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    Jack Black Skin Care: Curran and Jeff Dandurand

    Skilled salespeople who can educate and engage customers are vital in convincing them to try new products, leading to increased sales.

    enSeptember 11, 2023

    About this Episode

    In 1998, Curran Dandurand and a colleague from Mary Kay Cosmetics came up with an unorthodox idea: a premium skincare brand for men. Despite the prevailing wisdom that American men would never want to moisturize and exfoliate - and a total lack of interest from investors - Curran and Emily Dalton forged ahead, with the help of Curran’s husband Jeff. Their brand, Jack Black, launched in 2000, and eventually landed in major department stores, with some unexpected boosts from the Dallas Cowboys and Matthew McConaughey. The brand became a leader in men’s skincare, and eventually sold to Edgewell Personal Care for just under $100 million.


    This episode was produced by Casey Herman, with music by Ramtin Arablouei.

    Edited by Neva Grant with research help from Katherine Sypher.


    You can follow HIBT on Twitter & Instagram, and email us at hibt@id.wondery.com.

    See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.

    🔑 Key Takeaways

    • By understanding men's preferences and targeting a specific market, Jack Black was able to establish a successful brand in the competitive men's skincare industry.
    • Perseverance and genuine interest can overcome initial hurdles, proving that first impressions aren't always accurate and unexpected positive outcomes can result from determination.
    • Curran's decision to leave her successful career at Mary Kay shows the importance of prioritizing personal fulfillment and pursuing one's goals, even if it means taking on new challenges.
    • Jeff and Curran Dandurand found success by recognizing the evolving men's grooming industry and creating a luxury skincare brand that catered specifically to men's needs.
    • Believing in your idea, conducting thorough research, and taking personal risks are crucial steps in turning your vision into reality.
    • The founders' determination, adaptability, and belief in their business idea enabled them to overcome challenges, capitalize on opportunities, and succeed in a competitive industry.
    • A strong, relatable name and unique packaging design can help a product stand out in a competitive market and appeal to its target audience.
    • When launching a new product, it is essential to be flexible, adaptable, and persistent, finding alternative solutions to unexpected challenges along the way.
    • Despite initial failures, Curran and Jeff refused to give up and instead shifted their focus to traditional retail, demonstrating their resilience and determination to succeed.
    • The founders of Jack Black found success by shifting from traditional methods to alternative approaches, such as celebrity endorsement, leading to increased interest and opportunities in the retail industry.
    • Skilled salespeople who can educate and engage customers are vital in convincing them to try new products, leading to increased sales.
    • Starting a business with a spouse can be challenging and put a strain on a marriage, so it's important to be prepared for the stress and have open communication to navigate difficult situations effectively.
    • Seeking therapy and focusing on important matters can lead to significant progress in personal relationships and business success, even in the face of challenges and competition.
    • Strategic partnerships with influential sports teams can elevate brand visibility, attract new customers, and lead to organic growth, highlighting the importance of continuously striving to maintain a competitive edge in the market.
    • Having multiple bidders and competition in the selling process is crucial to protect trade secrets and maintain control, avoiding reliance on a single potential buyer.
    • Success is a result of seizing opportunities, putting in dedicated work, and staying resilient, while also recognizing the role luck can play in opening doors for growth.

    📝 Podcast Summary

    Jack Black's Success: Redefining Men's Skincare

    Jack Black's success in the men's skincare market is attributed to their ability to redesign and appeal to men's preferences. Despite the challenging landscape dominated by big players like Gillette, Jack Black sought to break through by targeting men in Texas and providing them with samples to try. Over time, this strategy won them over and helped them build a $100 million brand. The co-founders' backgrounds in cosmetics and market research, along with their determination and patience, played a significant role in their success. Ultimately, their unique approach and understanding of the market allowed them to carve out a niche in the industry and capture the growing demand for men's prestige skincare products.

    Overcoming a Rough Start: How Persistence Led to a Lasting Relationship

    Sometimes initial impressions and first dates can be misleading. Despite an awkward and self-centered first date, Jeff's persistence and refusal to take rejection paid off. He wore Curran down and showed more genuine interest, sparking a two-way conversation that led to a second date. Over time, their relationship developed and grew stronger, leading to marriage. This persistence and determination in pursuing what he wanted, even if it meant bending the truth slightly, ultimately benefited them in their future endeavors, such as their success at Jack Black. It serves as a reminder that first impressions aren't always accurate and that perseverance can sometimes lead to unexpected positive outcomes.

    From Sales Trip to CEO: Curran's Journey to Success and Challenging Choices

    Curran's decision to go on a sales trip to Cancun with Jeff was a turning point that led to their relationship blossoming. This eventually led to their marriage and starting a family. While working at Mary Kay, Curran climbed the ranks to become the executive VP of Global Marketing and Business Development. However, the culture at the company became more political and bureaucratic, and Curran felt it was time for her to move on. She had ambitions of becoming the CEO, but decided to leave in 1998, which was a difficult decision considering she was the major breadwinner. Despite initial worries, Jeff was supportive of Curran's decision. Now, the pressure is on Jeff as he becomes the sole breadwinner.

    Creating a Luxury Brand for Men's Skincare

    Jeff and Curran Dandurand faced the challenges of working in commission-based jobs and realized the need for a change in their careers. While Curran wanted to be in control of her destiny and work on something different, her turning point came when she had a conversation with Emily Dalton, a top performer who eventually became their co-founder. Emily proposed the idea of starting a business in the cosmetics industry, specifically for men. Despite Curran's initial skepticism about the non-existent market for men's cosmetics, Emily convinced her that men's grooming products were changing, and there was a gap in the luxury skincare market. They decided to focus on personal care products like moisturizers and grooming essentials, positioning their brand as luxury and targeting more affluent men. Their insight was to differentiate themselves from existing failed attempts in the market and create a brand that catered specifically to men's needs.

    Overcoming Skepticism and Taking Personal Risks to Launch a Men's Skincare Company

    Kern and Emily faced skepticism and rejection when trying to launch their skincare company for men. Even Kern's husband, Jeff, initially thought it was a crazy idea. However, they decided to conduct market research and received positive feedback from men during focus groups. This validation gave them the confidence to continue pursuing their vision. Despite facing difficulties in raising external funding, they used their own money, including a nest egg from Kern's previous job, to finance the venture. By doing so, they maintained full control over the company. This shows the importance of believing in your idea, conducting thorough research, and being willing to take personal risks to turn your vision into reality.

    Taking Risks, Overcoming Challenges, and Believing in the Concept

    The founders took a big risk in starting their business but had faith in their projections and believed in the concept. Despite facing challenges and not meeting their initial projections, they remained positive and determined. Jeff losing his job turned out to be fortunate as the company needed a salesperson, and his expertise in sales and golf helped shape their distribution strategy. The founders were also innovative in their approach, targeting golfers with their products and utilizing unconventional distribution channels. Although there were concerns about working with a married couple, trust and belief in the concept allowed them to move forward together. Overall, this conversation highlights the importance of taking calculated risks, adapting to challenges, and having a strong belief in one's business idea.

    The Power of Name and Branding in Product Success

    The name and branding of a product can play a crucial role in its success. Curran Dandurand, the founder of Jack Black, chose the name based on its strength, simplicity, timelessness, and masculine appeal. She wanted men to relate to it as their buddy and not feel embarrassed to say they use Jack Black. The name Jack Black symbolized a strong, rugged, and athletic guy. Additionally, the company carefully designed its packaging, taking inspiration from cigar labels and upscale craft liquor. They chose a royal blue color, which was different from the typical white, gray, and brown colors used by competitors, to attract attention. These strategic decisions helped Jack Black stand out in a crowded market and appeal to its target audience.

    Overcoming Challenges in Product Launch: Flexibility, Problem-Solving, and Perseverance

    Launching a new product requires careful planning and adaptation when faced with unexpected challenges. Curran and Jeff Dandurand faced obstacles in getting their product noticed and attracting buyers. They decided to debut their product at a large golf trade show, but their initial strategy of sending out mailers to potential buyers failed due to an error in the mailing panel. Despite this setback, they remained determined and resilient. They quickly realized that they needed to think on their feet and find alternative ways to market their product. This conversation highlights the importance of flexibility, problem-solving, and perseverance when launching a new brand or product.

    Adapting and Pivoting: Overcoming Initial Setbacks in the Golf Market

    The initial strategy of targeting golfers and golf courses with their products was a big fail for Curran and Jeff. Their booth location was terrible, with no traffic passing by, and their display didn't impress potential customers. The lab samples they had were faulty and the expensive wooden display turned out to be unappealing to potential buyers. They realized that golfers and golf courses were not interested in their products and weren't willing to stock them in their shops. However, instead of giving up, Jeff decided to pivot their approach and focus on traditional retail. They planned to open accounts and work with independent reps to sell their inventory. This shift in strategy shows their determination to adapt and keep pushing forward in the face of challenges.

    Discovering Alternative Approaches for Brand Building

    The founders of Jack Black realized the importance of finding alternative approaches to building their brand. They initially relied on cold calling and opening accounts at golf shops, but they soon realized that this approach was not scalable. However, a stroke of luck came when they learned that Matthew McConaughey was using their products and loved them, which led to a PR mention in InStyle magazine. This celebrity endorsement sparked interest from specialty stores and resulted in inbound calls from potential retailers. The founders also secured a deal with a department store in Dallas. Despite these successes, they recognized that their problem was far from solved and continued to navigate challenges in the retail industry.

    The importance of knowledgeable salespeople in introducing new products.

    Introducing a new product or category requires dedication, persistence, and effective sales strategies. Guayaki Yerba mate and Stanley Korshe both faced challenges in getting people to try their products. Guayaki Yerba mate took 20 years to slowly introduce it to consumers, while Stanley Korshe had to educate men on the benefits of skincare. The breakthrough for Stanley Korshe came when they opened Nordstrom and had a skilled salesperson, Elaine Syke, who effectively sold their products by engaging customers, letting them feel and experience the benefits firsthand. This highlights the importance of having knowledgeable, persuasive salespeople who can actively educate and convince customers to try new products, ultimately leading to behavior change and increased sales.

    The Strain of Entrepreneurship on Personal Relationships

    Starting and running a business can put a significant strain on personal relationships, especially when couples are involved. Curran Dandurand and Jeff Dandurand, the founders of Jack Black and Curran, faced a lot of stress, tension, and pressure while building their business. They didn't pay themselves for several years and had to navigate the challenges of raising a family while trying to make the business successful. This experience serves as a reminder that starting a business with a spouse can test the limits of a marriage, as disagreements and fights at work can easily spill over into personal life. It's essential for couples considering entrepreneurship to be prepared for these challenges and have open communication to navigate difficult situations effectively.

    Achieving Personal and Business Success Through Therapy and Prioritization

    Seeking therapy and focusing on important matters can greatly improve personal relationships and business success. Jeff Dandurand experienced a rough period at home while trying to build a business, leading his doctor to suggest therapy. Following the therapist's advice to stop arguing about trivial matters and save ammunition for important issues, Jeff and his wife made significant progress in their relationship. Additionally, the couple's business faced financial challenges, but they remained frugal and focused on driving sales. As the business grew, they faced intense competition from both big companies and startups in the cosmetics industry. Despite the challenges, their strategic partnership with NFL teams helped them establish a strong presence. Through therapy, prioritizing important matters, and strategic decision-making, Jeff and Curran Dandurand achieved both personal and business progress.

    The Power of Partnerships: Boosting Brand Recognition Through Strategic Sports Team Collaborations

    Partnerships with influential sports teams can have a significant impact on brand recognition and growth. By strategically placing their products in luxury suites at Cowboys Stadium and NFL locker rooms, Jack Black was able to co-brand their products with the Cowboys logo and gain exposure to a wide audience. This led to increased interest from other NFL teams and a surge in phone calls from potential customers. Additionally, the company's presence at the Super Bowl further boosted their brand visibility. Despite the initial challenges of cold calling and opening accounts, the company's growth became more organic as they secured partnerships with retailers like Saks Fifth Avenue and Bloomingdale's. However, even with their success, the founders recognized the importance of remaining competitive and continuously fighting to maintain their position in the market. Ultimately, after 18 years, Jack Black was acquired by Edgewell, a testament to the company's enduring success.

    The Importance of Competition in the Selling Process

    Having competition in the selling process is crucial. Curran and Jeff Dandurand shared their experience of being approached by a significant player in their industry who made them a non-binding offer. They spent nine months providing every detail of their business, only to be told at the last minute that the offer was off the table. This devastating experience taught them the importance of having multiple bidders and competition in the process. It highlighted the need to protect trade secrets, formulas, and sensitive information by ensuring that proper legal measures are in place. By learning this painful lesson, they realized the significance of maintaining control over the selling process and not relying solely on one potential buyer.

    Combining Luck, Hard Work, and Resilience for Success

    The co-founders of Jack Black attribute their success to a combination of luck and hard work. They acknowledge that they were fortunate to have met each other and to have Emily as their business partner. They also recognize the luck involved in opening certain retailers and seizing opportunities. However, they emphasize the importance of resilience, pivoting when necessary, and putting in long hours of dedicated work. They believe that capitalizing on luck requires effort and determination. Additionally, their passion for their own products is evident, with Jeff using a multitude of Jack Black products on a daily basis. Overall, their journey teaches us that success is a combination of seizing opportunities, working hard, and staying resilient.

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