Interview: Captain’s Choice

Processed with VSCO with j6 preset

Scott Brennecke of Captain’s Choice

CaptainsChoice

Scott Brennecke, better known as The Captain by his loyal customers, is the force behind the shipshape men’s grooming line Captain’s Choice. Based out of Wheaton, Illinois, Brennecke founded Captain’s Choice in June 2011 after discovering a serious lack of high-quality, great-smelling aftershaves.

An entrepreneur for most of his adult life, Brennecke owned a popcorn distribution business at the time and multi-tasked to get Captain’s Choice going, running the popcorn business while creating batch after batch of aftershave prototypes. Many months later, the company’s now-bestselling aftershave, Bay Rum, was born.

Today we speak with Brennecke about what a Milky Way bar has to do with the founding of the brand, how he came up with the name ‘Captain’s Choice,’ and the wonderful cause Captain’s Choice supports to help veterans get back on their feet again.

Enjoy!

We hear Captain’s Choice started with a flash of inspiration you got one day while you were at Walgreens?

Yes, I had stopped to pick up my daily Milky Way candy bar and as I grasped it, a sudden and distinct thought popped into my head that I ought to buy an aftershave.  I call it Divine inspiration.  So I looked at and smelled the offerings at Walgreens and just curled my toes – no WAY I would buy one of those.

I thought, Maybe I’ll go home and try to make my own.  And that is how it all started.  Following that was failure on a daily basis, batch after batch, week in and week out until I hit the 4 ½-month point and had a winner.  It is our Bay Rum aftershave that we sell today.

You were in the popcorn distribution business for many years. Why the transition over to men’s grooming?

I started my popcorn distribution business in 1987 and sold it in November 2015 since Captain’s Choice had grown to take more of my time.  The popcorn business had become more challenging over the 28 years I had owned it, and I have always had an eye out for new business ideas.  With a growing family, I needed to provide as I was able.

For a year and a half while I had my popcorn business I also sold high-end light bulbs door to door.  In the middle of it all I stopped into the Walgreens for my Milky Way which led to Captain’s Choice.  For a good bit of time I actually had three business cards – one for popcorn, one for light bulbs, and one for Captain’s Choice.  Each time I had to call someone I had to make sure that I remembered who I was to the person I was calling:  Am I the light bulb guy?  The aftershave guy?  The popcorn guy?  It was a nutty time, but a lot of fun, too.

Processed with VSCO with j6 preset

A photo taken by a customer while traveling

How did you come up with the name of your company?

With our Bay Rum aftershave being the first product, I wanted the name to reflect the heritage and the origin of bay rum.  It came out of the Caribbean hundreds of years ago, and so I thought “Captain’s” seemed perfect.  But what else?  I toyed with “Finest” and went back and forth for a few weeks.  Eventually I settled on “Choice” simply because I thought I may want to have the logo with two interlocking “C’s” at some point.  In addition, Captain’s Choice just rolls off the tongue – I like it.

Tell us how you came up with your first product.

I started on Google, searching under homemade aftershave.  Where I started and where I ended up are polar opposites, I can assure you.  I have a long-suffering brother who is candid with feedback, and a wife who is MORE candid.  So when they both said they liked a batch after 4 1/2 months, I knew I had it.

What are some of your accomplishments as a business?

As modest a business as it is, the accomplishment I am most proud of is being able to give back on an annual basis to a local charity: the Midwest Shelter for Homeless Veterans, an act which our customers make possible with their purchases.  This organization provides job counseling and life skills education as well as a place to live while the vets once again become productive members of society.  They have an enviable track record over the years, with veterans moving out of the house after nine months on average.

Processed with VSCO with j6 preset

A photo taken by a customer in front of Big Ben

What do you believe makes Captain’s Choice products distinctive?

We hear over and over from our customers how much they love the “face feel” of our lines.  Not just upon application, but more importantly, following the dry down.  They rave about the all-day moisturizing!  In addition, our products are made by hand in small batches right here in the USA.  This is important to our customers.

We also use essential oils and extracts in our soaps, balms, and aftershaves.  I only work with ingredients that I would want to use myself.

Each product has been developed to fill a specific niche in the personal care industry.

Here is one example:  when working on our Sandalwood aftershave I purchased the most popular sandalwood aftershaves in the marketplace because I want mine to be unique.  The popular ones were prominent in scent and multidimensional.  So I made my Sandalwood one-dimensional with a more subtle scent.  It is now our number-two seller and has been a hit with customers looking for a more back-to-basics version of the classic sandalwood scent.

What is one Captain’s Choice product every man should own and why?

It would have to be our proprietary lather bowl.  That design took me six months with eight prototypes and ten volunteers.  There is a lot more that went into it than may appear, but it is a real winner.  It incorporates several design elements all together: a convenient diameter that fits the palm, ridges in the bottom to create lather quickly, low sides to avoid the brush knocking against the side, and curved walls to contain the lather.  Once you own one of them your life will then be complete!

What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?

Two bits of advice that apply to any endeavor:  First, you need customers.  It elicits a chuckle at the thought of it – of course you need customers – but too often entrepreneurs focus on getting a patent or coming up with an entirely new invention.  Often they succeed only to discover that nobody is interested in their product.

Secondly, look forward to failing.  At each failure you learn and refine the next attempt.  Get up and try again – over and over and over again.  Solicit feedback and give people license to offer constructive criticism.  This is how you get better.  Eventually you may arrive at a product people want.

Processed with VSCO with j6 preset

Brennecke’s nephew helping out by assembling boxes

What new products can we expect from Captain’s Choice in the near future?

We have already begun development of a Bay Rum cologne that will last all day and yet not be too prominent.  We expect to release it this fall.  Following that, we will release other colognes based on our Lime, Sandalwood, and North aftershaves.

Quick Question + Answer:

Right Now, I’m obsessed with:

My newly-planted hummingbird garden.  I did some homework on plants that attract them and then spent a fair amount of time working the ground and sorting out the layout.  It is all planted now and, of course, I have decided that if I just dig up a little more ground I can make it even MORE attractive, so that will occupy my time next week.

I’d love to visit:

Europe.  I haven’t really traveled much outside the States and find the history of Europe fascinating.

Rule I live by:

Be considerate and friendly towards others, especially strangers.  This comes easily to me because it is who I am, but here is why I favor it:  life can be a challenge at times, and a considerate gesture or an encouraging word can go a long way towards making someone’s day.

The best part is that by being intentional in this manner, it is a very fulfilling experience for me as well.

Learn more about Captain’s Choice on their website. Follow Captain’s Choice on Instagram and Facebook.

Shop Captain’s Choice products at RoyalShave.

Untitled-1

Interview: Triumph & Disaster

-T&D Dion Portraits-20

Shaving_Hi Res

If you’re an avid reader, you may recall some familiarity with the phrase “Triumph & Disaster” – it’s from a line in Rudyard Kipling’s poem “IF.” Specifically: “If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster / And treat those two imposters just the same.” The poem, which details a father’s advice to his son, is about humility, honor, risk, and reward.

Triumph & Disaster founder Dion Nash received the framed poem from his father when he was a kid. More than two decades later, he found the poem at the bottom of an old chest and merged these values – as well as the memorable phrase – into his New Zealand-based men’s grooming line.

In fact, Nash has a thing for memorable names. The former professional cricketer and skincare enthusiast (the two are actually more related than you’d think) dubbed his clay face scrub Rock & Roll Suicide (after a David Bowie song) and his popular facial moisturizer Gameface, a nod to his sports past.

Sourcing local indigenous ingredients from New Zealand, Australia, Polynesia, and beyond, Nash ensures each product is thoughtfully conceived and not harmful to nature or humans.

We were delighted to talk to Nash recently about many facets of his skincare line, from the line’s beginnings to product packaging to the importance of men remembering to take care of their skin.

Enjoy!

Tell us the story of how Triumph & Disaster began.

I started out in life as a sports jock. A cricket-mad sports jock to be precise. I chased this as far as I could and was lucky enough to play professionally and represent New Zealand for a decade before retiring due to a series of back injuries. In hindsight this was a lucky twist of fate as it gave me time to refocus and have another dig, so to speak.

After sports I ran into Geoff Ross and the guys setting up New Zealand Vodka brand 42Below and hung on to their shirttails long enough to learn a bit about selling, branding, and marketing, all of which sort of leads me to today.

Skincare was a more natural calling that you might think – it’s actually very close to a cricketer’s heart because when you stand in the sun and wind every day for hours on end you learn to appreciate the finer points of a moisturizer and sunscreen and the joy of exfoliation. So I felt like I had an industrial knowledge of the category, and I had learnt some skills I wanted to put into practice.

How did you come up with the name of your company?

The name comes from Rudyard Kipling. At about 13 years of age my father gave me a framed poem called ‘IF’ by Rudyard Kipling. The poem is advice from a father to his son on how to be a man. It is about humility, honour, risk, and reward. Values that would help mould a brand capable of reminding us that acts of ritual and preparation are worthy endeavours and that being well presented is something of which to be proud.

So when a tattered old poem that my dad had given me years before was uncovered in the bottom of an old chest and I read the line, ‘if you can meet with Triumph & Disaster and treat those two imposters just the same’, well, the deal was done and the brand was born.

The rest of story, as they say, is still ahead of us…

All products_Hi Res

You played for the New Zealand cricket team in the 1990s! Any special memories?

It all feels like another life ago now. I’m extremely proud of it and we had some wonderful moments (and some disastrous ones). Overall I just feel blessed to have had the chance to do it. It has given me a huge amount of confidence and also a very unique perspective on life and this adventure we find ourselves in.

Before Triumph & Disaster you worked for the vodka company 42Below for quite some time. Why the jump into men’s skincare?

Truth is Vodka’s a young man’s game : ).

Actually I just wanted to have a go at my own thing and as I have said I felt I had a real advantage in this category. I had used the products since I was 18 and had been exposed to/had to survive outdoors under the sun. I had worked out a routine.

At 42 below I learned about branding and marketing, so I really just put the two together.

Why did you decide to base your products in natural ingredients?

There really is no excuse to use synthetics and nasty chemicals anymore. Perhaps there never was. The lasted green science is better than anything else out there and utilizes ingredients that the body has become familiar with over thousands of years in nature. Therefore these ingredients are gentler on the body. It was a simple choice, especially when you start to dig into some of the ingredients that have become commonplace. Take denatured alcohol for example – it’s only there as a form of paint thinner. It has no place in skin care.

We hear your Gameface moisturizer contains natural ingredients traditionally used by Maori warriors?

We do use many indigenous New Zealand plants that were also used by Maori in their medicines. Many of these how now been clinically proven for their effectiveness, particularly in toning, antiseptic, antifungal, and antioxidant properties. Gameface uses ponga fern, which only grows in New Zealand and has been proven to lift and tone skin – it’s awesome like the Maori.

YLF_Hi Res

Gameface_Hi Res

We love the vintage barbershop feel of your packaging. What was your aesthetic inspiration?

The challenge we set ourselves was this: The moisturiser or cleanser needed to be able to fall from our gym bag and not have us feel embarrassed, but rather have people say, “Wow, that’s cool! What is it?”

We referenced too many points to recount fully, but it was as varied as rock ‘n’ roll album covers, long-forgotten fonts, and old gig posters.

What are some of your accomplishments as a business?

We are now stocked in over 400 stores globally, including great accounts like Selfridges in London, Fred Segal in LA, and Harrolds in Sydney. We were voted by Details magazine as one of the top five independent brands to watch for, and Men’s Journal voted three of our products into their Top 20 Best Men’s Products (YLF got first, Rock & Roll Suicide got 3rd and Gameface Moisturiser got 9th).

More than those achievements, though, is the sense of growing a great and loyal team around the world. We all sense the best years are still ahead; we have a lot to get done.

What is one Triumph & Disaster product every man should own and why?

Rock & Roll Suicide. Firstly, guys really need to exfoliate, even more than girls. We have larger pores and generally oilier skin, so cleaning it out, drawing out the dirty oil deposits, and taking away the top layer of dead skin is essential to an oil-free surface. Rock & Roll Suicide is our all-natural exfoliator designed to do just this job. It has two types of clay and volcanic ash that act to draw out and then slough away the impurities. It is named after a David Bowie song and is a game-changing product – a must, must have. Use twice a week: Once for business, once for pleasure.

What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?

Start.

Any new product releases we can expect in the near future?

Hair care has just launched and we are focused on that at this stage. We also have a body moisturiser that has launched in Australia that will be made available this year to the rest of the world. Everything else is top secret : ).

Quick Question + Answer:

Right now, I’m obsessed with:

Smells, always smells, I think I have a predisposition or hypersensitive nose, but whatever it is I love smells of all kinds.

I’d love to visit:

The Ivory Coast – I know nothing about it, but it seems to me that the best way to find out is to visit.

Rule I live by:

Nothing comes from doing Nothing. – William Shakespeare

Learn more about Triumph & Disaster on their website. Follow Triumph & Disaster on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

Shop Triumph & Disaster products at RoyalShave.

Shearer's Soap_Hi Res

Untitled-1

Interview: Rex Wax

Paul-Rex-Wax

Rex Wax founder Paul Branham’s journey to starting his own men’s grooming company involves some colorful twists and turns, including run-ins with the law while he was a traveling peddler of cannabis and a stint as a chef in Portland. Branham’s Long Beach-based line reflects his eclecticism, with beard oils and moustache waxes packaged in psychedelic prints and almost always featuring a miniature of his head as the mystical face of the brand. His products are exuberantly done and inventive in a market currently oversaturated with beardcare.

We recently had the chance to chat with Branham and discuss why he goes by the name Rex, the inspired process behind his first moustache wax, aesthetic influences, and much more.

Read on for our very elucidating interview with the founder of Rex Wax!

Where are you located?

I’m based out of Long Beach, CA.

When and why did you start this business?

It was 2009 and I had run out of moustache wax.  I was using two brands at the time, and against all odds, ran out of both, at the same time.  In my capacity as host of a popular restaurant, I had to maintain a certain image, and if I wanted to keep my moustache, I’d need some wax.

I had $25 to my name for the next two weeks, the cupboards were bare, and I had choices to make.  Being someone who never thought I’d be able to grow a moustache, I was keen to keep this one. It was born in the fire.

Essentially, the decision was made for me – I’d have to make my own moustache wax.  It took some trial and error, but I’m a fast learner, and came up with my first formula.   I made a few dozen tins and took them to work. I gave a few away and sold the rest over the weekend.  A business was born.  At that time, there were only a handful of makers worldwide who produced moustache wax.

You used to be a chef in Portland? Tell us more about that.

Portland is probably the best city in the United States for dining out.  The quality of food is unreal – the freshest,  most local ingredients at affordable prices.  You can go out to eat with a few friends at a top restaurant, order the entire menu (some places twice over), and have cocktails and only spend a couple hundred dollars.  The same experience in L.A., San Francisco,  or New York would be well over a thousand dollars.

That being said, the Portland food scene is hyper-saturated with restaurants and with eager, young, aspiring chefs.  This guarantees that you get worked like a slave and have virtually zero worker rights.  I also had a lot of fun, don’t get me wrong.

Rex-Wax-Balms

How did you come up with the name of your company?

When I was younger, I used to be, shall we say, a traveling marijuana entrepreneur.  Part of my route took me to my hometown, and in an effort to keep my family’s name clean, I went by Rex.  A run-in with the DEA and half a dozen branches of law enforcement ended my career.  I had a lot of folks who still knew me as Rex.  As I was thinking of names for my new business, I decided on Rex Wax.   It was short and to the point, and it brought Rex out of the shadows.  Plus, Rex means King, and you can’t do better than king.

You have a very unique personal style.

Thank you.

How did you come up with your aesthetic and the aesthetic of your company?

My style evolved organically and draws inspiration from many elements, including: Georgian Era menswear, men’s work clothes from 1930s-1960s, and classic western wear, with a heavy psychedelic flair.  My company’s aesthetic follows a similar path.

What inspires you?

Beautiful music, magical books, epic films, and delicious food.

What are some of your accomplishments as a business?

I started with $25 and an immediate need for moustache wax. In a handful of years, I’ve grown Rex Wax into a respected global brand with an ever-growing range of products.

What do you believe makes a quality product?

A quality product begins with the finest ingredients available. They must be carefully chosen and masterfully blended.  Small-batch manufacturing ensures freshness and consistency.

What is one Rex Wax product every man should own and why?

Even though Rex Wax originated with a simple moustache wax, we have grown beyond the limits of facial hair to offer a full range of products, as we understand that not all men have facial hair.

But every man (and woman) has a set of lips.  The mouth is one of the most-noticed, most attractive features on anyone’s face.  If your lips are cracked and dry, you’re not making the best impression possible.   That said,  everyone needs a tube of Rex Wax Lip Balm; with its thoughtful blend of spearmint and peppermint essential oils,  combined with shea butter, mango butter, and beeswax,  Rex Wax Lip Balm refreshes, invigorates, and locks in moisture without feeling heavy or leaving your lips shining.

Rex-Wax-Lip-Balm

Rex-Wax-Moustache-Wax

What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?

Don’t start a bandwagon business.  That is, if you’re hearing a lot of press about a particular industry and hear reports of unbelievable profits, that’s not the place nor the time to jump in for your piece of the pie.  If you heard that story, read the article, or saw the TV show and then got the idea for your business, chances are, there are thousands who had the same thought at the same time.

Find something that you have an existing interest in or passion for and look for unexplored avenues, find the unmet needs and meet them.  The world doesn’t need more people regurgitating the same ideas and goods, over and over again.   Be bold, be different.

Invent something that makes me want to give you all of my money.

What do you have coming from Rex Wax in the near future?

Hard to say, I have so many products and ideas constantly in the works. I can say that I recently launched a special beard oil and moustache wax combo, the Longhorn Blend that is a fundraiser for The American Cancer Society.

Quick Question + Answer:
Right now, I’m obsessed with:

Canter’s Deli and figuring out how to get into doing voice-over work with the least initial investment.

I’d love to visit:

The French Laundry (a restaurant in Yountville, CA).

Rule I live by:

My motto comes from the play/film “Harvey”: “In this world, you must be oh so smart, or oh so pleasant. Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me.”

Where can readers find out more about your company?

Our website is a great place to start; then head over to our Instagram and Twitter and give us a “like” on Facebook.

Rex-Wax-Balm

Untitled-1

Interview: Mr King’s

Mr King's Headshot

Mr King’s Instagram posts are of the kind that adds a bit of cheer and whimsy to your feed. Some days, he’s at the Wessex Beardsmen competition sporting his signature Dali moustache; other days, he’s heading to a beer festival in a kitschy purple wig. And then there are the posts of his adorable little kids – the Mr King brood.

We’ve been carrying Mr King’s Royal Oil and Moustache Wax for a while now, and wanted to delve a little deeper behind the man and his Reading, UK-based line of men’s grooming products.

Read on for our interview with Johnny King (aka Mr King). We discuss the story behind the naming of his regal brand, his humble start on eBay, and his advice for entrepreneurs.

Oil

Where are you located?

Reading, Berkshire, United Kingdom.

When and why did you start this business?

April 2012. I started making moustache wax as I couldn’t get on with the various different brands I had tried. Some of them were too hard to extract from the tin, others didn’t hold for long enough. I wanted a wax that would be easy to apply, hold all day long, and stay waterproof but wash out with ease. I also didn’t want anything with an overpowering scent under my nose.  As time went on and the beard became very popular, I decided that it was time to develop a beard oil.

How did you come up with the name of your company? 

That was easy. My surname is King and the word “marvelous” sounds nice with “moustache.” So I decided on Mr King’s Marvellous Moustache Wax. When naming my beard oil I wanted to keep with the royal theme. Since “royal” rhymes with “oil,” there it was…. Royal Oil. Mr King’s Royal Oil.

What inspires you?

Other brands that have been doing this longer then me. They drive me to try and make my brand bigger and better.

Moustache-Wax

Moustache-Wax-and-Royal-Oil

What are some of your accomplishments as a business?

Actually selling my products is an accomplishment. When I first made the wax, I never thought I would make a name for myself or even sell many tins, let alone have a website. When I started I only used eBay.  Three years on, and I’m selling the wax and beard oil via my website and on a wholesale level.

What do you believe makes a quality product?

I believe that if you have put in enough time and effort to make your product it will have quality.  I don’t think that my brand is very popular (compared to some), but I know that I have top-quality products. I use the best ingredients that are all natural and sourced from the UK. They are handmade with love and care by myself. I try and test every batch I make to ensure that they are the best products available.

What is one Mr King’s product every man should own and why?

I would have to say that every man with facial hair should own my Moustache Wax. You never know who you will bump into, so looking your best is a must.

What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?

Don’t worry about what anyone else is doing – keep doing what you’re doing and stick with it.

What do you have coming from Mr King’s in the near future?

I don’t want to give too much away, but there will be some new products online soon.

Where can readers find out more about your company?

You can see the everyday goings-on of Mr King on:

Website: MrKingsWax.bigcartel.com

Facebook: MrKingsWax

Instagram: @mrkingswax

Twitter: @mrkingswax

You can shop for Mr King’s products at RoyalShave and our brother site, TheStache.

Mr King's Beard Competition

Untitled-1

%d bloggers like this: