#HandMadeChat No. 45: Growing An Ethnic Men’s Grooming Line with @SoloNoirforMen

On Thursday evenings from 8 to 9pm ET, IBN hosts #HandmadeChat, a Twitter talk show to help handmade and creative entrepreneurs sell more products, have more fun, and be more successful personally and professionally. While the show is aimed mainly at business owners who make and sell handmade consumer products, the topics and discussions can empower and encourage the growth of any small business.

This week's chat was sponsored by Sarati Skin Care private label cosmetics, minimums starting small at 250 units.

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Our guest this week was Andrea Polk of Solo Noir in Chicago, Illinois. Andrea is a licensed esthetician, and her product line consists of grooming products for men of color. This post from Skin Inc. quotes a report stating that, during 2010, the ethnic market posted growth of nearly 13%, and in 2011, grew to approach $3 billion. Men's grooming businesses show signs of growth as well, and Andrea seems poised to ride the wave. Here are some of her best tips and ideas to help you grow your artisanal beauty business.

Q1 WHAT lS YOUR BUSINESS, @SOLONOIRFORMEN, AND WHAT IS THE INSPIRATION FOR IT?

Solo Noir is a complete grooming line for ethnic men featuring 2-in-1 grooming products to make grooming simple. Our slogan is “The Definition of A Man,” and our products are named for positive male attributes: DAPPER a 2-in-1 Facial Wash/Toner, REFINED a 2-in-1 Facial Buff/Cleanse, SMOOTH  a Skin Conditioner/Skin Smoother, BRAVE an Aftershave/Toner, and SLEEK a Pre-Shave/Shave Cream, etc.

Q2 HOW DID YOU START YOUR BUSINESS?

I spent years working in sales positions helping other brands grow. After years of being a corporate employee, I decided to put my skills and knowledge, coupled with my Master’s degree in Supply Chain Management, as well as my esthetics license, to launch Solo Noir.

Q3 WHAT DO YOU OFFER AND WHAT IS MOST POPULAR AND WHY?

Our most popular products are those that help prevent ingrown hairs. Our facial scrub and shave cream are also popular and useful to keep skin moisturized, allowing for a close shave. Our conditioner protects the skin and softens the beard.

Our key ingredients include shea butter, Vitamin E, grapeseed oil, black willow bark, witch hazel, marigold and cupuassa butter.

Q4 WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO FOCUS SO SPECIFICALLY ON MEN'S GROOMING PRODUCTS?

For years, the male ethnic skin care market has been overlooked so Solo Noir fills the void. I am personally inspired not just to offer men's grooming products, but also encourage men to take care of their skin and understand that grooming is not a feminine routine. Although it is a tougher niche, it is so rewarding to see men grooming differently because of my efforts.

Q5 WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ETHNIC MEN'S GROOMING PRODUCTS AND OTHER MEN'S GROOMING PRODUCTS?

Ethnic grooming products target specific grooming concerns experienced by men of color: ingrown hairs, skin discoloration, oil skin breakouts and more. Our grooming products do not strip away the skin's natural oils, keeping it soft, moisturized, and shave ready.

Q6 WHAT DO YOU SUGGEST FOR OTHER INDIES LOOKING TO LAUNCH AN ETHNIC LINE OF PRODUCTS, FOR MEN OR WOMEN?

I suggest what I suggest for any business: learn your market and demographic and define your niche to streamline your focus and increase revenue.

Q7 WHAT ARE YOUR BEST GROOMING TIPS FOR MEN? INGREDIENTS TO USE? AVOID? BEST GROOMING HABITS?

The skin is a mirror of physical and emotional well-being, and having a daily skin care regimen is important to obtain and maintain healthy skin. On a daily basis, skin care maintenance takes approximately five minutes in the morning and five minutes at night. Your daily regimen should include cleansing, toning, moisturizing, and protecting. Use organic or natural based products: Avoid harsh chemical-based products.

Q8 WHICH SOCIAL MEDIA OUTLETS WORK BEST FOR YOU TO MARKET YOUR PRODUCTS? WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITES?

We use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn to market our brand. We have found that Facebook works best for us because it gives us the platform to involve our followers in our overall movement. We use Facebook to educate our followers on grooming, lifestyle, health, and product knowledge.

Q9 WHO DO YOU FOLLOW ON TWITTER FOR THE BEST SMALL BUSINESS AND SUCCESS ADVICE, AND WHY?

We follow Entrepreneur @EntMagazine, Black Enterprise @blackenterprise, Daymond John @thesharkdaymond, and Robert Kiyosaki @therealkiyosaki.

Q10 WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE SMALL BUSINESS BOOKS, AND HOW HAVE THEY HELPED YOU GROW YOUR BUSINESS?

The book that inspired me to be an entrepreneur is “Rich Dad Poor Dad” by Robert Kiyosaki. It changed my life in terms of how I see entrepreneurship vs. working for a corporation. The book focuses on two fundamental concepts: a can-do attitude and fearless entrepreneurship.  I believe everyone should read this book if they are in a place of uncertainty in their career.

Q11 WHAT IS THE ONE THING YOU WANT US TO KNOW ABOUT HOW YOUR BUSINESS THAT MAKES THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE?

Solo Noir makes the world a better place by educating men and teens on grooming, wellness, and lifestyle. As a licensed aesthetician, I utilize my experience and knowledge in the skin care industry to pay it forward. We use our social media outlets to educate consumers on the importance of a proper skin care regimen. We also give back by offering individuals the opportunity to pursue their dreams through the Solo Noir direct sales platform business opportunity.

Q12 WHAT ARE YOUR BEST TIPS FOR PEOPLE WHO WANT TO USE A DIRECT SALES MODEL IN THEIR BIZ?

The biggest thing is to create a pricing structure and format that allows you to make a profit and creates true financial incentive for your sales representatives. The pricing structure must be attractive and rewarding to encourage proactive involvement from your sales teams.

Q13 WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT BEING A MEMBER OF IBN?

I love IBN for opportunities to network with like-minded entrepreneurs, the cost effective products liability insurance benefits, the marketing, promotional and advertising opportunities, and the great business tips.

More About Andrea Polk

Andrea has been an IBN member since 2012.

Solo Noir is a complete grooming line for ethnic men. Solo Noir offers cutting edge skin care technologies to achieve skin perfection in our consumers.

Connect with Andrea:

Website
Facebook
Twitter

When Is The Next #HandmadeChat?

The next #HandmadeChat will be Thursday, April 11, 2013, at 8pm ET, with  Marla Bosworth of Back Porch Soap Company in Duxbury, MA. Marla recently returned from a trip to Haiti to teach women devastated by recent hurricanes to make soap and start soapmaking businesses.

Here's how to participate in #HandmadeChat.

Take the #HandmadeChat Survey so we can make #HandmadeChat even better!

Follow #HandmadeChat on Twitter.

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About Donna Maria Coles Johnson

Donna Maria is an author, podcaster, attorney, and the founder and CEO of the Indie Business Network, providing affordable product liability insurance and mentoring. Donna Maria teaches Makers and Creative Entrepreneurs how to use technology and community to build a profitable, sustainable business.