Shop Harlem Made Spotlight: That’s Smoooth
In collaboration with Harlem Park to Park, we launched Shop Harlem Made in summer 2017. Shop Harlem Made is a movement uniting Harlem-lovers and Harlem artisans. In our Shop Harlem Made Spotlight series, we highlight the story and advice of local entrepreneurs.
That’s Smoooth offers shaving products specifically designed for multicultural men. Made with only natural, organic ingredients, That’s Smoooth products promise you “The Ultimate Shaving Experience,” free from irritation and razor bumps.
We reached out to founder Miguel Martinez to find out where the That’s Smoooth journey began, what he learned most from entrepreneurship, and what the Shop Harlem Made movement means to him.
You created That’s Smoooth because you were tired of personal grooming companies “bunching men into a ‘one-product-fits-all’ category.” What was this category, and how did you intend to correct this?
I wanted to make products that worked for me and men who look like me and my cousins (light to dark – wavy to curly). The major companies tend to make their products for straight-haired, Caucasian men. Bottom line.
They don’t take into consideration the ailments that men with textured hair experience. Thirty to 80% of us experience irritation, razor bumps, and are exposed to harmful ingredients.
I was spending excessively on these prestige products, and yet still having to add or adopt things that would work for me. I didn’t do this as a business first—I did it because I didn’t like the harmful ingredients I was seeing in grooming products. Also, I wanted to create something that would hold up for me, that would allow me to shave everyday without irritation, without razor bumps, and that would also improve the condition and appearance of my skin.
After I had developed my product, and friends and family saw how noticeably my skin had improved, they all started to ask for it. At that point, my wife just told me to create a brand and bring it to market because a lot of guys out there will like it. With further research I learned that it wasn’t just a lot—there were millions.
Latinos and African Americans (men with textured hair) right now comprise 30% of both the beauty care and the shaving market. So we Latinos, and African Americans combined spend close to $14 billion a year on shaving products and over 90% of that money is going to companies that don’t even make products with us in mind.
Once I realized that these major companies don’t care about us, they just care about getting our money, I saw my opportunity. I asked myself, “Can I create revolutionary products that work for me?” My friends loved it, and they told me to bring it to the masses—our masses.
Although we do have a niche focus, we’re always expanding out. Even our Caucasian customers love our products because they’re able to get an even closer shave while improving the condition of their skin. Since our products are made for textured hair, they automatically work for straight hair—even better than generic products!
You were chosen as one of the faces for The Workshop at Macy’s Spring 2018 Class. Congratulations! What does being selected as one of the faces mean to you?
It was an honor! It means a ton! First, out of the 700 companies invited to apply, we were 1 of the 11 who made the “cut!” Secondly, they thought enough about me, as not only a professional, but even as far as our brand is concerned, to consider us! They could have chosen anybody! The alumni of the program are very very impressive. There are companies that have come through there that have built major lines that are really making an impact in the beauty and fashion industry.
You were also one of the local vendors chosen to have their products sold at Whole Foods Harlem! What was it like to see your products on the shelves of such a well-known supermarket?
Another honor and such a dream come true! Whole Foods was actually on our target list because our DNA as a company, in terms of the ingredients we use and our integrity, just fit in with Whole Foods’ DNA perfectly. So to have the company that has the highest body care standards want to put us on the shelves is just tremendous.
Even more so, I’m from that part of Harlem. Most of my upbringing was 3 blocks down from where Whole Foods is now! My mother served in that community for years as well. She retired from her office that was a block away from where Whole Foods is now. So 125th street has had a big shaping on my life—125th street gave me such a rich upbringing, as far as exposure goes. So them launching there, in Harlem, with us being a Harlem-based company, to me is a legacy statement.
What are the most important things you’ve learned from being an entrepreneur?
Persistence, perseverance, patience and the importance of being focused on who your customer is.
In terms of persistence and perseverance, I’m always reminded of my faith. I’m a very spiritual person. I believe that if I am created in God’s likeness, in his image, and he’s a creator, then therefore, I’m a creator. I was put here to create so once I put my hands on something, it’s now just a matter moving of forward and just believing that things will work out. And when I hit a wall, I just have to remind myself, “The answer’s out here. I don’t have it, but the answer’s out here.” So I just have to trust that the answer will come. That belief in persistence and perseverance is very important to me.
Another big thing I’ve learned is patience. Things tend to take longer than we anticipate right away. So I’ve learned that I have to be patient with myself.
And you also always have to be focused on who your customer is. Know your customer. Stay focused on them and how you can best deliver to your avatar customer.
What does the Shop Harlem Made movement mean to you?
It’s almost like name says it all. It’s again with this idea of that Harlem legacy and making us proud. It’s who we are. It’s our community. It’s a chance to tell everyone that we are the best. We really are! I know my products are. I’ll put my products against anybody’s. Just look at all the products involved in Shop Harlem Made, all the food stuffs, body care, they’re all the best.
It all means a lot because it all builds off the legacy. Growing up in Harlem, I was an athlete, I was an all-American basketball player as a youth. I was traveling the United States for basketball, competing in all different states and Puerto Rico, and whenever we went somewhere, we were always carrying where we were from. I knew from a young age that we were carrying Harlem’s legacy with us. Everywhere we went, we had this sense of pride. So I resonate a lot with Shop Harlem Made because I am Harlem made. This movement is how the world will know our impact.