2018 is wrapping up very soon and for us it is a time for looking back as well as looking forward. It is our custom to be fully transparent about our journey and to share the good and the bad with all that care to follow. Our reasoning is multi-faceted but centers around 2 principles: 1. To be as genuine as we say we are. 2. To help inspire others while letting those who wish to start their own business as a genuine bootstrap start-up know some of the reality they may encounter.
At the start, 2018 was offering great promise and presented some growing pains. We had a rocky start to the year as we lost a reseller as they focused on other areas of their business. This was a minor setback, but still a setback that affected our local Pick-Up capabilities. Early in the year we learned from service providers related to our website that they will no longer be supporting their product leaving us in a pinch. This had a deep impact to how we manage our website and eCommerce. In the spring we painstakingly built an all new website and shopping system from the ground up with all new graphics and product images. The new shopping system gave us the most trouble as we had to trade off some features that we knew our customers enjoyed while having the capability to add bigger and better features as we moved forward. At launch of our new site in late April we had a bare-bones store that met the core functionality we needed. By summer we were able to add more features; such as subscriptions and memberships. There are still some things to come that will make your experience better when shopping with us and allowing us to offer more options.
In the spring of 2018 we started the logistical process of planning for our own factory and store. This was presented as a near necessity for our business for this stage of our growth. Soon to outgrow our current production options and storage space it is near time to find a secure space that is 100% ours for doing all production of our products. Chicago rents are very high and to justify the expense it has been a logical decision that any production space be open to the public for direct retail sales as well as offering local order pick-up. With having such a space we can also can offer more products that make what we do even better. Like everything we do, we are methodical and analytical about the required planning. Slow and steady is our style. We have decided to call this future brick & mortar space Primp & Jol.
During this planning process we were presented with an option to practice our ideas for a store. A friend with a soon to be vacant store front in a high traffic area presented us the offer to use the space until a new tenant is acquired. It was expected that the space would be available at the start of June. Due to some issues beyond our control it took many months before we were able to open our doors with a long term Pop-Up Shop. During this time we opted to not commit to many of the festivals we had previously planned to take part. Once we learned the space was not going to be available for some time it was too late to get into the better festivals. This was a huge blow to our incomes as we normally do great business and gain many new customers during these events. The loss of revenues created a challenge for us.
The new website also created a small setback. New site meant new links and causing previous saved links to not work. Many established customers were confused despite our efforts to ensure the changes were well communicated in every possible channel. A few that eventually found us had assumed we had gone out of business. It has taken some time to bring back that momentum we had with out internet sales.
In the fall we prepared our largest sale event ever. We are not fans of doing sales as it distracts from the real value of our products; but they are a means to gain exposure and new customers. The sale offered daily big discounts on key products over the Thanksgiving Weekend. It was well received and kept us very busy.
Immediately following this event we had a couple awesome surprises. First, our Pop-Up Shop was finally happening. Opening December 7th in Andersonville, Chicago, IL with our entire selection of products presented in an easy to browse and friendly environment. It also brought a lot of attention form local government, the Andersonville Chamber of Commerce, the media and best of all the people of the community we serve. It has gone well beyond our expectations. The only negative was the lack of ability to fully prepare which has led to a challenge of keeping our most popular products in stock. The second event was being presented with the opportunity to advertise in a very well known British men’s fashion and lifestyle magazine that has strong international readership. There was no way we could pass on this opportunity and we will be a part of the Spring Style issues coming soon. Once the magazine has gone to print we can share what magazine we will be featured.
At the beginning of the year we decided to make a big change to the look of J&L Pogonotrophics. It was time to tighten up our packaging and refresh our logo. We also took a big risk when we renamed many of our current fragrances for beard care. This was a big necessity as the scent titles were rather lengthy for some options; making them hard to read or easily fit on the labels. The new look has been very popular and we love how we have truly captured the image we were looking for at the start. As for the scents, people are coming around to learning all the new names. We promise we will not do this again! It was our belief that we were small enough at the time to make this change without too much of a negative affect.
J&L Apothecary continues to grow will all sorts of new scents, new products and new looks. To further distinguish the lines we are changing out packaging to showcase certain products better. We introduced our Clay Mask Creator System; a means to buy individual pieces to combine with common items you may already have in your home to allow you to craft the ideal clay mask for your needs and be able to change your mask recipe as your needs change. This is part of our support of providing choice when it comes to your personal care. We also introduced our new Shampoo Bars to much fanfare. An economical and Earth friendly means to get great hair. Skeptics are enjoying the ease and convenience these bars offer. Our bar soaps were overhauled to match our fragrances for Shower Wash and many other items to bring consistency to our scenting. Even popular Beard Care fragrances are now available in our soaps.
2019 will bring a lot of new great things. Our Pop-Up Shop will continue until further notice; operating with limited boutique hours at the end of the week. This gives us a couple days to focus on production and other back of house requirements. We will introduce new products that are currently in development and our first new fragrance since Tarocco was introduced last spring. A couple scents will be transitioned to custom ordering only through our Expanded Assortment program. We will announce these scent changes later next month.
With the current economic situation, causing an increase in our costs, we will be raising the prices of a few items. We hate having to do this but it is greatly necessary. Freight, raw goods and other businesses expenses have increased exponentially while our prices have pretty much remained the same for the last couple years. Shipping rates are also increasing again next month to add another cost. To offset these increases we are forced to raise prices a dollar or two here and there. Original Beard Butter will increase to $18, Beard Oils to $16. Masks, scrubs and other items will see a 5% to 15% increase. We will also lower our flat shipping rate to $5, but will add a $1 charge for our heaviest of items. Our Saver $3 shipping rate will remain for the lightest of items like a single beard oil or bar of soap.
The new year also brings our 5 Year Anniversary. Expect to see a touched up version of our logo just for this occasion. We will have a private celebration with our local friends, family, big supporters and our most loyal local customers. Those attending will get the first look at all that is new for J&L Pogonotrophics and Apothecary and be taken down memory lane with a look back at our beginnings. This is a huge milestone for us and one that at times we thought we would never reach. With all the great things that are happening and with what we have planned, 2019 will be a great year for us if all goes well. It will be the biggest step we have had to take and it has come at what seems to be the right time.
We look forward to sharing more with you and we love all of you that give us your time to learn about us and give us your hard earned money to buy our products. We know there are plenty of options out that and the fact that you choose us means so much.
Much love from John & Larry and the rest of the J&L Family