Former MBA student's company delivers on men's grooming

Former Wharton MBA student Krishna Gullapalli launched Urban Cargo along with two others to sell customized, premium supplies

· February 26, 2012, 10:58 pm   ·  Updated February 27, 2012, 11:15 pm

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It all started with a problem. Men had nowhere to find premium grooming products and were unsure of where and what to buy for both skin and hair care. That is, until Urban Cargo came along.

“It’s the next big frontier,” said Michael Sin, co-founder of Urban Cargo along with Jennifer Lucy and former Wharton MBA student Krishna Gullapalli.

For $12 per month, Urban Cargo sends men customized packages of premium grooming products such as shaving creams, face washes and men’s hair-thickening shampoo.

Customers can experiment with these products over the course of a month and decide what specific products work best for them. When they find their desired product of choice, they purchase the full-sized product directly from urbancargo.com.

The three co-founders realized men’s grooming is a rapidly growing industry and launched Urban Cargo officially in April 2011.

“[The business model] is an absolute no brainer … it works because it is in high demand as well as a big problem,” said Marketing lecturer Patrick Fitzgerald, a mentor to Gullapalli.

“We make it very easy for men because we know that they don’t have a lot of time or patience to find [the products] for themselves,” said Gullapalli. “There are so many empty promises out there and men don’t know where to start.”

Fitzgerald added that Urban Cargo helps men who normally don’t like to shop or don’t know what to buy. “We are very prone to walking into CVS and buying what’s on the shelf and getting annoyed when what’s off the shelf doesn’t work,” he said.

Men care about convenience. “There comes a point in time when they are looking for something new and want to compare it all,” said Lucy. “[Urban Cargo] identifies the best brands and products and makes sure [it] can get that to men.”

Lucy, Gullapalli and Sin all met when they worked at Coach. They all worked in different departments, but had a firm perspective on men’s grooming. Together they conceptualized Urban Cargo using a similar idea to Wine of the Month Club subscriptions.

“It got to the point when we knew we had something real here … we needed to make the jump,” said Sin.

“I’m not the typical ‘high fashion’ guy,” said Mark Campbell, a joint JD/MBA student and Urban Cargo customer, “so after [my] Urban Cargo package arrived with high-end Malin Goetz shampoo and conditioner, my wife sent me a text wondering if I was the same person she’d married,” he said. “I actually think Urban Cargo is really good for people like me who might be willing to selectively go a bit higher end than CVS, but have no idea what is out there.”

One of Urban Cargo’s challenges is educating men about the service. “Men are stubborn,” Fitzgerald said. “How do you educate them, make it easy for them, what’s a way to show them how it works?”

Lucy said she and Gullapalli always wanted to launch a start-up. Lucy and Sin began working on Urban Cargo full-time in October. Gullapalli joined the team full-time in January after completing her first semester in the Wharton MBA program.

“[Entrepreneurship], without a doubt, is not for everyone,” said Fitzgerald. “[It] is not to be taken lightly because there are more failures than successes.”

He made it clear that he is very proud of Gullapalli, but this is not something he would encourage all his students to do because the chance of failure is so high.

According to Fitzgerald, Gullapalli has a lot of experience with small businesses and start-ups. “She knows what to do, what to look out for, how to get off the ground and what the problems are.”

Fitzgerald says he has faith in Urban Cargo’s future. “[It’s] the first in its field and hopefully it will be the best at targeting exclusively to men,” he said.

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