Oftentimes, the best business ideas come out of necessity. That was the case for Charlie Razook, who after undergoing three and half years of leukemia treatment, his doctors couldn’t pinpoint the exact origins of his cancer. However, they suspected that it was a combination of genetics and environmental pollutants. It was the words environmental and industrial pollution that struck a nerve. It was at that moment he decided to do a deep dive into the products he was using in his everyday life. “I looked inside my medicine cabinet and shower and all I saw were chemicals,” he tells me.
After two and half years of development, Razook launched his conscious men’s skincare brand, Jackfir. “We launched online and just recently hit shelves in our first store in the Adirondack Mountains, NY, where our brand was imagined,” he continues. I was curious if Razook bootstrapped his launch or if he decided to raise money first. “I sure did”, he proclaims proudly. “I put all my savings into my business (and living while developing it!) and when I was about to run out of said savings, I decided to fundraise. In January 2021 I closed a pre-seed round at just over $1 million.”
Jackfir came to market with three products. “Budgets are limited for early-stage companies, and I knew I didn't want to raise more than $1 million without proving a concept. I thought to myself: What are the three most-used skincare products by men that they cannot travel without? A cleanser, a shave cream, and a moisturizer came to mind,” explains Razook. “These products are the building blocks of any man's skincare routine. And, because of this, I wanted to offer men a cleaner, non-toxic option.”
Prior to launching Jackfir, Razook spent years working for a swimwear brand, Solid & Striped. “I received my undergraduate degree from Princeton University in Politics and Italian and my MBA from SDA Bocconi in Milan, Italy. But I always say my real MBA was my four years at Solid & Striped , the swimwear company, where I was the first employee and helped build the brand alongside the founder. I learned every aspect of the business but ended up focusing on ecommerce and marketing.”
Since clean is a term that has a wide array of interpretations, I wanted to know what “clean” meant in the context of Razook’s brand. “I hate using the word clean since it is so taken advantage of these days, but there really aren't great replacements for it currently. We say we are clean and responsible,” he explains. “Before launching Jackfir, I was so frustrated by greenwashing and inauthentic clean claims. So, I decided that for my product to truly be clean, and thereby different from almost all men's products on the market, we need proof. Our proof comes in the form of third parties confirming just how clean we are. We are EWG-Verified, 70% organic as certified by QAI to NSF ANSI 305 standards, and certified vegan, GMO free, and gluten free as certified by Biorius."
With Jackfir being Razook’s first foray into entrepreneurialism, I was curious to hear what his biggest challenge during this process was and how he overcame it. “The hardest part was learning patience,” he responds. “I was so eager to launch that my manufacturer almost dropped me! I made up these timelines that I wanted to stick to in my head that were not feasible. I wish I had listened to the industry folks I had connected with early on who told me to expect at least 24 months to launch a clean skincare product.”
Now that he has some additional funds to work with and the brand is taking off with the first three staple products, Razook tells me he plans to launch a few more. “After the building blocks that I mentioned (a cleanser, a moisturizer, and a shave cream), the most obvious next steps to me were an eye cream addressing puffiness and wrinkles and an oil, the latter of which has been rising in popularity among men. Also, we are close to launching a bar soap. We didn't want to forget about the body--that constitutes much more skin than the face!”