Oars + Alps, the men’s grooming line for fellas too fancy to buy their organic soaps and moisturizing supplies from Dr. Bronner’s bar soaps, Tom’s of Maine and/or Kiehl’s, has raised $1.3 million in a seed round of financing.
While there’s clearly room for men’s grooming products (one market research firm predicts the market for men’s grooming and skincare products will reach $22 billion dollars by 2022), the funding for the new lifestyle brand comes amid a pretty turbulent time for venture-backed consumer companies.
There have been some big exits (à la Dollar Shave Club), but the recent Walmart acquisition of Bonobos at $310 million (while splashy) certainly wasn’t what the company’s investors (who’d managed to shove more than $127 million into the company’s pants) had hoped. And Honest Company found itself spurned by its would-be suitor, Unilever, which ultimately chose another organic brand.
But no one has yet to win in the men’s soap and supply market, so the Chicago-based Oars + Alps has laid into the market with all hands on the oars and all crampons in the mountainside.
To hear Oars + Alps co-founder Mia Saini Duchnowski tell it, she and her co-founder and friend Laura Lisowski Cox (the two met on a party boat in Thailand), had no choice but to launch Oars + Alps.
Duchnowski’s “man’s man” of a husband kept getting his grubby paws in her eye creams and unguents, her soaps and moisturizers. And she wasn’t the only one in her set with man-sullied skin creams (Lisowski Cox endured similar hardships).
To resolve the dilemma, she and Lisowski Cox set out to make the perfect skincare products for their macho men (the company is called Oars + Alps because Duchnowski’s husband rows professionally — so… oars — and both Lisowski Cox’s fella and Duchnowski’s are avid skiers — so.. alps).
Financing for the Chicago-based company came from Chicago’s own investment firms Breakout Capital and the Levy family’s personal investment vehicle.
A former Bloomberg reporter, Duchnowski has a nose for narrative, and Oars + Alps certainly has a story to tell.
“Our goal is to create a year-round skincare line for millennial guys,” she wrote to me in an email. “We aim to own exceptional men’s skincare online, without the typical retailer’s markup and toxins. Everything is designed for the millennials on-the-go lifestyle, which means it does not spill in their bag and you can easily bring it on a carry-on for a flight.”
While I’m pretty sure bar soap travels fairly well, it’s not made with “Alpine Caribou Moss” sourced from “Northern Finland in the Arctic Circle.”
That moss, “emblematic of the guy we were targeting who always perseveres” grows in a very harsh environment and thrives… and has alleged antioxidant properties and improves skin’s elasticity, according to an email from Duchnowski.
The company launched their first three products — a deodorant stick, an eye cream and a facial soap — in October 2016.