They say the best business ideas are born out of necessity. After all, if you find a product gap and recognize the possibility for mass adoption, then you are well on your way to household brand name status.
If you need proof that this is true, just look to the work Tristan Walker has been doing for the last few years. Once the heralded director of business for Foursquare turned entrepreneur-in-residence under the Andreessen Horowitz name, Walker today is the successful founder and CEO of Bevel –– razors for men of color. Well, Bevel isn’t only for men of color. It is a razor created specifically for men with curly, coarse hair, and the product helps prevent razor bumps associated with that hair type.
A similar phenomenon occurred in the natural hair community a decade ago, as women with curly hair began to step away from traditional hair care products which ultimately damaged their curl –– leading to the birth of NaturallyCurly.com. Today, the natural hair care industry is alive and well, and even major beauty brands produce sulfate and silicone free options for the hair care conscious among us.
All of this progress was spurred by an online community tired of dealing with frizz or with razor bumps because of poor products.
Beards Transcend Boring
As beauty industry trends ebb and flow, other underserved markets become more visible. With the rise in participation of Movember, a national beard growing competition aimed at increasing testicular cancer awareness, as well as what has been deemed the “hipster beard,” a popular trend beginning around 2010 –– though reports today say it is officially on the way out –– beards quickly became a popular public topic of discourse and more acceptable in the workplace.
Of course, big brands can be slow to change and one long-time bearded man –– part of neither trend though supportive of both –– found himself hands deep in the beard care product creation process. This is his story.
The Birth of Badass Beard Care
Meet Charlie Moyer, a veteran discharged after 10 years of beardless service following the 9/11 attacks. He had sustained a bad ankle injury, but wasn’t ready to give up his giving back mentality. This is when Moyer went back to school for homeland security training and began once again growing out his beard –– a paternal tradition in his family. Three week later, his wife wasn’t having any of it and the battle lines became clear: shave it off or find something to make its rough look take on a classy demeanor.
“I went to CVS and Walmart and couldn’t’ find anything. Everything was just for shaving,” says Moyer. “So I went to the Art of Shaving, but it was expensive for only a little bit of product. I had lost my job and couldn’t afford it. Plus, it smelled bad and was irritating to the skin. The main ingredients in it were petroleum jelly, beeswax and paint thinner. I thought, ‘I could do better.’”
Refusing the shaving option, Moyer began testing a few hundred different ingredient recipes on himself until he found one that was just right. The goal was always to find an affordable recipe that worked well for himself –– but he had extra product left over and gave it to his fellow veterans at the Veterans Center on campus.
“They started giving it to their roommates and all the sudden I was taking orders! I went from $70 in revenue to $30,000 in three months at the end of 2014 from word of mouth,” says Moyer. “I thought it was just a fluke –– just the holiday season. But in January, our numbers didn’t decline. Now a year later we’re doing more than $300,000 in a single month.”
And Badass Beard Care was born. Moyer had hit the niche product jackpot in what was then an underserved market: affordable, organic beard care products with great customer service.
Moyer’s Non-Traditional Business Strategy
How does one brand grow so quickly? It’s a great question. After all, not even the natural hair care community or Tristan Walker’s own company took off is such a skyrocket manner. What was Moyer’s secret? Well –– he isn’t so sure, but one thing is clear, it wasn’t SEO. In fact, the entire venture was new to Moyer, who was quickly running a scaling online business –– learning everything he could on the job and in the moment.
“People kept telling me to make my site keyword rich and add tags. I had no idea what they were talking about,” says Moyer. “I have no idea how I got to the first page on Google.”
Perhaps it was beginner’s luck, or the keen ability for industry outsiders to make non-traditional decisions that pay big dividends. What was Moyers outside-the-box strategy? Easy: keeping true to what gained traction for the brand to begin with –– free samples, a great product and meeting an unfulfilled need in the market.
“When I was making it for myself, I created sample sizes to test different variations of product to reduce waste. I gave the extras to the vets at school and got feedback.” says Moyer. “They were so popular, I made a bunch of those as a trial run and then went to my first beard care competition, and brought them there. I asked people to share the company on social media for the sample –– and they did. It worked so well that today, our only ad on Facebook is for a free sample. We send out about 150 sample packs a day.”
And chew on this stat for an ROI on free samples: industry average for online store conversions is 2-3%, and Moyer’s Badass Beard Care is annihilating that –– boasting 10% conversion on any given day.
Growing Pains and Lessons Learned
When Moyer first launched, he hadn’t really done too much competitive research. He only researched natural product information, looking for the best ingredients for his beard. He didn’t take cost into consideration. After all, he was aiming only to create a product for himself. He did run across two beard product companies, “just because they were on the top of Google,” he said, but didn’t pay too much attention. Turns out, there are thousands of beard care products out there. How did he beat them out without even knowing they existed? By forging along looking for quality and community testing so well that people were begging to buy.
At the time, Moyer launched that first shopping cart on GoDaddy. Such an increase in sales in such a short period of time, though, caused issues on the backend, especially for a brand new business owner.
“It was severely limited. There was no way to export tax information or to import our sales to figure that out. There was no way to send emails to customers, either,” he said. “As we started to get more sales, I was spending 3-4 hours each day printing invoices. GoDaddy didn’t have any integrated postage solutions. We had to copy and paste addresses by hand. That was time consuming. As soon as I hired my first employees, they just printed labels and invoices.”
This was the impetus behind Moyer looking for a new ecommerce platform on which his fast-growing brand could find a forever home. He landed with BigCommerce –– and has since been putting his new found time into expanding his advertising and marketing channels.
“I just started doing Google ads four days ago,” said Moyer in an interview with BigCommerce back in January 2016. “We are on Amazon, too. We used to do 5-10 orders per day on Amazon, but now we’re getting over 20 a day. We do the fulfillment ourselves. It’s not hard to keep up with it. We get products out the same day from all of our platforms –– 400-500 or more orders per day overall during the holidays. It’s never been an issue. I just don’t like the customer communication tools at Amazon. It seems cumbersome to talk to the customer –– and I think that customer communication is a pretty important part.”
The One Takeaway Moyer Wants You to Know: Trust Your Gut
“Don’t be afraid to follow your gut. See what works for you and as soon as it does, don’t be afraid to double up. When my business partner first came on board, I wanted to increase our advertising on Facebook but he wanted to be conservative. I did it anyways, and we saw a direct correlation with an increase in sales. We’re now close to $800 per day in revenue from Facebook.”
In all, double down where you see success –– and market test your product before you go live. If you don’t have a community at hand like Moyer’s vet network, use a platform like Kickstarter to get the word out. Redshift Sports, another retailer, used Kickstarter to do exactly this –– launching a full fledged bike part production shop 100% debt-free.
Have any questions or comments, or a cool success story for your brand? Share them with us in the comments.
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