University Park, Pennsylvania — Pennsylvania State University engineering graduate Tyler Tracy took a passion for cutting hair during his senior year of high school and kept it cut throughout college. However, he consistently struggled to organize his tools.
“Especially with men’s haircuts, with so many tools going back and forth, it starts to create a lot of confusion,” Tracy said. I started thinking that it would really help me to organize.”
Around the same time, Tracy also became interested in the social media barber industry. It was there that he realized that his interest in fashion overlapped heavily with the industry.
“All the barber’s tools were very basic, and many things hadn’t changed in a long time,” Tracy said. “So I decided to take the most frequently used tools and give them a place to live and make that place rooted in the designer’s fashion.”
Tracy launched barberware startup SLCKR in January 2021 with co-founder and Penn State University alum Ben Johnson. The company’s flagship product, The Rig, uses a fashionably designed wearable rig to help barbers keep their stations clean and organized by keeping their most frequently used tools close to their chest. will do so.
Tracy and Johnson met during their sophomore and senior years at Penn State University. A liberal arts college major in economics and passionate about business, Johnson knew there was something special about the barber industry.
“I grew up going to barbershops and spent much of my youth talking to barbers,” Johnson said. “When Tyler mentioned an idea that was different from the others, I knew he was someone I wanted to work with.”
Johnson was working in business development in his first year out of college when Tracy approached him with the first idea for a rig.
Two years later, SLCKR closed in 2022 with over $140,000 in sales. This was accomplished while Tracy had a part-time job and Johnson had a full-time job. He also has over 1,000 Rig users in 13 countries.
Tracy began developing her business ideas through a business management class with Janet Miller as part of her Entrepreneurship and Innovation (ENTI) minor at Penn State University. Miller, Associate Director of the Farrell Center for Corporate Innovation and Entrepreneurship, encouraged him to apply for Invent Penn State’s Summer Founders Program. A non-commercial idea for the summer.
“Summer Founders has been great for us,” says Johnson. They’re also very experienced founders, so they were great for bouncing ideas around. ”
Applications for the Summer Founders Program 2023 will open on February 6th.
Tracy added that the $15,000 scholarship significantly reduces the risk of first leaps for college startups. He said he can focus full-time on seeing what it’s like to go all out in business without worrying about needing an internship or summer job to cover living expenses.
“One of the goals of the Summer Founders Program is to ‘light the fire’ for student startups.The number of motivated and hardworking students can really take a business to the next level.”
This year, to make their products more accessible to the large barber market, the rig will be available for purchase overseas in the UK, Canada and Puerto Rico.
SLCKR continues to release new color options for The Rig and launches additional wearable accessories, such as hairstick repellent on shop t-shirts, to expand customer reach. The team hopes to move to a new studio location in Philadelphia so they can create content for their website and social media channels, develop new products, and test physical retail waters. .
“My advice to Penn State students looking to start a business is to just get started,” Tracy said. “It’s easy to come up with a great idea, but it’s hard to actually execute it. I was able to raise $20,000 in six months to work on a business idea as a student. This is insane.” Penn State University has an incredible ecosystem for entrepreneurship, so get started literally and talk to the people you have access to.”
Tyler and Ben said that students interested in connecting can be reached at email@example.com.
About the Summer Founders Program
The Summer Founders Program is a signature program of the Invent Penn State initiative and is offered in partnership with the Happy Valley LaunchBox presented by PNC Bank. Startup funding is made possible through donations of successful alumni entrepreneurs interested in supporting new student ventures. For more information on how to support Penn State student startups through charitable donations, please contact her Director of Strategic Initiatives for University Development, Heather Winfield at firstname.lastname@example.org.