While out for a drive one day, best friends Eric Fallon and Elan Marks pondered the same question many late 20-somethings do: Is this actually what we’re going to be doing for the rest of our lives? At 28, Fallon was working full-time in the soap industry and Marks worked as a bartender doing freelance design work on the side. Neither of them found their careers particularly fulfilling.
“We’ve always hated the conformity of working for other people,” says Marks. “Even when you’re working for companies that are very successful, you get to the point where you’re living somebody else’s dream.”
The two friends and their buddy Justin Maclean had been trying for years to come up with a business idea that would give them the creative and financial freedom they craved, but routinely came up empty.
Then that day in the car, inspiration struck. The three could combine their skills to fill a hole in the market with products that they were already looking for: men’s skincare.
“Mirrors were starting to make us look old,” Fallon says with a chuckle. “We went down to the local drugstore and most of the men’s products were either an afterthought to a women’s line or filled with not-so-good chemicals. We knew we could do it better.”
The three partners are focused on growing their brand and generating more online buzz through social media, but they’re also turning their attentions to raising money for their charity of choice, Prostate Cancer Canada.
Thus the idea for Rebels Refinery skincare was born, and with it the chance for these three best friends to make good on their dream to develop a business they could work on together.
Fallon, Marks and Maclean met in the sixth grade in Dundas, Ont., a small community near Hamilton. All three were sons of single mothers who worked hard to make ends meet. “We didn’t want our mothers to work forever,” Marks says. “That was a big inspiration for us starting this business. We’re mama’s boys at heart,” he adds, a mischievous twinkle in his eye.
The friends launched Rebels Refinery in February 2013 with a mandate to make and sell natural skincare for men at an affordable price point. Fallon’s business acumen and knowledge of soap chemistry combined with Maclean’s sales know-how and Marks’s design skills made for an ideal partnership.
While they have since placed their product in some brick and mortar boutiques across Canada and the U.S., they do the bulk of their business online, drawing most of their customer base from coverage they get on popular style and trend blogs. The Rebels Refinery team have created a series of cheeky videos that reinforce the “rebel” attitude of their brand, an approach that springs organically from the tongue-in-cheek sensibility that the three partners share – and which also aligns with the interests of their target audience of pop-culture savvy, style conscious young men.
“More men buy their skincare online,” Fallon says. “We’ve reached an interesting point where, because of the Internet, smaller brands can compete with the big boys. You don’t need a $2 million investment in traditional advertising.”
The three partners are focused on growing their brand and generating more online buzz through social media, but they’re also turning their attentions to raising money for their charity of choice, Prostate Cancer Canada. One of their proudest accomplishments so far as fledgling entrepreneurs, says Fallon, was the day they were able to give that first cheque to the charity.
They’re also gearing up to grow now that they’ve inked a Dragons’ Den deal with Arlene Dickinson. The three friends, now 30, know that this coveted partnership could lead to huge things in the Canadian market.
“The deal's already been amazingly fruitful,” says Fallon. “Arlene generously gave us access to office space and I can't say enough about how great it’s been to be here. It gave us a happy space to really focus on growing and with numerous resources at our disposal.”
The Rebels Refinery founders are enjoying their early entrepreneurial success, but the endeavor is not without its challenges. As CEO, Fallon says he finds it tough to take too much of a hard line with his close friends. Still, he maintains that the level of comfort and creative synergy the three share are hugely beneficial to the company. “Working with friends is the most challenging part of the business,” he says, “but it’s also the most rewarding.”
For more information, please visit: http://rebelsrefinery.com
Arlene Dickinson Enterprises is proud to include Rebels Refinery in our investment portfolio
Photographs by: Jamie Morren.