If you’re a “Shark Tank” viewer, you might expect Kevin “Mr. Wonderful ”O’Leary to have something snarky to say when presented with the opportunity to invest in makeup for men.
But 2009 Baldwin High School grad Jon Shanahan said the sharks were surprisingly receptive to the pitch he and Stryx co-founder Devir Kahan make in the “Shark Tank” episode that premieres Friday at 8 pm on WTAE-TV.
“We anticipated more pushback,” Shanahan said. “They seemed to really get the category and recognize it was a unique proposition.”
While other cosmetic companies have sold makeup for men before, Shanahan said it’s generally been sold in the women’s cosmetic department, where men rarely visit, or using the same formulation with a “for men” sticker slapped on the packaging.
Stryx products, including a concealer tool, lip balm and bronzing gel, became available at Target stores nationwide earlier this year and they’re located in the shaving aisle.
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Shanahan, who moved from Western Pennsylvania to western Connecticut about a year ago to be closer to the venture capital hub of New York City, didn’t expect to wind up in this line of work when he was in Brad Schulte’s Baldwin High School video production club, filming school dances and athletic events and then selling DVDs so the club could buy new cameras. But Schulte said he’s not surprised to see Shanahan in the spotlight.
“Jon is your ultimate entrepreneur. He was always looking for an angle, ”Schulte said of his former student who he kept in touch with over the years. “I always appreciated his mischievous mind. He’s one of those kids you can either get angry about or sit back and laugh and try to help him. “
Schulte said Shanahan was voted “class clown” and known for hijinks that got him in trouble, from supergluing a teacher’s coffee mugs to her desk to taking his yearbook photo in a wig and giving his name as that of the principal.
After studying information technology, business management and graphic design at LaRoche College, Shanahan helped open the Ross Park Mall Apple store in 2010 and learned about training and sales. Then he worked for Warrendale-based retail technology firm First Insight, traveling the world and managing accounts in Germany, Switzerland and France.
“Through that experience, I had to dress the part, right? I had to dress like a European that was selling very expensive software. And as I started doing that, I was buying nicer clothes, and I couldn’t find YouTube videos about the clothes I was buying, ”Shanahan said. “So it’s like,‘ I’ll make some YouTube videos [about these nicer clothes], because I learned that at Baldwin High School. ‘ And I built up an audience that allowed me to quit that job in 2018 to go full time on YouTube. ”
Shanahan’s YouTube channel, The Kavalier, now has 139,000 subscribers.
The incident that laid the groundwork for the founding of Stryx came on the day Shanahan married his wife.
“I had a breakout on my wedding day and then I later learned my now co-founder had the exact same experience,” Shanahan said. “And the question would really come up: Why do women have 1,000 ways to fix their face and guys are expected to live with it? Why am I not being spoken to by a beauty brand? There’s really nobody filling that gap. “
The male stars of “Shark Tank” related to that.
“Each of the little sharks had mentioned that in covid they all realized for the first time that they didn’t know how to do their own makeup but they had to do it,” Shanahan said. “It became a very personal example for them.”
The Stryx named was inspired by the strix owl. In mythological lore its feathers were used in potions for wisdom and beauty, Shanahan said, noting the brand’s logo is a stylized owl, forgoing the wolf or lion imagery used by other skincare brands that target men.
“Everybody has the story that they stole their mom’s concealer or their girlfriend’s concealer,” Shanahan said. “90% of our customers are just guys who have never bought this stuff before and it’s intriguing enough that they’re open to it.”
Shanahan said concealer for men’s skin requires a different formulation than concealer made for women.
“Men’s skin tends to be thicker, oilier and they have larger pores,” he said. “Also the fact that most men shave every day, there’s a lot more exfoliation happening on the skin so you have to account for that.”
Stryx also targets a unique price point – around $ 20 for most of its products – that’s more expensive that a cosmetic you’ll find at CVS but less than the more high-end Sephora beauty products.
Stryx launched online in 2019 and Shanahan said they applied to be on “Shark Tank” and received a positive reception.
“At one point they told us that they had been looking for a men’s product because there hadn’t been a men’s skincare brand but they’ve had a lot of beauty brands [for women], ”He said. “Anybody that starts a company, you hope to someday get on ‘Shark Tank.’ It’s incredible visibility. ”
And, yes, this “Shark Tank” episode does feature Mt. Lebanon native Mark Cuban.
Shanahan said they stood in front of the sharks for an hour but only eight minutes of that is likely to air so he’s not sure if his conversation with Cuban about Pittsburgh will make the cut. Shanahan shared that he had been teased at Baldwin for using Ax body spray in the locker room.
“He literally told me I wouldn’t have been bullied if I went to Mt. Lebanon, which is where he went to school, ”Shanahan said. “He was very curious about where in Pittsburgh I grew up and we had a whole back-and-forth. It was pretty cool to have that little connection. ”
‘Daniel Tiger’ in Pittsburgh
PBS Kids Daniel Tigers Neighborhood (9:30 am weekdays, WQED-TV), produced by Pittsburgh-based Fred Rogers Productions, debuts three new episodes next week including the May 18th episodes “Disappointed at the Pool / Disappointed at the Farm” that features a live-action interstitial filmed in Pittsburgh.
Shot aboard the Rivers of Steel Explorer ship, a young neighbor learns how the boat works and the names of the rivers from Capt. Ryan ORourke. Together they float past the Carnegie Science Center, Heinz Field and Downtown Pittsburgh.
Amazon’s Prime Video renewed “Upload” for a third season. … NBC renewed “Law & Order” and “Law & Order: Organized Crime” for the 2022-23 TV season.
You can reach TV writer Rob Owen at [email protected] or 412-380-8559. Follow Rob on Twitter or Facebook. Ask TV questions by email or phone. Please include your first name and location.