#GEW2015 UoG Alumni Making Waves in NYC - Kent & Bond
Although Benjamin Bond and Kent Santin both got their start in the corporate world, they knew that their personalities and their goals would eventually push them to start something all their own.
Both Ben and Kent graduated from the University of Guelph’s Bachelor of Commerce program (taking marketing and accounting, respectively) in 2012. Chatting with them on a Monday morning, we talked about what it takes to be a young entrepreneur, what you should look for in a co-founder and the most difficult parts of being an entrepreneur.
Their idea to begin an organic grooming products line for men came from looking at the products they both used on a daily basis and wondering ‘what is in this stuff?’. The realization that they were not comfortable or familiar with nearly any of the ingredients in their grooming products led them to create Kent & Bond – a company that uses only organic ingredients to create grooming products that men can feel good about using.
“There wasn’t much in the marketplace, not much for men specifically and definitely not branded for or marketed towards guys. If you know men’s grooming, you know they need to resonate with a brand and feel comfortable with what they’re buying” Bond said of their realization that there was a big gap in the market that Kent & Bond could fill.
Ben and Kent first began the R&D stage of their development. Once they’d settled on the first types of products they wanted in their line (soap and body wash) they began to contact manufacturers, requesting ingredients to test and searching for organic materials. They knew they’d found a manufacturer they could trust when they’d asked for a specific ingredient and they manufacturer refused to use it due to the fact that he could not guarantee it could be organically sourced. After nine months of R&D (a very quick turn around time in the business world) Kent & Bond was ready to launch.
When it comes to going into business with someone or searching for a co-founder, both Ben and Kent agree that the most important things to think about are: trust, ability to communicate openly and having complimentary skill sets. “You want to be partners with someone who is good at what you’re not good at and vices versa” says Ben.
As for the challenges of being an entrepreneur and starting a business Kent and Ben agree that the extreme lows and highs are among the most difficult parts of starting out on your own. Both Ben and Kent were working full time in corporate environments as well as developing Kent & Bond for the better part of a year and say that it was hard some days to remain confident in their ideas especially when they’d sit across the table from people who weren’t. The highs, they say however, are worth it. “There is no comparison for the sense of achievement you feel when starting your own business. Way more than a pat on the back from your boss in a corporate environment could ever give” says Kent.
During their time at UoG, Ben and Kent were involved several programs on campus that provided them with a solid foundation of entrepreneurial knowledge. Kent took Business Consulting (MGMT*4050/4060) and worked with two different clients on consulting projects. He said the experience of planning your own semester and your own project motivated him to go into consulting and to eventually go out on his own. Kent said that being in two CBaSE courses made him feel more confident in himself and in his abilities, and in what he could bring to the workforce. Kent mentions that many people leave university not actually understanding what a career will be like or how you will fit in, but the real experience gained from working with two clients prepared him for "the real world".
Both Ben and Kent also participated in the entrepreneurship capstone elective. “Taking the entrepreneurship elective was the most effective way to learn all about starting a business without actually taking the risk. Most people are deterred from starting a business because they don’t understand all the different pieces that must fit together, the entrepreneurship course teaches you about those”. After beginning to talk about starting a company with Kent, Ben went right back to what he’d learned in Entrepreneurship and realized he had the know how and the motivation to be successful in an entrepreneurial space.
Within the next 3-5 years, Ben and Kent want to see Kent & Bond expanding beyond the United States (they are currently based in New York). “We want to be huge. We want to be the organic men’s grooming products company”. Hustle hard, gentlemen.