Grooming products business is sown with family integrity.
When Jared Friesner decided to launch a men's grooming business, he knew he wanted to incorporate his grandfather's ethics and spirit into the company.
Friesner, who grew up on a family farm in Lancaster, spent a lot of time working with and learning from his Grandpa Cliff. He was a man Friesner describes as hardworking and honest, someone who never took shortcuts. And as the founder of Cliff Original, Friesner applies those principles to his business.
His focus on doing the right thing has, in just three years, earned his products a spot on the shelves of 18 Whole Foods Markets and numerous central Ohio retailers.
Miranda Boyle, owner of Thread boutiques in Grandview and Dublin, immediately saw the potential in Friesner and his products. She was one of the first retailers to agree to sell Cliff Original. “He's passionate about what he does, and he's one of the nicest businesspeople I've ever worked with,” she says.
Friesner launched the business at the encouragement of friends and family who had sampled the all-natural hair products he made for himself. He was working in marketing and sales and began making the products while studying to become a holistic health coach.
The classes prompted him to look for natural products. Finding nothing he liked, he began making his own. “I experimented in my kitchen using local ingredients that were beneficial for your hair and scalp,” he says.
Today, his line includes hair and beard products, face wash and moisturizer, soap, and lip balm. He makes them in a Columbus commercial kitchen that he rents by the hour.
In addition to retail stores, his products also are available at barber shops and online. Friesner's timing was spot on, Boyle says, because men have been spending more time and money on their appearance over the last decade. Beards also have become more popular, she adds.
In 2013, the year Friesner launched Cliff Original, men for the first time spent more money on male-specific toiletries than on shaving products, according to a global cosmetics industry survey. Friesner says he wants to tap into the growing interest in male grooming products while promoting the importance of all-natural ingredients. Education and promoting good health is a key component of his brand, he says.
That's why he was determined to work with Whole Foods, the supermarket chain that specializes in natural products. Getting his products on their shelves was a very involved process, he says. He met several times with local representatives who finally greenlighted his products. That led to meetings with other stores around the country. He hopes to increase the number of Whole Foods stores that offer his products in 2017 and to find more retailers to sell them as well.
Friesner also expects to add more shaving-related products this year, and he has created a line of gender-neutral items for the guests of Columbus' Hotel LeVeque. He never anticipated making gender-neutral products but said he couldn't pass up the opportunity to be affiliated with the newly renovated property that is creating such buzz in Columbus.
Friesner says his background in sales and marketing with a digital printing company, working for startups, and his background in 4-H helped prepare him to start his own company. As a boy, he would raise steer and take them to the fair to sell. The project taught him responsibility and the value of hard work, he says.
Eventually, he purchased his first car with earnings from the fair. His work in sales taught him the value of meeting would-be clients face-to-face and building relationships.
But he jokes that his first enterprise landed him in the principal's office. “When I was in 3rd grade, my mom got a call from the principal that I was in trouble for renting my tennis shoes out to a student for $10,” he says. “I wasn't sure what I was doing at the time. I was just looking to make $10 so I could buy some more baseball cards.”
He continues to support 4-H by donating money to the program and regularly taps his network to help other causes. Friesner provides products and support to Novembeard, a fundraiser of the Pleasure Guild of Nationwide Children's Hospital, says board adviser Carrie DiNovo. The charity, which raises money to support hospice and palliative care at the hospital, organizes the fall fundraiser in which participants raise money by growing beards.
“He has so many ties to so many people, there's no way we could have had that kind of support if he hadn't gotten behind our campaign,” she says. “He really feels that if he helps others, he's going to win, too.”
Melissa Kossler Dutton is a freelance writer.