2019-2020 NPD Roadmap

Yes, the headline reads more like a business plan than an informational post. That is intentional as this is a more formal piece on where we are heading as we go into our busiest time of the year.

NPD = New Product Development. This will layout what our plans for new products that in the works for the upcoming 6 to 9 month period beginning July 2019.

BODY BUTTER & BATH BUTTER – available now

These have been in the works for the last year and have finally launched. The Body Butter was a bit premature as we had a huge “A-Ha!” moment. We have retooled the base formula of our Beard Butter into an amazing skin cream for superior moisturizing.

The Bath Butter was actually slow in development but we finally got around to actually producing it. This is a body cleansing cream with Himalayan salt for exfoliating and softening. This will be available in “flavors” that will be unique [for now] to this product line.

MEN’S UTILITY SOAP BAR – plan is for November 2019

We have been tossing around the idea for this product for some time, repeatedly pushing it off. The concept is a soap bar that is ideal for hair and skin. Intended to be launched with our Bar Shampoo, we held off as we wished to not overwhelm the market at the time. Many men like to keep it simple and have one product that does all their bath time cleaning. Where many of these bars that are already on the market do the duty with varying levels of mediocrity, we will get down to the skin and hair basics to create a product that has the right levels of what will work best for head, beard and skin. Using some of our newest ingredients that bring out the best in your skin in hair and pack them into a clean, organic soap bar. These bars will lather great, rinse away easily and come in our most popular J&L Pogonotrophics’ fragrances.

DEODORANT STICK – February 2020, maybe

Another project that has been in the works for some time. We have looked at numerous recipes and like everything else we do, we look into the core ingredients that will best suit the job of keeping BO at bay while not being greasy or irritate sensitive skin. We plan to bring 2 to 3 variants to market that will give options in performance and fragrance.

“JUNK OIL” CREAM – Fall 2019

It has been requested that we make a cream or balm version of our JUNK OIL. We have a name selected for this product that will be just as fun and attention grabbing as Junk Oil has been. The idea is to have a thick lotion like deodorizing item that is natural/organic, safe for the most intimate of areas, does not feel greasy and most of all, does the job of keeping you fresh “down there”.

FRAGRANCES & FLAVORS – FALL 2019

As part of our plan to always bring variety to our fragrance offerings we will be retiring a couple fragrances at the Holidays to make room for new scents. The plan is to rotate out some scents after 2 years. This year we will say farewell to TAROCCO and CITRUS GROVE. Tarocco will remain as a custom order scent for Beard Oils & Beard Butter. At this time we have ceased production of these 2 scents. LONDON may also be retired as well.

We are currently testing new scents to bring forward. Some are already out there in select products to test the public’s reaction. So far, ARUBA looks like it may be a winner for J&L Apothecary products, but we don’t see it being a great fit for Beard Care products.

Lip Balms will see TWISTED MINT and PINK GRAPEFRUIT come to an end. DREAMSICLE will launch this fall. CUCUMBER MINT is also on the horizon. Expect a couple more flavors to be added. We also plan to introduce new sets with exclusive flavors.

Solid Cologne has been very popular and we hope to expand this line with more fragrances from our current assortment as well as try new ones. Solid Cologne has been a means for us to test new ideas for fragrance. If we get plenty of positive feedback from a new cologne scent, we begin to share it with other lines.

“BUG REPELLENT SPRAY” – SPRING 2020

This is likely the product that we have been working on the longest. We intended to launch it this summer but we had too much on our plate and shelved it to be launched Spring 2020. This spray will be 100% natural, safe for you and your pets, and safe for most fabrics as well.

Recently we took a camping trip where we were able to field test our formula. It performed very well, keeping flies, moths, beetles and mosquitoes at bay. A simple spray over exposed areas and at the feet lasted for hours before reapplication was necessary. The blend of essential oils smell pleasant to you but offends the bugs enough to keep them away. The formula is light, water based and does not require shaking before each use.

PRIMP & JOL

This retail concept, as first introduced, is postponed indefinitely. Our Pop-Up last this past Holiday season taught us a lot and has inspired us to re-tool this concept. Our focus will be to create a production facility that we can open to the public for shopping as well as demonstrations and group activities around personal care, grooming and self care. By doing this we feel we are capturing more of what “Jol” means as we create a fun environment to explore us and our products as well as yourself. Depending on how well we do going into this coming holiday season will determine how soon we can make this happen. If only we can flip a switch and make it happen today!

SUMMARY

Much of what is listed here are ideas that we have had since the launch of J&L Apothecary. We feel that once these products are completed and introduced we will then put our focus on improving the products we already offer, update packaging to be more environmentally friendly and challenge ourselves with expanding our customer base. 2020 may see us pull back from doing Chicago street festivals and focus on retail outlets that take less physical drain on us and presents our products in a better fashion. Festivals are fun; but they are a lot of work to prepare for as well as operate. The sun and heat are not ideal environments for our products, which have caused quality issues for some items. Fluctuations in weather affects how well we perform at these festivals and due to their costs to participate, we cannot risk rainy weekends that soak us and keep shoppers at home.

We hope you appreciate our roadmap and are excited for what we plan to bring to you. In some ways this is the fruition of our “Phase 2” as we plan for “Phase 3”.

Thank you, John & Larry – and the J&L Family

Us vs Them: Beard Shampoo

From time to time we wish to call out what makes us different and in our eyes, better. With much of our beard care line it is almost MacIntosh to Gala comparisons (apple to apple). But sometimes there is a distinct difference that needs to be called out so you can see that there are not always equal comparisons.

We recently introduced our all new Beard Shampoo, replacing our Quotidian Beard Wash. Time was taken to research and study what is best for most beards to clean without stripping away important oils. Looking at the marketplace we saw a lot of shampoos out there that are merely a typical liquid soap with a more “guy friendly” scent. Focusing on the most popular beard shampoos and we see that they really don’t treat the beard’s hair any differently that what’s on the top of your head. Well, any bearded gent can tell you those hairs are not the same.

Here is an example of a popular brand that can be found at many common stores:

Water, Decyl Glucoside (plant-derived surfactant), Cocamidopropyl Betaine (coconut-based), Glycerin (plant-derived), Cocamidopropylamine Oxide (coconut-based), Xanthan Gum, Coco-Glucoside (coconut-based), Glyceryl Oleate, Polysorbate 20, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Citrus Aurantifolia (Lime) Oil, Caprylyl Glycol, Phenoxyethanol, Hexylene Glycol, Propylene Glycol, Tocopheryl Acetate (Vitamin E), Ethylhexylglycerin

Colorfully Named Pirate’s Brand Beard Wash – retails for $14.00 for 4 ounce bottle

Above is a very popular and well established brand’s ingredients list for their Beard Wash. They make a point of calling our what is plant based or derived. We find it easier to have all our ingredients be plant based or derived. While nothing stands out as being outright harmful to you or the environment, although there are organ toxicity concerns over Ethylhexylglycerin. With this being pretty much a standard liquid soap formula made by a larger brand we don’t see any justification in the price. A 12 ounce bottle of any popular natural shampoo brand is about $5.00.

Water, Potassium Cocoate*, Potassium Oleate*, Lauryl Betaine, Glycerin*, Macadamia Nut Oil*, Hemp Seed Oil*, Avocado Oil, Benzyl Alcohol, Potassium Palm Kernelate, Palm Kernel Acid, Decyl Glucoside, Aloe Vera Leaf, Potassium Citrate, Natural or Essential Oils for Fragrance, Panthenol (Pro-Vitamin B5)   *Organic Ingredient

J&L Pogonotrophics’ Beard Shampoo – retails for $8.00 for a 4 ounce bottle

Read through our ingredients, you can see that between the two shampoos, we share many of the same core ingredients. Our formula does use Xanthan Gum, which is used to give a liquid soap viscosity, nor Polysorbate 20 – an ingredient to get water and oil to mix. We also do not add Vitamin E as a whole ingredient, we do use Hemp Seed and Avocado Oils which are very high in Vitamin C as well as Omega Fatty Acids that enrich the hair. In this new formula, we also added Panthenol. Panthenol is a B5 Vitamin that helps repair the hair cuticle, which can easily be damaged by heat, sun and harsh soaps. The cuticle locks in moisture, and that is very important for your hair!

Our pricing is $6.00 less than the colorfully named pirate’s brand. We can assure you that our quality is on par, if not better; as well as we offer our Beard Shampoo in fragrances that can be mixed or matched with any of our other beard care products.

So, if the quality is comparatively close with both brands being rather natural in ingredients, why pay more? Now add in that one is a major brand that focuses on beard care and they offer a rather generic shampoo at a higher price than a small boutique shampoo with added hair nourishing ingredients; the choice should be clear.

To help in your choice, we are offering a special deal for a short period of time. Save 15% in our online shop until the end of July. Then let us know what you think of our brand…

Why your expanded assortment item takes more time:

In select products we offer “Expanded Assortment” options for scents. It literally means we are able to expand upon or normal assortment of in-stock offerings with items that are made to order. These additional items are scents we have made in the past as regular stock that had limited popularity or are scents some have requested but do not warrant full production.

Most of our items are easily customizable. We produce an unscented base that can be scented and packaged later, as needed. This permits more flexibility in our offerings without increasing our production costs exponentially. This is how we are able to offer Expanded Assortment. As long as if we have the fragrance ingredients we can continue to make the finished scented item. Unlike our normal inventory, where we produce an amount to satisfy anticipated demand for a span of time, expanded assortment items are produced the day we receive your order.

Whenever we package products, whether for inventory needs or for customized orders, we need to wait an extra day to ensure the product set as expected and meets our quality control standards. When adding fragrance and essential oils to our bases it can result in unexpected changes to the product. This is chemistry and if the ambient temperature and humidity levels are not ideal it can cause the base to react differently. This is extremely rare, but possible! Gently adding any amount of oils to our liquid soap base can cause the bonds of the ingredients to break and make the soap too watery. With beard oils & Original Beard Butter it can cause the ingredients to separate or layer.

Whenever we make an expanded assortment item for you, it is scented and packaged and set in a cool dark place overnight. The next day we open the package and inspect for any changes to consistency as well as fragrance accuracy before we commit to fulfilling your order.

By being able to provide this service, we are able to reach more people and provide more options to our customers. It also allows us to ensure you get a fresher product that has not sat waiting to be shipped for too long. We wish to continue to offer more items in more options for you. Sadly, we cannot bring these options to bar soaps, solid shampoo, creams, and lotions.

So, this is why it takes at least 1 extra day to process your order when you order an Expanded Assortment option.

2019 Survey Results, so far…

In February we posted our 2019 customer survey. A collection of questions to learn what you think about what we are doing and what you would like to see us do in the future. We presented 10 questions, some simple and some more engaged.

First up were 3 questions picking your brain on our brand representation. Which of our brands you primarily buy from and how often. We asked if you understand our mission with J&L Apothecary being gender neutral in presentation and concept. 75% of our responses demonstrated an understanding that our intent is to include everybody, regardless of how they see themselves or represent gender. For those other 25% who selected Unisex, you’re very close and generally get it. We wish to say that we see gender neutral go deeper and reflects a non-binary approach. We feel we project our mission by having a generic and simple packaging style and the use of bold primary colors that differentiate product categories.

Our 4th question wished to see if the men knew they could get their favorite J&L Pogonotrophics scents in other products. When we introduced this crossover between brands it was not clear that we offered these fragrances across many products in both brands. We wish to continue this crossover but we do not wish to overwhelm ourselves, and you, with too many options.

Q5 brought up a big monster for us. It referenced back to our 2018 survey where a large response indicated that some of you want to see our products on Amazon. We have constantly kicked this idea around. For us there is a huge negative that would affect our brand – a dramatic price increase would be required for many of our popular products. Such a price increase would change our “value” image we are working to establish. Many items would see a 17-25% price increase. Amazon as a strict policy that your own website must sell at the same price it is listed on Amazon. So their policy is to force a price increase through their fees and hidden costs that may deter established customers from shopping with us. We did not receive a single very positive response to this, and we did see a 20% very negative response. We will not be selling our products on Amazon anytime soon. We are among many small bootstrap businesses that are not willing to put up with Amazon’s policies that put too much pressure on small maker/sellers. There is only one workaround we see, and that is to offer unique products only through Amazon – different sizes or packaging.

We asked about what new branded products we could offer with Q6. Some of what we listed are things we are working on, some are things people have asked for and some are things we tossed in just to gauge your thoughts. Hair Styling products was the top response at 62.5%. We have been seeing into this but we have one huge drawback, how to keep these items as natural as the rest and still be a quality product. Many natural styling products literally don’t hold up, the best products are full of ingredients that are bad for the environment or just aren’t all that natural. We will still keep looking. One item that scored well we just introduced. A wash in Beard Conditioner was something we had been working on but with our Pop-Up, we were not able to devote time to developing such. Deodorant and Eye/Skin toning creams are under strong review and have been for some time. With the positive response they are more likely to become a part of the family.

Similar to Q6, Q7 asked what new 3rd party/accessory items you would like to see. The top responses were a tie between travel accessories and “swag” (shirts, key chains, hats, etc.). Early on we took a stance that we would not load up our store with branded swag. Despite it being free advertising for us, we felt it was just not something people would want and seem like an act of desperation for us. We did place one caveat with that statement, we would do it if money was raised for a charity. So, this may happen… The other top response needs more attention to sort it out. We do have a plan for more travel size versions of our most useful products and we hope to have this in place by the end of summer. But that would not be accessory type items. More discovery will need to be done to determine exactly what items would be beneficial.

Q8 asked about Primp & Jol and if there is interest in such a store. 62.5% of you said YES. This is still a concept and will require some major investment to make happen. And, we do want to make it happen. Our plan is to seek out a permanent production facility that we can open to the public. A place for us to make and present our products, allow you to shop everything we have, provide an order pick-up location and a place to test Primp & Jol.

Q9 related to the types of products we would seek to offer in such a store. The top response was “Lazy Day” – things to read, sip and create a retreat. Tied for second was “Dinner + Drinks” and “Spa Day”. Spa Day overlaps Lazy Day in many ways but leaves room for sharing some too, while Dinner + Drinks promotes intimate social situations. Our take-away from this is that many of you like the idea of small, simple moments whether alone or with others. This is at the heart of what Primp & Jol is about! As we go forward in our planning these will be the framework categories for us to work under.

Question 10 dealt with creating a “membership” program to provide perks to those who buy from us more often. Such perks as small discounts, free shipping on most orders and special promotions – much like Amazon Prime. 75% of you see a value in this. With this positive response we will dig deeper into seeing if we can make this happen. The infrastructure is there, we just need to craft it to our products and services. And, find the right price point for the membership fee that continues our value mission.

We really love the engagement and feedback. This survey will remain open for some time and we hope that more people tell us what they are thinking. If you have not taken the survey, we have a link below. Thank you, J&L

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/KPNHJTG

Pop-Up Aftermath

With the closing of our temporary retail location in Andersonville some have had concerns around our business. First we need to make it clear that this was a legitimate Pop-Up and always meant to be temporary. Initially to be for a couple weekends and we stretched it into 3 full months. Our decision to close when we did is attributed to 2 factors. 1. Our license is set to expire within days. 2. We have a few other activities on our schedule that would leave us with nobody to staff the store for a few weeks if we were to renew our license today.

It is very likely we will be back and in that same space. We are currently looking at a 2 weekend stretch in April. The space we have been using has been on the market for a permanent tenant and it is possible there is one ready to move in come May. If the space is available in May, we could do another weekend or 2. From there we will take it a week at a time.

We already have 2 festivals lined up and are working on 2 others. There are also a couple events we are working with for fun activities to bring awareness to a customer segment that is less familiar with our brand. July will be a busy month for us, personally, as we have family obligations to attend to. More details on these matters to come.

This Pop-Up is an exercise for us. Although we have a lot of retail experience without our leadership, it is a different matter when you are the “boss” and responsible for the budget and performance. We needed to see how people would receive us, and to do this without much fanfare. We wanted to rely upon our established customers to shop with us as well as acquire walk-in traffic. Having a barren space, with unfinished walls and no flooring, may not have been very inviting for some but we still had a lot of people come in and check us out. We made to friends and some loyal customers. We counted and weighed everything. Doing little nuanced changes to see how it would impact traffic and sales.

All of this information is being reviewed and distilled down. Then we have to scale it to the known costs of acquiring our own space. This Pop-Up was very successful, but that does not mean we can merely walk into a lease and know we will do well. The reality is, the area we wish to open a store is pricey and we most likely cannot afford the initial costs to get into such a place. Our biggest need is for a production space and that is what started the idea of having a retail space. The simplicity of it all is that if we are paying rent for a space to make our products, why not open it up to sell our products as well. To have a factory store.

If all goes well with our plans for this summer, we will start looking for a space that may not be on a main street with lots of foot traffic, but may be a space that is easy to get to and will permit public access to our space. With such a space we can create a “retail” zone in front with “factory” in the back and still have space for activities and events. Such spaces are a lot cheaper than a high profile commercial space. In time, we could expand from there to then open a genuine stand alone store. Our mission has not changed, we still hope to have such a space for the 2019 holiday season.


Product Development: Conditioner Bar – Part 1

Today we began testing our first formulation of a hair conditioner in bar form. Purpose is to provide a more natural environment friendly conditioner that performs equal to or better than a bottled conditioner.

Development began with studying known recipes and competitor products. Aligning learned data with our own internal data around properties of natural ingredients for hair care. To date, we have spent over 6 months studying existing formulations before attempting our first test product. Our studying has led to the addition of new ingredient items to our inventory. Some of these ingredients may appear in revised or all new formulas of other products. New ingredients include Mango Butter, Cupuacu Butter, Panthenol (ProV B5), Cetyl Alcohol – a thickening/hardening agent for fats (oils & butters), BTMS-50 [50% behentrimonium methosulfate with cetyl alcohol & butylene glycol] – an emulsifier and conditioning agent.

With the addition of Cetyl Alocohol and BTMS-50 we wish to assure everyone that these are in fact natural plant based ingredients that are proven to be safe. BTMS-50 is made from rape seed oil (aka canola oil). Cetyl Alcohol, which is not to be confused with distilled spirit alcohol, is made from plant oils and shares no properties with common alcohols like ethanol or isopropanol. It has the ability to thicken or harden oils as well as give a great slick feel to lotions and conditioners.

Test Candidate 1

This formula is targeted as our “dry hair” formula. To be released as SKU# CNB001, a 130g round conditioner bar. Ideal bar will be solid but not too hard, soften easily when rubbed in hands under warm to hot water in a shower or bath for creating a creamy lather to apply to hair.

This formula contains
71.4% Active Ingredients of assorted butters and oils
10.4% BTMS-50
2.2% Panthenol
16.0% Other ingredients (beeswax, cetyl alcohol, fragrance)

This first test bar set firm with a slight greasy feel to the bar. This is caused by the melting point of the combined ingredients. Bars set rather rapidly at room temperature.

In shower, the bar did not easily create a creamy “conditioner” in my hands when rubbed in hands under hot water on the first attempt. This led to the conditioner being too thick, waxy even, when trying to apply to hair. Second use found that the bar created a much creamier conditioner in my hands and rubbed into wet hair more easily but still not the desired consistency.

It is believed that the percentage of beeswax is too high which is causing it to not “cream” correctly. Beeswax is a common ingredient found in bar conditioners but those recipes we found with higher percentages of beeswax did not contain cetyl alcohol or BTMS-50. It is suggested that we replace a portion of beeswax with proportionate amount of cetyl alcohol for our next test.

Overall, the conditioner did a good job of softening hair, it is apparent that the negatives are the consistency before use (slimy feel), thickness of formula does not soften properly to produce desired conditioning cream for application to hair.

We will further test this candidate and confirm results after multiple uses then adjust formula for Test Candidate 2.

Update: Inventory Constraints

We are still dealing with supply and raw goods inventory issues with our suppliers. This is normal this time of the year but we are impacted more so than in the past as we are moving more product than our forecast. This is 100% due to our Pop-Up Shop. Yes, this can be seen as a good problem to have – in the short term.

Current products that may see Out of Stock notices over the coming weeks:
LIP BALM
HAND + BODY LOTION
AFTER SHAVE CREAM (both brands)
“Oxford” fragrance
BENTONITE + CHARCOAL MASK

We are diligently checking in with our suppliers for related materials to ensure we can have these popular items back in stock. Some of these items are currently in stock at the time of this notice but we predict they may sell out before we will be able to replenish supply.

Third party products are still seeing restraints caused by observance of the Lunar New Year in China. It may be March before we are able to receive inventory of the Travel size Brush and Shower Poofs.

Thank you for your understanding as we work to overcome these new challenges.