It was on February 4th, 2014 that I decided to take this “hobby” and do something more with it. The intent at the time was to keep it functioning like a hobby but to get word out about our beard oils. Within weeks I introduced our most innovative product, The Original Beard Butter and everything took off from there. Every few months adding a little something more to the mix.
Within the first year we built a reputation among other beard care makers as something to be aware of. Aware enough of us to mimic some of our innovations. In the case of one maker, copy as much of our look and concept as possible. So much so, they even copied our About Us page details for their own page, only changing names and a couple details to make it sound authentic to them and their location.
In our second year we became a “business”, needing to operate as a business to better track expenses and inventory as our sales increased. It was in the second year that we did out first festival. In September of 2015 we participated in City Made Fest in Andersonville area. Sharing a booth with another vendor as we both served as last minute fill-ins for another vendor that cancelled. It all came together very quickly and with barely 2 weeks to prepare. I met challenge and pulled everything together I could to make it happen. We came out of this with a very positive experience and could not wait to do our next! We also met our first genuine retailer.
Within weeks we worked with a local specialty gift shop to sell our beard oil and a few other items that suited their style. This did well for us and was a positive experience for a couple years. In 2017 we were asked by this retailer to make products that would suit the interests of their mostly female customer base. After a few discussions, we came up with a few ideas and I went to work making a few of each item for demonstration and testing. After weeks of sending emails, calling them and even walking into their shop to discuss a time when we can go over the details I started getting ghosted by them. Needing to make back some of the costs of this work, I decided to sell them at our first Midsommarfest. These items were a hit! We did get some harsh feedback that we should not present them “women’s products”. We did not present them as women’s products, but when asked if they were for men we replied, “for women too.” J&L Apothecary was born, name change pending, as well as our foray into gender neutral personal care products.
J&L Apothecary became JÖL when we added candles to our mix. Candles were never seriously considered as something to ad to our mix. When they were requested we politely stated it was not an area we wished to get into as it is done so well by so many others. When the pandemic hit in early 2020, we needed to adapt to what was going on in our world. Demand declined for our personal care products as our customers found they were not using them as frequently when working from home. Finally giving in to the more firm requests to have our much-loved scents available as candles, we started making candles. This very business minded decision was one of our best. In the almost 3 years since we added candles they have become the core of our sales. They are the reason why we have added so many new customers to our world that has also opened up all of J&L to more people. Candles have introduced new customers to all the other things we have been making for years.
With all this new business, and some relief funds we received, we have been on a path to affirm our place through improving our products, our look and our outlook. At the onset of the pandemic I was faced with phasing myself out of business. I made it 5 years, just about to hit 7 years, that’s a good run for a small business I thought. I was scared on what would be next for me. By receiving the relief funds I was feeling that anything I do could help keep it all going. I could have spent it all on marketing to gain new customers or I could add a bunch of new items to the mix that may appeal to more people. It helped us get out from under the banner of being seen as being only for men. We are no longer viewed by the general public as being the “Beard Guys”. Although I am proud of the mark I have made in men’s grooming, I could not survive relying strictly upon men for growing this business. Men are fickle customers and can be overly brand loyal – even more difficult for men to consider personal care products. Men don’t talk up grooming products much, cutting short the word-of-mouth marketing we desired. We were siloed into a niche that was not genuine to who we are and all that we could be.
I knew that one day, if all goes well, we would need a bigger space to make our wares. If rent must be paid for a space to make the products, there is no reason we would not want to sell directly to our customers from the same space. If we sought a retail only space would mean that we would need a production space first anyway. This was a dream that I thought was so far out of reach for so long. This last 18 months or so has showed me it is time. Well, close to time. We are not exactly to that point but with the time it will take to prepare such a space it will likely be overdue by then. This is a time to plan ahead. This brings us to today, 9 years on from our hobby beginnings. Now to tell you where we wish to take this all.
In the background of our daily operations, the planning for the retail space will take place. Not a lot will be on paper just yet. The general concepts are well thought out, but are not locked in and can change depending on location and size of the space. It is an exploratory mission at this point. My ideal goal is to have a space ready to open, even in the most minimalist form, by Holiday 2023. It is equally possible that we make or do not make that goal at this point.
Our drive to be more sustainable is going strong. New bottles and jars are coming together and hopefully will be on hand before our planned busy summer festival season. All new packaging must be compostable wheat straw plastic, glass or metal. Select dispensers will need to remain as they are – spray nozzles, reducer plugs and small bottle caps are not currently available made of desired materials.
As for products, we plan to place our focus on our current line up of items as well as those items that have been being revamped as promised. Some items are planned to return this summer: salt scrubs, clay masques, body oil. There is a plan to broaden Junk Oil into sent options that will serve as our body oil for all people. We will continue to look into new scents for every day and our seasonal collections in all products.
Once we are closer to having a space, we will need to fill it with more options in the products we make as well as offer sensible accessories to compliment all that we make. Our desire will be to open the store with a wide selection of products fully merchandised throughout our space. That means, once we have a space we will keep it closed to the public while we build up inventory for a brief period.
Other product concepts are in the works. I am still sorting out how to bring some of my culinary aspirations into the JÖL line. I have an idea for some seasoning blends for cooking, grilling and cocktails. I have been making such things for myself for some time and I think it would be fun to add them to our assortment. I also have plans for new items to bring out for Pets – including a new shampoo bar for dogs, paw balm and more.
We have launched restarted our drive to make video content to support all that we do. In time, it will likely replace much of our written communication as we can say more is less time. Look for posts about our YouTube channel and catch it all from the start. Future installments will embrace many facets of what we are doing from talking about new products to capturing our journey.
In the weeks, months and even years ahead we hope to keep growing and getting better at all that we do. As I am also getting older, I want to bring more people into JÖL. I wish to build a team of fun and interesting people that will be as excited about what we do as I am, and will help continue the story as I step away.
Thank you all for 9 awesome years!