How I Built This


So what are the guiding principles of creativity is that some of you very best ideas. Come out of sheer frustration products like honest tea or cliff bar olders dyson these all came about because their founders couldn't find the beverages or energy bars or shoes or or vacuum cleaners that they wanted so they invented them but in the case of Tristan Walker. I think it's safe to say that he didn't just start from a place of mild frustration. He actually started from a place of being fed up even angry because for most of his life he had felt completely league ignored totally overlooked whenever he walked into the shaving. I'll drugstore virtually all the big shaving brands were making products that worked well on men with relatively straight hair but tristen couldn't find a high quality razor that worked on his curly facial hair without leaving razor bumps olivarez neck Kajol line and he knew that like him many African American men were dealing with the exact same problem so he decided to design bevill a shaving system with a simple single blade razor that was easy on his face and he wanted everything about the product to look and feel great not like the dusty boxes of shaving products for African American men that we seem to be on the bottom shelves at the drugstore and his ambition to build a black owned and led consumer Marand as big as Johnson Johnson or proctor and gamble but of course when I tried to raise money from all those VC firms on sand hill road in Silicon Valley and he got a lot of knows but eventually he was able to launch his company with a razor some shaving cream but of oil and brush and over the past five years his brand has grown to include more than thirty specialized hair and beauty products for men and women which are now sold and lots of big retailers lers across the country a few weeks ago. Tristan sat down to tell me how he did it in front of a live audience at the Lincoln Theater in Washington. DC tristen Walker Central. I'll take it so let's start. Let's start at the beginning. Tell me about about out your childhood knew you grew up in Queens where I like to describe. It is a bit of the Rosa grew from concrete story. I grew up in Queens New York projects. It's Welfare Bouts of homelessness that sort of stuff right and I realized very early at one goal in life and as as wealthy as possible as quickly as possible Salaam. I realized three ways to do it. I was to be an actor athlete that didn't work second second was to work on Wall Street that didn't work in the last entrepreneurship and then thank goodness. I came to that realization. We were a little boy. A A your dad died. He was killed killed and you grew up with an older brother and your mom. What did your mom do yet for work so oh my mom worked three jobs mainly New York City Housing Authority Administrative Assistant? She spent some time working for Time Warner Cable and she did some retail all at the same time within seven days. I don't know how she did it. She did it. Thank goodness for her. It was not easy but she persevered and as a result of I think her perseverance good fortune beam I graduate college in my family and she she really in what what do you remember about like your neighborhood growing up as a kid I mean would did you do. Did you add in do much because I couldn't do much like my father was killed. When I was three years old? I don't remember too much about him other than the fact that he was killed when I was three years old which is a little bit telling to Kinda type of environment that I did grow up in so you know I lived probably the first six seven years of my life live in Jamaica Queens New York forty projects in the time I turned around seven years old. We moved to flushing Queens. Another project can development and it was much of the same right. My mother was like you're going to be the one you're not gonNa go through this stuff very disciplined. Stay home. Get Your studies and you're not going outside. When I snuck snuck outside? She caught me. I got in a lot of trouble but that was really kind of my life right. Get to school get home. Do you work repeat and you know that discipline actually Kinda got me to wearing them. Now school easy for you has a kid yeah. I was a good student because the discipline that was inspired me I always excelled right. I tended to be at least up until high school anyway at or near the top of my class you know and I kinda slow down when I say that stuff because by the time I got to high school. I realized I didn't even know what a verb was right. I wouldn't do this entire time. All the way up until my high school years doing really really well at the top of my class not even knowing what verb now and that sort of thing was as a teenager you ended up going to this really elite private boarding school hotchkiss in Connecticut the way I like to describe posh kisses is the first time I got to see how the other half lived. I went to school literally rockefellers Ford's right and I learned a couple of things first name mattered to being wealthy wasn't same as being rich and the last and probably the most important was I can compete with each and every one of them while while while I didn't know Oh what a verb was I learned and by the end of my four years they're you know on a roll like that. Sort of thing you know is then absolutely just wonderful experience for me but transformative in a little bit different from how I grew up was it was the transition for you when you got there because you were like fourteen years old. I've been living away from home since I was thirteen fourteen years old and were the first few months at hard for you. academically we get to the school and I realize I don't even have a computer and you know all of my other classmates had computers that sort of thing and I went to leave as the English professor who is my adviser at the time and I remember he took me to this basement. We're all used textbooks are and then he was old compaq like Presidio L. Computer that we had the like hall out and take it to my room so academically. It was very tough because I wasn't equipped with the tools to compete but over the years accelerating so you fish you go to Stony Brook University New York to study economics. Most most students don't necessarily know what they're gonNa do but did you have a sense of what you want to pursue their and what you thought you would do after I mean I was always thinking about the after I wanted to get wealthy yeah I was pretty singular in that help very singular in that hope and overtime that's kind of morphed and changed and the things that are important Ed Morrison changed but I knew I was very very very focused on how to get there and Wall Street was the next greatest option. All this silicon valley stuff at new idea about my world was New England so you're thinking do this degree and I'll go into finance plows e- economics is the closest degree we had at Stony Brook again to Wall Street Okay and in between my first and second year of university I got an internship and Lehman Brothers back office halfway through I I said I want to try some of this front office stuff so I left that enjoined trading desk at the time just observing so when you graduate so you you went actually went to work for Leman and then as a traitor and then everything and eventually JP Morgan in that time at that time time period. Did you still think this is what I should be doing. This is my sort of path to the worst years of my life. This is two thousand and five when I joined the company and as a traitor. Your job is to make money

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