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Five Years and counting. Part One

There were times I never thought we would get to this point. When faced with challenges that wore me down, stresses the shut me down and all the loneliness that comes trying to get a business going in today’s world I was still able to find a light to keep going.

About 2 years ago I was ready to pack it in. Resellers that were all excited to offer us to their customers fell silent. I started seeing more and more competitors coming onto the landscape that obviously had more money behind them and were making money off of our innovations, our original ideas, our intellectual property. For much of what we do, little is very original but when you do have something that is extremely original, a first of it’s kind and see every schmo out there run with it and even promote it like it was their idea it crushes you as much as it angers you.

Every time there was a setback, and there are always setbacks, I had to look for that sign to tell me it is all worthwhile or the sign that tells me to be done. As recently as this summer I thought the sign was there that it was time to end our run. I even began looking for work, figuring I could wind this all down and let everything trickle away. I made some planning oversights that cost us a lot of sales. Our new website seemed to confuse well established customers to where they no longer bought from us. Resellers dried up entirely to where our core revenue is directly linked to direct and online sales. The plans for the summer street festival circuit fell apart as we banked on a pop-up store that didn’t happen until this holiday season. Once we saw it was not going to happen, it was too late for us to get into the best festivals. One of the festivals we did take part in was huge bust for us and most of the other vendors.

I went forward with plans for a huge focus on a Thanksgiving weekend advertising campaign. It was a tad ambitious but it was worth the risk. We did well with it, not as well as we would have liked but we did better than the year before. The best thing that came out of that weekend was a little email I received at 4am on Thanksgiving Day.

When I first saw it I wanted to believe it was a scam. Being skeptical, I investigated the person who signed the email. It turns out she is known and works for the enterprise she claimed she represented. She is a marketing director for a very well known men’s fashion magazine based in the UK. I can’t say who or what yet, but we will soon enough. Anyway, the offer was to advertise in their spring style issues. Yes, we were invited to advertise – this is exactly how big this is. Small guys like us can’t just call such a publication up and say we wish to advertise, you need to be invited or be a big player. With laying on the humility rather thick I expressed tentative agreement to be involved. The response I received was amazing. Maybe it was empty praise from a fashion industry professional, but I’ll take it. They said they totally vetted us and feel we are THE right mix for their international readers who are in the millions. What can I say, other than yes?

The following weekend we received word that our Pop-Up Shop can happen. Acquiring the correct license we opened the first weekend in December. Just in time for the holidays! I was in whirlwind of activity. Not prepared for the demands that this would place on our inventory and unable to produce more product fast enough. We did our best to keep moving product and trying not to sell out of anything. Everything went well and people loved us. Sales were far beyond expectations and our inventory held up right until Christmas. Even better is that we can continue this Shop indefinitely! The sales won’t match the holiday sales, but every day we are open is an opportunity to gain a new customer for life. Opening this Pop-Up brought a lot of local media attention as well, because we were the first retail business to open up using the new Chicago Pop-Up business license.

We closed out 2018 on a high. I spent the last few days buying new products and replenishing supplies for what is next for us. Fulfilling our mission to offer sensible products that compliment everything we make and to lead us to where we are able to open our own lifestyle store that showcases our products. We are just weeks away from our 5th anniversary date and after all the missteps, challenges and obstacles we are moving forward stronger than ever before. Poised to make 2019 the best year in our history so far.

Over the next couple weeks I wish to share more stories about the challenges we faced to inspire others to work to achieve their goals and make their dreams happen. For me, it’s been an awesomely wonderful experience so far. With all the stress and anguish, I am happy.

Thank you for reading,
John C Dodge
Founder
J&L Pogonotrophics

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New products coming for 2019!

Over the next few months you will see us expand our accessory offerings as we work to build a “complete solution” to complement our own products. Our first foray into brushes and combs has been well received so far. Look for our expanded grooming product offerings as we add shaving basics to our J&L Pogonotrophics line. J&L Apothecary will see the addition of items designed to help create a home spa with towels, wash clothes and other simple necessities.

We are also looking to build other lifestyle offerings that promote a transition to natural and environmental friendly ways for daily life. These will be curated products we can acquire and offer and a savings over other on-line sellers like Amazon.

All of these new products will be a part of Primp & Jol as we further our plans for our permanent retail concept. New products will trickle in as we are able to source them from 3rd party manufacturers. Most items will be commonly available elsewhere, but we will strive to offer a more attractive price while remaining competitive. It is always our goal to offer choice, now we are striving to offer a level of convenience.

In the realm of new branded products coming next year, we are still working on ideas to expand our skin care with more premium lotions and creams; deodorants, toothpaste and possible fragrances. We are also partnering with a close friend to bring a ultra-premium beard oil to market with an exclusive arrangement that will permit us to be the exclusive seller of their products. We are working to ensure this new beard oil fits in well with our brand but will stand alone as its own brand. Look for product by Aristos this coming spring.

With our 5th Anniversary coming and all the new opportunities and products, 2019 is shaping up to be a very good year for us and for our customers!

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2018 Year in Review

2018 is wrapping up very soon and for us it is a time for looking back as well as looking forward. It is our custom to be fully transparent about our journey and to share the good and the bad with all that care to follow. Our reasoning is multi-faceted but centers around 2 principles: 1. To be as genuine as we say we are. 2. To help inspire others while letting those who wish to start their own business as a genuine bootstrap start-up know some of the reality they may encounter.

At the start, 2018 was offering great promise and presented some growing pains. We had a rocky start to the year as we lost a reseller as they focused on other areas of their business. This was a minor setback, but still a setback that affected our local Pick-Up capabilities. Early in the year we learned from service providers related to our website that they will no longer be supporting their product leaving us in a pinch. This had a deep impact to how we manage our website and eCommerce. In the spring we painstakingly built an all new website and shopping system from the ground up with all new graphics and product images. The new shopping system gave us the most trouble as we had to trade off some features that we knew our customers enjoyed while having the capability to add bigger and better features as we moved forward. At launch of our new site in late April we had a bare-bones store that met the core functionality we needed. By summer we were able to add more features; such as subscriptions and memberships. There are still some things to come that will make your experience better when shopping with us and allowing us to offer more options.

In the spring of 2018 we started the logistical process of planning for our own factory and store. This was presented as a near necessity for our business for this stage of our growth. Soon to outgrow our current production options and storage space it is near time to find a secure space that is 100% ours for doing all production of our products. Chicago rents are very high and to justify the expense it has been a logical decision that any production space be open to the public for direct retail sales as well as offering local order pick-up. With having such a space we can also can offer more products that make what we do even better. Like everything we do, we are methodical and analytical about the required planning. Slow and steady is our style. We have decided to call this future brick & mortar space Primp & Jol.

During this planning process we were presented with an option to practice our ideas for a store. A friend with a soon to be vacant store front in a high traffic area presented us the offer to use the space until a new tenant is acquired. It was expected that the space would be available at the start of June. Due to some issues beyond our control it took many months before we were able to open our doors with a long term Pop-Up Shop. During this time we opted to not commit to many of the festivals we had previously planned to take part. Once we learned the space was not going to be available for some time it was too late to get into the better festivals. This was a huge blow to our incomes as we normally do great business and gain many new customers during these events. The loss of revenues created a challenge for us.

The new website also created an small setback. New site meant new links and causing previous links to not work. Many established customers were confused despite our efforts to ensure the changes were well communicated in every possible channel. A few that found us assumed we had gone out of business. It has taken some time to bring back that momentum we had with out internet sales.

In the fall we prepared our largest sale event ever. We are not fans of doing sales as it distracts from the real value of our products; but they are a means to gain exposure and new customers. The sale offered daily big discounts on key products over the Thanksgiving Weekend. It was well received and kept us very busy.

Immediately following this event we had a couple awesome surprises. First, our Pop-Up Shop was finally happening. Opening December 7th in Andersonville, Chicago, IL with our entire selection of products presented in an easy to browse and friendly environment. It also brought a lot of attention form local government, the Andersonville Chamber of Commerce, the media and best of all the people of the community we serve. It has gone well beyond our expectations. The only negative was the lack of ability to fully prepare which has led to a challenge of keeping our most popular products in stock. The second event was being presented with the opportunity to advertise in a very well known British men’s fashion and lifestyle magazine that has strong international readership. There was no way we could pass on this opportunity and we will be a part of the Spring Style issues coming soon. Once the magazine has gone to print we can share what magazine we will be featured.

At the beginning of the year we decided to make a big change to the look of J&L Pogonotrophics. It was time to tighten up our packaging and refresh our logo. We also took a big risk when we renamed many of our current fragrances for beard care. This was a big necessity as the scent titles were rather lengthy for some options; making them hard to read or easily fit on the labels. The new look has been very popular and we love how we have truly captured the image we were looking for at the start. As for the scents, people are coming around to learning all the new names. We promise we will not do this again! It was our belief that we were small enough at the time to make this change without too much of a negative affect.

J&L Apothecary continues to grow will all sorts of new scents, new products and new looks. To further distinguish the lines we are changing out packaging to showcase certain products better. We introduced our Clay Mask Creator System; a means to buy individual pieces to combine with common items you may already have in your home to allow you to craft the ideal clay mask for your needs and be able to change your mask recipe as your needs change. This is part of our support of providing choice when it comes to your personal care. We also introduced our new Shampoo Bars to much fanfare. An economical and Earth friendly means to get great hair. Skeptics are enjoying the ease and convenience these bars offer. Our bar soaps were overhauled to match our fragrances for Shower Wash and many other items to bring consistency to our scenting. Even popular Beard Care fragrances are now available in our soaps.

2019 will bring a lot of new great things. Our Pop-Up Shop will continue until further notice; operating with limited boutique hours at the end of the week. This gives us a couple days to focus on production and other back of house requirements. We will introduce new products that are currently in development and our first new fragrance since Tarocco was introduced last spring. A couple scents will be transitioned to custom ordering only through our Expanded Assortment program. We will announce these scent changes later next month.

With the current economic situation, causing an increase in our costs, we will be raising the prices of a few items. We hate having to do this but it is greatly necessary. Freight, raw goods and other businesses expenses have increased exponentially while our prices have pretty much remained the same for the last couple years. Shipping rates are also increasing again next month to add another cost. To offset these increases we are forced to raise prices a dollar or two here and there. Original Beard Butter will increase to $18, Beard Oils to $16. Masks, scrubs and other items will see a 5% to 15% increase. We will also lower our flat shipping rate to $5, but will add a $1 charge for our heaviest of items. Our Saver $3 shipping rate will remain for the lightest of items like a single beard oil or bar of soap.

The new year also brings our 5 Year Anniversary. Expect to see a touched up version of our logo just for this occasion. We will have a private celebration with our local friends, family, big supporters and our most loyal local customers. Those attending will get the first look at all that is new for J&L Pogonotrophics and Apothecary and be taken down memory lane with a look back at our beginnings. This is a huge milestone for us and one that at times we thought we would never reach. With all the great things that are happening and with what we have planned, 2019 will be a great year for us if all goes well. It will be the biggest step we have had to take and it has come at what seems to be the right time.

We look forward to sharing more with you and we love all of you that give us your time to learn about us and give us your hard earned money to buy our products. We know there are plenty of options out that and the fact that you choose us means so much.

Much love from John & Larry and the rest of the J&L Family

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Pop-Up Shop affecting inventory levels

Due to our Pop Up Shop point of sale system not able to sync with our website inventory customers may encounter limited stock of popular items. There is also a greater chance of an item being unable to be fulfilled if we are sold out before the website is updated with any sales data.

Many of our items can be made quickly to prevent backorder situations. There are some items, such as bar soaps and shampoos that cannot be made quickly enough to satisfy an order if it becomes out of stock. If we are unable to fulfill your order we will contact you to either offer a substitute product or issue a refund.

The success of our Pop Up has been far greater than we could have ever expected and we apologize for any troubles it creates for our internet customers. We are a very tiny operation and are without the tools available to us that would prevent these issues going forward. In the event that we are unable to fulfill your order we will do our best to present you favorable options to ensure your satisfaction.

Thank you, John C Dodge

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PRIMP + JOL Holiday Pop-Up Shop

Kicking off this Friday, December 7, 2018 we will be hosting our own brand specific holiday store. Located in the heart of the Andersonville neighborhood in Chicago. We will have everything from both our brands available as well as in-store only specials.

Our initial hours: Friday 12/7 4:00 PM to 9:00 PM; Saturday 12/8 11:00 AM to 6:00 PM; Sunday 12/9 12:00 PM to 4:00 PM.

Location: 5307 N Clark St., Chicago, IL 60640 MAP

Further operating hours will be posted later as we are still working out the details. Please follow the link to our Facebook page to see current hours and dates.

see FACEBOOK for up to the minute details

On site you will be able to select from any of our products to create a gift box with exactly what you wish to include, grab one of our HOLIDAY scented products while they last; and you can “meet the maker” and support a small local business.

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Thanksgiving Weekend Sale Details

With most things in life there are some fine details that may easily be overlooked. We try our best to be open and honest about everything we do so we will share the fine print related to our 2018 Thanksgiving Weekend Sale Event

Free Shipping offer: Any order placed between the start and end of this sale will be eligible for Free Shipping if their cart total at time of payment is equal to or greater than $10 after all discounts are applied and before tax.

Sale starts Wednesday (today) November 21, 2018 and will end Midnight Monday November 26, 2018. Each day of this sale there is a new ONE DAY ONLY item placed on sale. The daily item will only be discounted for the 24 hour period starting at 12:00am on that day. If one wishes to purchase more than 1 day’s item they must complete a new transaction/order for each day.

If an order is placed for more than 1 day’s item, and any 1 of those days did not meet the minimum $10 threshold for Free Shipping, we will refund any paid shipping if all orders/items are being shipped to the same address for the same customer – regardless of payment method. We want you, the customer, to reap the full benefit of this event.

All orders will be consolidated and fulfilled starting Tuesday, November 27, 2018. Our shipping center will be closed as of 12:00pm Wednesday, November 21, 2018 and will reopen Monday, November 26, 2018.

Customer Support times will be limited. We will do our best to respond to all questions as quickly as possible. Best time to contact us is between 10:00 am and 6:00pm CST. You may email us at support@pogonotrophics.com or use Facebook Messenger to reach us.

Other details:

Sales are limited to current in-stock quantities at time of purchase. Shopping Carts are not being stored – that means, once you leave the site your cart will automatically be cancelled within 2 hours. This is to ensure our products are available to those who will be buying them and not tied to incomplete or abandoned shopping carts. No other discount code or coupon can be applied to these products (Most other discount offers exclude Sale Items already anyway). All items will be shipped to the address provided. If you wish to place orders as gifts to be sent to more than 1 address, please contact us before placing an order.

Thank you, J&L



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To our Chicago friends:

At one point in time we offered a Free Pick Up option that allowed you to save on shipping at pick up your order at one of our resellers. We unfortunately had to end this arrangement when the reseller stopped promoting our products due to changes in their business focus.

It was very sad for us to loose this reseller for many reasons, but it is really sad that we can no longer offer this option. We are continually looking for a means to bring this option back as soon as possible.

We cannot offer Pick Up from our offices. We are a very tiny business where our offices are not in a facility that permits public access, nor do we maintain hours that would be compatible with most. We generally leave our offices the same time most other people leave theirs. During the day we may be in production at one of our “drop in” facilities we use making it even more difficult to pinpoint a reasonable time for us to be available. In essence, it is a logistic nightmare trying to track us down during the day. 

Knowing all these issues is why we are working diligently to open a retail and production space that is all ours where we can have published hours of operation where you can come to browse, try and buy directly from us.

This scenario is why we created the Saver shipping rate. This $3 flat rate is applied when your order is below our Free Shipping threshold and all items in your order are light weight and small in size – must be below 14 ounces. With most of our products being 5 ounces or less, this means we can pass along the lower shipping rates to you when possible.

A note about our shipping rates:

Minimum postage we pay USPS for most packages is $7.25. A package going to the west coast can easily be more than $15.00. We are still too small to qualify for any bulk discounts from any carrier. Our Flat Rate Shipping is now $5 for orders under $50. This means we have to roll $2.25 into the cost of the goods we make and sell. The fee does not cover the cost of shipping labels, packaging and other incidentals. We know other online sellers offer flat free shipping on all orders. In most cases they are comparatively more expensive and ship a higher volume therefor paying less to ship. To offer free shipping on all orders we would have to raise the prices of our goods, not only online but in pop-ups as well.

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Holiday 2018

The Holiday Season is very important to us here at J&L. We never know when it really begins for us. From years of working retail before we started this little venture it always seemed like Veterans Day became the unofficial start of Christmas shopping, but for most it is Thanksgiving that starts off the Holiday Season.

There are so many wonderful celebrations that take place during this time that we cannot properly give them all the attention they deserve and keep this post short. What we will do is let all know that as part of us encouraging all to embrace their own individuality we wish all of you to celebrate any days that mean the most to you, your family and your friends in any manner you choose.

We have some great plans for this year, starting off with our biggest sale event ever. Sales are not something we do often, but when we do it is done as best as we can. This Thanksgiving Weekend we will offer up a great bargain price on a new item each day. 6 Days of Deals! Our standard Free Shipping threshold was reduced to a $10 order minimum for this sale event.

There will be a couple promotional specials in December to help with last minute stocking stuffers and thank you gifts for those on your gift giving list.

2018 has been a big year for us with lots of new products, numerous behind the scene improvements and tweaks to our J&L Pogonotrophics packaging. We hope to end this year with a lot of new friends and happy customers who will continue onward with us into 2019.

All of you mean so much to us and we wish you all the best this Holiday Season. We thank you all very kindly,

John & Larry

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I didn’t think we needed to say this…

Since our founding we have taken great effort to share every possible nuance about our products, what goes into them and how we make them. Within our niche industry it is necessary as a means to set us apart from the “big guys”.

What is our niche industry, anyway?

We see ourselves among a special segment of the cosmetic and personal care industry that includes the makers of small batch natural personal care products. This is our foundation and where we are today. Although, we are aiming higher to be a strong regional brand of natural personal care products that are all made in-house – versus being made by a contract producer. We intend to always be the actual developer and maker of our goods.

While we often make point to call out that we avoid ingredients that are deemed undesirable or are proven to have a potential to cause harm, we don’t speak about our production and product testing methods.

We are cruelty free!

We do not test any of our products or their ingredients on animals. We do not acquire raw goods (ingredients) from any supplier that submits their products for animal testing. We didn’t think we had to make a big deal out of this as we figured it would be obvious.

With the bulk of our raw goods being 100% natural ingredients that are commonly used for food and soap making there is no point in testing them for potential harmful properties. We follow strict guidelines on how we use each item and never come close to meeting any risk threshold. This can be a concern with some essential oils.

All our testing is done in house with our J&L family. We give products to those close to us, as we trust they will be honest with us about how our products perform and how well they meet our expectations and reach the desired results. Scents, texture, viscosity, and a whole bunch of other properties are reported back to us to ensure we are making a product that works and is not harmful to you or the environment when used properly.

So in addition to our products being as natural as possible and free of the “bad stuff”, we are proudly cruelty free. We honestly didn’t think we had to make a big deal about it.


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New Special Subscription Plans Coming for 2019

We have 2 new subscription packages launching soon that will allow you to try new scents or new products.

First will be our “Scent of the Month” plan that will kick off with the first item shipping in January. This will be part of a month long focus on a specific fragrance that will be shared across our most popular scented items from both brands. For those that subscribe, you will select your favorite item and we will automatically ship it to you in that month’s fragrance the same time every month. Some scents will be very limited and only available during that month – other scents that are limited to certain items will be made just for this Subscription plan for your selected item. We will post 3 months out what our scents will be, although we may require substituting a scent if there is an unforeseen issue.

We plan to include all Beard Oil formulas, Original Beard Butter, Bar Soap, Body Mist and 240ml Shower Wash in this plan. You can select more than 1 item type.

Our second subscription plan will be a means to get a new item every month. These will be specially selected sample version of products we currently make, soon to be introduced or a new fragrance we are trying out. The item will be a little surprise designed to introduce you more of what we have to offer. Enjoy the item for yourself or gift to someone special.

There will be a 2 options: Pogonotrophy Series which will include items from J&L Pogonotrophics; and the General Series which will highlight products from J&L Apothecary. Scents and sizes of items will vary, the focus will be on variety so you can try before you may buy.

With both of these services we anticipate offering them at a great value and include appropriate shipping, like our current Beard Oil subscription plan. We hope you will be excited about these Special Subscriptions. They would make a great gift that keeps giving all year!

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