Big news from Tristan Walker, founder of revolutionary razor brand, Bevel (and two-time Root 100 honoree): his six-year-old Walker & Company brands is being acquired by household goods juggernaut Procter & Gamble. As reported by Fast Company:
While the financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, other details were: Within the first half of 2019, Walker and his current team of 15 employees will relocate to Atlanta—not Cincinnati, the home of P&G headquarters—and will continue working on its brands, Bevel and Form, as a wholly owned subsidiary with Walker at the reins as CEO. He’ll report directly to Alex Keith, president of P&G’s global haircare and beauty business.
The move is reminiscent of Carol’s Daughter founder Lisa Price’s sale to beauty behemoth L’Oréal, which prompted significant outcry from those concerned about the absorption of black-owned brands by multinational corporations. Addressing those concerns, Walker had reassuring words:
“We’ve always had the vision to make health and beauty simple for people of color,” he told the magazine. “But now we get to accelerate that vision with the many capabilities Procter & Gamble has to offer. I’m not going anywhere. We’re not going anywhere.”
Others might question what this means for Walker’s standing in Silicon Valley, where he made a name for himself at recognizable shops such as Twitter and Foursquare before launching Walker & Co. with the direct-to-consumer model he employed with Bevel.
“Yes, we happen to be in Silicon Valley and, yes, we happen to do things from a technology perspective to help us accelerate our vision, but we’ve always been a forward-looking consumer packaged goods company,” Walker said. “Our moving from Silicon Valley doesn’t change that.”
In fact, Walker stated that he aimed to become “Procter and Gamble for people of color” in a 2014 Fast Company profile. Those who took note of his very lucrative 2015 deal with Target (which now comprises approximately half of his company’s revenue) likely weren’t too caught off guard by this announcement. After all, the aim of a company is growth, as Walker & Co.’s most recent but far lesser known launch indicated, growth requires major capital.
Form, a 10-product haircare line that launched last year, “recommends to consumers based on an online survey about hair-affecting factors like geography and exercise habits. Form received rave reviews, but Walker lacked the resources to properly promote the product,” Fast Company reports.
Obviously, acquisition by P&G alleviates the issue of scrambling for resources—and of support.
“We’re six years old; Procter & Gamble is 180,” Walker said. “There’s so much we can learn from them. We haven’t even scratched the surface yet.”
Apparently, the feeling is mutual, as P&G seeks to find new ways to innovate and generate interest in its stable of products—many of which are legacy brands—among millennial consumers—and black millennial men, in particular.
“[When it comes to] direct-to-consumer, we have the capabilities here, but nowhere near the extent [Walker]’s mastered and leveraged,” said Lela Coffey, brand director for multicultural marketing at P&G. “His agility is super-fast. The amount of products he’s been able to bring to market, we need to learn something about that speed.”
“A lot of his focus has been on Bevel, and I think the next thing he really intends to do is grow Form in the way he originally intended,” Coffey added. “Powered with what we can bring to bear, I’m excited to see what he’s going to do.” Fast Company also projects a skincare line from Walker & Co. in early 2019.
And for those concerned that Walker will lose touch with his base, they need look no further than his move to the “black Mecca.”
“When I think about my consumers, they are in the southeast, they are in Atlanta,” he said. “When I consider things like how my son is raised, I want him to be around a supporting network of aspiring, forward-looking black folks.”
“While I am thankful for what Silicon Valley has afforded me, this is the right move for the company, and on behalf of the people that we serve,” he added. “This is not about me.”