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The down side of being an innovator: The Original Beard Butter Story

We put a lot of work behind creating not only our “business” but the products we offer. Our inspiration and motivation to even begin this all was to offer something different and that was not already on the market; to meet unmet needs.

Our first big innovation was to create a powerful conditioning agent that also helped bring a little control and styling to a beard. I talked with many men that maintained larger, fuller beards to see what existing products they used. Surprisingly many of them called out various hair creams purchased from the Black hair-care aisle. These products are very intensive conditioners that are applied to the hair and left in to keep conditioning throughout the day. A few brands called this style of product “Hair Mayonnaise”.¬†Knowing that mayonnaise was suggested as a wash out hair conditioner in the 1970s, it made sense to me. It also looked like thick mayo in a jar.

I read the ingredients and made note of key components that benefit the hair and compared to ingredients I was already using. I focused on the more natural products and ingredients as that is our focus as a business. In my lab, I started mixing a little of this and a little of that and after a few tries I had a product ready to test. I gave samples to friends, talking them through the purpose of the product, the desired results and best ways to apply. While testing was taking place I had to think up a name to call this all new concoction.

Google was my friend here. I spent days searching word combinations from a short list of ideas. I knew I wanted to stay away from mayonnaise, but I did know I wanted a culinary reference to the look and feel of the product. Well, it looked like margarine; a little pale or translucent but still margarine. Margarine, though made from natural ingredients (normally) it is basically artificial butter. There it was… I decided to test out “butter” as a beard care product. Using all sorts of combinations to search the internet. Looking for any existing correlation of “beard” and “butter” and found none, anywhere. Not a single entry anywhere that contained the words Beard and Butter and any capacity. I browsed Amazon and various beard care product makers big and small. Nobody had a product similarly named or referencing Beard Butter. That was it! Our new leave in conditioning product was to be called the before unheard of “Beard Butter”.

It did extremely well in testing, everybody loved it. They loved the means to apply, the way it worked, how long it lasted and the added control to taming their beard. Then I started hearing other ways guys were using it and realized we had an amazing product here.

Upon launch it was a huge success and was constantly selling out. Orders came in from our resellers, with them telling us how much their customers loved it. The barbers who used our products put into their mix of what they used on their customers.

About a year after launch, we learned that a couple other beard care product makers had introduced their own version. It snowballed from there. More and more places were popping up with their own take on it. Some even using the exact same ingredients. Being a tiny business we did not have the means to hire an attorney to go after all of them. Every couple months we learn of new Beard Butters coming onto the market.

To add insult to all of this, they are now telling the public why it was invented and how it is intended to be used. We were never consulted on this. We don’t even earn a mention. Most of the information is inaccurate as it has warped with the intentions of those that copied our product.

Today there is little we can do. We strive to make it known that we were the inventors of this wondrous product and we have officially renamed our product The Original Beard Butter. We will continue to tell this story, to make it known that we put our sweat into creating this product from the ground up inspired by another product, but not the same; and brought to the masses as something new and unique. Nobody can ever take that away from us. Those other folks are merely thieves.

 

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Sans Fragrance

For our shampoos and conditioners we have been using a simple citrus herb fragrance. Something light and with a more universal appeal. Our hair care line had been one fragrance across all items that are scented.

While actually making these products I have always liked the natural scent more. Whether it is the shampoo or conditioner they have been fresh, crisp and clean smelling before I add fragrance.

The smell of a product can be very pleasing to one and very off-putting to another. I get asked to make these items in varying scents but my focus has always been to make varying formulas and keep to a subtle fragrance to stimulate senses. With the natural scent being more pleasing, and natural, I started to question why I was covering up such a nice scent anyway.

As I start production up again for these items I have decided to remove any added fragrance from future batches. Including our new Coconut Oil + Cocoa Butter shampoo & conditioner that is coming real soon. This permits these items to be less intrusive with scent, especially if you are combing various products as part of your self-care regimen. The sweet and sometimes nutty aromas of the oils now comes through. An aroma that will not linger nor interfere with other scented products you may using.

This also removes one more ingredient that can pose an allergy risk for those that may be concerned. We feel you will appreciate this decision and continue to enjoy the quality of the products.

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And we’re live…

Welcome!

It has been about 2 months or so in the making to get to this point. A lot of nights where I was felt brain dead after working on this all day. I am happy with what we have and excited as can be about what we will be bringing later. This new set-up will allow us to quickly adapt and change to the trends of the marketplace. We like to try to be ahead of trends, but sometimes that scares people. Folks don’t always react favorable to “different”.

Take a stroll, check it all out and please do let us know what you think.

Sincerely,

John

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Getting Closer

We are days away from launching this new version of J&L Pogonotrophic’s store and website. It has been a huge labor for us, well for me.¬† Upon launch it will not be 100% of our complete vision but it will be very close. I am happy with what we have to offer at the start and really excited about the potential this has to offer. By using a module based platform we can add new components in phases over time as we feel we are ready for them.

In the works are some new photos for use on our home page and elsewhere that will reflect the diversity of our offerings as well as our customer. On the store side of things we will finally be able to support a subscription service for our most often replenished items. Then there will be the addition of Gift Cards and Account Credit. This will allow gift giving season to be easier when you’re not sure what scent the recipient will enjoy most. It will also make it easier for us to apply credit to a customer’s account to handle customer service issues if they arise. But first, we will bring back our customizable combos and add a few new sets as well.

The process of building this new experience is fun and we will enjoy adding more features and improving it as we go. Feedback from the user will be very beneficial to help us improve our presence and make it better for everyone. We still have limitations due to using a prepackaged product that prevents full layout control. Being that we are a tiny business, this allows us to save time and money while still putting forth a very positive image.

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No City Made Fest this year

We were so looking forward to taking part in City Made Fest this year. The event that focuses on crafts, products, beer and music that is made in the city of Chicago – not suburbs or anywhere else. This was our first Chicago street festival and our favorite. We loved the concept and the culture it promotes.

After our second year the organizing entity merged with the Andersonville Chamber of Commerce. We learned that last year the event was to be on hiatus with no reason given. It was assumed that major work being done on city water and sewer lines that started last fall was a cause. Today I learned that the festival is not going to happen this year either. A reason given was not explanatory enough – “based upon feedback”.

A great event that raised awareness of locally made goods and was well attended is not going to happen again for no real reason. The neighborhood Chamber of Commerce that now oversees this event has another, bigger, event they produce. Andersonville’s Midsommarfest is HUGE. It draws vendors and participants from all over the country. People from all around flock to Clark Street to experience it. One would think that such a festival would be enough, that a smaller fest held later in the summer is not needed in a neighborhood.

Roscoe Village, another Chicago neighborhood that also hosts street festivals, is capable of supporting 3 such festivals and they are only weeks apart. Two of the festivals are on the same street, covering same blocks. The beneficiaries of the revenues may be different but the organizing entities are pretty much the same.

Andersonville has been very kind to us and our relationship started with that first City Made Fest that we were a part of. We will continue to support this community as they have us. It is sad that such a needed unique event will not happen again and there is no explanation why.

 

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Pop Up at Andersonville Farmer’s Market, May 23 3:00 to 8:00 PM

POP-UP SHOP!

We will be a Special Guest Vendor at Andersonville Farmer’s Market for this one day only!

Held every Wednesday through the warmer months on Berwyn Ave between Clark St & Ashland Ave. This is a smaller market than most in the city but it is a great mix of produce and products. We love Andersonville and they seem to love us back. At this first Pop-Up of the season we will be highlighting what’s new share what’s coming. It is always wonderful to interact with folks and we cannot wait to set up shop!

 

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Launch day is coming soon!

We are nervous and excited with this launch.

Whenever you make such dramatic changes to your web presence it brings the risk of bug and glitches. Tiny oversights that appear with the potential to be embarrassing or distracting.

The excitement comes from knowing all the potential this presents you. We shall be more easily reactive to the needs and demands of customers through purchasing. As we roll all of this out over the coming months we will encounter new challenges to an already busy time of the year for us. Summer brings festival pop-up stores. These pop-ups become 75% of our annual sales. The increase to our customer base leads to added business later. Production is a constant throughout these months as we are making more to sell and more to replenish what sold and which will sell later. We often head into the holiday season well prepared for what it brings. To add to this hectic mix major updates and revisions to our website may spread us thin.

But, it is important. Not only to you but to us. We will present a better experience all around. It is establishing us more firmly as a strong regional craft maker of personal care and grooming products. The stronger we become the better we can become. Increased sales leads to more buying power for materials which leads to better pricing for us and lower prices for you.

This new website and store is another part of all the wonderful changes we have been making this year. New innovative products with out Clay Mask Creator System, Foaming Face Wash and new scents in our Men’s Shaving line. We have a couple more items to come that add more to our strength of offering a comprehensive line of gender neutral skin care products. Our aim is to make skin care more important to everyone and to show how easy it is. We have plans for even more to come as we focus on UV protection and more luxurious spa quality items a down to Earth prices.

By May 12, 2018 our new site should be up and running. Pardon any typos or flaws as we iron out any rough spots.

We thank you so much for your continued support,
John & Larry
Founders of J&L Pogonotrophics

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The crew behind J&L

Although I am the principle person behind most things J&L, there are a few other people that help out behind the scenes and out in front during our Pop Ups. Some are actually blood relatives and others are very dear friends that we feel are a part of our family. As we grow, we hope they grow with us.

Most important to both ends of the business is Larry. He has been in my life for 14 years and we have been married 3 of them. He has worked hard to help push me forward as well as holding me back from when I feel the urge to push forward sooner than would be prudent. He’s the first person to hear ideas and often a sound voice when giving his insights. J&L is not a full time job for him, leaving him with little opportunity to be as deeply involved as he would like. He is always visible when we are selling and can often be found on social media promoting us and taking on the work of a salesman.

John F is another behind the scenes person although his work is viewed by everyone who visits our site or other outlets. He is an extremely talented photographer and is responsible for our visual presentation. Whether is work is generic product shots, pictures of us to put a face to the business or any of our promotional images we craft. His involvement is growing as he has more time to devote to his work with us. He puts his time in at our Pop Ups as well and does his best to set his creative self aside and do his best to be a salesman.

Brandon Cook has a small role behind the scenes as a sales manager, working to acquire new retailers to carry our wares. He is attentive, courteous and friendly to everyone, every time. When selling at our Pop Ups he is well loved by folks who feel he is trustworthy and knowledgeable. Brandon is also my nephew, so genuinely part of the family. Yeah, there is some nepotism involved. His wife Crystal also joins in the fun when she can. Together they are great fun to have around.

Ted & Dillon: Two guys that are good friends of ours that help us out wherever they can when they can. Dillon has been a model for us in the past and we hope to get him to sit for us again. Ted is an artist which has displayed his works in our Pop Ups along with helping serve customers. Both are strong supporters of our brand and talk us up to others.

Larry and John F will provide their own insights as contributors to this blog. Our wish is to have different voices behind the stories.

We may not always get together at once to be caught as a team, but when any of the parts join we know it is going to be a great time for us and for those around us. If you do get a chance to come to one of our Pop Ups, be sure to say hi!

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Why can’t this be easier?

As part of our transition to WordPress/WooCommerce we knew we would not have the same experiences we had previously. The trade-off having a template to make layout a breeze leads to precision formatting requiring more effort. Where before all I needed to do was draw a text box, apply a style (font, size, spacing) and start typing now I need to dig into coding to ensure what is see here is what I get there.

At launch of our new store we will not be able to provide any of our customized sets. Where Ecwid made this easy, allowing a customer to select each variable, WooCommerce requires you to pay for an expensive “plug-in” to get the same result. The mission is to get the basics fully functional first before we start adding in extras. This means we will have to put off offering something we have offered previously.

Granted, we built what we had gradually over a longer period of time and now are looking to recreate it all in a matter of a couple weeks. The pressure is on to be able to flip a switch and YOU will only see a sparkly new website.

Work needs to be done for our existing customers to be able to see an easy migration. Existing customers will not be able to track their purchase history once this is all complete. We may be able to have both stores functional on our end for some time for our reference but we won’t be able to give that access to our customers without creating confusion. We will be looking into exporting as much information as possible and make the full disclosure of what customers will need to do to create a new account with our WooCommerce store.

We are on target to have the new site in position to be fully tested and operational by mid May. By the end of June we will be closing our Ecwid store to the public. We are not sure what our options will be for those who shop directly through Facebook as we have not looked into WooCommerce integration.

Our big hope is that once we get this all up and running we can start adding all those cooler features we wanted to add way back – mainly Subscriptions for our most heavily used products. A poll may be in order to learn what people may be looking for in such a service.

Again, by the time you read this all the work has likely been completed. Some of you reading this may never have seen our soon to be former WebShop. It was clunky, but it was OURS – well, outside of the functionality of it. We know that this new WebShop will be better. As the parents of this baby we are sad to see her grow up so fast and those chubby cheeks becoming less rosy.

Big Thanks!

John

 

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New Direction

It was time we rebuilt our presence from the ground up. Our web developing tools were becoming clunky and limited. Our eCommerce solution had it’s limits as well. Both were getting costly for what little they offered us.

Doing it all in house and our way is very important to us. Although pressure was there to be more like everybody else. We are going to still fight that despite using very popular platforms that rely upon pre-established themes that have limited customization possibilities.

Our most important component will be to have a quicker loading store with en extremely simple look that allows our product to speak for itself. In time we hope to add features that permit subscriptions for our most consumed products as well as more robust customization of gift sets and packaged sets.

Being able to tell stories and share insights within our website will be beneficial as well.

This post is being written as we begin the development of our new site. We know it will likely be months before it is full ready for the masses. For those that care, we will do our best to share our journey as we go.