Student business on the razor's edge of success
By Paul Mayne
October 10, 2013
Morgan Nordstrom is a brave man. How many other 19-year-olds do you know shave with a 200-year-old straight razor?
“My grandpa taught me how to shave with one when I was 16, and that’s when I inherited my great-great-grandfather’s straight razors,” Nordstrom said. “They were beautiful things, but they were broken and rusted. So, I polished them up, got new handles and fixed them up in order to keep them.
“I thought being able to use something that’s 200 years old, and that belonged to my family for five generations, was kind of cool.”
While a great story, it doesn’t end there. Others questioned Nordstrom’s obviously different shaving habits, thought it was a cool idea and asked him if he could fix up similar razors they had in their garages and attics.
“I said, ‘Sure, I can fix them up,’ and was able to make a little money while in high school,” he said, “which is kind of how I got into the business.”
Today, the second-year Western Science student has his own business, Modern Edge Razors, selling straight razors and other related products. When he came to Western, Nordstrom found a supplier in Arizona who had thousands of old beat-up razors. He bought a few, began restoring them, and took a chance at seeing if there was any interest.
During first-year, Nordstrom, an Ottawa native, decided to hang back over the Thanksgiving weekend and by the Monday had 14 razors ready to go.
“I decided to put them online and figured, what’s the worst that could happen? I sold out immediately,” he said. “I said, ‘Hey, this is a lot of fun and I’m making money at it, let’s keep doing it.”
Interest in Modern Edge Razors (modernedgerazors.com) increased to the point Nordstrom incorporated this past summer. For a Science student, it was quite the learning curve jumping to the world of online sales.
“I’m not a business student, so I didn’t know what I was doing at first, and whether or not it would be right or wrong. I learned a lot because it’s so far astray from what I’m ever done before,” he said. “I had made enough money when I started up, I really didn’t have to put any of my own money in. I figured I could take this money and pay for a textbook or start up my own company. It’s been spectacular.”
In first few months, he has sold razors in the United States, Canada and around the world. And, ironically, Nordstrom said 90 per cent of his sales are to women, looking to buy a unique gift for the men in their lives.
“They tend to find them attractive, sort of a James Bond feel to it,” he said.
And it didn’t hurt business either when the most recent James Bond flick, Skyfall, featured the use of a straight razor, reportedly increasing online sales of the ‘cut-throat’ blade by a whopping 400 per cent. Nordstrom sold out his first batch less than two months after the movie’s release.
Nordstrom says the average straight razor can be used for three-to-five months before needing to be sharpened, which he also takes care of for his customers.
With suppliers now in the United States, Pakistan, Germany and France, Nordstrom is getting into customizing razors for his customers, everything from blade, type of wood for the handle, strokes, brushes and more. Razors can go anywhere from $100-$1,000.
While the business is fairly new, Nordstrom quickly learned the first thing that comes from running your own company. “It’s only been a few months, but I’ve already found I don’t sleep as much as I used to,” he laughed. “I got so much work, but it’s exciting.
“Every time my grandpa emails me he asks, ‘How’s my business?’ He thinks it’s pretty cool. I get to chat with him about it and he’s an expert at old straight razors, so he’s a great resource for me.”
London’s David E. White Clothier has been another great resource, with a cold call leading to Nordstrom’s first in-store retail venture.
“I, literally, just walked in and said, ‘Hi, my name is Morgan and I make straight razors.’ He said, ‘Hi, I’m David. I own this this store, nice to meet you.’”
The razors are now available at the Richmond Street store,with David E. White products available on Nordstrom’s website. A trade show in Toronto next month may lead to further retail opportunities for Nordstrom.
So, after all this success on the razor’s edge, would he ever use a generic razor?
“I’ve never owned a Bic, or anything, but I went to France this summer and, of course, I couldn’t bring a straight razor in my luggage,” he said. “I had to pack a Gillette, and I couldn’t shave with it. I was dragging it across my face and nothing. Never again.”
8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Off-Campus Advertising Sales:
Chris Amyot, Campus Ad