Founded in 2010, Frederick Benjamin is a hair care brand with products for textured hair. Having worked in the beauty industry, focusing on hair care, and as a consumer, founder Michael James said he noticed a large white space for natural products and simple routines for men of color.
The brand is both launching into 500 Target stores in February and launching into Men’s World in March. James said these launches will make products for an underserved but ever prevalent consumer more accessible in retail.
White space in textured hair care for men
James worked with L’Oreal and Revlon for around eight years and is himself a hair care consumer, and said he found that finding the right products for himself as a Black man could be difficult.
“At the same time when I was looking at the business strategically, I saw this white space for men of color,” James said. “As I continued my journey there and developed more products, the idea came to mind that I can't be the only one having issues trying to find products that don't dry out my scalp or solve my razor burn.”
With help from his chemistry contacts, James decided to develop Frederick Benjamin to fill openings in the hair care space for men of color.
Many products already on the shelves for that set of consumers are often petroleum and mineral oil-based, and usually contain sulfates and parabens, James said. Additionally, he said most of the product innovations for men of color came out in the 1960-70s.
In his brand, James said he wanted to offer products with “natural and clean ingredients,” recent R&D and innovation, and simple routines addressing common issues for Black men and men of color.
James said today there is an increasing number of brands, like Shea Moisture and Carol’s Daughter, for women of color, but male consumers have significantly fewer options for them specifically.
“Women are taken care of from head-to-toe, nail-to-nail, the products are endless,” James said. “But when it comes to men, and when it comes to ethnic men, or multicultural men, specifically, we are a growing population, we are frequent users of the category and we tend to spend five to nine times more on the category than the average customer.”
Target launch to make products more accessible
Launching into Target after having participated in the Target Accelerator program will allow their brand to be on shelves where Frederick Benjamin's consumers are, James said.
Through their fairly uncommon formulation and messaging in their specific hair segment, he said the brand has already developed a strong customer base and is now looking to be more accessible to those customers.
“From a performance standpoint, the response has been great,” James said. “But I'll also add that a lot of folks are (excited) to be able to purchase a product that is marketed, produced and made by someone that looks like them.”
In the Target Accelerator, James said the brand consulted buyers and executives to make some adjustments so the Frederick Benjamin line would work better in the mass market.
Aside from sales, the brand will measure success through consumer feedback and natural discussion of the brand, as well as demand for the products at more physical store locations.
Moving forward from the launch, James said Frederick Benjamin will continue growing their team, making their business more efficient, launching new products and looking for more retail partnerships.