Zach Groffsky & Taylor Lane

Since launching HELMM in 2017, Zach Groffsky and Taylor Lane have transformed how men buy and wear deodorant. Their stylish applicator, an engraved zinc alloy wrapped in hand-stitched leather, is refillable, which uses less plastic than regular brands. You can set your own online schedule for refills of deodorant or antiperspirant scented with a selection of nature-inspired fragrances. In addition, the safe and modern formulas mean you’re being kind to your pits as well as the earth.

Before launching HELMM, Zach and Taylor were on a pretty conventional path. Both graduated from Duke in 2015, and Taylor went into investment banking at Macquarie Capital, while Zach took the LSAT and went to work for the General Counsel of Soros Fund Management with plans to go to law school. But neither felt true passion about their work, and they started talking about an idea they had years before, while studying in Florence, Italy. A roommate came home with custom cologne from the Old World perfume house, Santa Maria Novella. They loved the personalized idea, and thought it could work well for a product that was more ubiquitous—something like deodorant.

The more they researched, the more they discovered that the deodorant industry was antiquated—full of single-use plastic containers, homogeneous, overpowering scents, and inferior formulas. They decided they could do something different. As busy guys, they also realized that both they and all their friends were always running out of deodorant—a subscription refill was the perfect solution. So began HELMM, and a new path they could feel passionate about.

We met Zach and Taylor on a rainy spring day in Union Square, NYC, and talked colognes, why the personal care industry needs to think more about plastic use, and why you shouldn’t have to choose between comfort and style when it comes to clothes.

When you decided to leave your jobs in law and finance to launch HELMM, what was the reaction of family and friends?

The reaction was overwhelmingly positive, mainly because people believed in the idea. While leaving stable jobs with clear career paths wasn’t normal among our network of family and friends, people were supportive because they recognized the need in the marketplace. If we were trying to create something that people didn’t believe in as much, the reaction might have been different.

They were also supportive for practical purposes. They served as the initial testbed for our formulas, fragrances, and designs. A friend texted us one day about how pungent his scent was, since he had been trialing tens of different formulas and fragrances for us every morning!

Can you speak to your commitment to the environment with what you’re doing at HELMM?

While HELMM started by addressing a need in the marketplace, our primary focus throughout the development process was figuring out how to reduce plastic waste generated by the personal care industry. We’re proud that our refills use 61% less plastic than traditional single-use containers, with the same amount of deodorant or antiperspirant that you’re used to. On top of that, our refills are made of polypropylene and HDPE, two of the most highly recyclable plastics.

We are both big divers, so creating something that was eco-friendly and sustainable was of the utmost importance to us. We’ve seen first hand how single use plastic has negatively affected our planet.

What was the process of deciding on the design of the dispenser, as well as the fragrances available?

For the dispenser design we worked with top craftsmen at Prime Studio, which also designed Harry’s Razors, to create a refillable deodorant container that was luxurious, intuitive, functional, and satisfying. We wanted to create something that was innovative and frictionless in its use, that provided many functional upgrades, which also could sit out on a bathroom counter or bedroom dresser to be shown off.

For the fragrances, we partnered with world-renowned French perfumer, Cecile Hua, to create scents that were unlike any other that the deodorant industry has ever seen. Our fragrances, each hand-crafted by Cecile’s UNESCO-protected process formulated in Grasse, France, are a nod to elements of nature. We wanted to avoid the overpowering, synthetic smell of most traditional deodorants, to function as cologne as well as a deodorant. Cecile loved what we were trying to accomplish and wanted to work with us, even thought we were only a startup.

Who is your typical customer?

We focus on psychometric target audience parameters rather than standard demographic parameters. We’ve found our customers cover all ages, are interested in natural ingredients in their products, prefer traditional fashion over street style, have experience with subscription products, and are looking for affordable luxury products. We also appeal to the adventurer, explorer, and risk-taker: basically, the guy who likes to step outside his comfort zone and do things that typically make you sweat!

What do you each wear to work?

Zach: My typical work outfit is a t-shirt layered with a sweater or jacket. Jeans or chinos typically round it out. Comfort over everything, while still looking professional. Seems like ZACHARY PRELL might be the perfect solution!

Taylor: My outfit depends on what I’m doing that day—if it’s filled with meetings, perhaps I will opt for something a bit more formal. Otherwise, I’m wearing chinos, a Henley, and a super-light cardigan. Now that I’ve tried the Aster pants, I’m convinced they will feature regularly; they are so comfortable I could wear them all day.

Taylor you tried the Raphael shirt, the Aster pant, and the Mattituck reversible jacket. Zach, you tried the Glacier shirt, the Aster pant, and the Oxford jacket. What did you each think, and where would you wear those pieces?

Zach: The Aster pants are the most comfortable I’ve ever worn. I was skeptical at first—I thought they were normal Chinos, but the fabric legitimately feels like a soft Chinese silk. They are equally comfortable and fit in at work, at a bar, at dinner, or even kicking around the house. Can’t recommend them highly enough. The Glacier shirt is great as well. An Aster / Glacier combo is unrivaled in its comfort, and still looks professional. 

Taylor: Loved the Aster pants! So comfortable, and feel like I could sleep in them. Really liked the soft material of the shirt, and the bomber jacket was awesome too. Could definitely see myself wearing them to work, but also out on a date, or out with friends. Great for all occasions.

Shop the Look

Explore Other Stories

  • Ken & Jim Giddon

    As Father’s Day approaches, who better to feature in our Visionaries series than the owners of a successful family business? Ken and Jim Giddon are the brothers behind Rothmans, the independent menswear boutique that operates in NYC, Scarsdale, and Bronxville. In addition to being proud dads (Ken is father to 26-year-old twins Kyle and Amanda, plus 21-year-old Will; Jim has 18-year-old Alexandra and 17-year-old Brooke), the brothers successfully reinvented their grandfather’s discount store, which first opened in 1926 on Union Square from a pushcart on the Lower East Side.

    Read more
  • Sean & Brad Greiner

    The co-founders of Open Air Homes, a high-end rental company based in Southern California, are all about attention to detail, whether it’s the design of their properties, the locally created artwork on the walls, or the eco-friendly touches. Here, the brothers tell us what led to their passion for design and hospitality.

    Read more
  • Steve Spangler

    Steve Spangler’s approach to science has a wow factor that mesmerizes kids and adults alike. With a regular slot on the Ellen Show and a syndicated series, the STEM educator is also a best-selling author, and an inductee to the National Speaker Hall of Fame. He talked to us about making science fun and why he avoids wearing a lab coat on TV.

    Read more