Kent Santin and Ben Bond met seven years ago as college freshmen at the University of Guelph in Ontario. But little did these dormmates know that they found in each other a future business partner. Today, the two 25-year-olds are at the helm of Kent & Bond, an organic men’s grooming brand launched in August.
“I started out in biomed and quickly realized that I didn’t want to be a doctor,” says Bond. He switched to marketing, and post graduation delved into wholesale management with positions at Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren.
Santin, who studied accounting, later earned a master’s in sustainability management at Columbia and worked in tech consulting. They both had an entrepreneurial itch, and when Bond found an organic soap at a farmer’s market that soon became his go-to, they had a venture to pursue.
“We quickly realized that nobody was making organic products marketed for men,” Bond says. “Everything was really geared towards women.”
With that intel in mind, the WeWork Wall Street members began researching the market.
“We ordered a ton of products, and raw ingredients, and just started testing,” Santin says. Taking note of textures, scents, packaging, and branding, it was a fun, albeit time-consuming endeavor.
“Eventually we started playing with formulas and working with industry experts to develop them,” Santin adds. “This is what we breathed all night and every weekend for 10 months.”
By September 2015, they had both left their corporate jobs to focus on Kent & Bond full-time, financing the company with personal savings.
Available at the brand’s e-commerce shop and New York-based retailers such as health and grooming shop Thompson Chemists and men’s boutique Onassis, the United States-made Kent & Bond product line includes soap, shower gel, beard oil, deodorant, and a moisturizing salve. Ingredients read like a list of nature’s most coveted offerings: shea butter, coconut oil, aloe vera, and peppermint, to name a few. The top sellers? The pumice-infused charcoal pine exfoliating soap and tea tree oil-based deodorant.
As Bond and Santin strategize a future for the company, which they hope includes expansion to major U.S. cities and contracts with big-name retailers (they’re currently in talks with Whole Foods), the two are back and forth between the warehouse space they ship from in Long Island City and their downtown office. They secured the latter as winners of the 2015 Hennessy V.S.O.P. Privilège Lab, a partnership between Hennessy and WeWork that awarded them a one-year lease and mentorship from seasoned business professionals. Aside from two desks, a display of products, and a few boxes (all filled with more products), the space is sparse. Not surprising given that they just moved in, though in a way it reflects the company’s lean operation.
“Because it is just the two of us, we wear every hat you possibly can imagine,” says Santin. “We’re the guys who put the soap in the boxes, who label the boxes, and who ship the boxes. We deal with customer service. We’re our own lawyers.”
The payoff, they say, is the unrivaled satisfaction of being their own boss.
“Right now we work crazy hours,” says Bond, “but it’s offset by this certain amount of freedom. Being the person that’s making the big decisions—it’s very empowering.”
Photo credit: Emanuel Hahn