Ten years ago when Adam Simone, then a Northeastern student, was working on co-op at Gillette in Boston, he never imagined one day launching a startup to compete in the shaving industry. On the contrary, from his perspective—as an engineer on the product development team—he saw a strong industry that wasn’t primed to be clipped by fresh competition.
But that changed several years later, when Dollar Shave Club and others emerged onto the scene and disrupted the market. At that time Simone, now a Northeastern graduate, was working at Blue Belt Technologies as director of marketing and clinical services. He and a colleague, Adam Hahn, took notice. An industry that was old and stale had become new and exciting, but they realized an opportunity still untapped.
As they saw it, no one was bringing innovation to the product itself. Plus, they both sport thick-growing hair and wanted a better shaving option than a traditional razor. So they decided to launch their own business: Pittsburgh-based Leaf Shave.
“We looked at the market and noticed that all the new players were using the same old products that have been around for decades,” said Simone, E’09, who is also Leaf Shave’s chief operating officer. “We figured we could engineer a better solution.”
Enter the Leaf—a customizable metal razor with a pivoting head using double-edge razor blades that puts a new spin on an old-fashioned style of shaving. The razor is designed for users to insert up to three blades. Each blade position features a different level of blade exposure. For example, if you haven’t shaved lately, you can use all three blades to cut through longer hair; inserting only one blade minimizes the blade exposure on the razor and allows for shaving against the grain without much irritation. The entrepreneurs describe this proprietary design as a “tapered exposure system.”
Simone is developing a business model in which Leaf Shave customers earn their blades instead of having to pay for them. Leaf Shave’s Blade Rewards program drops the cost of razor blades to $0, while delivering high-quality consumable shave care products like shave cream and after-shave balm.
This summer, Leaf Shave ran a Kickstarter campaign in which more than 1,400 backers pledged a combined total of $115,328—eclipsing its $100,000 goal. The company is still taking pre-orders and production is underway through early 2017, and it anticipates customers will start receiving the product in the spring. The company is also working to expand its portfolio of products to include razors specifically designed for women and for head shaving, as well as accessories and additional consumable shave care products. Simone underscored that the original Leaf razor “works for everybody,” though men currently comprise the majority of their customers.
Leaf Shave is located at a co-working space called Alloy 26 at Nova Place on Pittsburgh’s North Side. Nova Place is a former retail mecca that was recently redeveloped into a hub for technology and innovation and dubbed one of the largest redevelopment projects in the country.
We looked at the market and noticed that all the new players were using the same old products that have been around for decades. We figured we could engineer a better solution.
—Adam Simone, E’09, co-founder of Leaf Shave
Simone said he and Hahn make a good team; he handles marketing, customer acquisition, and sales, and Hahn focuses on manufacturing and product development. Simone’s engineering background also makes it easier to work alongside Hahn and understand the challenges and opportunities from that perspective.
Simone said he’s learned a lot about business during Leaf Shave’s first eight months and credits his Northeastern experiences with putting him on the path toward success. In addition to Gillette, he worked on co-op at Hasbro in Providence and at ELEVEN, a product development consulting firm in Boston.
Each of those co-op experiences, he said, built upon the next. Gillette offered a good introduction into how a large business operates; at Hasbro, he gained even more hands-on experience and participated in an innovation fair that challenged employees to create ideas for new toys; and at ELEVEN he experienced a “rapid progression” of his engineering skills at a smaller, more nimble company.
“The biggest skill set I acquired is the large breadth of experiences that I bring to bear in this company,” he said, noting that he bolstered his engineering acumen and learned how to use a range of web software tools during co-op. “That wide base of knowledge has been invaluable.”