The last year has been rather chaotic and unpredictable for many of us. Thrown off predictable patterns, taken out of comfort zones; placed in situations that are not comfortable but are best.
When this happens on a small scale, like having house guests that naturally causes you to not go about your every day tasks as usual, is much easier to handle. You know that once they are on their way to their next destination, you can shuffle everything back to the way it was and get back to life as you know it. Likely you were able to plan for the disruption to make it more manageable. We didn’t get that with all of this, the pandemic was thrust upon us without warning and without any notion of what to really expect. At first it was novel, maybe a short term inconvenience for most. But soon it rolled into a storm of unpredictable change that only now is showing a little glimmer of relief.
Ordinarily when I experience such change, I seek ways to adapt and adopt. Having more time on my hands than I expected, I thought of ways to change me and my work. What could I do to make things better. As far as J&L went, it was the majority of my contemplation. For roughly 6 years I had a reliable means of making and selling to sustain myself and the business. Each year I made more and sold more. There were periods of making a lot more and there were periods of selling a lot less. Patterns were studied and changes were made to manage the hills and valleys. Once this pandemic hit, I was in the throes of a slow period. Usually late winter and early spring is my slowest time of the year. When the plan has been to begin increasing production for the summer festival season, my busiest time of the year, I was in a struggle to even keep my supplies on hand for to maintain my current business level. Late April is when I order up raw goods and packaging stock to produce products for the festivals. By this time I knew that at least one key festival was cancelled. That was a punch to the gut.
Some things had to change:
For the short term, I needed to circle the wagons. I adjusted pricing lower of what items I could to be considerate of those who were dealing with financial set backs. The core products is what I focused on making. Plans to introduce new products were shelved, upgrades to existing products had to be rethought. Putting word out that we needed to put into the list of local small businesses that needed some love during this time helped tremendously. In fact, we did better business in the first 6 weeks of the lockdown than we did that Christmas season. I knew I had to make some changes to what we are doing to not only survive, but to grow. It was not a time to sit back and do as we always did. If we wished to come out of this strong, we needed to cut some weight.
By mid summer we acquired some capital and supply chain constraints for bottles relaxed enough that we could start making more than just beard oil. It was during this time that I had to think about what has been working well and what has not. Not everything is awesome, we may love it and it may have its fans; but overall it just wasn’t living up to expectations. There were lots of products that just needed re-thought. Lotions and Shampoo were among those items. Though popular, they could be better. No category was safe from seeing an axe swung.
“What else could we make?”, had also crept into my thoughts. There were requests for certain things and there were things I had shelved over and over because of timing or start up costs. It is too long of a list to mention all of them, and some I still want to be a surprise if they ever become a reality. Stick Deodorant and Candles were two of those items. For years, I ignored candles as being something to make as I wished to focus on personal care and grooming products. Stick Deodorant meant a slew of new ingredients and a means to produce. The work started to develop these new product lines. By autumn I had a formula ready to start testing for deodorant and candle making supplies were ordered. Candles were going to be fun and an ideal gifting item as we headed into the holidays. They are very practical item to have around the house. A lit scented candle can provide uplift to a mood as well as give an warming feeling. With all the stress and negativity, candles can be a little thing to make you feel better.
Like everything we do, it was important for these new items to be higher quality than average, carry some unique traits and be affordable. These two items carry not inexpensive to make, but we stuck to our mission and are keeping the prices as low as possible. When launched, both were immediately embraced and sold well. Candles did even better than I thought they would. With candles having a near infinite shelf life, I wasn’t too concerned if they did not sell well from the start.
We introduced JÖL as a new brand and product line
Candles introduced a little identity crisis. Just like when we introduced J+L Apothecary, these new items needed a new banner to be sold under. As we told the story before, JÖL was an obvious choice. Meaning “good time” and other relaxed fun things it was a perfect fit and very uncommon. Yes, a trademark is in the works. Feedback has been very positive around the name and the image. It strongly communicates simplicity and speaks to all people. Devoid of gendering colors and naming, it becomes a solid brand that lets the product speak on its own.
We have plans to expand JÖL as a brand. We have already introduced our Outdoor Living items under the JÖL moniker as the products just don’t fit well under our other lines. Coming very soon, we will launch the Room + Fabric Spray 240ml version, with a 120ml bottle to come later. I am still working on a couple fun items, but no spoilers! But that is only a beginning.
This is tough for us, and it may be confusing to even our most loyal customers:
We are bringing the J+L Apothecary brand to an end. It never was a great name, and carries some baggage with its use. When it launched we ran with the first sensible thing we came up with. The name seemed to hang there begging to change. We don’t think the name was bad for branding, just not great. Most importantly, most everything we have been making under that brand will transition to our new branding. As we sell through current inventories, new products will get the new name and new look. Very strong chance your favorite items will not change in formula, just in label.
If you can’t guess already, with all that foreshadowing, J+L Apothecary will become JÖL for Skin + Hair. JÖL for short. This transition will not be quick, as we have plenty of inventory to move through with Apothecary products. But, we have new things coming and we will kick them off under the JÖL brand. First up will be the re-introduction of our liquid Shampoos and Conditioners. They have been gone from the mix for over a year, stuck in limbo as we tested new formulas and needed to change packaging. Like our SHOWER GEL, these new hair care products will be in 360ml pouches to be used as refills, or can be used directly from the pouch (although that is not ideal).
We are a little sad that our 2nd baby is going away in a manner. We wish to think that they grew up and married JÖL, and took their name to become one happy family. We love the look of the labeling, color scheme and style cues of JÖL. Brand name is being downplayed, with the product and scent being most prominently displayed. The 5 feet/5 second rule of retail package design was employed to ensure easy recognition and understand of what the product may be when seen on a shelf. Once we get the transition going, we will be working hard to get these products out into the world. Our testers have given us abundantly positive reviews of where we are going with this, we think you will too.
As we go through this change, we know it will be confusing. Our website will call out both brands in a manner to demonstrate the change. Work will begin on a refresh to the website once this announcement is out there. In time, JÖL will become more of a lifestyle brand; something we have fought against with J&L Pogonotrophics. Under the JÖL name there is room for anything we want to introduce. We will have “for the Home”, “for Outdoor Living” and “for Skin + Hair”; we can add “for the Car”, for Kids”, or even “for the Kitchen” as we travel down this path. Many of the things we considered doing under the PRIMP + JOL retail concept can still be done. J&L POGONOTROPHICS will continue to be the parent and our foundation. Our superior beard care products are not going away! The line will also see some new things this year.
Let us know what you think… Do you like the change?
Thank you kindly, John