Introducing: Clay Mask Creator System

We first launched our first clay masks summer of 2017. They were an instant hit with customers, often selling out at every pop-up. When the season came to an end we started to analyze what we learned from our customers as we were introducing and selling our clay masks. A few months were spent looking at what others offer in the way of clay masks.

First we learned that they are pricey for all that they really are. A single use prepared mask was running anywhere from $2.00 to $5.00 at most retailers with upscale brands that offer little more being at the higher end. For products that were intended to offer multiple uses the prices started out at $20.00 for a 2 ounce jar or tube. Reading the ingredients in many of these masks also concerned us; use of lesser quality oils, harmful preservatives and very little of the good stuff.

Customers informed us that different masks were needed for varying needs throughout the year. Seasons and activities would require purchasing multiple masks to be bought and stored, creating a much higher expense. For us, to make masks that suited the ever changing tastes and needs of customers would mean making dozens of clay masks, leading to an inventory nightmare and the potential for customers to have products that would lose their effectiveness as they sat waiting to be used when necessity struck.

We love the idea of customization; making things personal for each person and for each situation. We have offered this concept in much of our beard care line already. It is the reason why we offer so many scent variations in most of our products as well. We had to ask ourselves how we could bring this concept to clay masks and keep it inline with our values.

It all starts with great clay mixtures that target base skin needs – dry, moderate (normal), oily, sensitive and combination skin types. Then we thought about all the great liquid add-ins that one could use to build their mask. Some great ingredients are likely already in your pantry, others ideal ingredients may be expensive to keep in sensible quantities in your home. We broke down each possible ingredient that would be part of a perfect clay mask and focused on those items that are less likely in the household –  organic natural oils, glycerin, essential oils. From there we started building our system in stages.

First stage is to select a clay mix powder engineered for your specific needs. These mixtures all contain aloe vera and a couple clay powders. Each jar of clay is roughly 2 ounces in volume – due to the differing densities of clay they weights vary. You can easily get up to 12 masks out of each jar when prepared.

Second stage is to select liquid add-ins. Pulling from your pantry try coconut oil, organic cider vinegar or honey; or goats milk from the fridge. You can use any of our scented Body Oils, Junk Oil or even beard oils that you are already using. Or, you can buy one of our liquid add-ins like Argan + Jojoba Oil, or Glycerin + Aloe. Best to use a combination of liquids to craft your mask. We plan to keep adding items to the list based upon feedback. Basic rule is to mix equal parts of clay & liquid. Less liquid for a thicker mask, more for a creamy one. No set rule of how much, it all depends on where you wish to use it – 1.5 tablespoons would do your entire face for sure.

Third stage, to really make it yours, add some aromatherapy essential oil dilutions. A few drops of any one to help stimulate your mood or get more out of your mask. You can mix it up here too. Choose scents to help you relax, meditate or rejuvenate.

The best part is you can mix and match any of these add-ins. Use 2 or more liquids along with a couple aromatherapy oils to make the ultimate mask for you. You can even mix any of our clay powders for your base to really change it up.

R: Moroccan + Bentonite clay mask prepared

Like any mask, apply to washed skin and let dry. This often takes 15 minutes on average. Oils alone won’t “dry” but they will form a firm layer and thicken as it sets. With more water based add-ins you will see the clay change color, often becoming lighter as it dries. Some report that a mask tingles when dry or feels tighter on their skin. Once dried satisfactorily, rinse off the mask with a circular rubbing motion. This adds to the exfoliating power as you remove it. Upon the mask being completely rinsed away your skin should feel silky smooth. After drying your face, you may apply a small amount of our body oil or misting spray to add moisture – but you really don’t need to. Avoid applying heavy creams or lotions immediately afterwards as this essentially defeats the purpose of a mask by adding back in the toxins. Let your skin breathe!

 

Summer is nearly upon us

The very hectic we were having here has come to a close. It all started with preparing for and taking part in the Andersonville Farmer’s Market as a spotlight vendor. This far exceeded our expectations. We made lots of new friends and built up hype for a future step for us.

The rest of the week up to today was spent with family and friends to acknowledge the start of the season and reflection on what Memorial Day means to us. To close it out, we huddled with our dearest of friends for a quiet evening.

We hope you all respectfully acknowledge the day as well as had a wonderful time with your family and friends.

Our store is up and running well. Hard to believe it has only been a few weeks. Some additions and improvements will continue to trickle in as we go forward. Plan is to have all modules in place by the end of August so we can be well prepared for the holidays. You’ll certainly enjoy these new features as we bring them on board.

Thank you,

John

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 it to the masses as something new and unique for beard care. Nobody can ever take that away from us. Those other folks are merely thieves.

 

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.

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

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.

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.

 

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!

 

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

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!