Maker: Harry’s Razors

Andy Katz-Mayfield, MBA ’11, liked these German razor blades so much, he bought the factory.

October 07, 2021

It was October of 2011. I went to a drug store to buy some replacement razor blades. There was a package that had a picture of a razor blade flying over the moon. I was like, I just want a product that works that is affordable and easy to access, and I know you’re just trying to sell me on this futuristic imagery so you can charge me twenty bucks for four razor blades.

Editor’s Note

“Maker” is an ongoing series in Stanford Business magazine that uses an annotated photo to tell the story of a manufacturing business overseen by a Stanford GSB alum.

Andy Katz-Mayfield, MBA ’11, is the cofounder and CEO of Harry’s, Inc.

My business partner Jeff had helped start Warby Parker, which was founded out of a similar frustration of overpaying for prescription eyewear. We got excited about the idea of leveraging some of that approach toward shaving. We assumed that the “make a product” piece was going to be simple. As it turns out, making razor blades is very, very difficult. You can’t control the quality if you don’t control manufacturing.

We stumbled upon this razor blade manufacturer in Germany that had been around for nearly 100 years. The factory is in a town called Eisfeld — “Ice Field” — in a state called Thuringia, which is part of former East Germany. In some ways what enabled it to be an undiscovered diamond in the rough for so long is that it’s not near a major city.

Quote
We assumed that the “make a product” piece was going to be simple. As it turns out, making razor blades is very, very difficult.

We wound up buying the factory 10 months after we launched. It’s now a much bigger operation than when we bought it back in 2014. We’ve increased capacity output by five times. Over 600 people work there today.

There are guys who work on these machines who have been there for 30 or 40 years. They have so much accumulated experience that even if you had unlimited capital, and the most modern machinery in the world, you could never replicate what they’re doing. I find it inspiring to watch them. They’re the best in the world at what they do.
— Told to Dave Gilson

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