creating a whole lot more.
"We're able to handle it," Haddad says of the company's growth. "You just scale. You move along with the trends. You don't fight anything. You go with what's flowing. That's how you find the best."