Company survives close shaves to thrive

Special to Western News

Recent Western graduate Gareth Everard learned some tough – yet valuable – lessons early on in his entrepreneurial career. However, that has not stopped him from forging ahead with his latest Kickstarter campaign.

Gareth Everard came to Western with thoughts of running track and becoming a dentist. He is doing neither one these days.

He is, however, in the midst of cultivating his startup company, Rockwell Razors, whose current Kickstarter campaign sits at more than $198,000 as of today (the initial ask was for $50,000) for the launch of the new Model T razor. The crowdsourcing campaign still has a month to go.

To think, it is all because of a torn ligament.

“I was running track in first year and had a pretty significant injury and needed something to fill the void. I found the entrepreneurship centre on campus, now Propel, and, ultimately, the discussion with entrepreneurs there fostered my interest. I ended up meeting my co-founder there, Morgan (Nordstrom),” said Everard, who graduated this past year from Environmental Sciences. “I don’t think I would have leaned towards entrepreneurship had it not been for the injury.”

Nordstrom, who already had his own business, Modern Edge Razors, combined his business savvy with Everard to introduce their first razor, the Rockwell 6S, in the fall of 2014. Both were beginning their final years at Western.

They hit Kickstarter hoping to obtain $12,000. They made their goal in less than 24 hours and finished the month-long campaign with nearly $150,000 from more than 2,500 backers.

“It was right in the middle of mid-terms, so it quickly became clear to us that our little idea, for a bit of a side project during school, had turned into something of a full-time business overnight,” Everard said. “As soon as you see at the launch day of your business that you do $18,000 in sales in 12 hours, you’re sort of looking at things differently.”

However, what began as an unprecedented and efficacious launch into the world of entrepreneurship quickly fizzled. Unprepared to ship thousands of products, and putting too much trust in suppliers for quality control, their initial product was a huge failure. The negative feedback began pouring in.

“It was a rude awakening, but I’m happy I learned what I did early on,” he said. “We trusted professionals thinking they were going to do what they said they would. Perhaps we were taken advantage of, but I only blame myself in those early days of manufacturing. It was a fantastic lesson.”

He knew some Kickstarter project creators simply walk away from their failed campaigns. Everard didn’t want to be one of them.

“I could not go forward knowing that within my character there was a trait that allowed me to give up on something like that,” he said. “Recognizing I wouldn’t allow that long term, I felt continuing with the project was the only option.”

He found a local machinist to fix the problem of the initial manufacturer and then, by hand, assembled and shipped the new product out to the 2,500 disappointed backers.

That was failure No. 2.

Again, Everard blindly trusted someone. His ‘fix’ to the original razors created further problems for the new ones. Too late, the product was shipped. He thought negative feedback was bad the first time, well, let’s just say it got worse.

Having shipped thousands of units that were – once again – duds, with thousands more stacked in his parents’ basement, his stress compounded with an unfinished thesis and classes still awaiting him each day. Everard admitted he was pretty much at rock bottom.

After months of retooling and fine-tuning the design, and several rounds of manufacturing before he got what he wanted, Everard finally shipped a product he could be proud of, but not before personally inspecting each razor on the way out this past January.

With that behind him, he has launched a new razor and Kickstarter campaign set to wrap up in mid-May. He also already has some major retailers already lined up.

Tooling of the new razor will begin soon, followed by extensive testing, with the first round of production beginning by the end of summer. The new razors will ship by mid-February 2017.

“There were opportunities afforded to me, by the grace of screwing up and fixing it, I would not have received had everything been smooth sailing. I’m happy to have had the opportunity to develop my character a bit more and a degree of drive and learning to carry on even though things aren’t coming up roses and the going gets rough.”