The beauty industry is complex and can be intimidating, especially for men. For many of us, our introduction to personal care products started early through our shopping experiences with mom. We owe it to the women in our lives for innately training our minds to put hygiene first, no matter if we're trying to impress them or avoid being the weird smelly guy in the room. Also, let's give a round of applause to all the Black mothers for making sure we developed a routine for cleanliness or the fear of what's to come for not keeping clean. But as we mature and eventually leave the nest and enter into a reality where keeping up one's appearance now becomes a task for one, and manhood kicks in, where do you begin?
The male grooming and beauty market is forecasted to reach close to 100 billion US dollars by 2024. This growth suggests that men have been paying attention and have developed a keen interest in self-care and are eager to take up space in a market that has once put their needs last. Even household brands and companies are trying to figure out new and innovative ways to capture the male audience.
The beauty market can be overwhelming. The challenge of knowing where to start, what suits your needs, and making an informed decision on product selection will drive any man crazy. However, the best friend duo Alvin Hathaway and Rodney Williams have found a clever and sophisticated way to alleviate that stress and guide all men through their journey with their revolutionary men's care brand Mai Johnson & Co. This brand puts men's needs first and figured out a way to cover all bases, it's literally in the name. Here’s what the founders shared with us about Mai Johnson & Co.
What made you want to enter the beauty market?
Alvin: We both ran track in high school and at West Virginia University. As athletes, it was a common thing to use baby powder to stay dry all over. Rodney ends up at Projector and Gamble as his first job post-grad school. He's studying more about CPG companies and personal care products. We then revisited this concept of a powder we had. There's not a powder product out for men in the market. We started working on this 7 years ago to create this concept of what is now Mai Johnson & Co. The lack of beauty products geared towards men leads us to the full suite of products we currently have.
How did you guys come up with the name and its branding?
Rodney: Core women's beauty products are so serious and we wanted to create a product with great ingredients but didn't want to take ourselves too seriously.
Alvin: Guys associate and comprehend more complex things better from a humor standpoint compared to women. It was one of those things where we had the concept but not a good name. We landed on Johnson, another name for the male private part. We knew the lead product (referring to the powder) wasn’t just for there a big usage is in your shoes, chest, and down your back so that was the and company piece we’ve added on next. That represents the various places of your body. It’s a very individual experience, it is “My” Johnson and Company. We wanted it to be a brand and a name so we put the alternative spelling for My (Mai).
How has the feedback been on the branding and its humorous approach to beauty?
Rodney: We are in our discovery phase. We’re going to do this for a long time. We thought about everything. There was a lot of thought for having humor or being serious, being something for all men, not a certain type of man, being manly enough so that all partners could purchase for their other partners. We tried to create something as inclusive as we want a men’s beauty product to be. The best feedback we are ultimately getting is to see my partner care about their skin this way.
How are you educating your male consumers on the products that they should be using?
Alvin: Education is the biggest thing! One of the things we are trying to do is make things as simple as possible but provide the complexity and depth that women are used to. That's the approach we are taking with the brand.
Rodney: First off we are using things that are not even for us or designed for us. It starts with education. It starts with the little things that we are doing. Like the numbering of the product order. The descriptions are very thought out to be simple as to why these things are important. I think there is space for content. I think there is an opportunity for men to tell other men this is why you should do it, why it matters, our skin is uniquely different.
What impact do you hope Mai Johnson & Co. would have on the culture?
Rodney: For us when we decided to make the best cleanser for example it was going to be the best cleanser for men! We went deeper, it’s natural premium products manufactured out of Korea which is the skin capital of the world. We went there and by going there we were like this is a brand that was inspired and founded by two Black men for a problem that we saw being Black men next to our significant others. But at the same time, this is bigger, this is for all men. As Black men, as culture enthusiasts, as culture creators, as culture definers we are going to go out and define it in men’s beauty. We are going to go out and make it fun, we are going to make it accessible, and inclusive for all men. Also, a percentage of our proceeds will go to a non-profit of our choice. Buy it because it’s the best product you’ve seen but fall in love with it because we have the intention and we are Black.
Alvin: it is an important concept to say that Black men can create a business for everyone. If we’re able to inspire a small amount of people to do that, I think that is another huge part of this.
Where should your newcomer start when it comes to Mai Johnson’s product line?
Alvin: The average guy should start with the skincare line first. The cleanser is amazing. It’s not a liquid, it’s a thicker foam, it feels good when you apply it to your skin. I challenge anyone to find a better cleanser for men. Another one I heard a lot of feedback for and I agree, is the night face cream. That night cream will have you feeling like new money. It goes on completely clear, you don't have to worry about the white sheen. That’s another thing we thought about our product from having pigmentation in your skin for Black and the darker Hispanics. It leaves your skin moisturized, shiny and it lasts. The third one is where we started (referring to the powder). There are a lot of guys that have this problem where they sweat everywhere and can’t control it.
What does the future look like for Mai Johnson & Co.?
Rodney: Right now, we want to get the product out. We want people to try it. We want to hear feedback. This will be a journey for us. We expect it to grow and get customer reviews. For us, we are going to be methodical. We have a 3-4 year plan that we are executing on. This is going to start with e-commerce. Getting it in the hands of folks, getting reviews, and getting people to talk about it. A vision of ours is that there should be an established men’s beauty section in Sephora with quality beauty products. Our vision is to be the first men’s beauty brand to open up that category in the stores where you shop, where your partners shop, and your family shop. I want it to be a scenario where men will have a Mai Johnson product in their bathroom.
Alvin: As you know from our Instagram we like to have fun and humor is a large part of it. We are going to keep pushing that and creating that engagement with education at the base. We are being very methodical and building it the right way. We have a year worth of content to help people identify and engage with the core problem and learn more about the solutions we have to offer.