How one entrepreneur grew his budding beard business into a movement
Give a warm welcome to Eric Bandholz, founder of BeardBrand. You might have seen Eric (or his beard) on ABC's Shark Tank, or sharing his story on the Reddit. He is a man with a vision and a goal; to live life his way and change the way the world views beards, forever.
Q. Great to meet you Eric, please tell me a little about yourself.
The guy that you see on youtube is pretty much me in real life. With the exception that I sometimes scale back my humor for the internet. I’m a very passionate and driven guy who wants to live a free and independent lifestyle. My goals are to build a location independent business, where I can travel the world with my family and live life on my terms.
Q. Describe Beardbrand in 5 words or less.
Style for the Urban Beardsman.
Q. You mention on your website with a little hustle, you were able to grow Beardbrand to 120k in sales per month. Can you discuss some of the strategies you used in those early growth days?
The speed of your growth will be the uniqueness of your products, your efficiencies of your business, and your ability to build something larger than the goods you are selling. At Beardbrand we are doing more than selling products; we are trying to change the way society views beardsmen. When we started the blog back in 2012, most beardsmen were thought of as lumberjacks, bikers, or outdoorsmen, but never professions.
My hustle was working hard to educate the world that there is more to beardsmen than you traditionally thing. It wasn’t any type of scientific market research, or advertising optimization. It was simply being passionate with what I was doing and being able to connect with other like minded people. I think we really surprised the world that there are far more urban beardsmen than originally thought.
Q. I'm not a beard guy personally but even I have noticed that you have a lot of competition popping up. How does Beardbrand differentiate itself from those who’ve entered the fashionable facial hair arena?
We’ve been very inspirational, not only for business in other industries, but also our own. We welcome the competition as it helps share the burden of education. That being said, we’ve been the leader in this industry from the start and we will continue to shape what is the standard for beard care products. One of the ways we are working hard to set us apart is with our content platform. We’ve developed urbanbeardsman.com to be the resource for all things related to the bearded lifestyle. We provide more than grooming tips, but also style, travel, and epicurian information. We curate and share content beyond just urbanbeardsman.com and also have built a strong social media network with tens of thousands of followers.
It’s really a huge investment for us, and one that isn’t very easy to duplicate. Beyond that, we’ll continue to improve our shopping experience; both online and in retail stores. We want our customers to have the easiest shopping experience around.
Q. I know you are an active reddit user and seem to use it as a soap box to talk about Beardbrand. Do you have a particular affinity towards reddit?
Oh man, I'm a huge Reddit user and it's definitely sucked away a good share of my life. I think the community is great because they are so smart, witty, and passionate. You aren’t going to be able a quick one with them and that's good for me because I'm so open, transparent, and honest. I don’t sugar coat things, but I also provide valuable information other companies are too paranoid to share. Reddit is definitely my favorite social media platform because I can connect with specific communities so easily. I can also filter out all the noise I don’t want to be exposed to.
Q. If you ever get the itch and decide to shave off your beard, do you think Beardbrand will survive?
Of course, we’ve got a team of 9 people here and we have grown well beyond my talents. We will continue to grow and expand. One of our visions is to show that Beardbrand is more than one guy, but it’s a movement with lots of individuals. We just recently brought on our first sponsored urban beardsman and he’ll help us promote our brand over in Europe. His name is Carlos Costa and you should check out his Instagram. He’s got a marvelous beard!
Q. Why did you choose Shopify and what has made you stick with them?
Shopify has been great for us. It’s allowed us to focus on building our business and not building a website. We've never had to spend any brain energy on learning how to scale, making sure our platform won’t get hacked and all credit card information stolen, and various other risks of alternative platforms. The people I interact with at Shopify are all very friendly and get stuff done when I need help.
Q. Have you found any limitations with Shopify?
Probably the biggest issue we have with Shopify is the lack of multi-store management. We have 3 shopify stores and it’s a very time consuming process to manage all three of them separately. Beyond that, we’ve found solutions for pretty much ever challenge we have. While sometimes it feels like we are getting nickeled and dimed with all the apps; it’s nice that I can get those apps.
Q. You entered the Shark Tank last year looking for an investment but sadly left without one. What was life like before Shark Tank vs after your episode aired
Shark Tank has been a great experience for us. We were just shown on a rerun and all told we’ve been seen 13.5 million times on national TV. That’s incredible exposure and while it was a bummer we didn’t get a deal from the tank; I think in the end everything turned out great.
Q. If you could go back in time, would you do anything differently?
We wouldn’t have gotten to where we were without trying things and seeing what works and what doesn’t work. That being said, we aren’t a very good apparel and accessories company. I’d probably work harder to focus on the things we do best; rather than branching out too broadly. But in business you always have to try new things; or you’ll get stuck. So, I definitely don’t regret our decisions.
Q. Recently you called out @mcuban on twitter exclaiming he missed out by not investing in Beardbrand. Has Mark, Robert, Daymond or any of the Shark Tank gang been in contact since you didn’t get your deal?
After the taping, I sent Mark an email to thank him for listening to my pitch and everything the Sharks do. He was very friendly and I think very highly of him. We haven’t had any of the Sharks come to us for investment but we have had some other investors. Currently we are still independently owned.
Q. I know this question is very cliche, but you’ve had one hell of a ride the past two years, so what advice do you have for those inspired by your story, looking to start their own business?
Don’t get into the beard care market! Hah. But really, it’s important for you to build a business in your own unique way. Don’t just copy someone else and expect to see success. You have to do more than just sell products; you’ve got to inspire and unite. Consumers are tired to being sold to and as a business owner I’m tired of selling stuff. I just want to do cool things in life and be around other people who love the same thing I do. I think that’s been a big reason we’ve been successful. We don’t sell our products; we just make people aware of them. They can buy when they are ready to buy.
Q. What are Beardbrand’s big goals for 2015?
We will continue to roll out new products, expand and improve current products, and make it easier for customers to purchase from us by growing our retailer network. It’s pretty simple and nothing revolutionary; just a lot of hard work.
Follow Eric and BearBrand
Follow Eric at @bandholz and Bearbrand on Twitter.