Advanced Skin Care is here!

We listened to what you were saying. Over the past few months we have worked on developing formulas for very specific skin care products that truly bring depth to our catalog of products. Current trends are pointing to simple and natural means to bring spa quality products to the home that are affordable. This speaks to us loud and clear. We are always trying to find ways to make higher grade, premium or even luxury level goods to more people. Simplicity and being natural is our style as well!

In mid June we introduced the first 6 products of this new branch of our skin care line. Designed to work together to be a complete face and skin care cleansing regimen. We look for this line to expand over the next year.

  • SERUM H.A. – 2% Hyaluronic Acid serum that penetrates and restores. A tiny bit of this alpha-hydroxy goes a long way to work with your skin to deeply moisturize and reduce fine lines and wrinkles.
  • TONER – a simple oil-free toner to remove dirt and oil that soap leaves behind. Water based formula that is very light on the alcohol. Contains Witch Hazel, Cucumber Extract, Green Tea Extract (still to come)
  • TONER with 2% Salicylic Acid – the same as our basic toner but with added acne fighting power.
  • FACE MIST – a great way to refresh the skin and prepare it for your care regimen. Ideal for those who have dry skin to prevent a dry feel from other products.
  • CHARCOAL FACE WASH – a specialized version of our FOAMING FACE WASH where we added the cleansing trio of Activated Charcoal, Tea Tree Oil & Lemongrass Oil. Each works to ensure as much dirt, oil and residue is removed before you go forward with your daily face regimen.
  • FACE WASH – a liquid face wash built upon our organic liquid soap base. It’s light, lathers very well and rinses away super clean.
  • FACE WASH with 2% Salicylic Acid. Our new face wash with acne fighting power of beta-hydroxy Salicylic Acid.

All of these products are free of added fragrances. The formulas are kept to the fewest ingredients possible and are designed to be a total daily facial regimen.

We are very excited to introduce these new items to our Skin Care line. With our Clay Mask System, Lotions and Scrubs we offer a very comprehensive collection of total skin care all priced attractively while offering equal or better quality than most known luxury brands. Produce in small batches to ensure you get a fresher product.

Why your expanded assortment item takes more time:

In select products we offer “Expanded Assortment” options for scents. It literally means we are able to expand upon or normal assortment of in-stock offerings with items that are made to order. These additional items are scents we have made in the past as regular stock that had limited popularity or are scents some have requested but do not warrant full production.

Most of our items are easily customizable. We produce an unscented base that can be scented and packaged later, as needed. This permits more flexibility in our offerings without increasing our production costs exponentially. This is how we are able to offer Expanded Assortment. As long as if we have the fragrance ingredients we can continue to make the finished scented item. Unlike our normal inventory, where we produce an amount to satisfy anticipated demand for a span of time, expanded assortment items are produced the day we receive your order.

Whenever we package products, whether for inventory needs or for customized orders, we need to wait an extra day to ensure the product set as expected and meets our quality control standards. When adding fragrance and essential oils to our bases it can result in unexpected changes to the product. This is chemistry and if the ambient temperature and humidity levels are not ideal it can cause the base to react differently. This is extremely rare, but possible! Gently adding any amount of oils to our liquid soap base can cause the bonds of the ingredients to break and make the soap too watery. With beard oils & Original Beard Butter it can cause the ingredients to separate or layer.

Whenever we make an expanded assortment item for you, it is scented and packaged and set in a cool dark place overnight. The next day we open the package and inspect for any changes to consistency as well as fragrance accuracy before we commit to fulfilling your order.

By being able to provide this service, we are able to reach more people and provide more options to our customers. It also allows us to ensure you get a fresher product that has not sat waiting to be shipped for too long. We wish to continue to offer more items in more options for you. Sadly, we cannot bring these options to bar soaps, solid shampoo, creams, and lotions.

So, this is why it takes at least 1 extra day to process your order when you order an Expanded Assortment option.

New Product News for May

We have quietly been evaluating the skin care marketplace to see what the current trends are as well as what is genuinely GREAT for your skin. Some of what we have learned has already go into our existing lotions. Formulas have been tweaked to improve their benefits. We have started to add PANTHENOL to our products, a Pro-V B5 vitamin that binds with and penetrates skin and hair more easily to boost lubrication and hydration.

Our Foaming Face Scrub will have a couple new variations that will include 2% SALICYLIC ACID, a key BETA HYDROXY which aids in managing acne. Our original formula will go unchanged, but you will see at least 1 new formula by June in our shop.

There will also be a new cleansing scrub for the J&L Pogonotrophics line. This scrub is geared for men who are bald or who shave their heads. It will help remove excess oil and dirt and to prevent acne and other scalp irritations. As a bald man I have found that I needed something that will tackle these issues that are more common because of the lack of hair that protects the skin. The scrub will be awesome for all skin, so while you have it you can also get great skin anywhere you wish.

Recently we asked our customers what other products they would like to see from us. A common response was a desire to get more specialized skin care. Especially something to treat dry or aged skin. Our research brought us to ALPHA HYDROXY ACIDS like GLYCOLIC and HYALURONIC. Both of these acids help with adding elasticity and moisture to the skin and more easily breaks the bonds that hold on to dead skin cells. They are a part of those “chemical peels” you hear about. In a much lower percentage they still do a great job of reducing fine lines, wrinkles and redness that occurs. We currently have SERUM H A in testing. This all natural formula that uses plant sourced ingredients is a simple serum that can easily be applied to the skin in a fine layer under a moisturizer or sunscreen. Dermatologists recommend using such a serum twice daily. SERUM H A also includes vitamins B5 and C, along with Aloe Vera to aid in its effectiveness. Serums like this can run as high as $300, although most are under $20Our plan is to introduce this serum soon at a price point that is competitive to value brands while offering a higher grade pure product.

SERUM H A is part of a new branch of our Skin Care line that will carry a slightly new look to reflect their more specialized mission and ingredients. We plan to add a face moisturizing spray and a face wash to this group for launch. Look for details to come.

We are excited about this new additions. These new products will further differentiate us from the rest by providing more options, higher quality and value-minded pricing. Choice has been the foundation we built ourselves upon and we don’t see that changing.

2019 Survey Results, so far…

In February we posted our 2019 customer survey. A collection of questions to learn what you think about what we are doing and what you would like to see us do in the future. We presented 10 questions, some simple and some more engaged.

First up were 3 questions picking your brain on our brand representation. Which of our brands you primarily buy from and how often. We asked if you understand our mission with J&L Apothecary being gender neutral in presentation and concept. 75% of our responses demonstrated an understanding that our intent is to include everybody, regardless of how they see themselves or represent gender. For those other 25% who selected Unisex, you’re very close and generally get it. We wish to say that we see gender neutral go deeper and reflects a non-binary approach. We feel we project our mission by having a generic and simple packaging style and the use of bold primary colors that differentiate product categories.

Our 4th question wished to see if the men knew they could get their favorite J&L Pogonotrophics scents in other products. When we introduced this crossover between brands it was not clear that we offered these fragrances across many products in both brands. We wish to continue this crossover but we do not wish to overwhelm ourselves, and you, with too many options.

Q5 brought up a big monster for us. It referenced back to our 2018 survey where a large response indicated that some of you want to see our products on Amazon. We have constantly kicked this idea around. For us there is a huge negative that would affect our brand – a dramatic price increase would be required for many of our popular products. Such a price increase would change our “value” image we are working to establish. Many items would see a 17-25% price increase. Amazon as a strict policy that your own website must sell at the same price it is listed on Amazon. So their policy is to force a price increase through their fees and hidden costs that may deter established customers from shopping with us. We did not receive a single very positive response to this, and we did see a 20% very negative response. We will not be selling our products on Amazon anytime soon. We are among many small bootstrap businesses that are not willing to put up with Amazon’s policies that put too much pressure on small maker/sellers. There is only one workaround we see, and that is to offer unique products only through Amazon – different sizes or packaging.

We asked about what new branded products we could offer with Q6. Some of what we listed are things we are working on, some are things people have asked for and some are things we tossed in just to gauge your thoughts. Hair Styling products was the top response at 62.5%. We have been seeing into this but we have one huge drawback, how to keep these items as natural as the rest and still be a quality product. Many natural styling products literally don’t hold up, the best products are full of ingredients that are bad for the environment or just aren’t all that natural. We will still keep looking. One item that scored well we just introduced. A wash in Beard Conditioner was something we had been working on but with our Pop-Up, we were not able to devote time to developing such. Deodorant and Eye/Skin toning creams are under strong review and have been for some time. With the positive response they are more likely to become a part of the family.

Similar to Q6, Q7 asked what new 3rd party/accessory items you would like to see. The top responses were a tie between travel accessories and “swag” (shirts, key chains, hats, etc.). Early on we took a stance that we would not load up our store with branded swag. Despite it being free advertising for us, we felt it was just not something people would want and seem like an act of desperation for us. We did place one caveat with that statement, we would do it if money was raised for a charity. So, this may happen… The other top response needs more attention to sort it out. We do have a plan for more travel size versions of our most useful products and we hope to have this in place by the end of summer. But that would not be accessory type items. More discovery will need to be done to determine exactly what items would be beneficial.

Q8 asked about Primp & Jol and if there is interest in such a store. 62.5% of you said YES. This is still a concept and will require some major investment to make happen. And, we do want to make it happen. Our plan is to seek out a permanent production facility that we can open to the public. A place for us to make and present our products, allow you to shop everything we have, provide an order pick-up location and a place to test Primp & Jol.

Q9 related to the types of products we would seek to offer in such a store. The top response was “Lazy Day” – things to read, sip and create a retreat. Tied for second was “Dinner + Drinks” and “Spa Day”. Spa Day overlaps Lazy Day in many ways but leaves room for sharing some too, while Dinner + Drinks promotes intimate social situations. Our take-away from this is that many of you like the idea of small, simple moments whether alone or with others. This is at the heart of what Primp & Jol is about! As we go forward in our planning these will be the framework categories for us to work under.

Question 10 dealt with creating a “membership” program to provide perks to those who buy from us more often. Such perks as small discounts, free shipping on most orders and special promotions – much like Amazon Prime. 75% of you see a value in this. With this positive response we will dig deeper into seeing if we can make this happen. The infrastructure is there, we just need to craft it to our products and services. And, find the right price point for the membership fee that continues our value mission.

We really love the engagement and feedback. This survey will remain open for some time and we hope that more people tell us what they are thinking. If you have not taken the survey, we have a link below. Thank you, J&L

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/KPNHJTG

Product Development: Conditioner Bar – Part 1

Today we began testing our first formulation of a hair conditioner in bar form. Purpose is to provide a more natural environment friendly conditioner that performs equal to or better than a bottled conditioner.

Development began with studying known recipes and competitor products. Aligning learned data with our own internal data around properties of natural ingredients for hair care. To date, we have spent over 6 months studying existing formulations before attempting our first test product. Our studying has led to the addition of new ingredient items to our inventory. Some of these ingredients may appear in revised or all new formulas of other products. New ingredients include Mango Butter, Cupuacu Butter, Panthenol (ProV B5), Cetyl Alcohol – a thickening/hardening agent for fats (oils & butters), BTMS-50 [50% behentrimonium methosulfate with cetyl alcohol & butylene glycol] – an emulsifier and conditioning agent.

With the addition of Cetyl Alocohol and BTMS-50 we wish to assure everyone that these are in fact natural plant based ingredients that are proven to be safe. BTMS-50 is made from rape seed oil (aka canola oil). Cetyl Alcohol, which is not to be confused with distilled spirit alcohol, is made from plant oils and shares no properties with common alcohols like ethanol or isopropanol. It has the ability to thicken or harden oils as well as give a great slick feel to lotions and conditioners.

Test Candidate 1

This formula is targeted as our “dry hair” formula. To be released as SKU# CNB001, a 130g round conditioner bar. Ideal bar will be solid but not too hard, soften easily when rubbed in hands under warm to hot water in a shower or bath for creating a creamy lather to apply to hair.

This formula contains
71.4% Active Ingredients of assorted butters and oils
10.4% BTMS-50
2.2% Panthenol
16.0% Other ingredients (beeswax, cetyl alcohol, fragrance)

This first test bar set firm with a slight greasy feel to the bar. This is caused by the melting point of the combined ingredients. Bars set rather rapidly at room temperature.

In shower, the bar did not easily create a creamy “conditioner” in my hands when rubbed in hands under hot water on the first attempt. This led to the conditioner being too thick, waxy even, when trying to apply to hair. Second use found that the bar created a much creamier conditioner in my hands and rubbed into wet hair more easily but still not the desired consistency.

It is believed that the percentage of beeswax is too high which is causing it to not “cream” correctly. Beeswax is a common ingredient found in bar conditioners but those recipes we found with higher percentages of beeswax did not contain cetyl alcohol or BTMS-50. It is suggested that we replace a portion of beeswax with proportionate amount of cetyl alcohol for our next test.

Overall, the conditioner did a good job of softening hair, it is apparent that the negatives are the consistency before use (slimy feel), thickness of formula does not soften properly to produce desired conditioning cream for application to hair.

We will further test this candidate and confirm results after multiple uses then adjust formula for Test Candidate 2.

Soap Bars: Hand cut vs. Molded

When we first started making bar soaps we went with using molds for forming each bar. They were much easier for us to produce small quantities and present a very neat solid shape. We took a new approach to our bar soaps with our re-launch last Spring. The thoughts were to give them a hand made look by forming a loaf in a mold to then hand cut for individual sell-able units. This process was also thought to make the process faster and the ability to produce more bars at once. Our sales had increased enough that we needed to make a dozen or more at a time to be efficient.

We sourced loaf molds and cutting boxes and went to work producing our new bars. They were a hit right away. People loved the fragrances as much as the look. Behind the scenes we had a problem; consistency. The loaf molds were not perfectly square and would bulge in the middle from the weight of the soap. When cutting the bars we found wide variations in the weight of each bar. The cutting process also caused minor fluctuations in thickness as well. And, there was a lot of waste from trimming off the edges. Those trimmings were able to be re-batched, added to the next production run so not to be a total loss.

It is very important for us to maintain consistency as much as possible in weight or volume of our products. We still hand craft everything we sell, so there is bound to be some minute inconsistencies but these bars were varying 15 to 20 grams within a batch. Our call was to mark them at the lowest average weight. We also came to realize that the hand-crafted look is not what we want. Despite being hand crafted we still wanted to keep a smooth “produced” look to our products, knowing that as we grow it will be the natural aesthetic by default.

When we launched our shampoo bars we decided that the round molds would be best. Making it an ideal size and shape for user experience. If molds were good for the shampoos then they should be good enough for the body bars.

It became apparent that the changes we made were not the right step for us and decided to return to forming each bar in its own mold. This allows the polished edge to 5 of the 6 sides of the bar. The bottom side, which is the top side when pouring into the mold, would not have a perfectly smooth surface. We are OK with that. Having an “unfinished” side to the soaps supports the “natural” nature of our products. Having one rough side versus 6 rough sides.

By using a mold for each bar gives us consistency without any waste. The variances are minimal, with each bar being at or above our target weight. There is less labor involved, no cutting up a loaf is needed just pop the formed bar out of the mold, smooth edges and bag. We are migrating back to using block molds for each bar as we replenish inventory. New inventory is already in stock, we will get new images up to reflect the changes as all our current options convert.

With increased growth we are able to tighten up our presentation, to put forth a more polished look so we can truly put reflect a premium image along with out already premium products.

New for March

Customization returns to our Beard Care combos!

Our popular “create your own” bundles have returned. Now even more customizable! Our Beard Oil 3 piece Set can consist of any 3 Beard Oils – any formula, any scent. The Beard Nourishing collection sees the return of the ability to mix and match scents between your Beard Oil formula selection and Original Beard Butter. When our revamped Beard Shampoo launches, we will bring back our Beard Care 101 collection that lets you add a shampoo to our Beard Nourishing collection.

New Hair Care in R&D

Our shampoo bars have been immensely popular. Since their launch we have looked into creating complimentary Conditioner Bars. We will begin the testing of these products in March with anticipation to launch before June.

The shampoo bars have also led us to rethink our liquid shampoos. With a renewed focus on core benefits of the ingredients for targeted hair care, we have developed 4 new liquid shampoos we expect to launch by the end of March. Of these formulas you will find 3 of our Bar formulas made in liquid form joining our reformulated FORTIFYING Shampoo. Expect to see QUENCH, FIXER and BALANCE Shampoos in liquid form soon!

Behind the Scenes

As we have grown, many of our model number/SKUs have become convoluted. Most of you may not shop by model number when browsing, but they are extremely important for tracking of our inventory and designating their “department” within our store. You will find that those little letter & number chains bear product descriptions are changing and may not match the label on the item you just purchased. It will take time for us to complete this transformation. Once it is complete, you may find that those SKUs make sense by defining the product, size and sometimes scent of our products.

Pop-Up Shop may be coming to an end

We have had a blast with our own little store. From the start we knew this would be very temporary. Our occupation of the space will end as soon as a permanent tenant signs a lease. Now that spring is coming, available commercial properties are sought for those wishing to expand or move before summer. There have been some interested parties looking at the space we are in. If anyone takes the space, we will have a very small window of notice and may close without warning.

This is not a sad thing for us, but we know it may be for those who loved shopping our space and finding new and exciting options in beard, bath & body products. It has been wonderful to talk with all of you that came in and we hope that once we close you become a loyal online customer. We are still seeking a pick-up location for local customers to save on shipping. Once we make such an arrangement we will make an announcement. Festival season is right around the corner and we have plans for taking part in a couple of the larger events. Keep a watch on our Facebook to see where we may end up.

Thank you all! Please share with us if you have any feedback related to our posts or products.

A Look Back

I am taking a moment to look back at our journey as a business and a brand. The path was never easy, filled with personal and professional challenges.

What started out as a notion that I can make my own beard oil to save money and to make something better than I could buy. At the time there was only a tiny smattering of craft makers out there and one behemoth brand that was getting all the attention. My intent was not to make this a business, but a tiny side gig to add a little income while I made something for personal use and for friends. Right away I knew that I needed to make more than 1 formula to suit my specific needs and those needs of others who would benefit from my hobby. To me, this was a no-brainer; anybody could tell you that not all hair needs are the same for every person, nor for one person all the time. A little science and understanding of natural ingredients helped me create all our beard oil formulas to target varying needs.

It wasn’t long before we had a local barbershop interested in our oils. Ordering up extra supplies, I made a few dozen to sell through there. This is when it went from a hobby to what could be a business. The landscape was still rather barren for such items and I figured I could do well regionally by selling them online and through other barbers in the area. This is where the first challenge came about. Getting barbers, here in Chicago, to offer beard care products. There were not seeing the need or demand, nor do they see themselves as sellers of such products. Barbers may stock a few items to sell, but they don’t actively sell products. They are placed on the shelf and if the customers wishes to buy something they initiate the sale. Many of the barbers were saying that beards were just a trend anyway.

Within the very first months I started creating balms and mustache waxes as well as a beard shampoo. Intended to compliment the products I was already offering with the intent to be a complete beard care solution. Taking a clue from products some friends were using that they found at local beauty supply aisles, I started working on a cream like leave in conditioner for beards. At the time there was not a single item out there designed just for beards. By July we had our first Beard Butter available. It was revolutionary! Men loved it and it sold very well from the start.

After being in business for a year, I started to see more and more beard oils popping onto the marketplace. Still one-trick ponies in a variety of scents; many were downright inferior products. Folks were looking to capitalize on a trend and making products as cheaply as possible and charging a premium price. Makers were throwing around flashy words like premium and luxury to justify their pricing but when you read the ingredients it was clear they were low-balling it. Glycerin, olive oil, castor oil – all very cheap and not all that awesome to use. Glycerin is outright damaging to your hair if left on. The signs were there that this would become a crowded market.

During this same period of time it became a necessity for me personally to make this enterprise perform. Unemployed and no real prospects I needed an income as my savings was eroding fast. First step was to expand the brand and offer complete masculine personal care and grooming products. I added body wash, a couple bar soaps and what would become our single most popular product – Junk Oil. Another innovation created to meet an unmet need. Intended to be an alternative to using powder to keep your boys fresh after a shower that would not rely upon pore clogging powders and ingredients that are not good for the body or the environment. A natural oil that fights odor, keeps things fresh and is easy to apply. It also had other uses as a massage oil and skin softening oil. The name made folks giggle and buy it on a whim, only to come back and sing its praises. We had another hit!

After a year we learned of a street festival focused on locally made products. Learning about it a bit late we inquired about information for the following year. We lucked out as there was a cancellation and they had space for us in the current year’s line up. City Made Fest was a huge boost for us. We shared our booth with another local maker of fashion accessories, not thinking we would do all that well. Not only did we do great, we gained a couple leads on resellers and a ton of new customers.

From here we entered more festivals. Initially just this one but after a couple years we tried out a few others. City Made Fest went away, but within the same neighborhood was an even biggest fest in early summer that exploded our brand. It was at Midsommarfest that we had the best sales ever for a festival and we launched our new brand J&L Apothecary.

Why a new brand? Women. Ladies were buying our products for themselves and were requesting more favorable scents for them. By this time we had launched shampoo, salt scrubs, more bar soaps and hair oil. Women loved these products. We crafted a new label and made a few items geared just for women. They loved the products, but didn’t like that it was our “women’s line”. So we went back to the drawing board and overhauled the look to differentiate it from the rest. By the next fest we introduced our new J&L Apothecary line as you see it today. In time we kept adding more and more items and offerings to the line and made it a complete assortment of bath and body products for all. It is all gender-neutral – meaning that nothing is geared for women or men. It is just solidly performing natural products in a broad variety of fragrances and formulas that can appeal to anybody.

Through these first few years we have changed a lot. Our labels and packaging evolved as our brand evolved. Today we are confident that we have an awesome array of products for everybody. J&L Pogonotrophics will remain our line of facial hair maintenance products along with our most masculine of items. J&L Apothecary will be our brand of items for everybody, including men.

This brings us to today. We are now a leading local maker and seller of personal care items. We are working diligently to gain trust in our brand and products to solidify our place. We have put work into improving our eCommerce side, redirected our focus to end users over wholesale and continuing to improve our current offerings as we expand into new areas. All this leads us to Primp & Jol, but more about that in the next segment: A Look Ahead.

New products coming for 2019!

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

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

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

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

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

2018 Year in Review

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

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

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

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

The new website also created 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