It’s every entrepreneurs dream: to conjure up an idea that embodies passion, that builds a community, and that grosses $100,000 monthly recurring revenue within the first two years.
Eric Bandholz did just that when he launched his company, Beardbrand, in 2012.
Bandholz felt stifled by his job. Being a financial advisor at a bank, he was supposed to look and act a certain way. Growing a beard was held in disdain and he was expected to be clean-shaven. Bandholz couldn’t stand the corporate pressures to conform, so he quit his job and started growing a beard.
Several months later, he attended the West Coast Beard and Mustache Championships in Portland, Oregon. He realized that there was a whole community of “beardsmen” out there that were largely underserved. There were no resources or beard-specific products on the market.
He sprang into action and started a blog and a YouTube channel dedicated to beards, beard styling, and beard products. He grew the beardsmen community and, over the course of a year, became the leading source for all things “beardly.”
“Ultimately, the goal was to provide the tools necessary for men to feel confident about growing their beard, and I also wanted to end the negative stereotypes about beardsmen being lazy or unkempt,” Bandholz says on the Beardbrand website.
The Right Moment
A large part of the Beardbrand success story is owed to timing. Bandholz saw an opportunity and jumped on it. He recognized that there was a large community of people out there that were underserved, and he aimed to bring them together.
Bandholz began by creating content on multiple platforms with the goal of extending his reach as far as he could without investing a ton of money into it. He created daily YouTube videos and blog posts, and he did it all himself.
Through the Beardbrand blog and social media channels, he was able to make a name for himself and his brand before launching any kind of product line. The company takes pride in growing the community organically through creation of their own content and collecting email addresses.
Beardbrand became the primary source of information for the bearded community. Bandholz was eventually contacted by a New York Times reporter who was doing a piece about beards. He saw the opportunity laid out before him and decided to launch his online store the day before the New York Times article went live.
Keeping Startup Costs Low
Not long before the launch and the New York Times article, Bandholz and his wife found out that they were going to have a baby. He knew that he would have one chance to make the business successful, and that he needed it to happen fast so that he could help support his family. He didn’t have the capital to dump into a startup in beginning stages of Beardbrand.
Driven by those needs, and also the desire not to return to the corporate world, he built the online store himself using a free Shopify template. Beardbrand didn’t have its own product line yet, so he reached out to a small beard oil company and asked if he could resell their products at wholesale prices. The company agreed, and he was able to list a few items on the store. He wrote the copy himself and used images from the beard oil manufacturer.
“We are a truly bootstrapped company — no outside money, no bank loans, no debt,” says Bandholz. Beardbrand sold $515-worth of product in the first week, which gave him motivation to keep going. He continued producing content and rolling the profits back into the business for the first 10 months.
It was around the seven- or eight-month mark that he recognized that Bearbrand had the potential for supporting him and his family. They were pulling in around $25,000 per month and putting it all back into the business, a key strategy for their growth and success. “I’ve always thought Beardbrand has had potential to do nine figures, so we are grinding away trying to figure out how to do that,” he says.
Beardbrand grooming products are now created in small batches, initially. Listening to its consumers, the company will change the recipe if needed until the desired quality and effect is achieved. This allows them to keep production costs low for new products and limiting risk.
Holding On to the Vision
Despite people telling him that beards are just fads and that the fashion trend is on its way out the door, Bandholz has held strongly to his brand and his vision. The focus is strongly centered on the customer and supplying a high-quality product.
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of other beard care brands and products on the market now, but Beardbrand continues to hold the top position in the beard care category. They owe this to the excellent customer service, high-quality product, and the continued content creation — and therefore growing the Beardbrand community.
The bearded community continues to grow, regardless of what the naysayers are spouting. With the popularity of beards comes the now more socially acceptable grooming regimen for men. Traditional toiletries for men consisted of combination products, such as shampoo and body wash in one, and it was not common practice for men to purchase high quality grooming products.
Beardbrand changed this. And the consumers are asking for more. There has been a 226 percent increase in beard care product sales over the last three years according to IRi.
Beardbrand was born from Eric Bandholz’s desire to make growing a beard more socially acceptable. He wanted all men to be able to express their personality and style. And he wanted to make high quality beard care products available to all men.
Bandholz expresses that “… we want to change the way society looks at beardsmen. There are still organizations who require men to shave, and there is negative terminology used towards beardsmen that still lingers in our culture.”
With Beardbrand’s ability to create community and content, as well as the development and production of high-quality products, along with the destruction of the social stigmas surrounding men’s grooming habits, Beardbrand is doing entrepreneurship right.