You might know them from their promo video circulating on Facebook.
Shared over 460 times so far, the 2 minute-long video caught the attention of many for 2 main reasons – firstly, the well-executed single take-esque style, and next, the confident pitch that came with it – a subscription service for men’s grooming products for a mere $5/month.
Now, I personally don’t use either, but doing a quick survey among the guys in office reveals an average of $15-30 spent every month for their hair-styling needs.
But as we all know, cheap usually doesn’t equate to good, but The Average Joe promises that what they offer isn’t just ‘good’ – but ‘legendary’.
So how are they planning to make money from this venture, given that better products tend to cost a tad more? And given that there are many other subscription boxes out there, what is their game plan?
We got in touch with Ricky Quak, co-founder of The Average Joe and star of the video, to find out more about its origins, and how they’re planning to help guys in Singapore stay stylish but save money at the same time.
The Average Joe: When The Hustler Met The Hipster
Founded by 2 business undergraduates from Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Ricky and his co-founder (who prefers not to be named) got acquainted after working together under the same committee in their hall of residence.
“I am more of the hustler who takes care of the business aspects of The Average Joe and he is more of the hipster who looks at our branding and identity. However, to be very frank, our roles are really not clearly defined from the start because being a startup, we really have to ‘bao ka liao’* together.”
*Singlish for undertake all tasks
While they’re not the only ones running the show (they also have a designer, tech guy, and logistics & marketing staff), the two of them make up the core team.
As for the promo video?
Ricky states that while he was the one who came up with the concept, a lot of team work, research, and takes went on behind the scenes.
“We looked at countless advertisements from similar industries globally for inspiration and eventually decided to go for something bold and unconventional in Singapore’s context. Though it is a short promo video, the number of takes was actually quite a lot!”
A Personal Pain Point Turned Business Opportunity
For Ricky, the inspiration for setting up a service as such came from personal experience:
“I use hair pomade on a daily basis. The breaking point came when I realise how ‘overpriced’ hair pomades are when comparing the prices of different brands in different countries. Also, I realised that more than 70% of the price I actually paid, goes into things like middlemen’s fees and branding markups.”
But why a subscription service over just setting up an online store?
This, too, came from the pain points that Ricky underwent every month when his supply of pomade ran out.
“I used to have to travel all the way downtown to get the same grooming stuff I need every month. So I was thinking, isn’t that a better way to do this if it is merely a matter of replenishing my grooming supplies on a regular basis?”
“And to me, men are less fickle minded – no offence, ladies – and more likely to stick to the same grooming stuff which works for them. So, why not have a subscription service instead for the convenience?”
But male grooming subscriptions aren’t a completely new concept, with one of the more established ones being US-based Dollar Shave Club, which sends subscribers personal grooming products on a monthly basis.
So, did Quak and his co-founder draw their inspiration from these startups?
“Yes definitely. We looked at a lot of other subscription services in the men’s grooming industry worldwide. We are definitely not the first to be offering such a service and we realise we’ll never be the last either, so we aim to be the best by delivering value and an enjoyable experience to every man who has joined our club.”
And thus, The Average Joe was born.
Grooming As A Need, Not A Luxury
“[We’re called] The Average Joe because we believe that men’s grooming is an essential need and not a luxury. You can be paying a lot for things like branded clothes or bags according to your abilities and preferences, but basic grooming? Definitely no.”
But while keeping the business sustainable and making even the most penny-pinching of customers happy is often an ideal, Ricky reveals how they’re juggling both.
“[We do it] through our volume of sales, and avoiding any unnecessary mark-ups. [Though] our margins are definitely significantly lower than retailers in the market, our costs are also much lower due to the absence of a need for physical retail space.”
Citing that the subscription business model also helps them forecast demand better and thus avoid excessive storage costs, they will also be able to benefit from the corresponding economies of scale when they start providing a full range of grooming products on a regular basis.
Some of the upcoming products which are in the works are hair sprays and shavers.
“We are doing all we can to keep the costs low so our members do not overpay for such a need. We are also constantly looking for partner brands who share the same philosophy and would be willing to work with us.”
The Average Joe In 2018
When asked about where he sees The Average Joe in a year’s time, he reveals that he hopes to already be offering a full suite of men’s grooming products to members, but reiterates the importance of “taking things one step at a time”.
“The experience and satisfaction of our members are key priorities we want to ensure and we are always in the process of improving ourselves.”
And as for a final pitch to potential customers, Ricky has this to say:
“Well, everyone is extraordinary in his own ways and no one is really an average joe in the strictest sense, but if you share our belief that men’s grooming is a basic need, then stop overpaying for it from now and check us out!”
The startup is barely 2 weeks old, but given its impactful start, I believe that there’s definitely more exciting things to come from Ricky and the team.