Maria Ho of Blackwood For Men: Elevating the Essence of the Modern Man

December 03, 2020
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Tell us about your business/company or hustle. What do you do, what do you specialize in, what are you known for, etc. What are you most proud of as a company? What sets you apart from others?

We had the idea for creating a line of premium men’s grooming products 6 years ago when we saw an increased interest and need for personal care from young, professional men in America. We spent the first two years doing market research, developing new formulas with our R&D team in Japan, coming up with a brand name and going through the trademark registration, and designing sustainable packaging. Our products are cruelty-free, paraben-free, phthalate-free and ocean-safe; they are perfect for cleaning, restoring, and protecting men’s skin and hair. Each formula is made in Japan with an emphasis on Asian botanicals (Swertia Japonica, Tsubaki Oil, and Tanakura Clay) that are not typically found in men’s products today.

As a small and modest company, you need to be able to fill multiple roles. My role has always encompassed several areas – everything from product development to branding to legal to media partnerships to customer service.

I’m so proud of our team and our efforts to bridge cultures. We’re so happy to have been recognized and received several trade and consumer awards: Beauty ID 2017, Readers’ Choice 2018, and Best Shampoo 2019. 

However, our proudest moments are when we are able to give back to the community. We recently donated 10,000 PPEs during this on-going pandemic to hundreds of hospitals, donated our products and proceeds from sales to veterans, local sports leagues, and educators within our local communities. In addition, proceeds from every HydroBlast Moisturizing Shampoo sale goes towards building Clean Water projects for locals in Ghana.

Can you briefly walk us through your story – how you got started and how you got to where you are today. You can include as little or as much detail as you’d like.

 I grew up in a bi-coastal, multilingual family. We spent a lot of time traveling between East and West, moving between San Francisco, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Los Angeles. From this, I became very familiar with the differences, but also similarities, between societies. I’ve always been a huge fan of Asian beauty products; and in 2014, Asian beauty products were already becoming popular in the U.S. among women. However, we saw a big opportunity to bring Asian beauty products to men in the US as that segment of the market was still untapped and underserved. We wanted to help bring the premium quality and sleek style of Japanese grooming products to men in the US at an accessible price.

It was a difficult process and it took us years of research and working with some of the top beauty supplies in Japan. We wanted to target a modest price point without compromising the quality of the ingredients we use. We officially launched in the summer of 2016 and debuted a head-to-toe line of men’s hair and skincare products. We debuted at one of the industry’s biggest trade shows, Cosmoprof in Las Vegas, and got amazing responses. Everyone loved the products — from the scents to the aesthetic of the bottles.

We are constantly developing new products and finding better ways to deliver high quality beauty products to more men, so they can know what they have been missing out on!

But of course that was just the beginning. We are now constantly developing new products and finding better ways to deliver high quality beauty products to more men, so they can know what they have been missing out on!


What specific obstacles or challenges have you faced while on your journey? What were they and how have you overcome them?

There was definitely a learning curve to cracking the men’s skincare market when you’re on a limited “indie” budget. Men’s standards of self-care and appearance — as well as the concept of masculinity itself — are rapidly advancing. That creates an opportunity for us, but also a challenge to keep up. We have to listen and understand young men about what they want, but also be ready to educate them about what they need and why they need it. Throw in a trade war and a pandemic, and you’ve got a situation that really forces you to stay nimble and be open to trying new things.

We’ve been working hard to figure out our best marketing channels and the right retail partners, and how to focus and refine our messaging so that we can reach more of the men who are ready for us, as efficiently and effectively as possible. We have become a trusted resource for men on social media and online. In fact, I’ve spent a lot of time personally answering questions through our social media and customer service outlets. I’ve learned more about men’s hairstyles, skin concerns, and grooming needs than many men themselves will probably ever know!

What quality or characteristic of yours do you feel is most important to you as an entrepreneur? Why?

I think it’s being dynamic. As a founder, you have to fulfill multiple roles. You need to be resourceful and creative with finding solutions to a wide variety of issues that can crop up quickly and unexpectedly. And you have to find connections between things that sometimes seem different or even unrelated among all the chaos with so many things happening at once. With the way I grew up, traveling between East and West, I feel like I’ve sort of been doing that my whole life. Now I’m just extending that to our business.

How has AHN contributed to your journey? Who have you met along the way? What problems has AHN helped solve for you?

Asian Hustle Network has already become a welcome source of insight, strength and community for us! We’ve had the privilege of meeting some of the AHN team and other founders in the network. It has been invaluable to learn and share stories, triumphs and struggles of being an entrepreneur with them. I’m also already seeing AHN leading to new exposure and opportunities for Blackwood For Men. In fact, if you’re reading this now, go check out and use AHN25 to get 25% off! Get some! (It’s all about that Hustle, right? 😉

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