If you’re in the market for an incredibly quality razor that also happens to be breaking down the gendered barriers in business, let me introduce you to Billie. As a female-first razor brand, Billie is dedicated to creating their product designs, branding and more through the lens of the female gaze, rather than the male. The women’s shaving and body brand was birthed in reaction to the pink tax that has plagued the male-dominated shaving industry, among several other industries. Today, Billie has changed the game for women everywhere, whether it’s through providing affordable, quality products that measure up to the male counterparts, or through their impactful initiatives like Project Body Hair.
We chatted with Billie’s co-founder Georgina Gooley, an advertising industry mogul and a steadfast pink tax opponent, about the creation and growth of the phenomenon that is Billie. Here’s why she’s so passionate about working against the pink tax and what she recommends for any woman entrepreneur who may be jumping into a historically male-dominated industry.
HC: How did you get involved in this industry? Is this something you saw yourself getting into?
Georgina Gooley (GG): My background is in branding and marketing, so I’ve always been very interested in communications, building relationships, and why some companies or some brands seem to take off with their audiences and how some seem to fall flat. I was interested in how a company would build a relationship with their audience, and the psychology of that. I chose to study media and communications when I was in college. I’m originally from Australia, so I did college there. Right after college, I went into advertising — I worked at a number of advertising agencies in Sydney, and then I moved to one in New York, then one in Portland, Oregon. I worked for 9 years in the advertising industry, and crossed a number of different brands and a number of different categories like fashion, consumer products and sustainability, along with brands that targeted both men and women. I loved the creative process of how a brand could create a connection with their audience — it’s always been a passion of mine.
When I met my co-founder, we had been seeing men’s companies in the shaving category giving men a more affordable, overall better shaving experience. It was all targeted towards men. While I was still in advertising, I was very aware of the pink tax. I was paying attention — probably more than most — with what companies were doing with their audiences. I knew that razor companies were charging women more for women’s razors than they were for men, which is outrageous. That’s how I found out about the concept of the pink tax. In my everyday life, I would buy men’s razors, purely out of principle because I didn’t want to give companies that were treating me unfairly my money. I saw these men’s razor startups popping up and began wondering why that wasn’t being addressed for women. Not only were we being charged for expensive razors, but they were even more expensive than the expensive men’s razors.
My co-founder and I decided to do something about it. We wanted to create a female-first shaving brand since this industry is dominated by men’s brands. If you take a look at a lot of these women’s razors that come out of this category, they’re all spun out of men’s brands. We were excited to create a company that was, first and foremost, for women. Everything from the way the products are created to the way we want to represent women in our communication, all while also addressing the pink tax problem. When we set out to price our product, it was really simple: what are the prices of the affordable men’s products? That’s what we needed to price ours at. That was really the genesis of Billie — we got together, worked on building a company to launch, and then we launched in September of 2017.
HC: On the note of the pink tax, Billie tackles that problem head-first. Why was this important to you, at this time in 2017, to make that a forefront of the company?
GG: The fact that most women’s razor companies come out of men’s companies could be seen in a number of different ways. Take, for example, how they represent women: a woman in a white bikini with the perfect body. The products were all bright pink and bright purple. You could tell that a lot of decisions that were being made by men. And if they could make more money out of it, they would. Those were things that we felt strongly about. We wanted to create a company that I would want to buy from myself.
The whole concept of the pink tax is completely absurd and totally offensive. It’s not just razors, but in many categories — fashion, dry cleaning — my blouse, which has less fabric than my husband’s shirt, costs more to dry clean. We wanted to make sure we were pricing fairly and that we were celebrating women in all of their diversity. We wanted the products we were delivering to be designed for the way that women shave, which can be different than the way men shave (we shave in the shower). All of those nuances needed to be reflected in how the product was designed.
HC: Billie’s branding is so distinct and resonates so well with the Millennial and Gen-Z audience. What’s the inspiration behind the branding and messaging? Why do you think it resonates so well with the audience?
GG: We created a company that we would be proud to share with our friends and family and that we ourselves would be proud to buy. What kind of company would you like to buy from? What would you want the products to look like? They were personal choices that we ended up making and then putting out there in the world. We created something that we genuinely liked ourselves and were proud of. You’re putting yourself out there a bit and you’re hoping that what you put out as an important message is an important message to others as well. It came from a place of “this is important to us, and we like this.” We wanted to share that with people.
HC: Working in what is a male-dominated industry, what would you say were some of the biggest challenges that you faced in starting the brand or since launching? How did you and the company overcome these challenges?
GG: Because it was male-dominated, it was almost easier to create something that felt different and fresh. We could do what we thought was the right move because everything else out there we didn’t find inspiring. For us, there was no bar. We had a blank canvas. It was quite liberating not having someone to compare us to and to start fresh. There were no rules because all the old rules were irrelevant. They weren’t geared to what women cared about today. For us, we’ve always been good about talking to that female audience and talking about bodies. Everything we do is through the female gaze, whenever we’re creating videos, photos, or whatever it may be. Even if the woman was wearing a bathing suit or shorts, it’s never shot in a way that is coming from the male gaze. It’s all from the female gaze. No one is ever sexualized, even if she is showing skin — it’s a celebration and it’s never “I’m doing this so I look sexy for someone.” Taking that gaze back has been really liberating.
When we talk about things like body hair and we show things like body hair, I think that’s what got the biggest reactions from men. When we put content out there, some men are supportive, but we also see negative commentary from men who want women to look a certain way. Putting that taboo out there makes them uncomfortable. What’s nice about social media is that everyone has a voice and a lot of women come into that forum and give those men their two cents about what their opinion is.
HC: Do you have any words of wisdom that you’ve found valuable or you’d like to share to our readers?
GG: I’ve always been very fortunate to have very strong female bosses that I’ve had lovely relationships with. One of my bosses had really nice advice for me — in the advertising world, you can deal with a lot of big characters and you can get lost. I remember when I was a junior and trying to navigate the industry, she pulled me aside and told me, “you don’t have to be the loudest in the room, but you have to make sure that you are heard.” That always stayed with me and made me realize that you don’t need to be loud to be heard, or be more extroverted if you are introverted. I think it’s important that you’re never invisible — all the thoughts and ideas you have somehow get heard. I think it’s really about finding your style and making sure that whatever you bring to the table, people recognize that as well.
HC: Do you have any advice that you’d give to a 20-something that wants to build a brand in a male-dominated industry like this?
GG: What’s important is to crystalize why you’re creating something and really believe in it. If you know why you’re doing it, and you really believe in it, that carries you through the hard times which will be inevitable when you’re building a business. There are obviously great highs, but there are great lows. You’re at the beginning trying to move mountains with very little resources. You’ve got very little time and very little money — it’s tough. It can feel like an actual battle. But if you know why you’re doing it and you have the conviction, that’ll carry you through and be your north star. You’re working towards that versus the day to day struggles.