How To Build A Startup Brand That Challenges Incumbents And Breaks Norms

Written by brothers Leif Frey and Erin Robert Frey, Co-Founders and Co-CEO’s of FREY


Hi HypeNation,

We are the Frey brothers, co-founders and co-CEO’s of FREY.

We created a subscription service for modern laundry detergent and clothing care— products made to have a better scent, formulation, impact, and design, and bring clothing care into the 21st century.

The Norm We Challenged

FREY started as laundry detergent for men.

We noticed almost all laundry products out there were tailored to women, from their scents, to their advertisements, to their designs.

We thought it was wrong that this industry perpetuated outdated gender houseld stereotypes, and believed that by creating a detergent for men, we could help encourage more men to do laundry in a way that a gender-neutral brand couldn’t.

The Basement Meth Lab—sort of

We started mixing formulations and scenets in our basement using chemistry sets purchased online.

Our friends were convinced we were running a meth lab. We told them we were making laundry detergent.

They thought (not seriously I hope!) that we meant we were laundering money, and found it hilarious that we were actually serious. However, when Good Morning America invited us on their “Shark Tank Your Life” segment, we gained confidence that we were on the right track for something with a lot of potential.

Finding a ‘Gold Rush’ Point of Entry

We recognized that the clothing industry was massive, and the growth was incredible, so there was a lot of potential to create products designed to better care for clothing.

The analogy we like to make is that in the California Gold Rush, the ones who experienced the most success weren’t the miners—it was the people who sold jeans to the miners. This was the birth of Levi’s.

Rather than sell the end product, we were selling something that made the end product better.

Luxury menswear has been growing at 14% per year, and the menswear industry as a whole is about $450 billion.

Branding ourselves as a clothing care company with products designed without the harmful chemicals found in many mainstream brands opened up a market of our own, and higher end clothing retail stores started reaching out to us asking to sell our products, when they would likely never sell just a mainstream laundry detergent.

Changing The Distribution Model

Although were available in a few stores, retail is NOT our focus.

We recognized the growing trend of delivery. We concentrated our formulation to make it more portable than existing products, allowing us to easily ship FREY straight to people’s doors, via a subscription service much like Dollar Shave Club or Harry’s Razors. This way you never have to run to the store when you’re low on detergent--except laundry detergent is a much larger industry than the razor industry. ;)

Although we were tailored to men at the time, a good portion of our customers were women. Initially we assumed they were just buying FREY to encourage the guy in their life to do his share of laundry, we soon learned that many women were purchasing our products just because they liked the scent, fragrance, and formulation.

So we lost all explicit “for men” aspects of our brand. Rapidly, about 40% of our customers became women, and we plan to release another fragrance line that will appeal to more people with different tastes than our current fragrance.

In the end, the best advice we can offer is to look for trends, don’t be afraid to be different or do something that other people may not recognize has potential.

Start something which sparks conversation, and hopefully has a positive impact on both people as individuals, and the world.

We dive deeper into all of this and more with RajNATION on Startup Hypeman’s fantastic Discover Your Inner Awesome Podcast.

We’re excited for you to listen!

-Erin & Leif Frey

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