Pretty much everyone has heard about the Dollar Shave Club by now, but in 2012 it was a brand new company trying to sell razors on a subscription basis using slapstick and deadpan comedy.
In those early days, even potential business partners weren’t certain the brand or the brand’s captain, Michael Dubin, could break into a market already so deeply invested in a few big names. A combination of strategy and sheer determination has resulted in massive results: Dollar Shave Club is now being purchased by Unilever PLC for $1 billion.
From Dreamer to Corporate Marketer Overnight
According to Dubin, Dollar Shave Club started as the result of a brief encounter with the father of a friend at a party in 2010. The friend’s father asked Dubin if he could help move 250,000 Asian razors, since Dubin had some eCommerce experience.
That chance meeting got him thinking, and it wasn’t long before the idea of Dollar Shave Club was born. Dubin’s next major move was to find a supplier for the razor blades that would fuel Dollar Shave Club’s business. His eyes were set on the Korean blade manufacturer Dorco Co., which would later become both a main supplier and an investor in the eCommerce razor sensation.
Ken Hill, U.S. head of Dorco Co., recalls their first encounter in the Wall Street Journal, “He has on white pants, sneakers and looked like he just rolled out of bed. I looked at my finance guy, rolled my eyes and said, ‘Oh boy.’”
But Hill wasn’t rolling his eyes after Dubin’s first marketing video went live in March 2012. Orders poured in at a rate that overpowered Dubin’s small printer. It was literally running 24 hours a day with the help of a fan blowing on it to keep the motor cool.
From those humble beginnings, Dollar Shave Club has managed to raise about $150 million in venture capital to fuel its growth (and to buy more printers). Currently, membership sits at 3.2 million, with more people signing up every day. Dubin holds about a nine percent stake in his Dollar Shave Club, making his little idea worth about $90 million when the sale to Unilever PLC is complete. Other investors, like Dorco Co., also stand to see a massive return on their investments in the little online shave club with the funny advertising.