BE Next: The New Generation of Risk-Takers and Dealmakers - Page 4 of 4

BE Next: The New Generation of Risk-Takers and Dealmakers

Using $54,000 in personal savings, Darnell Henderson pursued his passion for starting a business and opened a barbershop and spa in April 2004–a dream that was washed away six months later when Hurricane Gene hit the city of Miami and his shop. The setback, however, inspired a new idea: Henderson decided to focus on producing and distributing his own men’s skincare line called H.I.M-istry (–an acronym for Healthy Image Men.

Before launching the skincare line, Henderson earned credentials as a “dermatician,” the equivalent of a skincare specialist. He then researched the right lab and chemist to take his idea to formula. Today, he offers a range of all-natural products from black tea cleanser (the line’s most popular product) to alpha hydroxyl cleansing pads and serum-based moisturizers.

“I started doing my research and development in 2002, but I’ll be honest, we still learn new things from consumers on a daily basis,” explains Henderson. “When we initially started, H.I.M-istry was based a lot on what we thought consumers wanted. But as we interacted with them, we were able to zone in exactly on their needs. It’s really difficult to sell someone a cleanser without educating them on the benefits and that’s what allows us to grow our business and nurture relationships with customers and business clients.”

The line, which is available at Macy’s department stores, was originally rejected by a major drugstore chain in 2004. “They liked the concept and the idea,” he says, “however they thought the product line was a little too sophisticated for their consumers.” They suggested that he follow up with them later, but Henderson believed there was a market for a high-caliber brand for men and decided to pursue other opportunities. But his courtship with Macy’s was not an easy sell either. “Did that discourage or disappoint me? No. Not at all,” he admits. “I looked at it as an opportunity to come up to par. Macy’s required more tweaking of our marketing info and packaging materials.” By September 2007, the first purchase order was secured. H.I.M-istry went from being carried in three stores to 16 and now to more than 100 stores across the country. In 2008 Henderson’s business saw revenues of $980,000. By the end of 2009, H.I.M.-istry brought in $1.6 million.

What Henderson is most proud of is a product that has been embraced by men across racial backgrounds. “One of the major things that separate us from our competitors is that we offer a reliable, affordable luxury line of skincare products for men of any ethnicity. I’m working to change the perception of men’s skincare and position our products as a way of life for all.”

This article originally appeared in the January 2010 issue of Black Enterprise magazine.