Magazine

First Person: A Cut Above


Todd Greene makes a business out of baldness

A lot has changed in 40-year-old Todd Greene's life since his twenties. The one constant? He shaves his head every day. Annoyed with the acrobatics required to try to reach the back of his head and get a smooth, nick-free shave, Greene designed a new type of razor. He launched HeadBlade in 1998. Today the $7 million Culver City (Calif.) company employs 10 people and has won several awards for its marquee razor, which retails for $13 online and at drugstores nationally.

BLADE RUNNER

In 1993, I had been out of college a couple of years and was living in Pennsylvania when I thought, "I'm young, I'm single, I don't have any kids. I want to go West." I visited Seattle and a few months later I moved there. I was losing my hair, so I started shaving my head completely.

I was working in a deli when I met a guy doing a mural. I wanted to go into the art world, but I didn't have a portfolio. So I helped him paint the mural. The guy also worked at a software company, and I wound up working with him for three years, learning how to design on the computer. Then I joined online producer Starwave Corp., which was building SportsZone for ESPN.com, one of the first online fantasy sports games. We used to get a lot of e-mails from fans, and that's how I met my ex-wife. She wrote in to complain about some glitch, and three weeks later I went to Los Angeles, where she was living. A couple weeks later we married. I moved to L.A. and worked for Walt Disney and GeoCities, but I wasn't really happy.

I'm not a morning person, so I shaved my head every night because it used to take me forever with a conventional razor. By midmorning the next day I had five o'clock shadow on my head. And that doesn't look good. One day as I was rubbing my head, I thought it would be so much easier to shave if I could just put a blade underneath my finger. I started making prototypes of a razor that would help guys shave by feel. I borrowed $85,000 from my dad and some friends to start my company, and quit my job at GeoCities.

The first three years I didn't make a dime. I spent $45,000 and worked a year on the prototype before I had a functional product. I designed the handle, and Richard Jarel, an artist who makes film props, helped build the prototype. I thought I could sell it to Gillette or Schick. But I got rejected from Schick and never heard back from Gillette. So I built a Web site to sell the products online. I hired my first employee in 2003.

At first, I was just selling the handle, which could be fitted with blades from any of the major shaving companies. The design got noticed pretty fast. The Museum of Modern Art accepted it to the Architecture & Design Collection in 2005. The coolest thing about that was my dad was hanging out with me in my warehouse when I got the letter. That felt great.

Now we're selling our own blades and grooming products in stores and online. We hope to start selling apparel and accessories like glasses and hats. If you shave your head, your glasses or hat are the only thing on your face, and people place a lot of importance on them.

People used to be ostracized if they didn't have any hair, like they must be a skinhead, or they were sick and going through chemotherapy. But now people embrace it. We don't want people to shy away from shaving their heads and being bald. We do very little advertising, but we partner with the International Fight League and signed former NBA star John Amaechi as one of our spokespeople. We're going after both the X Games demographic and the average guy who shaves his head. We want to be the Home Depot of head care.

Back to BWSmallBiz December 2007/January 2008 Table of Contents


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