A few weeks ago, I spoke with John Costa from Folsom & Company on the phone. It was a great conversation and since it was my first interview I had done in quite a while, I was a bit nervous but the path we took on it was memorable and I really will not forget how my personal life seemed to mirror his in an unexpected way.
There are many actors who say, “What I really want to do, is direct.” What there aren’t a lot of, are artisans in the Wet Shaving Community who say this. John Costa is one of those rare cases where he is a multi-talented and ambitious student. Currently, he is a student at DePaul University studying film and supporting himself with his aftershave business curiously named “Folsom & Company.”
He was raised in Folsom, CA and this is where the name of his company originates. He comes from a long line of inventors/creative thinkers and mentioned his Grandfather had an ice cream wafer business. His father passed away a year and a half ago. His extended family, according to him are inventive and he always had something in the works, creatively. He said, “I’m not one who is fearful of a lot of things, so when I want to do something, I do it.” Historically, this is very common of creative and innovative thinkers.
When he said he was from California, I let him know I was from Santa Cruz County. I wanted him to know that he was talking to a fellow Californian who had transplanted to Illinois just like him. I felt it was necessary, because in doing that, he would feel much more comfortable talking about his life in California. It is interesting also to note that he is from an old settlers town and I am quite comfortable with that as my Grandparents had a cabin in La Porte, CA where I spent many summers boating on the lakes, just as I imagine he did near his hometown.
When he was still in high school, he worked to be the next Steve Jobs or Bill Gates. This is something that seems to be a theme with young aspiring students, as what is very big there as we all are aware of is the Silicon Valley influence. If you’re any interested in computers in High School, your counselors are likely to suggest a career path that are going to pursue a career in Palo Alto or somewhere in the Bay Area involving development of software or in this case, phone applications. He told me the story of how he started developing applications for iPhones with a couple of friends from his high school days and that really got me interested.
A New Start in Chicago
He ended up enrolling in DePaul University in Chicago, IL to study film 3 years ago. He got interested in shaving with a double edge razor and his first shaving hardware was from the Art of Shaving, but he doesn’t remember exactly when he started. He got more involved in the variety of forums that were available at the time, mainly Reddit’s Wicked Edge and Badger and Blade. He watched a lot of “Wet Tuber” videos on YouTube and cites Christopher Bailey, The Traditional Shaving Evangelist, as one who brought him into the Facebook Wet Shaving groups.
He used a lot of different products at this time and standout products to him were from How To Grow A Moustache (now known as Phoenix Artisan Accoutrements), Barrister & Mann, Fine Accoutrements, he got more and more curious about creating his own aftershave. He reached out to William Carius of Barrister & Mann regarding scents, and he cited William as being of huge assistance of him in researching what he needed to do to begin.
He saw a post by Todd Cerami of Fine Accoutrements in Badger and Blade about a basic formula for aftershave and he bought a kit to get to work on one of his own. I had asked him if he ever had an interest in making soaps at that time and he said that aftershaves seemed more simple to make. Since he lived in a dorm room, he did not have enough space to develop the soaps.
His first attempt at aftershave included essential oils like Bergamot, Lemon, Lavender and Menthol and he ended up using too much of menthol, which burned his face.
So, before I go any further, I want to get at something here. He refused to give up after this. Many, after harming themselves physically would likely throw everything in the trash. This was not the case for him, as there seemed to be a determination to get the recipe right. He continued working on formulas. Once he felt comfortable with a formula, he started passing it to friends for feedback.
To Be Continued