The Penn Social Entrepreneurship Movement (PennSEM) recently invited Erik Kimel, the Director of Brand Activation for Harry’s, to the University of Pennsylvania to talk about his experiences starting his own social enterprise in high school Peer2Peer, his current role in Harry’s and their up and coming initiative, “H’University”.
The Peer2Peer Days
With a desire to find a way to connect students with each other, and at the same time create value for both himself and his consumers, Kimel just one day decided to post a $50 ad on a newspaper to see if anyone needed a tutor. After spending time and really working with his first tutee, word spread around, and the Peer2Peer tutoring service was born during the start of Kimel’s senior year in high school.
As he entered university, Kimel took advantage of every opportunity at the NYU Stern School of Business to grow Peer2Peer. What he learned in his marketing and finance classes, he would directly apply to Peer2Peer. He even ended up entering Peer2Peer in an NYU business plan competition during his freshman year.
“We took four years to really grow one geographical area and really grow it right. We asked how we could get the best possible experience not only for the kids we were tutoring but also for their parents who were paying for our service.”
Before he knew it, Peer2Peer had grown to a thousand people, and he had a sustainable business after he graduated. After a few more years of growth, Kimel started going to investors and ultimately Peer2Peer was acquired. “It was hard letting go of my baby,” says Kimel, but it was a positive outcome and experience to have at a young age.
Preparing you for what’s next
Kimel was just enjoying and going around when Jeff Raider, the co-founder of Warby Parker contacted him and invited him to get on board for his new startup, Harry’s, which offers cost-efficient razor blades through an online platform.
Given the team’s desire to integrate a social impact aspect as well, the team thought of doing something similar to the one for one model of Warby Parker, only to realize that it just didn’t make sense with razors. And so they decided to go for the “One Plus One” model instead.
Give a shave, the One Plus One Model
The way the One Plus One model works is that Harrys not only gives 1% of their profit to a non-profit organization but they also require their each employee to give 1% of their time to skills based volunteering for non-profits.
According to Kimel, “For instance, our entire team, spent a day in October hacking a problem our non-profit partner, City Year, faces to recruit more male corps members. The outcome was a mobile information capture app for recruiting events called Corps Connect.”
He also added, “A lot of people join a company because they want to do good in the world. This is why we make sure Harry’s has a real meaningful social impact as part of the business.”
More than just the One Plus One model, Harry’s also recently launched H’University, which aims to teach skills to students that aren’t taught in class. They’ve gathered thought leaders ranging from non-profit leaders and entrepreneurs to CEOs and professors. Moreover, the students who complete the challenges in the course will be given a chance to interview with partner companies of H’University. Best of all, this is all free.
“It’s powerful to think outside of the box. Creating programs that require a lot of effort isn’t easy. But H’University falls into the mission of Harry’s, which is to “prepare you for what’s next.”
Asked what advice he can give to aspiring entrepreneurs, Erik answered, “Talk to as many people as possible. Learn the skill of active listening. It’s hard to listen to criticism but you have to take it. Then throw up a landing page, pay for ads, have people sign up on email and see what they think.”