In 2014 Eric Steckling launched Brio, a Michigan-based direct-to-consumer seller of beard trimmers. In 2022 the company acquired Ollie, a subscription-based provider of teeth whiteners.

The brands are seemingly complementary. Both sell grooming products. But merging them was challenging. They now, again, function separately, having been combined post-acquisition.

In our recent conversation, Steckling addressed launching Brio, acquiring Ollie, and lessons learned along the way. The entire audio of our discussion is embedded below. The transcript is edited for clarity and length.

Eric Bandholz: Tell us what you do.

Eric Steckling:  I run two direct-to-consumer businesses. Our core brand is called Brio. We make grooming tools for men, namely a beard trimmer. Ollie is an oral care company that started as a subscription-based teeth whitening strip. We acquired that brand in 2022 and then rolled all of our toothbrush stuff into it. Since then, we’ve developed our own toothpaste and related products.

Initially after the acquisition we ran both brands from Brio’s site. But we realized it made sense to separate them, with the oral-care content on one site and the trimming and grooming items on another.

Ollie was on its own when we bought it. I made some missteps in integrating it with our business. We switched subscription platforms twice and lost many subscribers. We merged it with Brio, but now it’s on its own.

On the Brio side, we can acquire customers profitably from the first sale, but beard trimmers last for years. We have to acquire new customers constantly.

Ollie is the opposite. Getting folks to buy an electric toothbrush is tough. But they come back and purchase brush heads for years.

Bandholz: You’re in a competitive space. How do you stand out?

Steckling: My perspective has changed after 10 years. We can stand out because the big brands have made terrible products in the last 15 years, not necessarily on the high-end, but…

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