How I Built This: Dollar Shave Club: Michael Dubin

  • The impact of Dollar Shave Club: Before dollar shave club Gillette had 70% of the shaving market. Today they have 50%

  • An early lesson from Mom: Before you go out and have fun you need to be productive. We had to practice math before we could go out and play.

  • A common trait for entrepreneurs: I was only a good student in the subjects I was interested in. I was bad at subjects I didn’t care about.

  • Skills that were helpful before starting Dollar Shave Club: I was building micro sites at Life and Sports Illustrated. This helped me figure out how to present visual information that was digestible to people. I had to figure out what would be interesting. It was fun. Like figuring out a puzzle.

  • The benefit of taking improv classes for 8 years: You are watching people pull ideas out of thin air and weave them together in a story. It takes talent. When you do it well it provides a high. [Lots of parallels to entrepreneurship]

  • Lucky break: Randomly taking to a friend’s dad at a party. He said he had 250,000 razors sitting in a warehouse. He was wondering what to do with them.

  • The obvious problems with how razors were sold: They were expensive. They were under lock and key. It felt like you had to inconvenience the workers to help you buy a product. How many other products are like that?

  • How to spot an opportunity: If I had this feeling I knew there were other people that were experiencing that same frustration. Like a lot of entrepreneurs, once you become focused on an idea and you have identified a problem that needs solving or a thing you want to bring into the world - it’s really hard to get that out of your head.

  • The basic idea for Dollar Shave Club: We should sell them online, using a monthly subscription, so people don’t have to go to the store to get razors.

  • How to pick a name: I wanted the function of the company to come through in the name. If you asked someone on the street what does Dollar Shave Club do they could probably figure it out.

  • Initial distribution strategies: We did a Groupon. We tried search engine marketing. I went to a mom blog conference in San Diego.

  • The video was a turning point: I woke up and tried to go to the site. It wasn’t loading. Then I saw text messages from friends saying “Dude! Amazing video! But I can’t order my razors.” The site came up. We sold out of all the razors. 

  • People soon started to copy Dollar Shave Club. Did that make you nervous?Yes. Of course. If you make something great people will copy. What you learn over time is the presence of competition forces you to define yourself more specifically. It focuses you on the things you want to do.

  • Unilever bought Dollar Shave Club for $1 billion: By 2016 Dollar Shave Club has 3 million subscribers.

  • Advice for today’s entrepreneurs: When you start a company, you will have times where it feels like the company is going to die. It is never as bad as it seems at the time.

  • Full podcast here.