Founders Interview: A Talk with Jon Shanahan, Founder of The Kavalier

February 25, 2021
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Coming up with The Kavalier.

Jon’s days with a camera can be traced back to his childhood. When he was 6, he was directing his friends to make mini-movies. But high school was a defining time for that passion as he joined the video club.
“There’s certainly no substitute for hard work and dedicating thoughtful time to what you’re working on. I’ve published over 500 videos in the last three years, and it takes a lot of time and effort to get there, but if you show up every day, you will be ahead.”
When Jon started his first corporate job, he started buying “nicer clothes.” He was drawn to almost all the sales and deals he could find at the mall; he even got them tailored to fit him. But unfortunately, after a few months of wear, they started to deteriorate, and Jon realized they were just not made well.
Not only was he buying the wrong size, but he never got the full story of the clothing. That realization changed him; he started to buy the best he could afford and was much happier.
Jon soon started to work in the industry and learned more about the business side of fashion, and his passion only grew. As the online fashion industry grew, he realized that not many people talked about them, and the idea of supporting “the little guy” was born. This is why the first video posted is about Frank and Oak.

A little bit about The Kavalier.

Jon started the YouTube channel in 2015 as a platform to help men find great undiscovered menswear brands just as the direct-to-consumer world was beginning.
He moulded his approach on The Wirecutter, intending to deliver helpful, in-depth recommendations by category. “Kavalier” is the 14th-century German word for ‘Gentleman.’
Jon wanted to model himself after Consumer Reports or the Wirecutter, with excellent independent information, and then build a business of affiliate revenue. He wanted to give the best information and build trust.
“I only recommend products that I enjoy and believe in.”
Recognizing the need for his presence, he started the blog in early 2018 but still focused on putting out a video every weekday. He’s grown each year steadily; currently, he’s at 118k subscribers.

Coming up with Stryx.

Stryx is one of the first companies to make cosmetics from the ground up for men. Their first two products are concealer and tinted moisturizer. They’re built around the premise that every guy can benefit from touch-ups, such as pimples, under-eye bags, or razor burn. Women have a ton of options. Guys are expected to live with it. We’re out to change that.
The company wasn’t Jon’s idea; he knew the team behind Stryx because they were covering similar companies.
He was invited by the CEO and the head of marketing to spend a day at the factory and put together a video on my channel. That morning he woke up with a massive pimple on his chin, and he had the Stryx pen with him. He used the pen to conceal it, and the video turned out great. You can’t tell that he was wearing it. This was the first time Jon realized just how interesting the produced is.
Later on, Stryx started looking to take charge of content, community, and branding. Jon took up the opportunity and joined as a full-time co-founder a bit late in the company. From there, it’s been a wild ride.

Creating awareness for the brand.

It was easy to get attention because they’re doing something out of the ordinary. Jon and his team did an exclusive with Bloomberg on CVS, rolling out a men’s cosmetic brand in 2,000 stores nationwide. The first men’s cosmetics brand to go nationwide. That can get attention.
Bloomberg picked it up, as did The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post. And so now the challenge is to continue to lead this category.

How the business has been growing over the years.

Over the years, Jon has been adding more affiliates to reduce his reliance on any particular brand, which has been easy; he just needed to listen to his audience for which brands they wanted to see more information on.
As for his blogs, he’s been translating his videos into blog posts has been tremendous since Jon dislikes writing content for the site. Bringing more people into the process certainly complicates things but has helped to increase the output in a big way.
About three years ago, Jon also started The Buttoned Up Podcast with co-host Brock from The Modest Man, and they hit 100k downloads a few months ago. That has been a fantastic platform for connecting and learning from other entrepreneurs and creators in this space that Jon loves doing each week.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?

Focus on finding what works and why. Understanding why something is successful or why it failed is so important while doing it quickly. Jon realized this year that specific videos for him were not performing well, and he unfortunately ignored that for too long.
You have to find your balance between planning and execution but always lean to execution & learning. It’s very easy to over-plan and overanalyzes; then, you can spin your wheels.
Most of the major content creators and entrepreneurs Jon speaks to today had a nugget of an idea and just went for it and learned along the way. Find something that inspires you, and start figuring it out as soon as you can.

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Jon Shanahan

Jon Shanahan is the founder of The Kavalier which is a website and YouTube channel dedicated to helping men look their best and shopping smart when it comes to their clothing.

The YouTube channel has become the go-to for anything in the men’s fashion space and has grown to have over 110k subscribers. He strives to build the confidence of men around the world, to be themselves - a gentleman, who attracts both respect and admiration.

Jon is also the co-founder of Stryx a company that makes men’s makeup products from the ground up. He focuses on educating and helping men look and feel their best at work or at home.