Former Wake Forest MBA graduates, Kevin Keller and Allen Shafer, know what it takes to launch an entrepreneurial venture, but most importantly, their venture keeps them looking and smelling good too. Fulton & Roark, a premium men’s grooming company based in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, crafts high quality grooming products specifically built for the way men operate.
Kevin and Allen met each other and founded Fulton & Roark during their time in the Wake Forest MBA program. Both come from different backgrounds, but this is precisely what makes their partnership so unique and successful. Allen excels with numbers and is responsible for the more analytical side of things. He is an Excel whiz and manages the company’s finances and accounting. Kevin is more of the talker, the people person, so to speak. He is responsible for the company’s PR and sales management. But perhaps most importantly, Kevin and Allen are great friends, which makes for a fantastic partnership. They love working together, and their wives are good friends too, an added plus. “A business partner becomes your best friend—it’s essentially like a marriage. You spend so much time together, so it’s a good thing that I really like Allen as a human being,” says Kevin.
F&R began with a series of solid colognes, an idea that first came to be after observing women’s solid perfume. “I just thought to myself, this would make so much more sense for a guy. It’s more discrete, and you can keep it in your pocket,” remarks co-founder Kevin Keller. Kevin knew that the men’s grooming industry was growing quickly, so he and Allen set off to change the negative stigma surrounding men who are interested in caring for their appearance.
The two business partners have done immensely well for themselves, relishing in their many victories along the way. The life of an entrepreneur certainly has the opportunity to be extremely rewarding as hard work and plans begin to fall into place, but like anything in life, the challenges are also plentiful. Kevin shared some of his biggest challenges as an entrepreneur with us, recalling moments of self-doubt and insecurity. “Making cologne and shaving cream seems a little humble in comparison to the large technology empires of Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, and Bill Gates, especially when you’re trying to pour everything that you have into a tiny start up.”
However, both Kevin and Allen agree that the connections and relationships they formed during their time as MBA students at Wake Forest have been incredibly instrumental in establishing themselves and their vision. Between New Venture Grants and the Summer Entrepreneurial Summer Fellows Program (received through the Center for Innovation, Creativity and Entrepreneurship), the Babcock Demon Incubator, and an incredible pool of social capital, F&R has grown significantly in part because of the many resources available to innovators and entrepreneurs at Wake Forest. This past summer, Senior Accounting major, David O’Connor received a stipend from the Center for Innovation, Creativity and Entrepreneurship to work alongside Kevin and Allen as an Entrepreneurial Summer Fellow. Kevin remarks that this was huge for the development of their company. “With David’s help and hard work, we were able to move a lot faster than we normally would have without him.”
Fulton & Roark has achieved immense success thus far, as they continue to make plans to both grow and expand. Their products are now being sold in 11 different states and can be found at 3 different retailers right here in Winston-- The Clubhouse Salon, Centennial Trading Co, and Angelo's. They are currently working on introducing a new line of shaving cream, set to be completed around Christmas time this year. As far as long-term goals, F&R hopes to expand their product offerings to a complete share of body, in which the company will sell and provide a comprehensive collection of shaving creams, after shave, body wash, lotion, etc.
If Kevin could give one piece of advice to students looking to pursue the entrepreneurial lifestyle as a career it’s this – “Don’t be afraid to jump right in. Wake is full of really smart people. Leverage these resources and use them to your advantage. The Wake Forest environment is so supportive, and you have the backing of thousands championing you every step of the way.”
Kevin and Allen’s story is certainly one worth telling. Be sure to follow along with Fulton & Roark, as they continue to pioneer the world of premium men’s grooming…one solid cologne at a time!
Fulton & Roark was showcased in November 2013 as this season's 'perfect stocking stuffer' in Southern Living and as a feature story in the Winston-Salem Journal.