The Proof
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Matt Mullenax, Founder at Huron

 
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Matt Mullenax is the Founder & CEO of Huron, a men’s care brand offering A+ personal care products for guys everywhere. Matt started Huron under the premise that the world didn’t need another $40 body wash, and guys everywhere need access to great products at an approachable price. A native Ohioan, Matt hopes to fill an audience void: the fact that consumers in non-coastal markets aren’t often shown the same variety of high-quality products as their coastal peers.

Matt has worked on both the finance and brand side of the consumer industry -- Winona Capital Management, and Nike and Bonobos (6th employee), respectively. He earned an MBA from Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business, and a BA from Brown University.

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On the first hour of his day. I’ve always been a pretty early riser. But the entrepreneurial journey thus far has redefined “early.’’ I’m usually up by 4:45. The first thing I do is a quick morning journal -- a 4-5 bullet recap of the previous day. It’s a great outlet to flush out any frustrations or stressors from the previous day, and an opportunity to start fresh. Journaling has been huge for me, and I’ve done it consistently for the past 2.5 years.

After that, I’ll run through email to see if there’s anything urgent that I need to address. Around 5:30, I’ll head to the gym on a Citi bike up to Union Square. Afterward, it’s back to the apartment for breakfast with my girlfriend, Sarah. It’s our morning routine and a good opportunity for us to chat about the day ahead. Then I’ll either walk or Citi bike to work.

On protecting his fitness routine. For me, a morning workout is critical. The endorphin kick is a must for my energy and mental clarity. I’m not a coffee drinker, so the workout is my caffeine alternative. That hour in the morning really primes me for the day. From there, my day is solely focused on work. 

I'm driven by structure and routine. I go to a CrossFit gym Monday through Wednesday, run on Thursday, back to the gym on Friday and Saturday, and run again on Sunday. I mix it up a bit during the summer to get outside more, which is fun.

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On hitting the reset button. The entrepreneurial road is wildly fulfilling, but the days are quite taxing. You’ve got to be on all day, every day. And the constant changing of gears -- ops, marketing, customer experience, etc. -- can be draining. But it’s been the most rewarding role I’ve ever been in. 

I've found comfort in accepting that not every day is going to be your best. In fact, there can be some pretty terrible ones. But it’s about maintaining mental and emotional stability -- no win too high, no low too low. Early in my career, I often tried to surmount feelings of stress as best I could, and fight them tooth and nail. But, that becomes exhausting and counterproductive.

There will be days that I’ll pack up early to relocate to a different setting, take a break, or do something to shake things up a little. That honesty with yourself is really important. This is a marathon, not a sprint.

On Huron’s origins. To be frank, I was a kid who grew up with bad skin. But I never really ‘grew out of it,’ per se, as most assumed. I tried everything -- dermatologist-prescribed meds and seemingly all products on-shelf at your local grocery store or pharmacy -- but nothing worked. It wasn’t until I was in business school that I experimented with more premium products that my skin started to respond positively. But as a kid from Ohio, I couldn’t stomach paying $65+ for a men’s skincare product.

That was the light bulb moment for me. Could we create a branded assortment of A+ products that looked, felt, acted, and performed like those of premium brands, but delivered at a price point that didn’t break the bank? We were off to the races from that point on.

On leading with empathy. I knew that if I were to take the entrepreneurial plunge, it had to be in a category where I had a deep empathetic relationship with the consumer. In my eyes, the best way to know your consumer is to be your consumer. To understand the pain points and consumer frustrations is paramount.

We know that guys are taking much better care of themselves in other areas of their lives (e.g. the explosion of the healthy snacking and boutique fitness categories), but for most the bathroom is still an unknown. So, many guys end up reverting back to the same products they’ve used since middle school. It’s a huge disconnect, and we aspire to be the brand that helps these guys help themselves.

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On the future of Huron. We had the pleasure of working with Gin Lane during the brand-building process, and, together, developed a mission statement that I’m very proud of: A+ personal care for guys everywhere. A big part of our existence is to overemphasize the “for guys everywhere.” All guys need access to great men’s personal care. That’s been the vision of Huron since time zero.

We want to help our consumers take better care of themselves. Our skin is our body’s largest organ, so it’s a great place to start. If we can offer our guys a confidence boost knowing that they not only look but also feel their best each day, then we’ve done something pretty awesome. There are no metrics that track an increase in self-confidence and self-worth, but that’s our ultimate barometer of success. 

On being out in the wild. The biggest change after launching Huron last week was the switch from supply building -- product, capital, team, resources -- to demand building. While we were in demand creation mode leading up to launch, it’s a whole different dynamic. There are new learnings and challenges ahead, but it’s been incredibly exciting (and busy) thus far. Nearly two years of work coming to fruition. We’ve been grateful for the incredible receptivity that we’re seeing from our customers. 

A good friend and Huron investor, Peter Rahal, told me that in the early days of RxBar, he loved the access to direct customer feedback. I now understand what he meant. The ability to engage with our customers directly and collect feedback has been one of the most rewarding aspects thus far. It’s how we’ll continue to improve and better serve our consumers over time.

On his nightly ritual. It’s fairly predictable. I get home, eat, do a bit of work, and then pretend that I can stay up and watch a bit of tv. After Sarah wakes me up on the couch shortly thereafter, I brush my teeth, wash my face using the Huron Face Wash, and then apply our Huron Face Lotion. I’m usually asleep before my head hits the pillow.

Matt Mullenax, Founder & CEO at Huron