NFL player Karlos Dansby is a big fan of facials, manicures and pedicures.
The Cleveland Browns starting linebacker has had a passion for grooming ever since his days playing for coach Joe Whitt at Auburn University. "Coach Whitt at Auburn really instilled in his athletes the importance of proper grooming habits and staying clean cut," Dansby says.
Though the 2015 NFL preseason officially began Thursday, Dansby has been holding down a second job as an entrepreneur since 2009, when he and his former Auburn teammate Chris Butler opened a hybrid barber shop/spa for men called Butler's Grooming Club. It spawned an all-natural skincare line that's projecting annual revenue in the six figures in 2015 and more than $1 million in 2016.
Though Dansby has little free time during football season, he and Butler make a point to talk every week and meet every month to discuss strategy. Butler says he and Dansby make the perfect team to run a skincare brand thanks to their passion for grooming, but credits much of his company's success to being able to test the product extensively with Dansby's NFL teammates.
"The guys gave us a lot of feedback in terms of what they liked and didn't like," Butler says, adding that Dansby's current team the Cleveland Browns recently purchased the company's body wash and installed it in the home and visiting team showers. "Even the coaches are using it."
Birmingham, Alabama-based Butler's Grooming Club offers traditional services like haircuts and shaves in addition to facials, massages and "nail and foot" treatments--a male version of the mani/pedi. In 2012, the small business relocated to inside Saks Fifth Avenue's Birmingham department store, a move that Butler says helped the company triple revenue to nearly $600,000 that year.
The business still operates from Saks today, but last November Butler and Dansby started their own line of grooming products to sell in the store called Montez Renault. The company name comes from Butler's middle name, Renault, and Dansby's middle name, Montez.
The men's grooming industry is booming thanks in part to growing interest in natural ingredients. The broader U.S. cosmetic and beauty products manufacturing industry is projected to grow revenue about 6 percent in 2015 to more than $50 billion, according to research firm IBISWorld.
Montez Renault's best-selling product is its 3-in-1 shampoo, body wash and facial cleanser, which Men's Health named as its "Best Body Wash" at its 2015 grooming awards. The $20 product is made from green tea extract, aloe vera and avocado oil.
In May, Montez Renault partnered with beauty subscription service Birchbox, which included some of the company's products in its box for men. Roughly 80 percent of Montez Renault's sales come directly through its e-commerce website, with the remaining 20 percent coming from retail partners in California, Ohio, Georgia and Alabama.
One of the first decisions Dansby and Butler made when they launched the brand was to avoid using ingredients like sulfate and parabens, chemicals found in many beauty products that studies suggest could have adverse health effects.
"Men want something that's simple, that's not going to confuse them, and that works," Butler says.