Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
My name is Reid Simkovitz and I am the Founder and CEO of The Scruffie, which is a neck groomer that allows individuals to shave the back of their necks! We officially launched the first-ever neck shaver in April of 2020.
The Scruffie has been featured on Business Insider, Cheddar, Yahoo’s In The Know, and Barstool Sports, in addition to funding a Kickstarter that has amassed over five million impressions.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
Growing up, I never envisioned I would invent a product. I was a below-average student and ended up barely passing High School. In fact, up until the age of 18, the only thing I had going for me was that I kept my body in good shape and worked out religiously. I was raised outside of Philadelphia, and for the first 5 years of my life, I lived with my grandfather, grandmother, mom, dad, and older brother. My mom took up three jobs at the time which included being a nail technician at night time and on the weekends, which taught me the importance of hard work at a young age.
After transferring to Louisiana State University (LSU) from my local community college, I sought out every opportunity to better myself, wanting to take advantage of the opportunity for a fresh start. I started reading books on business, attending seminars, listening to podcasts, and studying the traits that defined successful people. I finally recognized that I had the potential to be successful, but I just needed an idea to get me started.
That inspiration came at the right time during my second semester at LSU: I was a broke college student at the time, who could only go to the barber once a month. The problem, however, was that the hair on the back of my neck would get out of control in between my haircuts.
After a week, my neck hair would become a mess, so I needed someone to shave it, which was difficult. I just couldn’t shave the back of my neck on my own. I had to go out of my way and awkwardly ask different students in my dorm to do it for me. It wasn’t until I met a fellow student by the name of Andrej Sujansky who would end up being my personal neck groomer. The only awkward part was me running over from my dorm to his with a razor in my hand. Andrej and I ended up working out a deal. He would trim up my neckline every week in exchange for free rides back home when the semester ended. Since he was also from my hometown, it worked out perfectly!
At a certain point, I had this gut feeling that Andrej wouldn’t be available when I needed him at a crucial time. He studied engineering and was busier than the average student so the timing always had to be right.
Then one day it happened. I was invited to attend a formal one weekend and my neck was a lot hairier than usual so I sent my personal neck groomer a text. I wanted to wait until the night before to make sure my neck was freshly cleaned up for the following night. I thought that was enough time for a heads up but Andrej had other plans. So there I was with a hairy neck and this formal I had to attend. I was screwed! I didn’t bother trying to trim it up myself because I didn’t want to risk a crooked neckline. I was forced to attend this black-tie event with an embarrassingly hairy neck! It was in that moment when a light bulb went off in my head that I’d have to create my razor. Almost like a.. neck razor!
Challenges, mistakes, and embarrassments are all a part of the process. It’s not supposed to be easy, otherwise, everyone would be doing it!
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
Once I had my idea, the first thing I did was head to the closest CVS and purchased a pack of disposable razors and crazy glue. I figured I could at least start the prototyping process on my own before reaching out to anyone for help. I ran back to my dorm, measured my neck, and realized I would need 4 razors to make this neck shaver complete. I glued the edges of each blade to one another, thus assembling prototype number one!
Unfortunately, it was too flimsy and not sturdy enough to even use. It also didn’t bend around my neck so I wouldn’t be able to use all of the blades at once. It didn’t bother me at all because I knew if I could make it sturdier and more flexible, it could work.
I eventually reached out to the student incubator on campus. At the time, they had a program where students would get paired up with engineers to help start working on your idea. Over the next year or so, an engineering student named Van and I would draw up hundreds of neck shaver contraptions, hoping that one would be the right one. Days turned into weeks and weeks turned into months and we still couldn’t put together a design. I graduated in August of 2017 without any final drawing or prototype which was very frustrating.
After a year of little progress, another engineer at the incubator named Jonah came to the rescue and helped us put together a design very quickly!
Months later, Van printed up the first 3D model of the neck shaver which came out to a total of $92.10.
I then reached out to an attorney to put together a design and utility patent. I was told by the student incubator to wait until I had my patents pending before starting the manufacturing process.
We finally got the patents put together and I started reaching out to manufacturers. I set the goal of reaching out to two every single night which went on for several months. Some of the manufacturers didn’t answer, a lot of them had no interest, and the others legitimately laughed and didn’t understand what I was talking about. Only two sent me prototypes but they were not what I wanted at all. One prototype wasn’t silicone material that I had asked for and felt way too cheap. The other reminded me of licorice and it smelled horrible!
Side note: When I was reaching out to manufacturers, I was also preparing to pitch my product on a new show Barstool Sports was hosting called, “Big Brain”. It had a similar concept to Shark Tank.
The blue prototype you see me pitching was from 1 of the 2 manufacturers. The razors kept falling off so we had to crazy glue them the night before.
One day, I was sitting in my office at Staples and received a random call from my friend, Garrett who had questions regarding his company account. It was odd because Garrett already had a Staples rep who was based out of an opposite region that I was in. I ended up taking care of whatever issue it was and we proceeded to catch up and make small talk. It turned out that Garrett worked for a packaging company and they partnered directly with a manufacturer who could help me make my neck shaver. Just like that, I had a manufacturer and co-packer within minutes. It was amazing!
Describe the process of launching the business.
Leading up to the launch, I knew we would have a long list of things to complete to make a successful launch. Crowdfunding would be a big part of that.
Kickstarter is a great way to raise money since you aren’t giving up any percentage of your business. You’re also bringing awareness to the product that you may not get anywhere else. When we launched “The Neck Shaver” Kickstarter, a video production company called Cheddar reached out to us within the first couple of days.
Cheddar asked us to send them a few neck shavers so they could film a free video for us! It was amazing because the video I put together wasn’t exactly top-notch so I was hoping their video could help us hit our Kickstarter goal of $5,000. They posted the video on the final day of our Kickstarter and it helped us hit our goal (plus $8). It ended up getting over 4 million views across multiple social media platforms so we set up a landing page on Wix to collect emails when the day after the Kickstarter ended. We amassed hundreds of emails, however, when launch day came around, only a handful purchased. There was a 10 month lead time so I’m assuming that attributed to the loss of sales.
The majority of my savings went towards the patents so I had to raise money through various sources to fund the first round of production which came out to $17,000. I raised $5,000 from Kickstarter, $5,000 from the show I participated in for Barstool Sports, and $5,000 from my Grandfather. The last $2,000 I needed for the first round came from my savings.
During this time, my trademark attorney advised me to make up a name. The Neck Shaver wasn’t going to be trademarkable so I had to think of a made-up word that related to shaving the back of one’s neck. It took several weeks of writing down hundreds of potential names, asking friends, family, and even random strangers at the gym.
I even ventured over to Barnes & Noble to see if I could find a name out of a book but nothing struck me. It wasn’t until I was driving back home from work one day where the word “Scruffie” crossed my mind. I knew that scruff meant the back of a person’s neck so I thought it was perfect for this product. I threw on the “ie” at the end to make it my word just like the attorney had asked.
My friend Perry helped me design the logo as well as the website. If you take a look at The Scruffie logo, you’ll notice that the “c” is in the shape of a Scruffie. He also helped me design the box for The Scruffie.
When production costs were paid for, and the website was completed, the next major task was coming up with a launch day plan. I knew I wanted the launch day to revolve around a video that would be impactful.
The first sale was made on March 13, 2020, but we officially launched on April 2, 2020. The second day in business we made $175 in sales which blew my mind. I never thought in a million years I could create a product and sell it for any amount of money.
Day 2 in business
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Since we released The Scruffie four months ago, we’ve tried all sorts of things to spread the word. We continue to post on social media but could be more aggressive. We’ve made TikToks and YouTube videos to bring more awareness to the product. Mass emails go out every Monday to thousands of people subscribed to our website.
One of the biggest things that have worked for us is sending our product to influencers and celebrities. We sent The Scruffie to one of the biggest men’s grooming influencers, Alex Costa and he was gracious enough to post it on his TikTok. Even though he showed The Scruffie for 8 seconds, we made $125 and gained a ton of followers on our social media platforms. We will be working with Alex Costa in the future to hopefully bring in a lot more sales.
I write a Thank You note to each customer and push customer care in front of everything. I feel like the most important aspect of any business is the customer. If you take care of them, you’re set. I also follow up with each customer to see how they liked The Scruffie and ask them for as much feedback as possible. Doing this, helps us understand how we can improve the product and the business overall. It also helps build a stronger relationship with the customer long term.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Since we launched back in April, we have made around $2,200 with customers in more than 10 countries. We project $25,000 in total sales for the first year.
At the moment, The Scruffie is selling for $24.99 and we make it for $9.88 which is a 60% margin. The goal is to get that cost down substantially in year two.
I’m personally handling all inventory out of my studio apartment in Dallas, Texas. I have a pack and ship station where my kitchen table was once located (I had to sell it to make room!). Several third-party logistics companies have reached out, but I want to have full control over inventory. I feel like it’ll be better for the customer and business overall long term if I know exactly what is going out. If a customer has a problem with a shipment, I can take care of it on my end very quickly.
Spreading awareness is the number one priority at the moment. It sounds simple but awareness generates dollars! Constantly improving The Scruffie is also a top priority. We’ve gotten great feedback but some things need still an improvement. Once we get that down, we’ll be able to expand into other products and services.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
I learned that business in the infancy phase is very challenging. It takes a while to gain traction and momentum, but nothing happens overnight and I always keep that in perspective. Some things will be out of my control but I’m always looking at how I can improve whatever situation I come across. I’ll continue to stay disciplined and work on making The Scruffie the best it can be.
I also learned that I need to fail quickly. I’ve tried a bunch of things that have not worked like direct messaging (DM) hundreds of random people on Instagram. It’s best to DM influencers and celebrities who have bigger platforms. I’ve stood out in a Target parking lot, but it was difficult to safely approach customers during this global pandemic. I’m also not shy about what I do; I always mention The Scruffie to anyone I speak with, which helps spread the word. Whether I’m at the gym, getting groceries, or going on dates, you’ll hear about my neck shaver.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
We use Shopify and some of the things you see on our website are things I have personally coded. There are different apps you can install on Shopify that will help build your website.
We use YotPo to track reviews for The Scruffie. This helps us get real honest feedback from the customer. The last thing I want is a fake review.
We also utilize Give & Grow to help us give back to charities we believe in. You’re able to pick and choose on which charities you’d like to give back to before your purchase and we will donate 15% of the proceeds.
Another tool we use is Mailchimp to send out weekly emails to keep our subscribers informed when we have special announcements and new content.
We are starting to use a customer relationship management tool called HubSpot. This will help us stay engaged with current and potential customers. Following up with customers on everything from purchasing to using the product is vitally important and HubSpot helps us do that.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
I recommend Shoe Dog, a memoir by the creator of Nike (Phil Knight). I’ve listened to the audiobook 3 times and I’m on my 4th go around. The journey from selling shoes out of his parents’ home to bringing in billions of dollars fascinates me. I think it’s interesting getting a look inside of Phil Knight’s brain as he takes the reader through many decisions he made before and during his tenure at Nike.
I also recommend listening to The School of Greatness podcast with Lewis Howes, featuring Sara Blakely. Blakely is one of my favorite entrepreneurs and in the podcast, she goes in-depth about how she went from selling fax machines door-to-door to creating a billion-dollar product with no experience. She shows a vulnerable side that most people of her stature do not show which is incredible. She also emphasizes how important it is to be yourself which will differentiate you from everyone else. Differentiation is key. I don’t want to do what Gillette is doing. They’re already doing it!!
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
I think a lot of times it’s hard to figure out where to start. I didn’t know where to begin so I just began asking questions to a bunch of people. When I first started reaching out to manufacturers, I would ask them to point me in the right direction if they couldn't assist me. This was vital to the creation of The Scruffie. If you don’t know, ask away!
If you want to create a brand-new product, a lot of people will discourage you from even starting in the first place. If you think it has potential and you keep thinking about it, just start it. Eventually, you’ll find out if you want to pursue it, but you have to keep taking steps every day.
Challenges, mistakes, and embarrassments are all a part of the process. It’s not supposed to be easy, otherwise, everyone would be doing it! The reason I read so many books and listen to so many podcasts is that I need to remind myself that all successful entrepreneurs have had the same problems pop up that I’ve had. It was important for me to constantly study what the greats had done because it kept me moving forward toward my goal.
The last thing I’ll say is to make sure you don’t regret not at least giving it a shot. You have to understand that we only get one life so make it count! If you don’t try then you’ll never know what could have been and you’ll regret that forever. It doesn’t matter what the outcome is because no one will remember 50 years from now.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
At the moment, we’re not looking to hire but if you’re interested in future opportunities you can email me at [email protected]. I keep a list of people interested in joining the team!
Where can we go to learn more?
Thank you for reading!
Scruffie has provided an update on their business!
Over 1 year ago, we followed up with Scruffie to see how they've been doing since we published this article.
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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