When you mention the name, Scotch Porter, you can't help but recognize the name for its standout men's grooming and skincare line. When Calvin Quallis decided to add a fragrance line to his ultra-popular brand, we were jumping for joy! Learn the backstory of this uber-successful upstart by millennial, Calvin Quallis in this candid interview. He shares his entrepreneurial advice with us and how his humble beginnings in the kitchen and his barbershop shaped who he is today!
Say hello to Calvin Quallis, the Founder & CEO of Scotch Porter.
Q: When you launched your brand, you called it, Scotch Porter. What does the brand’s name stand for?
The brand name “Scotch Porter,” is a culmination of the things I love. I was a huge Scotch fan once upon a time and Gregory Porter is a musician who has the most amazing voice, of whom I’m also a big fan.
Q: Scotch Porter started in a barbershop, your barbershop actually. Can you tell us more about how Scotch Porter got its start?
Yes, prior to the launch of Scotch Porter I owned a barbershop/salon. While there I noticed that the male customers were not only growing out their beards more, but many of them were struggling with dry and damaged hair in their beards. At the time there weren’t products in the market meant specifically for coily, curly, or dry hair. So I began to research ingredients and started creating a line of products in my home because I realized there was a need. I first started selling the products in the shop, where they rapidly became a hit with our customers. The products were gaining such popularity that people were driving in from neighboring states to buy them. The products that I'm referring to led to the inception of Scotch Porter.
Q: As a millennial, did you develop the brand for millennials, if so, in what ways?
Scotch Porter was not created for a specific generation of men, but instead a particular type of man who exists across generations. The Scotch Porter man is one who understand the importance of self-care. Whether during getting the day started or honoring their #SelfCareSaturday moment with themselves, they choose to keep wellness in their daily mix. Our consumers have embraced how self-care not only provides the grooming benefits needed for healthy hair, skin, and body but also the shift and impact it can have on how they feel about themselves.
Q: Your brand is under 8 years old yet you have a large range of products for skin, hair, beard, and now, fragrance (YAY). We’d love to know how your humble beginnings in your kitchen, formulating products by hand, has grown to the level you are at now. Can you share your thoughts on your growth? Was it all easy and expected?
Launching Scotch Porter and seeing its success, I couldn’t have imagined that Scotch Porter would be in the position that it is in today. The journey in scaling this brand is far from easy and expected, but incredibly worth it. As I reflect on the growth of the brand, I believe that this entire experience has encouraged me to be a bit easier on myself. I think we all suffer from impostor syndrome. The feeling that we may not be as good or smart as the next person. That we somehow may not have what it takes to get to success or the next level. I wish that 5 years ago, I would have been more kind to myself.
Entrepreneurship and/or building something new is difficult, it’s a journey, and it will likely be a struggle. You will fall down, get scrapes, cuts, and burns. Everyone does. This is the recipe for growth. I’m now encouraged and inspired to grow through obstacles and setbacks. Instead of trying to avoid them, I have learned to embrace and grow through them. We can’t stop challenges from appearing in our lives, but we can choose how we respond and choose to learn from them. Challenges may be a temporary hindrance, but if we persevere then we can discover favorable opportunities that wait for us on the other side of the table. And as we get better with this process, we enable ourselves to see optimism in even the toughest situations.
Q: Being an African-American entrepreneur, you intentionally set out to provide access, opportunity and employment to others of color. Please share more about why this is important to you?
Being an African-American entrepreneur is a role that I’ve always viewed as bigger than myself. In fact, as a Black business owner, I feel I have a responsibility to my community. Providing access, opportunity, and employment to people that look like me is extremely intentional. I’d say about 95 to 98 percent of the folks that work with us look like me. We provide opportunity, and we provide what I consider great pay. I remember when I was working for somebody else, feeling like I had to fight to climb the career ladder, the limitations that were put on me had nothing to do with my skill set. This is why when I was starting Scotch Porter, I made it very important to hire people who look like me and give them an opportunity to climb up.
Q: You’ve been named one of the “The Emerging Powerhouses,” in WWD Beauty Inc’s list of The Most Powerful Brands in 2020. Congrats on this amazing accomplishment! What does this mean to you personally?
To be recognized on this scale empowers not just my mission as a founder, but also the mission of Scotch Porter. We are dedicated to not just merely being a company that provides a product, but at the heart of our existence is a commitment to promoting the importance of 360-degree wellness. We were amongst established players like Shea Moisture, MAC, Estée Lauder, and emerging players like Mented Cosmetics and Briogeo. I consider this one of our biggest accomplishments because this recognition is a nod to him-- the Scotch Porter customer-- and that he is special and deserves focus, intentional focus.
Q: You decided to add a fine fragrance line to your brand and we are thrilled to feature it! How did you come to this decision?
The ultimate inspiration behind Scotch Porter’s fragrance launch is to transport people to special moments and times that they find enjoyable. With all that had transpired in 2020 alone, we believed there wasn’t a better time for our customers to find moments to escape, to unwind, to be inspired to take risks, to indulge in self-care, and ultimately find joy in the many treasures of life. To find little moments to escape is so meaningful, especially in the current climate. We believe fragrance has the ability to be the ‘conduit’ to transport and change our moods and feelings, just like a fresh cut has the ability to turn a funky mood around and instill self-confidence.
Q: In the beginning of creating the fine fragrance line, what attributes were most important to you in the final product and why? (Ingredients, packaging, price point/accessibility, aromatic qualities, etc.)
First, what was most important was creating fragrances that were transportive. We launched our fragrance during the pandemic and have always felt that fragrance can be a great mood booster and transport the wearer to different places and spaces that are ideal to them. Second, but equally important is that the collection must smell great and be uniquely different. Finally, our brand is built on being inclusive, affordable and accessible, so our price points should reflect that.
Q: We are featuring Badlands in the July Collection. It’s inspired by Badlands National Park in South Dakota. Can you tell us how this came to be?
Badlands came about during the pandemic as a desire for fresh air and outdoor adventure, inspired by wide open spaces like the majestic 244,00 acres of Badlands National Park in South Dakota, featuring mixed-green prairies and breathtaking rock formations thanks to hundreds of thousands of years of erosion.
Bring the great outdoors in. With Badlands, you can hit pause and take a virtual hike. It’s a grounded, invigorating blend reminiscent of wide-open spaces like the majestic and enduring landscape of Badlands National Park. Aromatic woody and grassy notes of Rocky Mountain juniper and vetiver layer over fresh wooly verbena and oakmoss and accented by meandering wildflowers and crisp grapefruit.
Q: When you decided to add fine fragrance to your line, was the process similar to creating your other products or was it more challenging than you thought it would be?
We had considered launching fragrances for a couple of years prior to the official launch, with the ideation stage of figuring out what they look, smell, and feel like lasting a year before introducing the product to the market. Developing the Scotch Porter fragrance collection was a different experience from creating our beard, hair, and skin products. Because the fragrance category was unfamiliar territory for me, I found it important to team up with expert fragrance designers, Takasago and J&E Sozio to create our four unique scents: Glenwood, The Porter House, Miami Duppy, and Badlands.
Bringing on experts in the space helped alleviate any major challenges I could have encountered had I maneuvered this expansion on my own.
Q: Being an entrepreneur isn’t always easy. Can you share with us some of the highs and lows of it and how you manage to keep pushing along?
The biggest challenge when I started was maneuvering and avoiding the many pitfalls that can leave a business flat-lined. From proper management of your financial books, to building a great team, to addressing operational inefficiencies, to developing effective marketing and sales plans, it can feel very overwhelming at times.
I find simple breathing exercises, getting in some physical exercise from time to time and reminding myself each and every day of all the things that I have to be grateful for, helps tremendously. The one thing that has gotten me through the toughest days has been my daily ritual of reminding myself of all the things that I have to be grateful for. Every morning that I wake, before thinking of all the things that I have to do for the day, I think of all the things that I'm grateful for. It always begins with me being grateful for waking up to a new day, followed by whatever else I'm grateful for, like being able to pick up the phone and call my mom, or something very simple, like enjoying a cup of coffee. It forces me to focus less on what I don't have and find happiness in the simple things that I do have. I read something that Oprah Winfrey said a while ago, that has stuck with me. She said, "I got so focused on the difficulty of the climb that I lost sight of being grateful for simply having a mountain to climb". Perspective is everything.
Q: What do you want someone who wears your fragrance to know about you and your brand?
It is our hope that through the application of any of our Scotch Porter fragrance collection scents, users are inspired to push boundaries and retreat based on their mood, and ultimately understand our commitment to promoting 360-degree wellness through each of our offerings in the beauty category.
Q: What are you most proud of with your fine fragrance line?
I’m most proud that our lineup of four fragrances has really resonated with our customers. We believe fragrance has the ability to be the conduit to transport and change our moods and feelings, just like a fresh cut has the ability to turn a funky mood around, and instill self-confidence. This very belief is what inspired the creation of our It Hits Different eau de parfum collection. With all that has transpired over the last 16 months, there isn’t a better time for our customers to find moments to escape, unwind, be inspired to take risks, indulge in self-care and ultimately find joy in the many treasures of life. Each fragrance profile in the collection embodies these very elements.
Q: Tell us something that most people don’t know about you?
Once upon a time, I had aspirations of being a stage performer, a singer in fact.
Q: Outside of Scotch Porter, what other creative outlets do you have?
Spending time with family, concerts pre-pandemic, and I love traveling.
Q: Where do you consider your happy place?
Q: What is your favorite word?
Q: What is your least favorite word?
Q: What turns you on?
Quiet, peaceful moments
Q: What turns you off?
Q: What’s your favorite note?
Q: What’s your least favorite note?
Q: What are you smelling right now?
Scotch Porter’s other fragrance, Miami Duppy
Q: If you could describe your brand in 3 words, what would they be?
Transformative. Inspiring. Impact.
Q: What’s next for you?
What’s next for both myself and Scotch Porter is to continue the promotion of proper health and wellness practices for men of color. Scotch Porter is in a unique position to continue educating and arming our customers with information and products aligned with internal and external wellness. With this in mind, our focus this year is to ensure that we are increasing our customers’ access to affordable, non-toxic better-for-you grooming and wellness products, widening our reach and continuing to educate and arm our customers with information and products that align with internal and external wellness, while delivering a much more diverse product assortment that adds value to our customer’s lives.
Discover the full line of fragrances we have featured from Scotch Porter HERE.
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Photo credits: Scotch Porter
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