2020: Year in Preview

The first few months of any year is a time to regroup, refocus and energize to take on all the new challenges that a new year brings. Typically, these are the slowest months of the year in regards to sales and productivity; but not for planning and strategy building. We have a lot of aspirations for this year, as well as some solid goals that we must meet.

This year we are changing a few things in regards to how we promote ourselves. Our newsletters will become monthly and will operate like a newsletter. Much of what each email will contain will be pulled from our blog as well as unique information to be shared first in the newsletter. There will then by a few special emails that will strongly feature products and services. These will be tied to busier times of the year.

We also plan to become more aggressive with our social media presence. This has been something we have been inconsistent with since the beginning. Although J&L is often referenced as a “we”, in reality it is only one person juggling the majority of activities. After production, administrative and operational tasks, there is little time made available for social media posts. Now that I have refined some processes there will be more time for mapping our on-line presence on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and even here on our blog.

Changes to our Festival Participation

Many of our most loyal customer came to us from meeting us at area Festivals and Pop-Ups over the years. It had been or focus to use such events as a means to not only make money, but to be a marketing tool. Having a physical presence where you can meet people face to face helps build a reputation and trust. With the changes in how city street festivals are managed and promoted, we are see a decline in sales from these events in direct correlation to the attendance numbers. This specifically boils down to “bang for the buck”. If we don’t make enough money being there, we are not going to come back.

Although these festivals are well attended overall, most of the attraction is around food, drink and entertainment. Merchants are not valued by the promoters and organizers in conjunction with fewer attendees coming to shop the merchants and see the artists. For these reasons, we are not doing anywhere as many festivals as we have in the past. In fact, we will only plan to take part in Andersonville Midsommarfest, Jarvis Square Music & Arts Fest and possibly Andersonville Arts Week.

Along with our new position on festival appearances, we will no longer take part in farmer’s markets, small bazaars and socials. Most of these are too tiny to drive traffic, are too narrow in appeal while providing less space for presentation. Another issue with such events are the hours of operation are very brief, sometimes as little as 4 hours on one day.

Factory Store Concept

The drawbacks we experienced this year greatly affected our plans for 2019. Our hopes were to have a dedicated space to not only sell our products, but to make them. It was important that we performed well enough in the scheduled events to have the funds to make this happen. This was a major setback for us, but not a defeat. We are going back to our whiteboard and rethink this plan for this year.

Place the Spotlight on Online Sales

For 2020 we will put more energy behind those areas where we are experiencing significant growth. Our online sales grew tremendously in 2019. This was done with zero advertising! This year we plan to bring back an advertising budget and place a more concentrated effort into our messages – micro and macro. From images to written content, we will strive to build a cohesive message that captures our values and our mission while genuinely representing our brands.

A New Business Plan to Guide Us

During these quieter months, we will be drafting a new business plan. Our initial business plan drove us to where we are today, but it is no longer relevant to where we need to go next. We have a strong proof of concept and a solid history to pull from in creating our driving vision for the coming years.

An essential focus will be financial stability and a restructure of any debt. As we have been a genuine bootstrap business, relying on personal funds and credit to build J&L, we have incurred a realistically small debt that carries higher interest rates than other forms of credit. By moving that debt to a new loan with a much lower interest rate, we will free up cash for all the things we wish to do this year. Our current debt is all in revolving credit, a micro loan will allow smaller payments with a solid pay off timeline, a much smarter way to handle it.

We are also opening ourselves up to the idea of a partnership or single investor situation. Bringing in a fresh voice that can also help drive this bus would be very beneficial if the terms are right. It will be imperative that anyone that wishes to become part of our family must like us as we are yet can further our growth and fine tune what we have already. Our customers pretty much like us as we are, we do not wish to alienate them as they have been a driving force for us all along.

At this point in our journey we are not in a critical or dire situation. Our needs at this point are purely to make a substantial jump in our growth. We feel this is a wise move to make at this moment and it can open us up for more rapid growth. We are not looking to dominate, we are merely seeking a higher level of stability. There are a lot of plans we have around new products and improvements for current products that we wish to bring to the marketplace. Once we have achieved those goals, we can then focus solely on improving other areas of our operations as we maintain our catalog of goods. Although, we know that our offerings must be flexible to satisfy changes in tastes and trends.

Products and Product Changes on the Horizon

We have mentioned some of these before with a few of them having been planned for 2019.

First off is Natural Deodorant. This has been heavily requested and something that makes sense for us to get into. We don’t plan to go big, just a couple sensible options.

We had talked about Toothpaste in the past. While it is still being worked on, it is not a huge priority for us.

Liquid Shampoos and Conditioners will return this spring. Production has already started and we have items ready to sell, but we are waiting for “creative” department to do some photos so we can get them out there for sale. We have dropped the plan for solid conditioner as it is not mass production friendly. There will be changes to our Shampoo Bar line with the dropping AMP, reformulating QUENCH as well as SHOCK. We are also considering doing a combo bar or FIXER/BALANCE to address itchy/oily scalp.

Sustainability has always been important to us, but due to our size it has been a very expensive component. This year is where we plan to move away from as much plastic as possible, or at least minimize the amount. This is leading to our revamped concept with liquid soaps. This spring we are going to start using a pouch format for liquid soaps that can re-fill any style of liquid soap dispenser or bottle. This will allow us to keep the price lower as well as reduce the total weight of plastic we are currently using.

Solid Cologne/Fragrance has been immensely popular for us. We are planning to put more energy behind this line with new unique fragrances and new “air tight” packaging. Formulas will see a boost in fragrance strength as feedback has been that they are a tad light.

We will be bringing back Salt Scrubs. This was a line that was badly affected by doing festivals as the heat was causing the sugar to melt. We are removing sugar, and going back to just salt. Scrubs will remain a small-run product that will see very tight inventory levels. Essentially, they will be made to order.

We do have plans to introduce new scents as we are retiring a couple. Tarocco and Citrus Grove have ceased production. Remaining inventory is currently clearance priced. Absinthe & Leather are moving to Expanded Assortment – only available as scented to order. Lakeside and Seaside will be expanded into Beard Care and in more Apothecary items. They were well received as Solid Colognes last year. Also popular as a cologne, Aruba will be introduced as our official new scent of 2020. Expect to see this in all Beard Oil formulas, Original Beard Butter, Shower Wash and Bar Soap.

Expect Expanded Assortment to come to Shower Wash and Body Mist. With other planned changes in production, we intend to make it easier to scent a product on demand wherever possible. A system we are developing will make it possible to maintain an inventory of unscented items with a scent blend “dose” that we can mix-in just before shipping. This is part of our desire to offer more options while keeping prices lower.

In Closing

We are about to reach the end of our 6th year. Through these years we have seen quite a few similar businesses come and go. We cannot express how thankful we are that we are still here and are in a position to consider further growth. What was meant to be a tiny little hobby for myself as grown into a very unique brand that is changing how we all look at personal care. We stand firm that there is absolutely NO REASON to pay so much for premium quality natural products. It boggles my mind to see a shampoo that costs $50 (11 fl oz) and is no better in performance than anything we have every made. Yet there are still beard oils out there that charge $40/ounce for glycerin with aloe and a few drops of specialty oils. This past year I was reminded why what I do matters to so many people. I hope this year, that with your support, we are able to reach our modest goals. You got us here, and we hope to remain a force in the personal care industry. When we have big name brands “borrow” from us, and are even beating us with their forgeries, we will keep making our mark!

A heartfelt thank you to all of you,
John C Dodge
Founder, J&L Pogonotrophics LLC

Reflection and a Peek Into 2020

2019 was another good year for us when looking at the big picture. Although we had some great wins, there were certainly some opportunities this year.

Any business’s 5th year is a mixed bag full of growing pains. It has been no different for us. We were presented with some challenges that we may not have handled at our best as well as amazing wins. Through the year we added a lot of new features and benefits to our online store, and have changed how we handle our Festival and limited Pop-Ups.

This year we introduced gift credit [cards], product subscriptions, order specific automatic reward emails and a shopping membership club. Little by little we have been updating our product information within our website to provide more information in a less cluttered manner. All of these things will continue through 2020, but there may be further improvement tweaks to how the operate. We know not all things are for all people, but it is awesome to have options. And, every option we offer allows the shopper to have the experience that suits them best.

Our biggest challenge this year came from our Festival participation. As much as these can be a huge business driver for us, they can also be very problematic. Too many factors can create a negative experience for us as well as those shopping with us. This year we had to deal with unruly crowds that blocked access to our booth, poor assigned booth locations that made interactions with shoppers near impossible, and poor weather that kept people away from the festival entirely. As these outings are very traffic driven, fewer people in attendance means fewer sales. With the comparatively lower average price per item, we have to work harder than many vendors to break even at these festivals. Anything that negatively affects our ability to engage with those attending can means a loss for us. To be fully transparent, we only had 2 successful outings this year.

Despite the troubles with events, our on-line business saw substantial growth. This is ultimately where we need to be until we have a brick & mortar location. While the events do a great job an introducing us and providing a means to interact with us and our products, they do not provide consistency. Seeing our online business grow allows us to plan and understand trends more accurately. This is how we can gauge customer loyalty and truly see what sells and does not sell.

Looking Forward

For 2020 we are revamping our involvement with outdoor festivals. We will only participate in those that genuinely support their vendors. We plan to take part in a couple maker-seller events instead of “street festivals”. Such events focus on vendors like us, and are not about selling beer and providing top-notch entertainment. Through other vendors, we have been encouraged to take part in such events.

2020 will be a year of change for us. It is true that we have been a constantly evolving organization, but this year we intend to fully revamp our J&L APOTHECARY branding as well as overhaul many products to make them more sustainable and environmentally friendly. This has been important for us from the start, but when you are a tiny business it is financially difficult to procure GREEN packaging. As me move through existing packaging we will transition to more metal, more glass and more easily recycled plastics. We also plan to take steps to reduce shipping costs as well as end user plastics by offering a “re-fill” concept for liquid products. This will allow us to sell you a larger capacity product that you can easily store in your home and fill any bottle of your choice, or buy a more decorative bottle from us.

Over the last few months we have moved to a wax paper packaging for bar soaps. The wax is an organic material that protect the product from moisture and along with the paper, it is biodegradable as well. Unfortunately, we cannot move entirely away from plastic, as the trade offs lead to heavier products that are more expensive to ship and are may break in transit or in your home. The majority of our products are intended for use in bathrooms where water and glass can be a major hazard.

This new year will also kick off our plans to restructure our debt to free up cash flow. The measures we plan to take will allow us to advertise more which will gain us new customers as well as permit us to improve many aspects of our business – from supply chain to administrative.

We are also willing to explore other means of increasing our capital. This can be done through various investment opportunities or bringing on board an equity partner. These are options we are still sorting out and will consider if presented to us.

Expect to see a lot of new fragrances coming over the year. We plan to expand the use of 3 scents we tested this summer and we have a few more in development. We intend to make it easier to offer more options in fragrance through a “scent to order” system that can be implemented for online as well as in person sales. Many of our oils and liquid soaps can quickly scented on the fly as needed. This will allow us to reduce waste while offering more options. This system will roll out over the year as well sell through existing inventory and transition to the “re-fill” system.

Our mission for 2020 and beyond is to:

  • Continually improve our products, packaging and other offerings to be an even better option
  • To improve the shopping experiences online and in person
  • Free up cash flow to streamline our operations and support continued growth
  • Introduce new and improved products that further reflect our core values
  • Maintain our premium quality while still offering a more affordable price
  • Further violate expectations of our industry – to be even more visionary and breaking barriers

Thank you!

Since our launch we have seen real competitors come and go. They flash big with a lot of fanfare and advertising to then fade into oblivion. Many of them relied upon gimmicks or lacked originality when it came to their products or their image. We are still here! Despite some challenges we are stable and we are growing every day.

We are very humbled by our success up to this point. What was meant to be just a little “side gig” has become a full-time business. Although we are tiny and have taken our time to grow, we feel we are poised to break through this year. The last 5 years was like a BETA test in some ways. We offered a functional product and relied upon your feedback to make it better. We feel that this coming year we are finally able to come out of beta, and release a robust and complete experience for everyone. To those who tried us early on and was not impressed, check us out now! We are only going to get even better!

Thanksgiving and Holiday Plans

We feel it is important to communicate as much of our holiday plans as we can to help you plan your shopping or know what to expect. Please monitor this post for any new information or changes to current offerings.

SALES & PROMOTIONS

Our current Beard Care and Lotion promotion will end on November 23rd. This will be the absolute lowest price on our Beard Oils you will see for months to come!

On Wednesday November 27th, we will begin our THANKSGIVING WEEKEND promotions. There will be select items on sale from across all our entire catalog. It will also be the beginning of our FREE SHIPPING on all orders over $25. Due to the expense involved, there will be an order premium placed upon SHOWER WASH and PET SHAMPOO due to the higher weight of the items. This premium is a $1.00 price increase on each unit.

PRIMP & JOL CLUB: we will introduce a 3 month TRIAL membership to allow folks to see the benefits of this savings plan. This special limited membership will have all the same savings built in, but you will get a smaller welcome gift. This will launch in December and will be available until January 4th.

SHIPPING

We will continue to ship all domestic (USA) orders via USPS. This offers more of a value, and more package security, than any other means available to us. Expedited Shipping will not be an option.

These are important deadlines for Christmas Shipping

  • FRIDAY, DECEMBER 20, 2019 – last day for shipping to ensure arrival before Christmas. Orders must be received by 10:00am CST
  • MONDAY, DECEMBER 23 – the last day we will ship any orders until DECEMBER 27

HOURS OF BUSINESS

Are order processing will be done Monday through Friday 9am to 4pm, Saturday 9am to 11am. Daily cutoff for orders to be shipped that day is 10:00am Monday through Saturday. No orders will be processed after 11am Saturday or all day Sunday. Customer Service will monitor email and Facebook messenger Monday through Thursday 8am to 8pm, Friday and Saturday 8am to 5pm. On days we are closed, there will be no activity in our offices. These dates and times are effective November 25, 2019 to December 19, 2019.

  • WEDNESDAY NOV. 27 – close at 2pm
  • THANKSGIVING DAY – closed
  • CHRISTMAS EVE – closed
  • CHRISTMAS DAY – closed
  • BOXING DAY – closed
  • NEW YEARS EVE – closed
  • NEW YEARS DAY – closed

SERVICES

We are offering GIFT WRAPPING as a service this year. We will have 1 color option of a solid red wrapping. Wrapping will include wrap, gift tag (with a brief note). An individual item is only 50 cents, 35 cents each for multiple items when wrapped together. You can either select to have each item wrapped separately, all together in one box or a mix of both. Ensure you select the correct options when selecting each item.

Examples of our gift wrapping style along with our hugely popular Junk Oil
Gift Wrap Style

Gift orders: If you wish to have an item sent as a gift to another address, please ensure accuracy of the SHIP TO address. Please note in the ORDER COMMENTS box any extra details, like NO PACKING SLIP or delivery instructions for carrier.

If you wish to have multiple orders go to more than one location, please contact us so we can assist this process. We can offer the best possible means to accommodate your wishes and do so with a single payment transaction. If you do place the orders through our website, please do a separate order for each SHIP TO address. We will not be able split orders for shipping.

Gift Credit (Gift Cards) We have varying denominations or create your own value for Gift Credit. Gift Credit works by assigning a credit value to an account that the recipient can use anyway they wish. Don’t worry if the person you are gifting to does not have an account. All you need to do is provide a valid email address for the recipient and they will receive instructions on how to access their gift. If you have any concerns or questions, please contact us.

RETAIL – POP-UPS

We do not have a POP-UP store this holiday season. If this changes anytime soon, we will certainly share the news. The situation that permitted us to have such a shop last year is not available to us.

There will be a one day appearance in JARVIS SQUARE neighborhood on DECEMBER 7th. Details will be on FACEBOOK for time and exact location (when available). We will only have a limited amount of space, so we will focus on our most popular items for this appearance.

We will work with our current resellers in Chicago to make sure they are well stocked on the items they offer. Currently we do not have a retailer that carries J&L Apothecary products. We are open to the idea of having retailers have us visit for a day or two to operate as a “trunk show”. Please contact us if you have any questions.


Some fine print: Due to product availability we may be forced to change promotions and sale items. It is important to us to not disappoint you by not being able to ship a product we presented as being available. We also reserve the right to change terms listed here based upon typos and errors – although we try to proofread this as much as possible. We do not offer rainchecks If there is an item you really wish to purchase and it shows as being unavailable, contact us and we may be able to provide an alternative or be able to honor the price and ship later if we are able to produce a unit within 48 hours.

Retiring Products and Scents for 2019

We have a policy to rotate out some of our fragrances from time to time. This allows us to introduce new scents to meet trends and evolving tastes. Every year we will work to introduce a few scents in a couple select products to check engagement and popularity. If well received they may get brought to our most popular products in a larger scale. Retired scents will still be available as a custom option in products that permit such an option to be maintained – essentially liquid soaps, beard care.

Production of the following fragrances has ended. Once existing stock is sold, we will not be producing complete units. There is a chance that they may return if there is demand or as a seasonal option.

TAROCCO – bitter citrus (J&L Pognotrophics)
CITRUS GROVE – herbal citrus blend (J&L Apothecary)
LONDON – rose peony (J&L Apothecary, Solid Cologne will continue)

LEXINGTON – removed from J&L Pogonotrophics’ Shaving Products only, Beard Care line will continue.

Retiring and Changing Products

Liquid Shampoo & Conditioner: New formulas are being introduced very soon. And remaining old stock is being discounted to make room. These formulas will match our most beneficial formulas of our BAR SHAMPOO line.

BAR SOAPS: The CRYSTAL & ORGANIC OILS Bar Soaps will come to an end. Some will be migrated to a new opaque soap base made from high-glycerin HEMP SEED OIL [This is the same base used for our ACTIVATED CHARCOAL SOAP]; other scents will be migrated the SHEA BUTTER formula. Once all existing stock is sold, expect to see the new bars.

240ml SHOWER WASH has been discontinued. We may introduce the scents that were targeted towards kids and those who appreciated the whimsical fragrances at shower time in our 360ml size.

All SHOWER WASH 360ml units will be replaced with 500ml “pouches” in 2020. Once we exhaust all our current packaging we will transition to a more sustainable packaging concept. The pouches will be such that they can be used to refill existing bottles you may have, use of an in shower soap dispenser or we will present a few options in bottles to use anywhere in your home. There is no plan to change the formula, although we may change the name to promote use of this great liquid soap as a hand soap and bubble bath.

J&L Apothecary branded shaving products. The formulas have been identical to our J&L Pogonotrophics line and we feel that those women who wish to use our shaving products will not be put-off by the alternate branding; especially when it will offer them more choice.

J&L Pogonotrophics branded Solid Cologne changing to J&L Apothecary branding. No formula changes, new scents coming!

J&L Pogonotrophics’ Shaving Soap in a Jar is being deleted. We have had an issue with jar quality that was creating too many defective units. Our plan is to reintroduce this product in 2020.

J&L APOTHECARY will receive a new look. It was overdue for a facelift, so we are making 2020 the year to do it. There is also work being done to change the name of the brand to avoid legal issues in some states. The name change is not definite as we will look into every point that such a change will impact. We will move forward with our new packaging with the existing brand name of J&L Apothecary. If, and when, we do change the name we will simply replace it on all existing packaging and marketing materials. We do not see any bulk change to formulas or product as a result of this change.

CLAY MASK MAKER: We are looking to revitalize our Clay Mask components with better communication on how it works, why it is a better option for a clay mask and what an amazing value it is. When speaking directly to a shopper it has been well received and rather popular. Online, the message does not seem to translate well enough.

A goal that is impacting much of our planned changes:

Becoming more sustainable is important to us. As we have focused so much on natural ingredients, we have not focused much on the sustainability of our products, packaging and all the components that go into making them. The idea is to change production methods to support less waste and a fresher product without sacrificing quality or options. Our plan for SHOWER WASH, as mentioned above, is the first step in this process.

We would love to use less plastic but for many of our items are used in areas of the home that are not ideal for glass containers. Where we can, we will transition to metal, glass or paper packaging. Where we do use plastic, we wish to use less of it or ensure it and is a more easily recycled plastic.

This is a goal that we feel we have been behind in instituting. Being a tiny business makes being sustainable very expensive. It has been more important for us to keep costs down until we are in a position to be smarter about what we use and how we use it. The time is right for us to make this transition and we trust you embrace the changes we plan to make.

Change is Inevitable, and Necessary

Over the last few years we have gone through a lot of changes, as people and as a company. When we started this little endeavor it was intended to be a hobby to make a couple extra bucks. Due to life changes and our products being well received, we have changed into a small, boutique, brand of products that are much loved by many; but not widely known. With ongoing changes we hope to expand our exposure to more people.

We started it all with 3 beard oil formulas in 3 scents; eventually getting up to 6 formulas. Today we have settled back to 3 and offer 16+ scents. Our packaging and labels have evolved with us as we sought a clearer way to present our products. Expanding well beyond beard oils and into total bath & body products for everyone, including the family pet.

When we launched J&L Apothecary, it was to meet a request of a reseller that wished to have products, made by us, that would appeal more to female customers. They dropped the ball on this venture and with a bunch of produced products we created, not only a new line of products, but a new brand. J&L Apothecary was not the ideal name for this brand but was what first popped into our heads when we made up our test products. Unable to come up with something better, we stuck with it.

Since that time, we have also learned that in some states use of the word Apothecary is reserved strictly for licensed pharmacists use. In our home state of Illinois, this only applies to a retail businesses. To avoid confusion and potential legal issues we have decided to rename this product line and brand.

New Name for J&L Apothecary?

J&L Apothecary is just over 2 years old now, making it early enough in its history to make a name change without a negative impact. When we find this new name, we will ensure there is solid communication to everyone that the only thing changing is the name and that everything else will be as before.

As we sell through existing inventory of J&L Apothecary Brand products we will work on finding a new name that suits the brand and our mission. Labels and packaging will also change with the new branding.

Big change for SHOWER WASH

We are migrating to a more environmentally friendly package concept. Our goal is to offer a 16 or 24 ounce (500ml – 750ml) pouch to fill and re-fill bottles. We will also offer a small variety of bottles that you can re-use over and over. The pouches will still be easily recycled while using less plastic.

Once this new package concept rolls out, we will introduce the same for liquid shampoos, conditioner, pet shampoo and other liquid soaps. The bottles we will offer will for from a basic PET plastic bottle to more decorative glass, metal and plastic options and offer different sizes. We would love to use only glass bottles for our products but the costs to ship and the risk of breakage during shipping as well as in your shower is far too costly, and not a risk we wish to take.

Our Values and Mission will not change.

J&L will continue to grow in an endless drive to be better. It is not acceptable for us to merely make a few nice products and then rest. If we did that, we would never last. We challenge ourselves daily and we have put a challenge to the industry of which we are a part. The Cosmetic/Personal Care industry needs to change. The sexist advertising, fear mongering towards consumers to drive sales, and ignoring the wishes of the customer is not sustainable anymore. This is at the core of what J&L was built around.

With these necessary changes coming to J&L Apothecary, it will remain a Gender Neutral personal care product line that focuses on product performance over unnecessary gender and customer profiling. J&L Pogonotrophics will still cater mainly to those with facial hair and the most masculine attributes of a person, but are still a viable option for any person with a need to condition or remove hair.

Look forward to seeing a contest to help us rename J&L Apothecary later this Fall!

More About Fragrance

We get it, we offer a lot of different scents. It may even be overwhelming to find the right fragrance for you, or for the person you are shopping for. In the personal care/cosmetic industry (sadly, this is an industry) fragrance is an important component of the products. These are things you are putting on your body, and they must not clash with whatever else you may be wearing as well as not be off-putting to your own senses. Even if the product is not scented, it’s natural fragrance still matters.

flower and spice

Why do we offer so many choices?

Simply because we wish to cover as much of the scent spectrum as possible. To offer sweet to musky; light to bold; fresh to earthy. It is easy for us to offer so many choices as each scent blend we have is added last and can be easily dosed for each item. Everything we make is in very small batches; with most only having a dozen units or less per batch. Our approach to our manufacturing can easily be scaled up as we grow which will allow us to continue to offer more options than most other brands.

Does this method add to the price of our products?

No. I am sure you will find many analyst tell you it does. That is the downside of thinking very narrowly at how things have always been done. As we say, “We not only think outside the box, we don’t put ourselves in a box to begin with.” Our production methods are such that it is more similar to the automotive industry in regards to color. Some cars still come in 6, 8, 12 different colors direct from the factory. Paint is applied in a wholly separate process and can even be randomized. Our scents are added as the last component before bottling/packaging. For many items, they can be added and with a few shakes be fully scented and ready for use. For example, we can produce a larger batch of Beard Oil of 36 units and have them bottled and ready – then we separate into groups of how many we wish to make of each fragrance option. The scent is added, we plug and cap the bottle and give it a good shake. Next step is simply applying a label.

Unscented does not equate being scent free.

Not everything we make is “scented”, but everything has a scent. When the terms “unscented” or “natural” is used it means we did not add anything to the product for the purpose of scent or fragrance. That any scent it has is sourced from the core ingredients. For example, our Bar Shampoo is available in 6 formulas. Of those 6, only 1 is scented. The remaining 5 formulas each carry a scent from the essential oils used for their properties in how they work with your skin and hair to achieve the desired results. Yes, they do have a scent but they are not scented.

Scents will come and go…

We plan to have anywhere from 6 to 10 in stock and ready to ship/sell scented items available at all times. We may rotate out scents options every year or every other year to allow us to bring new scents and retire less popular scents. In some instances, we are able to scent items to order for those less popular options so those that have a strong affinity for them will be able to buy them as long as we have means to make it. We hope to get to the point where we can offer scents on a seasonal basis, where one can stock up when it is available if they wish to have it year round. Or, enjoy them to stimulate the senses to match the season.

It is at our core to offer real choice in every manner possible. Choice in formulas, choice in scents and even choice in size. By having real choice you can find more that suits you and your needs best.

Original Beard Butter formula changes

The decision to change the formula of one of our signature products that we have had since our beginnings was not easy to make. There is always a fear that a change to a much loved and popular product will lead to a negative reaction from it’s admirers. Be assured that we did not take this change lightly and worked to make sure our product was only made better by the change. We felt we had to make these changes due to ethical concerns around two of the ingredients.

From the beginning we have used Palm Oil and Lanolin for their known skin and hair benefits. Both of these ingredients were not in a large abundance in our former formula, but they were powerful at what they did. Although we sourced our Palm Oil from a supplier that assured us that it is ethically sourced from growers that treat their workers fairly. With recent reports that such statements still cannot be trusted as so many workers are being exploited in all growing regions of this widely available fruit oil, we have opted to remove it over trying to obtain definitive assurance we are buying from ethical sources at all times.

Lanolin is an animal sourced component, made from processing sheep’s wool. In essence, lanolin is sheep sweat. When washing the wool, a goo remains that is highly refined to provide lanolin. Prized for it’s skin softening properties since the earliest of times, it is now seen as a byproduct of animal abuse by many advocates. This is an ingredient that is hard to find an equal to offer the same qualities, but we were up for the challenge.

We found 2 popular, commonly available plant based ingredients to be perfect replacements for the ingredients in question. First is Hemp Seed Oil. Hemp is very high in A, B & C vitamins and a great blend of Omega fatty acids that are perfect for hair and skin. We have used Hemp Seed Oil in many other products and have found no real issues with how it performs or affects our formulas. It’s addition, it brings a huge nutrient boost to our product and is the perfect replacement for Palm Oil. Our Hemp Seed Oil is also certified organic.

To replace lanolin we had to dig deep to find something that maintained the texture of the Beard Butter formula along with providing equal or better conditioning. We looked into so many natural fruit butters, but none of them performed at the level we desired when testing. Reading up on natural skin and hair care product components, we learned about Behentrimonium Methosulfate, also known as BTMS. This is a very popular hair conditioning agent that is derived from non-GMO rape seed oil (more commonly known as Canola Oil). It helps detangle hair as well as condition. You can find it in all the best hair conditioners and many salon shampoos. Combined with Cetearyl Alcohol ( a fatty alcohol derived from fruit oils), BTMS becomes a powerful hair conditioning agent as well as an ideal emulsifier – keeping everything mixed with it well blended. This not only became a very sensible choice, but adds benefits to improve the quality of the product.

When you first see this tweaked Original Beard Butter formula, you will notice it is no longer a creamy white-yellow, but in fact has a greenish tint. This is caused by the organic hemp seed oil. It will not color your hair green. The texture is a bit “creamier” and will melt a little quicker making it even easier to apply. It will also re-set quicker if the Beard Butter melted in hot environments.

The first Original Beard Butters you will see with this formula will be our Expanded Assortment scents as these are scented to order from the most recent batch of Beard Butter base. As we sell through our currently produced Original Beard Butter, the new formula will enter into our regular inventory.

If you receive one of these, please give us feedback to let is know what you think.

Thank you, John

Memberships

UPDATE: 10% discounts are now available on all current Product Subscription.

Effective JULY 6, 2020 we are no longer offering a welcome kit to new subscribers. For this reason, we will be lowering the Membership Annual Fee to $15. Members will continue to receive all other benefits as listed below. We also will introduce samplers for select items, as well as surprise gifts with each order to continue the opportunity to try new fragrances and products from across both brands. Our goal is to keep this membership a genuine value for frequent shoppers.

Some may have already seen our current little survey on what they would find most valuable in such a plan. We know that a plan is not ideal for every customer. Some may not wish to shop with us enough to make it of value to them. We are crafting this for those that already or would wish to shop with us a few times per year.

Our objective is to create a rewarding experience for those who do shop with us regularly or wish to shop with us more often. A large hurdle is always SHIPPING RATES when shopping online. As a tiny business we do not get any discount on shipping fees because we are unable to supply the volume they require. Paid services exist to help businesses like ours, but at this time the savings is lost to the monthly fee we would have to pay. Until we generate enough shipping volume, we pay what everybody else pays. This makes it hard to offer free shipping without raising our product prices. The membership fee is a means to offset those costs upfront in the hope that members will use their membership to not only get back what they paid, but save going forward.

Another nugget of feedback we receive is around volume pricing, or discounts for return customers. First, ALL our customers are our BEST CUSTOMER. Regardless of the quantity of items or orders each may purchase. Personally we are not fans of special treatment and prices for select customers. We have to balance this with the fact that those who spend more with a business want to be appreciated for their loyalty. The easiest, most cost effective way for us to offer such is through a paid membership and give those a blanket discount that encourages them to shop more regularly.

All of this is what goes into any online retailer offering a paid membership, much like Amazon Prime.

MEMBERSHIP vs LOYALTY PROGRAMS

Loyalty programs give you “points” based on a per dollar basis. Most programs earn a penny for each dollar you spend. Your points would then be turned into cash-off discounts at a later date. With some programs, the points expire within a year making it nearly impossible to get any benefit out of them. A Membership works as a means to incentivize repeat business. If you pay a membership fee up front, you are more likely to return as a customer to recoup the expense. When the plan is priced right, the expense is quickly recovered with a small amount of transactions and as a loyal customer you will continue to save for the duration of your membership. The negative is for those who join but then don’t shop more than once or twice during the period.

The pricing for our plan is designed to pay for itself very quickly. Based on our repeat customer’s habits, members will see the most benefit after 3 orders. Our Welcome Kit is also a value added benefit as the retail value of included items will be more than the cost of the membership.

OUR PLAN at launch

We have very specific goals we wish to achieve with a membership plan: Reward repeat and high volume customers as well as offer a means to save money on those orders. Here is what we are planning to offer for the annual membership fee: (details below are subject to change over time, please see the Purchasable Item for exact details of what your benefits are at the time you buy).

  • FREE SHIPPING for all orders.
  • 10% Discount on all items we make! This will exclude subscriptions and clearance items as they are already discounted more than 10%.
  • No need to apply a code at checkout – you will see your membership price when browsing, as long as you are logged into your account.
  • A “WELCOME KIT” that will be filled with smaller versions of our most popular products to inspire interests in our full catalog – valued around $30 (at retail) and will ship with your first order as a member.
  • 5% Discount on select PRIMP & JOL accessory items.
  • Early Access to hot new items.
  • Membership exclusives to special scents or sizes of our regular products.*
  • Specially priced gift sets and collections.*

*planned, but no firm date as to when to expect these benefits

What you will not be able to do:

  • Share this plan. It will be associated with your account email address and you will be required to log into your account to order. Sensible gifting is perfectly acceptable, but please avoid shopping for all your friends and family.
  • Apply your membership in person. We do not have a brick & mortar store at this time. When we set up a pop-up, we may not have the means to validate your membership. There are also a bunch of different cost factors related to this as well. When we do have a fixed location we will certainly include functionality for memberships.
  • Monthly billing will not be available – this will be an annual membership to run for 12 months from the date of purchase. You will have an option to renew. Membership is paid in full at start of the plan for each year. If we see strong enough interest, we may introduce a monthly plan, but it would not be the same price.
  • “Double Dipping” – to protect our business we cannot permit the stacking of discounts. As a member you will get 10% off automatically on everything we make. If an item is on sale for 15% off, the risk is there with some items to become a loss for us to sell. We will simply make the discount not apply to sale items, so you can always get the lowest price.
  • Coupons may not work with your Membership. Each coupon has it’s own rules but most will not allow stacking to begin with. If a coupon works, even though we may say it will not work for Memberships, then YAY! You get to save more.
  • If we see a plan being abused with an abundance of orders being shipped to various addresses, we are likely to send notice that it is of concern and if we see the behavior continue we will terminate your membership. If you have friends that want to save, encourage them to join!

Will their be tiered memberships?

Not at launch. As we go forward, we will evaluate how it is being used and its overall effectiveness. If we see a demand for a lower or higher level membership, we will determine the best means to incorporate it and what the best pricing would be for all levels. Once we get some early adopters going, we will look into a 30 or 90 day trial membership level to help more people experience the benefits. As of now, we know that a trial membership will not include the Welcome Kit that we have planned today.

If you have any feedback or questions, please message us on Facebook

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 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…