Changing male grooming habits of recent years has resulted in a proliferation of quality brands and products, as well as a whole lot of information, all targeted towards men. This is a great thing, however it can be pretty tough to figure out what’s right for you when it comes to your skin and hair. The Australian store, gentSac launched a year ago in response to this. The business is the brainchild of Shira O’Sullivan-Linker and her husband, Ross O’Sullivan, who have set out to help the men of Australia navigate the often overwhelming world of grooming.
gentSac is celebrating the first birthday of its store in The Galeries in Sydney this month, so we caught up with Shira to find out more about the growing business.
How did the idea of gentSac come about?
My partner and I noticed that I was always curating grooming products and essentials for him whenever there was an opportunity to buy him a gift. I liked the idea of finding something he could use that was different or more exciting to the ordinary purchase of everyday essentials at the supermarket. One day he made a comment that he really loved receiving these kits that I would make up and that he wanted to make a consistent effort in taking better care of himself. We realised that he couldn’t be the only guy that actually did care about looking and feeling good or establishing some kind of beard/shave/skin routine. We realised there were a lot of really cool brands that existed for men but nowhere in Australia actually had a full selection. The idea that we could bundle up essential products that were affordable but a little more luxe or lifestyle orientated and deliver them without the hassle of shopping felt like something Australian men would really appreciate.
Was your background in retail / lifestyle products prior to launching gentSac?
My background was mainly Retail Fashion, VM. Operations and HR (& music!)
Is there a story behind the name?
The name was no pun intended! I designed a Sac that we would curate the products into, so that the guys had something just for them that was nice to receive but also able to be used again. The name has definitely been an interesting talking point though!
Tell us about the physical store you opened last year.
The physical space evolved out of our initial strategy to ‘pop up’ at curated and suitable markets. As a self-funded business with very little marketing budget, I felt we needed to have an opportunity to have a physical presence that could help us with brand awareness, whilst also testing the market and getting real-time customer feedback.
About three months in, we were discovered by a team member from The Galeries who had reached out to discuss the notion of creating a space within their centre. It felt like a move we would have made later on in the piece, however in this instance, the transition to a more permanent location was a great opportunity to further grow our presence. So we dived right in and within three months had designed and custom built the gentSac store.
What have you learnt since interacting directly with your customers in your Sydney store?
A lot! For one, men do care about grooming – however, there is a lot of misinformation out there. We’ve taken a lot of pride in receiving first-hand training from brands so that our product knowledge and understanding of the products we sell is valuable and a part of the experience we offer. We also know that some men like to touch and smell product before purchasing, where a lot of guys don’t particularly enjoy shopping and most are short of time, so having the subscription service that can be customised is a great option for those guys.
More importantly, we’ve confirmed that the notion of a man taking the time to have a routine and the pride in himself is not far out of reach, it’s just not been huge in our culture in the 21st century and if it was, it wasn’t really talked about. Our mission is to make Men’s Grooming not just a ‘thing’ – but the norm. We want Aussie gents to feel comfortable in their skin, confident and unapologetic for taking time for themselves to look after their skin and grooming. It’s not just for the ladies – it’s for humans who want to feel awesome.
What are some common grooming questions men come to you with?
Anything from what to do about razor burn, how to groom their beard, how to use a safety razor, through to understanding the hair products they need for the hair style they want. This is why we’ve launched Grooming consultations!
What do you look for in a brand when curating products to stock?
Initially, I look for a story and a purpose. I really want to know why this brand started and does the ethos of the brand align with our mission. I also look for the lifestyle aspect – the packaging, the ingredients and most importantly does it do what it’s supposed to. I am also really passionate about helping Australia brands launch their product into the market as we have the opportunity to give them a platform whilst also providing hands-on feedback to help their brand grow. Ultimately we are about curating a collection of bespoke brands that offer a sense of affordable luxury.
Walk us through your regular day. How does it start? How are you dividing your time?
3-4 days a week start with yoga. I like to start my day really early as I find I have the most productive energy in the morning. I’m usually either at the office by 7:30 or heading into a meeting with a team member, new brand etc and I like to do my store visits after midday where I’m on the floor – interacting with customers. My days are generally in the vicinity of 12-13 hours so when I go home I’m all about down time with Rossco (hubby) and my dogs, dinner, chill and the occasional yoga at night – (or a massage for a treat!). Unless there is a crazy deadline I’m generally asleep by 9:30!
What’s been your biggest challenge since starting the business?
Creating internal processes that support the counter-intuitive nature of a start-up. We are constantly learning and evolving so our processes should be agile enough to change seamlessly with our transition periods.
You’ve partnered with beyondblue in the past to create a special edition kit; are there more gentSac collaborations in the pipeline?
Absolutely, we are passionate about our obligation to social causes and raising awareness and will continue to seek out initiatives that allow us to give back to the community.
What’s next for gentSac?
The release of our new service – One on One Grooming consultations. We’ve created an experience both in-store and online/over the phone that can ensure guys get the attention they need when it comes to selecting new products or dealing with specific grooming concerns. The Grooming consultation also allows them to sample the products they would like to try or assist them in selecting the right products for their customised subscription whilst also providing great value.
We’re excited to announce that Shira will be contributing a series of guest articles on men’s grooming on Hey Gents. Stay tuned for the series!