The Story Behind 'Gents'
Author: Jenny Rydhström
I got into this business quite by accident, my two cousins and I decided to become entrepreneurs, but the question was 'in which area?'. Growing up I remember my father, with small wads of toilet paper on his face, a common sight at our breakfast table. Sure, there was Gillette, in the early 2000's, but if you wanted a little more class and style than a rubber-grader, then you had to travel to the nearest metropolis for a line worthy of the name. What a perfect reason to start your own business!
From the very start, the idea was that Gents would be a portal to the world. With us, you should hear the bustle of the big cities and experience the aromatic scents of distant lands. We spent all our time searching the online forums for information and product advice, calling distributors and waddling through language blends of Chinese, Spanish and English.
As new enthusiastic, inexperienced entrepreneurs we became victims of banking and invoice fraud, disputed trademark infringement; we fought with the union about ridiculous things, struggled with suppliers, fought amongst ourselves (my cousins and I), sued the State of Finland and cleaned the staff toilets (because we had spent all the money to expand and grow, there was no money left for a cleaning company).
The results of all this hard work, is a range of products designed especially for men and their grooming and lifestyle related needs.
I would never ask anyone to do a task that I am not prepared to do myself, so those first years of cleaning staff toilets were really well invested and set a standard at Gents. No employee of Gents, and I mean nobody, would lift an eyebrow when asked to take the garbage out, clean up client vomit (yes indeed, the guy did not like perfume), inventory stock in icy conditions or even when I asked the office staff to work up to 11 pm on Christmas Eve and be back to work at 7 am on Christmas Day. As a manager, you have to have set the parameters and then the staff will follow the example set.
The results of all this hard work, is a range of products designed especially for men and their grooming and lifestyle related needs. We are unmatched in Sweden, Yes, almost in the world actually. With extraordinary growth, the number of employees doubled and bare bones in the business model were added. All of a sudden we had, in addition to e-commerce, the physical stores and selling our own brands to NK and Åhléns, and this year our closing financial statement turnover was 52 million.
My father died in a boating accident a few years after we started Gents. And even today, I get a twinge in my heart when men in the mid or late age range (my dad was 57 years when he was killed), call or email the customer helpline with questions about their problems, ranging from thinning to excessive sweating and I know that for a man of that age, it takes a lot of courage to talk about these things with a stranger. My dad's role models were Winston Churchill and James Bond, these men were the epitome of maleness and masculinity, and did not seem to require any beauty aid or regime to look the part.
Now we don't get to see what happens behind the scenes, but the truth is, these heroes require a lot of touch ups and sometimes cosmetics to look the part. I recently found a picture of Sean Connery, without makeup and styling. he looked like a Swedish headmaster in retirement. This image partially disrupted my world, I admit. I am happy that my dad was never reached by this information, but happily lived in the illusion that some men are genetically stylish and masculine enough to jump from the train, chasing bad guys with gold teeth and seduce beautiful blondes for two days without breaking a sweat. Today I understand better, James Bond undoubtedly must have used tons of deodorants, otherwise all the beautiful blondes that ended up in his arms would have been rendered unconscious after close contact with his armpits.
Most of us like a person who is clean, smells good and takes care of himself. Affirming this, I feel that the time is past when the man surreptitiously borrowed his partner moisturizer or let his wife buy perfume for him (for her personal taste), and he needs to find his own path, his own grooming and lifestyle procedures, regimes and products, separate from his female counterpart. Today's trendy, knowledgeable, well-informed and confident men come through our doors and order perfumes with certain fragrance notes and discuss the angle of the blade with the expertise of a professor. And sometimes will question our staff about why beard oil contains safflower oil instead of the Moroccan argan oil he finds so much better, this is everyday life for us. But also at the heart to Gents is our mission to put at ease and give a solution to the man who has thinning hair or shaving problems, and is still embarrassed or shy asking questions about good male grooming and lifestyle-related practices and products. When I think of my dad, I say thinning hair is a sign of a true alpha male and virility and therefore should be worn with pride.
But if he wants to do something about it, we'll have the stuff.