- Annelise Hillmann and Nick Bunn are the cofounders of the men’s grooming company Frontman.
- In January, the company closed a $1.2 million seed round led by venture firm Recharge Capital.
- This is part of Insider’s series “Star, Rising” highlighting early entrepreneurs.
Age: 23 and 24, respectively
Location: Brooklyn, New York
Business: A men’s skin-care and cosmetic company.
Backstory: As a teenager, Annelise Hillmann remembers a plethora of skin-care and makeup options available to help treat and hide her breakouts. Her friend Nick Bunn had a different experience: There weren’t many educational beauty blogs for men to peruse when he was growing up, and he often found no immediate options to help his skin-care issues, he recalled.
“Together we realized the gender grooming gap between men and women,” Hillmann told Insider. In January 2021, Hillmann and Bunn launched the company Frontman, which provides cosmetic and skin-care products for men. Their mission is to “create this generation’s go-to grooming brand that solves annoying pain points for guys.”
Last October, its first product, a concealer to cover and treat acne, won the Esquire Grooming Award, which annually taps the best products for men. Past winners include hair brand Briogeo, skin brand Peter Thomas Roth, and even Old Spice.
Bunn says it’s an excellent time to enter the global men’s-personal-care space, which was valued at $30.8 billion in 2021 by research database Grand View Research. Additionally, Generation Z is redefining the tropes that once defined masculinity — such as not wearing makeup or implementing a skin-care routine — as more young men seek to exist in a world without judgment or stereotypes, he added.
“We have good winds blowing in our direction to help us shift the narrative around what products can be for men and what culture can be for them, too,” Bunn said.
Growth: Frontman closed a $1.2 million seed round in January led by the venture firm, Recharge Capital. Other investors included Stila Cosmetics founder Jeanine Lobell and actor Nargis Fakhri, who has 6.9 million followers on Instagram. It released five new products this year, including an ingrown-hair remover, a razor-burn reliever, and sunscreen. Meanwhile, on TikTok, the company’s hashtag has amassed 93.1 million views.
The company booked six figures in lifetime sales through April 2022, by selling on its website and Amazon, which Insider confirmed with documentation. This year, the founders expect to make $1 million in revenue by entering brick-and-mortar retailers and expanding product offerings on its website.
Before Frontman: Bunn and Hillmann attended Harvard University and launched Frontman while studying there. Bunn graduated in 2019 and briefly worked for Anheuser-Busch before leaving to help run Frontman. Hillmann operated a college advertising agency before graduating in 2020 to work at Frontman full time.
Challenges: Learning how to run a direct-to-consumer retail company in college was difficult since the cofounders had to learn the nuances of manufacturing, credit lines, order quantities, and international logistics, Hillmann said.
Business advice: “If you see something in the world that needs to change, don’t wait for someone else to do it,” Hillmann said. “Taking that first leap can be the hardest step, but it’s just one of the many challenges you’ll face on the founder journey.”
Business mentor: The founders count Lobell as a mentor and said she stressed the importance of creating a good product and putting consumers first.
“It’s about what guys are looking for in terms of product formulation and marketing,” Bunn said.
Why now is the best time to start a business: “The pandemic has forced us to learn how to adapt, and adaptation is a vital skill for a founder,” Hillmann said. “If you’ve been able to roll with the punches and remain sane, you’re capable of starting something new.”
On hiring: Right now, the company has 10 full-time employees and plans to hire at least four more by end of this year.
On managing burnout: Bunn and Hillmann turn to exercise to help decompress. Bunn likes to play water polo and Hillmann practices yoga every day.
“We realized burnout is the number-one risk to startup success,” Hillmann said. “We actively encourage our team to take an unlimited vacation and mental-health days.”