Being the tiny little business that we are we do things a rather old fashioned way. Not that we are trying to create an old time aesthetic around what we are about, it is merely the nature of the beast in which we operate. It is not intended to be a gimmick or an artisanal feature. At our size and capacity it is far more cost effective to do it by hand versus a machine. The only machines involved in making our products are blenders, mixers, and a microwave oven. That means everything we do is hand made and hand packed.
One day we may have to change it up. When we reach the point that our sales far outpace what can be effectively done by hand. While some say hand crafted or hand packed, machines are likely doing quite a bit of the work. We don’t see anything wrong with that, but it confuses what it means to be hand made in regards to how we function. A furniture maker that hand makes a chair may use powered saws and powered hand tools. While others may use only hand tools to craft that chair; and some will do a blending of all available tools. No matter what, they are not made on an assembly line by automated machines. With that in mind, some of our contemporaries don’t even make their product, they simply select a pre-designed product from a mass manufacturer and place their label on the bottle. Even less hands-on, is that the products leave the factory and go straight to a fulfillment warehouse that processes everything as the “maker” sits at home and monitors a computer screen. I think that’s the “premium” experience they talk about.
Making it by hand, in my opinion, is that you as the maker have your hands personally and physically in the process of manufacturing. Either you designed it for a team of people that work along side or you do it all yourself. For the longest time I shied away from saying we are “crafters”, as I wanted to avoid the responses I received early on. Why is that? Because every time I tried to get a retail store or barbershop to sell our products in their shop it was used against us as an insult. That by being crafted, it was another home-crafter hobbyist in front of them and not a legitimate up-start business trying to get their foot in the door. At the time we started doing our thing, it was relatively easy to go out and get huge investments to start a beard oil business. Concerned about taking on such debt and the inherent risks involved I avoided doing such. I would have been risking a lot more than my future if I had. As time passed, I take our chosen path as a positive. By avoiding the risk, I was able to build a solid reputation and tell a true relatable story.
Hand made leads to “character”
That reputation was built on reliability and consistency in our beard care products. Over the years we have had some hiccups, where products and packaging did not live up to our reputation. Caps popping off in shipping, product quality negatively affected by environmental conditions and new products that just didn’t hold up for the long haul. With as many different things we make, some are bound to fail. Selling outdoors in the summertime will certainly affect product quality.
When it comes to our brand image we are a split personality. We are working on a polished image that is more refined and detailed; while also being hand crafted. After one of our festival appearance I received an email from a customer concerned that someone had put their finger into the clay mask she had purchased. I was upset, at myself. You can even say I was hurt. Not by the customer, but by the fact that I may have allowed an unfit product to be bought. After I relaxed, I responded to the customer with first a sincere apology that there was something wrong. Logically, it is possible that someone had stuck their finger into her clay mask. Accepting that this item was sold by us at a location where all sorts of people stick their fingers into things they shouldn’t, I kept that in mind. But, I also covered our unique hands-on production methods. Our clay mask jars are filled using a spoon to pack it into the jar. After we confirm that it meets or exceeds the required weight for the unit we set it aside. Once we have completed all units we have to pack, we level up the lighter units if there is product remaining. Side note: that means the weight on the package is LESS THAN what is actually in the item for most things we make. Once we have them all filled, with a silicone spatula, we swirl the top to give it a “finished” look. That swirling can leave a peak when we pull it away, much like a frosted cake – if the frosting is super thick. Well, it turns out that this is exactly what this customer saw, not an indent as if a finger was poked into the clay but a ridge along the top. When the customer responded confirming that it was not poked, she was delighted to learn that it was hand packed. I sighed in relief that it had not been tampered with.
Hand packed can be a curse when you wish to convey an image of refinement. It is a line we have to walk when presenting ourselves. I cannot hide the fact that my hands, covered in latex, are into everything I make. And honestly I should not have to at this point in our journey. I am proud that I am able to do all these different funky and cool things by myself. That I can bring items to shoppers that are hand crafted that you normally don’t find. How many hand crafted Toners do you see?
Today they are hand crafted. Tomorrow they may be machine filled. I aspire to never let the quality diminish and let down our customers by “cheapening” our wares. Everything I make is designed, made, packaged, and labeled by me. I have designed the logo, the artwork and graphics on the labels and even most of this website. I do get help here and there when needed – traditionally when bulking up inventory for festivals. Because of all this, we are not perfect. There will be flaws to be found. Labels get put on crooked or came out a little blurry as my printer isn’t designed for such precision. Buying our supplies from vendors who sell in smaller quantities means our bottles and jars are shipped to us in a plastic bag, as they are not case quantity. This leads to them being scuffed and scratched – and we pay more for such a luxury!
This post is let people know to expect some imperfections and know that we are working with the duality of being hand-crafted products trying to become a genuine competitive brand of personal care items. We appreciate those that continue to support us, drive us and tell their friends about us. They get it, at least we like to believe they do. And we hope that those who come to us under the impression we have reached our goal, understand why we may not fully appear to be as refined as they believe we should be.