Andrew: Hey there freedom fighters, my name is Andrew Warner. I am the founder of Mixergy.com, home of the ambitious upstart, and a guy who still has some hair on his head unlike today’s guest. Today’s guest has been shaving for years and then he said, “What if someone created a better way to do it? A better way to shave your head?” Sounds easy right? Well actually no, it doesn’t easy. Sounds really tough! And it was tough!
And I invited him here to talk about how he turned that idea into a business. His name is Todd Green. He is the founder of Headblade, which makes shaving razors. Actually they’re right over his shoulder right there. You can see, it makes shaving your head really easy and the designs of them are so beautiful that his razors are in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. I actually went to check on that. I said “That’s unbelievable.” I went to their site and yeah, it’s true. All right.
Todd: I hacked into their site, that’s how good I am.
Andrew: What do you say about me? That I’m the kind of person who you told me that that’s true. Wikipedia told me that’s true. And I said, “Wait, something doesn’t seem right, let’s go double check.”
Todd: Yeah, it’s true. Well, you can only add so much to Wikipedia before they start closing it down, so.
Andrew: Well I did my research, it came out okay. The other thing that I researched was your revenue. And I saw that 2007 there was an Entrepreneur Magazine article about how you, because of UFC and other things that you’re doing (because you’re advertising with UFC and other things), your revenue spiked to $10 million. That’s 2007. But that’s as far as I could get. Where are you guys today?
Todd: About the same.
Andrew: Ten million dollars a year selling razors?
Todd: It’s not bad.
Andrew: Does it feel like it’s not bad because it’s about the same? Because I compared it to 2007?
Todd: I mean, one of the things that happen in the razor industry, in the blade industry like you were talking previously, in terms of how often people change their blades. In the year since we’ve come up with different designs so we had to take back all the designs and push the newer models into the stores.
Andrew: Alright, let’s talk about how you built this $10 million company. It started with you working at GeoCities, and you did this while you were working there, right?
Todd: Well what happened was I actually had moved out to Los Angeles in ’95 because I had worked in the internet/computer/software technology in Seattle. Moved down to L.A., worked in Disney Imagineering for a while, then I worked at GeoCities. And it was actually about the time that I moved to LA, because I had been shaving since I was 22 (in ’97 I’d have turned 30), so I’d been shaving for seven years.
So really when it came down to me was trying to build the better mousetrap. Because I would shave at night, and shaving with a regular conventional razor takes a long time, I wouldn’t shave in the morning, I didn’t have time. So I figured out the, people talk about the Eureka moment, which is, I was rubbing my head and I thought, “Boy if I could take a razor and put it on my finger and shave by feel, then it’d be so much easier.”
Andrew: Todd what’s the problem though with shaving using a conventional razor? The same thing that has a stick that you shave your head with. If your head is carved, or contoured…
Andrew: It shouldn’t be carved. Contoured. What’s the problem with just taking the same thing and going like this? I haven’t shaved my head ever so I don’t know.
Todd: Okay so, the biggest problem that head-shavers have would be shaving the back of your head or shaving the places that you can’t see.
Todd: The other problem would be, hey if you and I want we’re going to play patch with a ball. I would use my dominant hand. So when you shave, I mean I don’t know, you don’t shave any place I can see, but if you shave something using a conventional razor, you’ll use your dominant hand.
Todd: So with your face, it’s rather easy to do with one hand. With your head, you’d have to start working really strange angles.
Andrew: Got it.
Todd: So if I asked you for money out of your pocket, you would use whichever hand is closer. So it’s preoccupation, it’s knowing where your extremities are. So if you can touch your hand to your head, you can conceivably trust a blade there because you’re guiding it with your fingertips.
Andrew: I see. I do actually, I shave the back of my neck on a regular basis. And there I use a stick, and it’s kind of a pain. I see what you mean. With the left hand it’s not as easy as the right.
Todd: Okay. So you use, you [??]. Do you look in a mirror too?
Andrew: I do, I hold up a mirror. And actually, I was on vacation recently, and so the back of my neck got really furry because I didn’t have a separate mirror and I didn’t want to go out of my way to look for one.
Todd: Right, and if you’re looking in a mirror, everything’s backwards.
Todd: So, with a Headblade, or the whole idea of Headblade is now I shave in the shower and it takes me two minutes. So it takes me longer to shave my face than it does my head.
Andrew: So you had this problem and you said, “Maybe other people do.” Or did you? Did you check to see if you were the only one who had it?
Todd: No, no, no, no. Even when I went in Seattle, I would ask guys who shaved heads. In Seattle it was fine, because more and more guys would shave their heads. So you’d have this kind of “Hey I shave my head, how do you do it?” You’d get all these different, like, not home formulations but what blades people use, how they shave. And it got a point once when I went to a bar in Seattle and any guy with a shaved head that walked in they’d put a number on the back of his head because that’s the easy way to tell who’s who. And I realized why it was becoming more popular. It’s not just me, you know, it was eight other guys in this bar.
When I moved down to L.A. it became where you think of the Bell curve, I just happened to be at the beginning of that Bell curve, and when I decided to have that idea or when I had that eureka moment, and I came up with my initial design the thing that pushed it through was the perseverance. But it was also the fear that knowing maybe five years, ten years down the road when there’s a lot more guys shaving their heads. And I didn’t want to walk into a store and see a product that was essentially a Headblade that I did not make and think I thought of that, that’s mine.
Andrew: Yeah. To see that someone else ran with that idea is so painful.
Todd: Yeah, I mean, people must have said that to you when you started your companies.
Andrew: About interviewing, for some reason nobody ever said, “I wish I’d come up with that first.
Andrew: Maybe they did, but I think there’s been times in my life where I felt that way, and it stinks where I thought of something and I didn’t do it and I see someone else doing it, and it hurts really badly. And I get what you’re trying to avoid with that.
Andrew: But it’s still a tough thing to create a blade. It’s not like software, it’s not like an interview. I can create an interview using a iPad, an Android phone, a computer, anything. Create an actual blade, where did you . . . how did you make your first prototype to see if it worked?
Todd: Yeah, I wasn’t the smartest guy in picking a profession, you know. It was definitely the necessity was the mother-in-law of invention. And when I first came out with the Headblade prototype I would have to buy Gillette blades. Actually this is the [??] the Price is Right, but this is the original prototype.
Todd: You see it’s Michael Jordan’s logo on it, so I call it the Hair Jordan.
Todd: And then I . . .
Andrew: I see. It looks like a thin hockey puck with the razor attached to one end and [??] things on the other to hold it in place.
Todd: It’s like a joy buzzer.
Andrew: Yeah. That’s what it looks like.
Todd: Yeah, so maybe that’s where it came from. But I would not use it as a joy buzzer. So, anyways, this was to show the concept works.
Todd: And what I quickly realized was that A) I could not make things that looked like they weren’t . . . I like to say. This looks like a dreidel.” You know, the dreidels you made at home.
Todd: Or just a class project. So I started making more prototypes and I got so bad with that . . .
Andrew: What’s so bad about that first version? It looks very simple. It had the blade on it, and you can hold it between your fingers. What’s the problem with that?
Todd: And it’s a basketball. What’s wrong with it? I only can make one at a time. The other problem is because the blade is on the bottom it’s like a seesaw. So really, you have the blade, but the blade’s not pivoting.
Andrew: Ah, okay.
Todd: So that’s how I created the suspension idea. So we go to a few months later, I made this prototype which is, again, the Hair Jordan and at this point I was going to Home Depot and buying like their clamps.
Andrew: Okay, that’s what it is, just a clamp from Home Depot on the back.
Todd: And then I would actually buy the old Gillette razor that had the slide on bar and I’d put that in because I got so mad about Gillette razors that I would actually rip them out of each prototype when I was done. So . . .
Andrew: You wouldn’t keep paying for them.
Todd: Yeah. My cash was tight. So then I had this bar, and this was from the old Trac II. This was a pivotal point in Headblade because at that point Gillette, I think, came up with the Mach III. And the Sharper Image on their catalog they had a thing called a Dynablade which was a vibrating handle. They had one that they made for the Mach III, and then they had one made for the Gillette Sensor.
I remember saying to my ex-wife. I said a lot of things, but I remember saying, “How can they do that and not get sued because they’re infringing on Gillette patents?” And then a week later in the Wall Street Journal Gillette sued Sharper Image to take this razor off the market because back then the whole proprietary with the blades, other than the blade configuration was the attachment point. It was the pivot.
So this is the Gillette Trac II and what I did early on was I realized that there was a company that made a little adaptor so that their old metal handles would be able to snap on this adapter and then in the Atra and the Atra Plus, that pivot, there are little pivots so you could then have a pivoting razor and I used old Gillette technology but then this adapter.
Andrew: So it doesn’t create the seesaw.
Todd: Yes, well, it has this end here so it ends like suspension like a car, but what it did, ultimately, was it allowed me to make a razor that did not infringe on any patents because if Gillette was upset that I used this pivot, I didn’t make this pivot back in 2000. I made a razor that had the slide-on bar that, if you took the old, old Gillette razor, it would slide on and be a non-pivoting razor.
Andrew: And Todd, if someone wanted to buy your blade and use it right, would they have to buy the pivot in addition to the blades?
Todd: A Headblade comes standard with the body, the adapter and one blade.
Andrew: I see and the adapter wasn’t made by you, it was made by someone else who could get in trouble and sued by Gillette.
Todd: Early on and now it is manufactured by us, correct.
Andrew: Got you. And now is it legal to…
Todd: You are correct, sir.
Andrew: By the way, I see all this. I’m a gadget guy. Sorry if there is a lag, does it seem like we are talking [??] each other?
Todd: No, I just talk to people and I mutter. That’s one of the things my ex-wife used to say to me.
Andrew: Speaking of your ex-wife, that’s what I was going to ask you. I love this stuff. I would like to be in your office and check this out and see the thought processes you went from step to step. That’s why I do these interviews. The wife, when she saw you go through this, making blades at home what did she think of that?
Todd: Not much.
Andrew: She said this is not going anywhere or did she support it at all or was she?
Todd: She works in the television industry so it was more like I was the inventor. I was that kooky guy that was in the other room. I don’t know. I think there was an unfamiliarity with the concept of what I was trying to do because a lot of people follow a career and I think when you talk about an entrepreneur, you talk about the mindset and why we do certain things and whether you are driven by money or passion. Whatever it is, it comes from the heart.
It comes where you have this belief in yourself and you are willing to take chances and you are willing to take risks and persevere. And you know that I am putting myself out there and some people are going to love what I do. Some people are going to hate what I do. Some people are going to be jealous, it’s all those things but that’s what, really, when you become an entrepreneur, you accept all those.
Andrew: Here is what I heard. You accept it from the world, but I would imagine, tell me if this is too personal, I will back away. You expect it from the world you don’t expect it inside the house.
Todd: I will.
Andrew: There was one time when you were going to buy a suit. What did your wife say when she heard you were going to buy a suit?
Todd: Oh well, actually, I bought the suits. I put them in the bedroom. She came home from work and I said “don’t go into the bedroom because I have all the” and this is when I was working out of my apartment because like any good [??] I have a two bedroom apartment and one bedroom was my office and I had bought some nice suits from Fred [Segal’s] and I was kind of mixing and matching and I had them on the bed. She came in and I said “Don’t go into the second bedroom because I’m just setting all my suits up” and she said, “What are you doing with that, you go from that room to that room?”
Andrew: What do you need the suit for?
Todd: Think of it like when I go pick up your dry cleaning, at least I will look nice.
Andrew: That’s got to hurt, didn’t it?
Todd: I really don’t know. I guess I am that careless individual.
Andrew: Here’s the thing. I used to live in L.A. I used to see these guys with big dreams and you know they weren’t going anywhere and I used to say to myself “am I like that”, am I that guy who has this big dream and he clearly isn’t going anywhere. Did you ever have those doubts? Todd: About myself?
Andrew: Yes, as you were building this, going through, prototype after prototype. Todd: I spent $150,000 right? So I got some money from my father, my own money and then two friends.
Todd: I remember that the first day that we were going to sell head blades, it was at, you know Venice Beach, right?
Todd: We rented a booth at Venice Beach. I had spent eight months, I think, developing the head blade and the night before I rented the booth at the beach, I had friends come over because we had to hand package the head blades. They were actually made in L.A. so I actually had the molds, I had them produced in L.A. and my friends had to help me package them. And so I had 500 Headblades and I had one friend that was . . . there was a wire that would hold the Headblade down on the box. And my friend was left- handed and he was doing it backwards. And I said, “Well, those we can sell in Australia or you can redo them all so they’re all consistent because I don’t want it to look like this is a home craft thing. This is a production line.
So the next day I went to Venice. I had 500 Headblades. I had two girls on roller blades, my ex-wife was there. I had a couple friends helping me sell Headblades. And it was really breaking me down because after that day . . . it was a nice beautiful summer day and people would say, “Oh, this is so great. Why haven’t I seen it on TV?” or “Why haven’t I seen it in magazines?” And I’d say, “Today’s our big day. Today is the grand opening or release of Headblade.”
And so out of the 500 we sold eight. And I remember saying to my ex-wife, “Why am I doing this? I mean, I spent all this money to make them all, to make the prototypes, to make the products, to get here to have 500 Headblades and at the end of the day we sold eight.” And she said, “You have to look on the bright side.” I said, “What could be the bright side?” She said, “Well, you sold five and everybody else sold three combined.” And I looked at her and I go, “What am I employee of the month?” And it was like, I remember a year later, you know the guying doing Non Sequitur?
Andrew: Uh huh.
Todd: And it was one single cell frame and it was a picture of a guy at this long desk and at the front it said, “The benefits of being self- employed.” And behind his desk were all these framed photos of employee of the month which was him. So I think for the first, you know, year, year and a half it definitely was a struggle. And I would package every single Headblade. I’d walk it down to the post office. They knew me at the post office so that they’d let me go in the back door so I didn’t have to stand in line. And at the end of the first year I bought them all yellow and black watches because it was kind of a milestone.
Todd: But to me it was the dream of taking an idea and a concept to a product and then putting it into production and getting it to the market. I mean, in and of itself, you’ve crossed a lot of obstacles that a lot of people don’t.
Andrew: And the reason you were able to take so many orders into the post office is it because you started to sell the blades online and that was a big turning point?
Todd: That was what got me on the map but back in 1999 there weren’t a lot of people that were buying stuff online. There was still the concept of, “Oh, I don’t want to put my credit card online because everybody will have it.” I mean, you probably had that too, right?
Andrew: I think, yeah, I don’t want to put, that I don’t even remember. I was on there at the time and I remember people feeling that way. I remember being comfortable putting credit cards online at any moment and it felt odd to me that people weren’t but the majority of the world wasn’t ready for it.
Todd: Oh, totally. That was where you got the early adopters and I remember there were articles saying, you know, a couple years later, “It’s more risky to give away your credit card . . .
Todd: “And have them walk to the kitchen and disappear and then bring it back than it is to put your credit card online.”
Andrew: I remember that.
Todd: Target (?) said that. But anyways so it’s one of those things that early on it was early adopters and then the magazines. Like I would send press cuts to all the magazines and they refused to write about it because they considered Headblade a dot-com. And I kept saying, “It’s not a dot- com. It’s a product-related company that sells products online.” So essentially I had to walk from my apartment to Fred Segal’s. You know Fred Segal.
Andrew: Yup. The shirt that sells like $400 t-shirts.
Todd: Yeah. Where I bought my nice suits.
Todd: And (?) but I got them to carry the Headblade and from there all the magazines would write about it. You know, as long as they could say, “Available at Fred Segal or Headblade.com,” to them it was a legitimate product and I think that’s what happens when you’re an entrepreneur and you get all these roadblocks from people that don’t understand your concept.
And I remember when I was in college. I went to Bowdoin College in Maine and one of my professors said, “When you’re painting and painting people are going to critique it and they’re going to give you their insight and their thoughts but the real thing is nobody knows what’s inside your head. Nobody knows what that painting’s going to look like until it’s done. That would be the time for them to be able to chime in.” And I faced that a lot with Headblade. If you told somebody about the concept, if you told somebody what you’re trying to do they couldn’t conceive of it. And it was like, that’s why I’m doing it, not them.
Todd: And then when it’s done then okay, here it is. Now tell me.
Andrew: Let me do a quick plug for my sponsor and then I’m looking at an article from 2000 that I want to ask you about. The plug is for andrewswelcomegate.com. If you’ve been to Mixergy.com you’ve seen that I have a page that explains what Mixergy is and then asks you to register, to give an email address if you want to join. That page has done phenomenally for me mostly because, frankly, when people come to the site they don’t want to see the latest interview. They want to understand what is this about.
So I took that page and I turned it into a template with the help of the people over at LeadPages.net and now it’s available to you. If you go to andrewswelcomegate.com you can get that page, put it up on your site, and start turning hits to your site- get them to turn from hits to leads so that you can collect email addresses. andrewswelcomegate.com
Here’s what the article says: you were, March 2000, really soon after you started you did ForSale last June on a website that you built yourself, drummed up interest for your $15 item by posting messages on web bulletin boards and catered to target customers which included balding men, hardcore athletes, members of the military and aspiring bohemians. In the first weeks it says [green tallied] sales of $300. These days, weekly receipts average 3,000. And you expect to lose $173,000 that year on sales of $1.6 million in the year 2000. Is that essentially capturing what the year 2000 was like for you?
Andrew: No. What happened really?
Todd: What happened really, this is the brilliant thing about this article, like I love that the article came out and they were basing a lot on the business plan that I had somebody write. And, you know, business plans are not reality. And the best part was Victor Kiam- did you see his quote in that?
Andrew: No. Let me see that.
Todd: He’s got a quote, something like, I don’t know the article got through the editors in that looking at the business plan Victor Kiam’s like, “Okay, if he’s going to do let’s say $6 million, whatever that number was, he’s one guy in an apartment. He should probably hire an employee.” You know, I mean like it just, the numbers didn’t make sense. So I had told them what the actual thing was but they said, “Do you have a business plan?” I said, “Okay, here’s the business plan.” And I never raised the money because I started with just kind of friends’ and family and my own money.
Andrew: And that total was $150,000?
Andrew: So I see. I don’t see that, the Victor Kiam part didn’t make it into the online version of this article but I see you’re saying not only did they buy this business plan and take it as if it was really happening but even Victor Kiam reacted to the projection as opposed to the reality.
Todd: Well, no I think with Victor Kiam he read the business plan and then he also read my interview and he kind of put one and one together and said, “This is the business plan. This is reality.”
Andrew: Oh I see. He’s saying he should hire an employee is a way of saying, “Well, something doesn’t seem right here.”
Andrew: Got you. Did you actually get $3,000 in weekly receipts around that time? Did you start to get sales from bulletin boards?
Todd: Yeah, yeah. I mean we got the magazine hits. It was amazing because I had the 1-800 number that went to my apartment and I remember taking my own number. I just know that I was taking calls in the middle of the night and writing down credit card numbers and orders so I’d wake up the next morning and I would have this written down and wouldn’t remember answering the phone. But we were doing, we did like $30,000 one month I think when we were in Playboy or Details magazine.
But it was really funny because, you know, people would call me late at night. They’d wake me up. They’d say, “Well, did I wake you up?” I’d say, “No, we work 24/7 here,” like I’m on the night shift. And one day the phone rang and I picked it up and I realized when I picked it up I don’t think it was the 800 number they’d dialed. And you know I kept saying to Monica there’s a lot of like the front keypad gates of buildings ring to your phone?
Todd: So I answer the phone. I’m like, “Headblade,” and I hear, “Hi, it’s Stefan from Germany. I’m downstairs.” And I was like, “What?” Apparently this guy had ordered from me in Germany, didn’t get his order, was on vacation in L.A. so he came to the Headblade Headquarters which was at my apartment on 6th and Montana. So I think when he came to the door he thought it was a scam but then when he came up and saw me dressed in my Fred Segal suit and the whole closet of inventory, we got him all set up.
Andrew: Another call that came in around the year 2000 was from Time Magazine. They reached you on that 800 number on your website?
Andrew: What did they want?
Todd: Well that was a great story because, again, there were some immediate family members who I was living with, one person, who said, “Don’t answer the phone.” It’s Thanksgiving, my family is in town, just stop and concentrate on Headblade. Don’t answer the phone. So I pick up the phone and it’s Time Magazine and I’m like, it’s Time Magazine and I want to answer that call. They said we are just calling to confirm some information. We can’t tell you why we are calling but you will be very happy that we called.
Already I was ecstatic but then a month or two months later when it came out in Time Magazine as one of the top ten designs in the world, and that’s the thing. It’s another feather or accolade and what makes me so honored by those are those are the ones money can’t buy. Gillette can spend billions of dollars on advertising, they can buy so many different awards, but you can’t buy yourself in the Museum of Modern Art, you can’t buy yourself into Time Magazine. So, it really became something that filled my heart.
Andrew: Time Magazine doesn’t sell blades directly, does it? Not like being in Playboy, but it does add to the business, right?
Todd: It adds legitimacy and validity. So when people say why don’t I see it in the magazine, you say well, you are reading the wrong magazine. You should probably read something a little higher than Jugs, you should be right up there reading Time. Oh, can I say that?
Andrew: Yes, you can say anything you want. I see and so it just gives you a lot of credibility to have been in that magazine.
Todd: Yes and also personally, I’ll lecture at Pepperdine at the graduate school and people will say what does success mean to you or how much money do you have to have to be successful and for me it goes back to that [??] you know I always say his name wrong, but do you know the guy who wrote the [??]
Todd: Also wrote the one page story called “Dream”. It’s about the three guys working in the hot summer sun in the [quarry] and someone says to the first guy, “what are you doing”, and he’s got the axe and he says “I’m breaking rocks”. He said okay, so he goes to the second guy and says “what are you doing”? Well the second guy said “I’m working”. “I come here every morning, they tell me what to do and then at 5:00 I go home”. Then he said to the third guy who had the axe and was working away, furiously, and he said to him “what are you doing” and he said “I am building a cathedral” so there is that old saying “Count no man fortunate until he is dead”.
I want to have passion in what I do, and Headblade gives me that passion. You know when I worked at [Starwave] doing the ESPN thing I was a character with a daily blog. There are certain things that, isn’t not about the money, it’s about the passion and what drives you. If I died today then, I’ve had a great life, you know, and I’m doing what I love to do so for me this success thing is about following your dreams.
Andrew: And it’s more than just shaving, it’s art. In fact, when I talked to Ann Marie, who works here at Mixergy, she said oh yes, the guy whose razors look kind of like a truck, the ones with the wheels. That came in 2006.
Andrew: How do you add that kind of design touch to something that looks like or anyone else would say should just look like a razor?
Todd: Well, when I was a kid, I loved cars, I’ve always loved cars. I actually wrote Lee [Iacco] when I was twelve years old and I found a letter that he wrote me back, probably somebody wrote me back, but I love cars and I love design and it’s great that it afforded me, when I came up with the idea of the Headblade and maybe that’s how I came up with the idea, was [??] thing that you drive on your car so people do say it looks like a Hotwheel. Over the years, this is the original one that is in the Museum of Modern Art.
Todd: You will notice it does not have wheels. And it does not have wheels because purely, I could not afford wheels because it would have been another mold and then another.
Andrew: So you were thinking of wheels even as far back as then?
Todd: Yes because that is the whole suspension idea and it’s funny because with the original, if somebody used it and did not like it, it was because they were using it like this or they were using it backwards and didn’t know to put this pad down.
Andrew: Got it.
Todd: So when I came up with the next design, this one is essentially the same thing but it has the wheels so anybody that puts it on their head realizes, oh, I’ve got to drive this like a car.
Andrew: The wheel has to go on the head.
Todd: Yes and then a little later, this one, we came up with the idea, this is just the evolution of Headblade, right. All the same concept but the newest one, diverges from that concept. But this one, is essentially like the other one; it has the wheels, it has the triple blade, but it has the little rubber fingering and this is based on when I saw the kids’ little sippy cups that had the plastic and rubber or toothbrushes that are all molded together. So, this allows you to just put your finger in and the ring will adjust automatically. So, what I learned from this, and this is ten years in the making, so it went from the original concepts in ’98, ’99 to 2005 and then I changed the fingering. Then in 2012 we came up with the all new Headblade and this one is radically different. Okay.
Andrew: It’s like the reverse, the wheel on the front the blade on the back.
Todd: Yeah. Yeah. This one is reversed for a couple of reasons, one is this is new blade technology so it has the flow through design and you can have a four blade or a six blade. And what we realized over the years is there’s a learning curve with Headblade, because any other conventional razor you pull you don’t push. With the Headblade, the blade goes first so if I was going to shave, I’d shave this way or I’d shave this way. Either way the blade is in the front, which for some people that aren’t use to that or don’t get over the learning curve it’s not the right.
Andrew: They’re use to the stick part of it. How do you know this? Do you watch people as they shave?
Todd: Like do I set up webcams in public restrooms? I’m going to get arrested for.
Andrew: Whatever. I don’t think that’s that out of line. I think if you’re, I’m curious about how people watch my programs, how they download it. It’s interesting to watch them do it. Do you watch them? Do you have a team of people who do this?
Andrew: No. So, how do you know that people don’t get it the way that you meant for them to understand how to shave with your blades?
Todd: Well early on it was just definitely user comments and because of the forums. You know, people will write you if they don’t like something. People with will write you if they love something.
Andrew: So you went onto the forums and said, “Here’s what I created for you guys.” How did you sale on the forums in a way that got you feedback.
Todd: Well we didn’t get the feedback in the forums from just posting in the forums. You would get the feedback in the forums from the people that saw the razor that went and brought the razor and then went to the forums.
Andrew: I see.
Todd: Now we have through Facebook and out other social media we have like 500 head lighters who are our test bladers. So we went from this design, this is the Head Blade Sport, which is the evolution of the Headblade. Right. Same concept just have wheels unlocked with three blade design. This one, this took three years or four years to make. And it afforded us the ability to, like I talked earlier about our adapters. It’s a mix and match scenario. So, if you have this old Headblade, when we were actually testing blades we would send them adapters and blades that then they would snap on to their Headblade.
Andrew: I see.
Todd: So you could use, and what we did was this how the new blades look on the Headblade Sport. So this one you would still push not pull. And what what we would do is we would send these out to the 500 guys and we’d have them take online surveys and then when we go up to the point where over 70% gave it a shave rating of an eight or higher on a scale from one to ten then we actually disclosed to all the guys that really we’ve designed an all new Headblade. The all new Headblade is the ATX.
So, now we kind of have two schools. We kind of have the taste great, less filling. We have guys that love the original design, the Headblade or the Headblade Sport and people that love the ATX. The ATX was developed because there’s no learning curve, has better blades and as a result you can now shave you face or your body with it.
Andrew: I see. It’s interesting to see how you go to that too. That you sent it out to people who were users and testers and you got feedback from them through surveys and you adjusted based on that and you understood that you got something when the feedback was strong.
Todd: Yeah. No, we’ve changed a lot over the years. We continually try to improve our products because as I said before. You know, Headblade, when I started there were no other products for head shavers. If you look at like the clipper companies and you look at skincare, people understand skincare, people understand haircare. We’re head care so we’re that little niche category in the middle that kind of bridges both together. And early on when I was selling Headblades and we got into RiteAid in like 2002, clippers were sold in the hair care. Now, they’re sold next to razors and you can also look at there was a clear delineation between what a wet razor was and what a dry shaver was, what an electric razor was and what a non- electric razor is. Now it’s just all one.
Andrew: Let me see how you grew this. So it’s beginning you send ing out press kits to magazines to waiting for the hit, walking into Fred Segal, pushing them to try selling it, going online, creating a web page you create yourself. And then going into the forums, the message boards online and encouraging people to try this out, it’s a lot of that.
The next step up where you say, “I can’t keep doing this on my own.” What the next step up for getting new customers?
Todd: If you look at the Mentel [??] reports, there’s other research reports. You know, guys are huge on free trial and word of mouth.
Todd: So those were some of the keys but still, you know, I . . .
Andrew: It’s blade of the month club early on?
Todd: No, we did user of the month.
Andrew: What’s user of the month?
Todd: My favorite is Headblade has afforded me the ability to meet a lot of people I never would have met or interacted. I like to say Headblade is like the Benetton of razors because it’s almost every different demographic that you never put in the same room. If you look early on head shavers, it just wasn’t mainstream, let’s say.
The military didn’t approve of head shaving until 2003 or 2004. And I used to have people say, “I’d love to shave my head, but I can’t because I’m a doctor or I’m a lawyer. And to me that was so foreign because there was such a stigma on shaving your head. And we do stuff with cancer organizations, alopecia organizations.
Andrew: Todd, what I’m trying to get at is I want to learn how you grew your business to $10 million so that the person listening to us can use more of your ideas because I think that you pushed things where most people would be too chicken to go. You walk into the store, and you are promoting it. You stand on Venice Beach where most people would be too chicken to stand by their own products.
What’s the next thing that you did that got more customers so that someone in my audience who says, “I’m ready to go big. I’m ready to go like Todd, then can learn from it and go use it themselves.”
Todd: I think there’s a combination of the grow marketing we did, the social media we did. We had a huge MySpace page which is now gone.
Andrew: The MySpace page helped.
Todd: Yeah, MySpace and then everything went over to Facebook. We’d redone our website. But really it’s just building customers and building traffic.
Andrew: How did you build traffic?
Todd: Really, free press. There are a lot of famous people over the years that have had blades that . . . Howie Mandel bought his at Fred Segal. He’s been a Headblader for that long, and Chris Daughtry was using Headblade before he was on . . .
Andrew: How do you find when they do that? It’s not like shoes where you can see them wearing it in a magazine and then go promote it.
Todd: Right. That is one of the trickiest things because we get invited to do a lot of gift lounges, and when you can take a picture of a famous person holding your product, I don’t believe in that because I think every . . . I’ll give you an example. The famous golfer shaves his head, but he wasn’t shaving his head before. Through a friend I sent him Headblade, and then actually in that PGA interview because he started shaving his head, he said, “Well, I started shaving it because this company, Headblades, sent me a razor and I realized I had already talked to my wife about how I looked and I looked great, and so I started using Headblade.
So those are the kind that you don’t see somebody who uses Headblade because unless they’re wearing Headblade apparel you just don’t know.
Andrew: You see that they shave their heads or talk about it somewhere, and boom! You send them a sample.
Todd: Yeah, usually we’re on top of that but we’re not trying to exploit. we’re just . . .
Andrew: That’s a nice thing to do.
Todd: In a way that we want to send it to people that we earnestly think want Headblade or need Headblade or should have Headblade.
Andrew: I think that’s fascinating. Do you have another idea that’s worked for you?
Todd: Well, I’ll tell you one story that’s kind of funny which was early on. The New York Yankees, there’s a guy called Bald Vinny. Vinny does the roll call. Have you ever been to Yankee Stadium?
Andrew: Oh yeah.
Todd: So when I first started Headblade, this guy, Vinny, wrote me and said, “I love Headblade, blah, blah, blah. I’m coming out to L.A.” This is how you go that extra mile. I said, “Oh, you can stay with my wife and I.” [laughs] So Vinny came out, and he told me he does the roll call. At the beginning of the game he’s the guy that yells out every single players, and the player turns and bows. It’s kind of an institution, right? Like the Bleacher Creatures. Vinny came out and stayed with me and went to a UFC fight in Vegas. And then Vinny bought the printing press that he later used to sell t-shirts outside of Yankee Stadium. And then he said to me, “I hold the flag during the seventh inning. And then when the guy comes out in center, they show that flag.”
That’s interesting to me. So, anyways, the Yankees were in the World Series with the Marlins. And I remember I was at P.F. Chang and they were showing, and then the seventh inning stretch, and the guy comes on and they show the flag. And I’m like that’s Vinny. I can actually tell that’s Vinny.
So I called Vinny up and I said, “Hey, if I overnight you a Headblade banner, will you hold the banner up next to the flag? And he said, “Sure, send it to me.” So I sent it to him. The next World Series game, they showed the banner, they showed the flag, and Vinny . . . His friend was holding the flag because Vinny was holding the banner.
Andrew: Oh wow.
Todd: I got so many calls and so many emails about that, and some people were upset with me because, “How could you do that? You know, it’s the seventh inning stretch, blah, blah. I like, if you look at the TV, the Fox logo is giant in the corner. It’s not like I’m doing anything really bad. And then it was fine because I got a call from ESPN. I thought, oh, I’m in trouble now. “Hey, we just want to see if you want to advertise. I’m like, “Well, if I had the money to advertise, I would have.” I just called Vinny to hold the banner up.
Andrew: And then eventually you start sponsoring UFC, right?
Andrew: Did that work out for you?
Todd: Yeah, that was great. The first sponsor was, I think, Frank Trigg. I became friends with a lot of the guys. We sponsored Chuck Liddell when he was in Japan, Rampage Jackson. We probably sponsored 55 or 60 and then we did stuff directly with the UFC.
And that was one of those where, again, it was like the [??] thing. When we first started I talked to Dana White. I knew it was a great sport that was going to get a lot of viewers, and it was like the major league of fighting. But you could get it so much less than any other major league sport. So I did that until we couldn’t afford that, and then we did the IFL which was on the UPN’s My 13 and now we do stuff with the Glory World Series which is street boxing and they’re on Spike.
So really, I remember an article I read from the guy that started Go Daddy. You never run out of opportunities to spend money. So if you have money and you want to advertise, when people come to you, you’re in a much better bargaining position and you can really pick and choose. So we kind of looked for that needle in a haystack which would essentially be anything that hits three demographics. You know, something that’s MMA that would hit military guys, security guards, fighting guys. So there’s all these things of where’s the highest concentration of head shavers because it has to come from multiple groups.
Andrew: And so you started out by sponsoring individuals. Was that expensive?
Todd: No, individuals is always less expensive than working directly with an organization, but it has its own caveats because if you sponsor a fighter you have to figure out whether the fighter fights standing up or fights on his back and what style they fight in because we’ve sponsored guys that have won in 20 seconds, and we sponsored guys that lost in 20 seconds. So you can pay a lot of money for no visibility.
Andrew: Oh I see. If he fights on his back, you can’t see the logo.
Todd: Depending on where your logo is.
Andrew: Got it.
Todd: So I have a couple of guys who work here that are really in the MMA, and when we get pitched by the MMA I send them off to my two guys and say, “Figure out if there’s a deal to be had. Find out which leg panel we’d want to be on, whether it’s the right leg, left leg, back or front or side. And then you get on their banner and maybe on their t-shirt.
If 20 guys come to you and act for a sponsorship, you can kind of whittle it down, and you can kind of figure it out. You’ll see a lot of companies in the MMA that will have a huge exposure on one fights or two fights and then they’re gone. You never see that company again. It’s because they’ve completely given all their awards and cash for entry into the MMA and they didn’t get any return, and they didn’t come back.
Andrew: And so you spent it on individuals. You made sure that you’d be visible. How much money did one person go for back then?
Todd: It could be anywhere from product trade, $100 to $5,000.
Andrew: Oh wow.
Todd: It is the Wild West. It is the Wild West.
Andrew: It does have a high perceived value though, if you’re in the MMA, you’re right there on the stage on the guy. I should say for people in the international audience MMA is Mixed Martial Arts and UFC is Ultimate Fighting Championship.
Todd: Oh and in a lot of places overseas it’s huge. As big or bigger than, like in Thailand it’s huge. I was just in the Philippines this week and they had a fight. You see it all around. So it’s definitely a worldwide sport. Even during the World Series a lot of Russian, Brazilian, European fighters.
Andrew: Are you a millionaire at this point, like cash in the bank not value of the company?
Todd: I would say no. It’s one of those. I don’t really count those things. You would laugh at how I live. I live in a studio. I live like a pauper.
Andrew: Even to this day?
Todd: Yeah. I live in a 400 square foot studio.
Andrew: Really? That’s tiny. That’s like my office here.
Todd: On a beach in Santa Monica. Yeah.
Todd: That’s not including the bathroom, I don’t think. I don’t really measure the bathroom.
Andrew: Why don’t you live better? You’re in a place where if you live better you get a lot of rewards. People love you more.
Todd: I’m not in this to be loved. I had a house that I designed down on the beach in Santa Monica down in. You know where Patrick’s Roadhouse is?
Todd: In Santa Monica Canyon. I had a house, designed a house, had a wife and I remember toward. Remember the Talking Head song? You remember the Talking Heads?
Todd: You know the song, Once in a Lifetime?
Todd: This is not my beautiful house. This is not my beautiful wife.
Andrew: Oh yeah. This is not my beautiful house. Da, da, da, da, dat, do.
Todd: I am more happy now singing that song living in a 400 square foot studio. The man that owns little is little owned and that’s how I live my life. If I buy something, I give something.
Andrew: Do you get to take a nice salary at least from the company now?
Andrew: You are? You’re taking more than a hundred thousand salary a year?
Andrew: I’m worried about you.
Todd: Don’t worry about me. It’s like last week, I went to China. I went to Hong Kong. I took my employee who works with the factories but has never been over to the factories because we work direct with the factories. Flew him over, he’d never been to Asia before. His ex-wife is from Manila. He had never been to Manila and so I said okay for the weekend let’s stop in Manila. Because for him it’s an amazing experience for whatever he does after Headblade that he has all this experience now visiting a factory, working with factories and as a side gig or side gift, we got to go to a place that he’s probably always wanted to go.
And he hung out with his ex-wife’s brother so that’s what makes me happy is I’m in a nice position. I don’t want a big house. I don’t want a house. I like when I lock my door, I don’t have to worry about where I live. I don’t have to worry about my possessions.
Andrew: April in the pre-interview asked you what advice you have for other entrepreneurs and you said, “Use every resource you have and don’t buy nice cars or expensive office equipment. Don’t get carried away.”
Todd: Yeah well until everybody else goes out of business then just buy their crap. I’ll show you. This is my hero. This is my dad.
Andrew: You got to bring that closer. Let me take a look.
Todd: He’s a good looking guy.
Andrew: Cool. Where is he now?
Todd: Oh he’s still alive.
Andrew: Is he in California too?
Todd: He’s in Maine. He never leaves Maine. He doesn’t like to go in anybody else’s bathrooms. [laughs]
Andrew: [laughs] I was like that in high school. I always had to keep rushing home.
Todd: That’s how my family is. They’re all in Maine.
Andrew: Are you dating now? You’re the head of a well-known company. Doing very well. Los Angeles is a great place to date. Are you getting to go out?
Todd: I don’t go out a lot.
Andrew: You don’t.
Todd: No. I’m kind of a homebody. I love to cook. I love to travel and if I do date she has to be small because the apartment’s small.
Andrew: [laughs] This is like.
Todd: You date?
Todd: This is like, This isYour Life. I was on, you know, one of those shows that I was one and I loved was To Tell the Truth. Do you remember that show?
Todd: I watched that show when I was a kid and I loved it. And I remember reading that they had a casting call about 10 years ago for the one that John Hurley was going to host. John O’Hurley. The guy from Seinfeld, J. Peterman from Seinfeld.
Andrew: Oh I got you. Yes.
Todd: I wrote them and I said, I want to be the guy. I don’t want to be one of the fake guys. I want to be the real guy.” And they actually did it. It was one of those, like full circle of life kind of things.
Andrew: And you were on, This is Your Life?
Todd: No. I was on To Tell the Truth.
Andrew: To Tell the Truth. Excuse me.
Todd: Remember that where they say, “Will the Real Todd Greene please stand up?” and everybody makes believe they’re going to stand up? So, I was on that show.
Andrew: You know what? I do vaguely remember that show from back them. I guess we’re a few years apart.
Todd: We are. We’re seven years. Well, Google it. It’s fun.
Andrew: I’m googling him, I see John O’Hurley here.
Todd: Google To Tell the Truth.
Andrew: To Tell the Truth.
Todd: That’s me with two African-American guys. Everybody thought it wasn’t me or I was the ringer.
Andrew: Did they reveal anything about you? I see it here, yes.: [inaudible] guess.
Andrew: There it is: Headblade inventor Todd Green sits in with two impersonators on the show To Tell the Truth hosted by John. Wow, I’ve allowed this interview to go so far off topic because I’m fascinated by you. There’s something about you, I don’t know what it is. Maybe it’s the fact that you…
Todd: This is the last one, right?
Andrew: It looks like you’re having a fun time and you get the point of it.
Todd: Look at the seat I get.
Andrew: Nobody had a seat like that in the shot. Are you pissed that I am…
Todd: I have to give it back. I’m just renting it for the day.
Andrew: [laughs] It’s a poster. Are you pissed that there’s still guys like me out there?
Todd: Say that again.
Andrew: Are you the real Todd Greene actually? Or did I just get…let me see the video, see if I’ve got the right one.
Todd: There’s three Todd Greenes.
Andrew: So before the interview actually, you said that, “I donate my money to the barber shop.”
Todd: Of your choice.
Andrew: The barber shop of my choice? I get that. So does it bother you that people are still going in and doing things like that? Spending money on a haircut month after month, week after week, that they don’t like?
Todd: I don’t know. I think that they’re…if you look at barber shops, like the movie Barber Shop, for a lot of different cultures it’s kind of like the social place, the place to hang out. That’s why you have the resurgence of old fashioned barber shops because everybody wants that nostalgic place.
Andrew: You know, I have to tell you, I hate the barber shop. I’ll do it and I’ll wait too long, even though I’m on camera, I should get a haircut. I wait too long. For a while there I was doing clippers, in the beginning of Mixergy, so helpful. To just go in the shower and just do it, clean it up and be done.
Todd: You do your beard, too?
Andrew: I use clippers on the beard too. That’s a fairly new thing for me.
Todd: You remind me of when I was a kid, GI Joe that had the beard. You remember that one?
Andrew: Yeah, that’s the kind of look that I’m going for. That little…not 5:00 o’clock stubble but 9:00 o’clock stubble.
Todd: That’s very revealing. It doesn’t bother me that people do that. At a certain point they have to make a decision. I remember…see, when I first…I was in college and I would go get my hair cut I remember the lady kind of freaked out because she said, “How do you want me to cut your hair?” and my hair was short and I said, “I don’t want my ears to show.” Because my brother always said I looked like a car with the doors open.
Todd: You get that? And then when I shaved my head some guy said, “Oh, you don’t look like a car with its doors open.” I said, “Thank you, I’m so appreciative.” He said, “No, with your head messed up like that you look like a convertible.”
Todd: But anyway, I remember when she was cutting my hair and I would get it cut shorter and shorter on the top but remember when, oh, you don’t remember the ’80’s, but when halogen lights first came out…
Todd: Anybody that was losing their hair, if you went into a nice restaurant with a bathroom and the light just shines right on…
Andrew: Yup. Ugh!
Todd: See, I can’t tell if your hair is thin up top, I won’t even bring that up.
Andrew: No, you can bring it all up. My hair’s not thin on top. It is graying though. It’s a pain in the butt.
Todd: You’ve got the Obama gray. So anyways, it would come straight down and I was losing my hair on top…
Todd: And she actually gave me Rogaine, my hairdresser. And I said, “You’re only doing that because you don’t want to lose a customer.”
Todd: That’s what they’re all afraid of. But I realized I had to do something. You know, and back then in the ’80’s it was: transplant, toupee, Rogaine.
Andrew: I’m so glad those aren’t the options anymore. Nowadays, shave your head. My cousin shaves his head. He looks great. He looks like he did 20 years ago because you can’t tell if you take care of yourself. No one can tell otherwise.
Todd: If Gandhi was alive today, he’d be a sexy rock star.
Andrew: He would get Headblade in the mail!
Todd: [laughs] Yeah he would!
Andrew: He’d be a banner for the next march. The website is headblade.com. It’s so good to have you on here. Congratulations about your success. I’ve been looking forward to interviewing you for a long time because this story is just so interesting.
Todd: Thank you.
Andrew: And the product is beautiful. I don’t know if we could do it justice, frankly, in the audience just by holding it up to the camera. Take a look at headblade.com and you’ll see it for yourself.
Todd: Here’s a logo, just so you know, because that’s always been very, very important, is the branding.
Todd: And this is based on the yin/yang. It’s kind of, like…
Andrew: Oh, I see it, yes!
Todd: If Nike didn’t already have the “Just Do It.” This is the idea of taking something that’s very, very passive in your life which would be hair loss. Once you shave your head, you’re no longer losing your hair so it’s creating…
Andrew: Who did that?
Todd: …creating a positive out of a negative. This is a coaster.
Andrew: But who did the logo? Sorry to interrupt.
Todd: I did it with one other guy. It was a guy that wrote me, first year on, and said, “I love Headblade but I hate your logo.” Which was just a HB. Which, in L.A. means Huntington Beach. In products it means Hamilton Beach. There’s so many HB’s so I said I don’t have a logo. So he said, “Let’s work on a logo.” So I said, “What I’m looking for is yin/yang, Michael Jordan but not Michael Jordan and it’s actually…the funny part is it is my face…
Andrew: Oh, really?
Todd: I can’t afford to pin my ears…well, now I can, but I did it in the logo. So that’s what I would look like if I ever…
Andrew: If you pinned your ears, that’s what the site would look like.
Todd: I said, “I want to look like this guy.”
Andrew: I’m now in the internet archive. I see the blade looks beautiful back in 2000. August 16th, 2000, the logo does look like the Huntington Beach…the HB that people see on cars in L.A.
Todd: Does it?
Andrew: Yes, it does. I see it. All right.
Todd: I’d love to take credit for inventing a beach.
Andrew: Your designs are beautiful. Thank you all for being a part of it. Check out headblade.com and you’ll see what we’ve been talking about. There’s also a really nice timeline that shows the progress of the company. I’ve been using that to follow along in this interview. Thank you, Todd. Thank you, all. Bye guys!
Todd: Take care.