Where did you get the idea for starting BaldyBeardy?
I started growing out my beard two years ago and wanted to find products I could use to keep it strong and healthy. Most of them were overpriced and none of them made my beard feel good. I have sensitive skin and most of the products had added artificial fragrances, which made everything worse.
The market needed something better, so I started experimenting with balms and oils. At the time, I was working as a web developer and had no experience with doing anything like this before, but I knew what worked for me.
Eventually, I created a couple blends of balms and oils that left my bearded skin feeling moist and hydrated. That's when the Lumberjack Beard Balm was born. I loved the balm and as soon as I gave it to my friends to try, they told me I should sell it.
The name BaldyBeardy describes me well! I try to keep my brand bright, cheerful and fun and I love being able to express my creativity through a physical product that I can share with beard growers everywhere.
Who was your very first customer?
I joined the forum beardboard.com when I started to grow a beard. It’s the biggest forum on the web devoted to beard growing, offering support and advice on things like which products to use and how to deal with negative comments from friends and family who don’t like your beard.
I’ve been an advisor on the board for over a year now and advertised my first product on there because I knew I had the market. It took a week for me to get my first sale, but after that it took off.
When did you know your business was going to work?
My first customer was so delighted with the product that he left a great review on the Beard Board forum, which led to more sales. Soon after, another member started a review thread, which others quickly added to, saying how much they loved my products. Sales haven’t slowed down since.
I really didn’t expect things to take off in the way they have. Not only was I getting good reviews on that forum, but a few bloggers also bought and wrote about my products, which created more excitement online.
I had to respond to the demand quickly by adding more balms, oils and shampoos to my shop and by improving my online presence. I immediately set up social media pages and took better photographs of my products — all things I hadn't thought to do before.
What has been the biggest surprise in starting your own business?
At the moment I’m working 15-16 hour days because I’ve had a huge amount of orders from Americans looking for Christmas presents (I’m based in Northern Ireland).
I’ve been most surprised at how US beard growers have responded to my product, because most of the famous beard care products come from there. In contrast, my products haven’t really taken off here. I have a few loyal customers and sell at local markets in Belfast, but most people in Northern Ireland still find the concept that a man would need specialized products for his beard very amusing.
How do you price your products?
I made the classic mistake of pricing too low when I was starting out. I tried to compete on price, but soon realized that I should compete on quality and service instead.
After my first few sales, I got messages from customers saying they’d be happy to pay two or three times more for my product. I learned that if I didn’t give my products the value they deserve, I couldn’t expect my customers to value them either.
The first pricing increase I made scared me because I was worried that customers would be put off, but that didn’t happen. Everyone was happy to pay a little extra.
Now I’m more comfortable with what I’m charging. I keep my costs down by doing everything myself and focusing purely on the product — I don’t use fancy packaging or boxes, which means I can spend more on sourcing the best quality ingredients.
What does a typical day look like for you?
When I get up in the morning, I catch up on emails. I get lots of messages from US customers during the night because of the time difference. Most of the emails are for custom gift box requests, so I’ll have to go back to each customer individually with a quote. After that’s done, I get start fulfilling orders.
I get 30 orders a day on average. Some, like gift boxes, can take up to an hour to pack. Each item has to be bubble wrapped and put into a polythene bag, then the whole box needs to be gift wrapped and put into another box for shipping. I state that each order takes 2-3 days to process, but I need to extend this occasionally if I get really busy.
My workload is just about manageable, but it’s the holiday season now and I’m exhausted. There is only so much I can do in one day, and the business has completely taken over my life with no room for a social life or vacation.
After the Christmas rush, I’m going to look into bringing on an employee to help with packing and admin tasks.
If you could go back in time, what is the one thing you’d do differently when starting your business?
I wish I’d done more research into pricing. I wish I’d researched SEO. I wish I’d taken better photos. I wish I’d developed more products. I wish I’d learned more about what my obligations as a seller were before starting to sell.
Starting a business was a very steep learning curve for me. I was lucky to have high demand, but I wish I’d been better prepared for it so I could have avoided scrambling around frantically after launch to get everything up to par.
What would you like to learn today from a network of small business owners and self-employed professionals?
At the moment, I sell directly to the public, but I’ve had a few enquiries about wholesale and I’d love to know how to go about doing that.
What are the dos and don'ts? How will I have to change my business to accommodate this new way of selling?
I don’t want to be taken advantage of, so I’d love to hear from people here who have experience selling their products at wholesale.
Do you have tips for Dan as he explores the option to wholesale his homemade products?
How did you make the move into wholesaling your products? What are the pitfalls Dan should look out for?
Help him along his journey by sharing your story below!