Chris Salgardo has the story of a career path that I never tire of sharing—a beauty industry veteran that started on the retail floor, moving up the corporate ladder to the corner office. He took it one step further, walking away from his post as president of Kiehl's to follow his entrepreneurial dreams.
In his next act as founder, Salgardo wants to be a face men can trust with their skincare, building a future where men can freely talk about their needs and find common ground that bonds them with one another and encourages them to be their best. With a content platform, The Majestic Man, and Atwater, a men's skincare brand, Salgardo shuns stereotypical masculine marketing, leaning into educating consumers.
Salgardo has nearly 100,000 Instagram followers, an influencer in his own right, but his strategy for building Atwater uses old-school tactics grounded in making what exists work. He's launching Atwater with a Nordstrom exclusive supported by a series of public appearances, building the brand one interaction at a time.
You stepped away from the beauty industry at what many would have considered the height of your career when you left your position as president of Kiehl's in 2017. What was the impetus for that decision?
I took a barometer reading of my life so far and knew if I stayed on my current trajectory, I'd be heading to retirement and may be too old to pivot to something new once I hit that point. I decided to organize myself, made a list of my biggest dreams, and went to work. I knew I needed to step away to make these dreams a reality. I couldn't be president of Kiehl's forever, so I closed that chapter in order for another to begin.
After three decades of successfully climbing the big beauty corporate ladder, what made you decide to throw your hat into the start-up world?
Temporary insanity. I'm obviously kidding when I say that, but being an entrepreneur is next-level business management and incredibly stressful. Creating this skincare company, Atwater, was a lifelong dream, and I knew exactly what I wanted it to be. I knew if I wanted it to come to life, I'd have to create it. Even though this has been one of the most challenging journeys of my life, it has also been the most rewarding. I can't wait to be able to share my story with other entrepreneurs as a mentor and to share what I've learned. There is room for all of us to be successful.
There has been chatter about the men's category "exploding" for as long as I can remember, but it has never quite happened. What makes you think now is the time?
I know … I've heard that same chatter. I think all indicators point to the fact that men are becoming increasingly more aware of their skin and wanting to take care of it. I think beyond great products, which are core to his purchasing decision, he also wants a trusted resource to answer his questions. I believe Atwater can serve both of those purposes. I would also challenge the retail community to think differently about men and give them the position and marketing fuel they deserve. When we are relegated to the back of the department on two shelves, it doesn't look very important, so why would men pay more attention? If we get this right, we can all win. Men are ready to spend—just give them a good reason (and products) for why he should.