Shoutout Colorado Interview: Meet Boone Whiteside | Co-Founder & CEO of Highland
Our co-founder and CEO, Boone had the pleasure of getting to share about the origins of Highland, the early success of our flagship product, and his entrepreneurial journey (so far) with Shoutout Colorado. You can read the full interview here! 👇
Out of convenience, we've also included the interview in its entirety here 👇
Hi Boone, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
While in college at CU Boulder, and probably caring a little bit too much about what my hair looked like, I used a wide variety of hair products off the shelf at barbershops, salons, and grocery stores… but regardless of if they were high-end or cheap “get the job done” products, they all had the same issues in common.
They always came packaged in single-use plastics and they all had lengthy and gnarly ingredient lists which, upon further investigation, presented major health risks including scalp conditions, hormone disruption, and even cancer… wtf???
Looking for a high-performing and professional quality alternative that gave a shit about the health of the end-user and the health of our home planet, I wasn’t able to find anything that worked. I guess we were destined to continue sacrificing our health and sustainable values just so our hair could look decent?
So, like any normal person would’ve done, I began researching natural and plant-derived ingredients that could replace the toxic and lab-formulated compounds found in hair products. I then took it a step further and began ordering these natural ingredients in bulk to our Denver apartment and started combining them in a pot on our stove, searching for a recipe that worked for my hair health and styling goals. This trial and error process went on for a couple of years, and I was lucky to have friends who tried all of my wild hair concoctions as they incrementally improved…
During the pandemic, and after having a hair product formula that we believed in, my partners and I launched our Glacial Clay Pomade – a 100% natural and plant-based daily-use hair clay pomade styling product that actively nourished hair and scalp health. At first, we had mostly online sales from friends and family and partnered up with a couple of local barbershops… fast-forward 2 years, and our product is sold all over the country in salons, barbershops, boutiques, and online. We’ve been written about in GQ, Esquire, Gear Patrol, and more — and we’re thrilled to be actively working on new industry-changing hair products that will be released soon… You can find our natural hair clay pomade styling product on our website or on Amazon using the links below.
Highland - Glacial Clay Pomade (natural hair clay pomade styling product)
Amazon - Glacial Clay Pomade (natural hair clay pomade styling product)
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, tell us more!
Q: What is the most important factor behind your success / success of your brand?
A: I think the biggest factor behind Highland’s early success has been remaining true to who we are… being genuine with everything we do and put out into the world. One of the most beautiful things about running your own brand is that you get to do business your way, rather than follow the formulas and guidelines of those who have come before.
It’s very easy to fall into the trap of comparison and lose what makes you unique along the way. By looking at what other brands are doing to be “successful” and becoming too focused on creating products and content that other people will like, you’re taking away the very thing that allowed you to get a brand and business off the ground – you.
With our Glacial Clay Pomade, we didn’t think about how to create something that will have the widest appeal or deepest market penetration. We started by seeking to create something that we loved and that worked for us better than anything we’d used before, and I think that’s why the product has been so well received – even earning press with the likes of GQ, Esquire, and more.
In this way, I look at our business as an art form more than a science. At Highland, we’re striving to push ourselves to put energy into projects that resonate with us, first and foremost. Be it a social media post or ideating on the next product launch, it has to be something that we love and are proud to be putting out into the world. It may not be much of a formula, but I believe this is the best way to make creations that will resonate with others too.
Q: How does your business help the community or the world?
A: Highland helps our community by providing a healthier and more sustainable alternative to the big-name brands that dominate our industry today. And – If we prove to be successful, Highland will help the world by being a leader in the industry-wide shift to prioritize the use of healthier products and sustainable business practices. This is the disruption we seek to create.
Q: Why did you pursue an artistic or creative career?
A: Working on someone else’s dream instead of my own seemed like a sure-fire recipe for a life of being unfulfilled and unhappy.
Something that used to scare the sh*t out of me was how infinitesimal our lifetimes and human existence are as a whole. In the cosmic scale of time, we’re here for much much less than a moment – but eventually, this brought me peace instead… to recognize that this basic fact means we can embrace the microscopic nature of our own existence and do whatever we want to find the most meaning within our own lives. In other words, go for it – it doesn’t really matter anyway.
So in short, I’m pursuing this path because I think it’s what will bring me the most fulfillment and joy inside of my own moment here.
Q: Work life balance: how has your balance changed over time? What do you think about the balance?
A: I don’t think the grind culture leaders will love this answer, but that’s ok with me.
Finding a work-life balance may be one of the most critical things to the company’s longevity, and it’s a very hard thing to do. But the risks of not finding this balance and doing so early are burnout, loss of creativity, lack of passion, and becoming too close to something to be able to step back and see your business more clearly.
For me, I can never turn it off entirely. I’m thinking and feeling about our business around the clock. This makes it even more important to create boundaries in my work with intention.
If you can’t take care of yourself and your own relationships, how can you expect to be able to take care of a business without completely deteriorating? So I try to sleep 8 hours, I go to the gym almost every day, I take breaks during the day to get outside and exercise my dog, I try not to work on the weekends, and I close my laptop in the evening and try to stay off my phone while spending time with my partner. In all ways, I try to prioritize my own well-being because I believe it’s what’s best for our company.
Finding harmony is a challenge, but it’s something that I will always keep working towards.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Living in LoHi with my partner Lauren and our 6yo pitbull, Ophie, I’m a bit biased to some spots in this neighborhood.
My go-to breakfast spots: Bodega (best breakfast burrito in the city) or the newly added Call Your Mother on Tennyson (always worth the line).
To get outside for a bit, I’d probably drag you on a hike through one of the beautiful trails in Golden, or opt for a park-hang at Highland park or Jefferson park.
Assuming it’s hockey season, the ideal evening would be at Ball Arena to watch Cale Makar and Nathan MacKinnon take the ice. We’re spoiled with these guys in our city.
But if it’s summer, I’d be remiss to not bring you to one of our incredible concert venues at Red Rocks in Morrison or Mission Ballroom in RiNo. Denver is truly spoiled with the incredible artists these venues attract.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My shoutout has gotta to my incredible co-founder, Ben Medalie. There’s nobody I would rather be on this wild ride with.
I met Ben during my junior year at CU Boulder. A kid from Cleveland, Ohio who was whose energy was wild and magnetic. I remember him being bright in the classroom, confident in the social scene, and a freak athlete in the skatepark (and in beer games on The Hill).
We became best friends pretty much the day we met and have been at each others side for all of life’s up and downs as young adults over the 7 and a half years since. We always shared an interest in business and wanting to build something of our own, but these interests took a turn towards reality throughout the pandemic as we decided to take a stovetop created hair product and attempt to launch a business with it.
Through our journey, Ben has been the steady rock that the waves crash over… Positive and solution oriented as they come, he’s the dude you want to be alongside through the highest of highs and lowest of lows. He pushes me to be better each and every day and I can only hope that I offer him the same.
Whoever it was that said not to mix business and friendship must not have met a person like Ben.
Thanks so much for reading and engaging with this article. If you're interested in our offerings, please check out our Glacial Clay Pomade, a 100% natural hair clay pomade for men, women, non-binary, and anyone with hair :)