It didn’t take a business degree for USC senior Matthew Taylor Ruggieri to realize that there was a big opportunity in the men’s grooming market. The USC School of Cinematic Arts student was trying to shop for a decent men’s face wash online, and coming up dry.
“There were plenty of sites offering men’s products, but none were specifically geared toward men,” he said. “And it was very confusing to figure out what product would be best for my skin.”
So in April, Ruggieri launched TheMotley.com from his parent’s San Fernando Valley home to offer a “straightforward minimalist solution” to men’s grooming needs.
Now based in downtown Los Angeles, the Web site allows customers to browse and shop individual products, such as shaving cream, shampoos, soaps and hair gels, or to buy them in customizable bundled kits.
Ruggieri said the site’s mid-priced “curated” product offering features only 50 products at one time so “you don’t feel like someone’s going to pull it from among thousands on a warehouse shelf and ship it to you.”
The Motley targets what he said is a new generation of guy consumers who have evolved beyond the shave and splash of Old Spice. “I think a lot of guys who are young professionals are ready to go to the next level with their grooming products and try something more sophisticated that you don’t smell from three blocks away,” he said.
After conceiving of the site, Ruggieri, a critical studies major, turned to the USC Marshall School of Business for advice on what to do next. The school led him to the Kairos Society, an international student-run leadership organization that has a chapter at USC. With Kairos, Ruggieri has traveled to Hangzhou, China as well as New York City, where he launched the site on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
Since then, the site has evolved rapidly. The Motley was named one of “100 Start-Ups to Watch” by the Kairos Society and also was a Southern California finalist in the Entrepreneur Organization’s Global Student Entrepreneur Awards.
Part of his success, Ruggieri said, is knowing his customer. To help educate guys about the products they’re buying – a key trait of the Gen Y customer – Ruggieri said he drew upon his cinematic arts background to produce a video marketing product called The Study Series.
The series, an “informative glance into the individuals and organizations that manufacture the products behind our store,” has nearly doubled his sales and created a stronger relationship with his manufacturing partners.
“Establishing tight-knit relationships with our manufacturers is an important part of the experience of shopping with The Motley,” he said.
Beginning next year, Ruggieri plans to launch his own line of intensive men’s skin moisturizing formula – a niche he feels is a staple for his customer.
“Once he realizes that there will be no more chapped fingers,” Ruggieri said, “he’ll never turn back!”