We Support the United States Postal Service

Anyone who has ordered from us is aware that we ship 100% of your orders through the USPS. We know this is not what everybody else does. Add that to the long list of things we do that “not everybody else does”. There is clear reason why we chose USPS as our official carrier for all customer orders.

USPS is far more efficient, faster and cheaper that any other carrier/shipping option out there. USPS is far more likely get your order to you safe and secure. While other carriers are tossing your orders over a fence, leaving them at your door to be stolen ; the USPS can delivery into your mailbox or will take the extra effort to place your package safely inside your door or ask that you pick it up from your local Post Office for no extra charge.

Just like the other major carriers, US Mail can be tracked and shipped. You can even receive a notice when it is delivered. And like other carriers, they make mistakes and packages get damaged or placed on the wrong truck. From my years of experience in Shipping and Fulfillment, it happens a heck of a lot less frequently.

Some have claimed that the USPS needs to be modernized and operate like Amazon, FedEx or UPS. I have to tell you they are just as modernized. And, they are far more efficient about it. USPS operates set routes with assigned carriers to those routes. Handling a substantially greater number of items and getting them to your door 6 days a week. While Amazon, FedEx and UPS struggle moving boxes, USPS is able to quickly move tiny pieces of mail in substantially larger quantities to homes and businesses in every corner of the country. USPS services are protected by law, which carries a lot more weight when nefarious actors get involved. Amazon barely even schedules deliveries and hands off packages to a delivery person as they come off the line. You can see numerous delivery vans crossing paths and delivery to the same street at the same time. That is chaos and costly, not cost effective efficiencies.

UPS and Amazon rely upon the efficiencies of the USPS to complete their services. UPS works with shippers to complete the delivery to residential addresses of many small items as it is not easy for them to perform such tasks. UPS and FedEx were created for large scale package and small freight shipping, mainly between businesses. They find residential services inconvenient and charge more for those services. When presented with the option of taking over the USPS they both said they could never do what they do as well.

Cost and Time – and time leads to costs. A small 2 pound package can be sent across the country – coast to coast – for less then $20 within 2 days with USPS. That is extremely less costly than what either UPS or FedEx can offer for the same level of service. That gets the package to your home, with tracking and insurance! Factor in how many of these packages USPS delivers to homes, by a carrier on foot, in a single day.

FedEx and UPS only offer business discounts to those businesses that are capable of shipping high volumes of packages through them. Most small businesses like ours will not qualify. Those discount rates are often still higher than USPS anyway.

There are claims the USPS is not profitable. To be blunt and on point, that is utter bullshit. There has been a desire of politicians to “sell” the USPS to a private owner for years. The private owner would pocket the revenue while cutting services and raising costs. This is not a scare tactic, conspiracy theory or a lie. This drive to privatize has taken place in other countries under the same political reasoning and pressure with horrific results. Mail services in Australia have become a joke. Carriers are paid to not deliver mail, but a note for the recipient to come to the office during normal hours, to retrieve their mail. So, if you are at work during those normal hours who is going to go get your mail. Oh, and post offices were closed and consolidated to where you may have to drive across town or across the desert to get your mail – daily.

The fact is, every time a government service is privatized it has become far more corrupt and far more expensive to operate as the quality of service declines. If our Federal Government would stop trying to create the problem and make the USPS look bad so the public will be more willing to go along with their plan, we could actually be adding more services and people to make the USPS an even more important institution to our people.

There have been proposals to have your local Post Office operate as a basic community bank for those who don’t have banking services can cash their paycheck and pay bills. This would hurt the PayDay loan and Currency Exchange business that profit greatly off of the lower income citizens who rely upon those institutions as they cannot receive services from standard banks. And those PayDay loan and Currency Exchange businesses are owned in part or in whole by known large banks. Then there is the work of the Congress to financially crush the USPS by forcing them to 100% prefund pensions for their employees and employees they don’t even have yet. No other government agency is required to do this, not the FBI, not the Defense Department. This was a means to steal the profits of the USPS and cripple it’s ability to appear profitable.

Recently there has been a lot of news stories about how USPS is having troubles sorting and delivering mail. These are manufactured situations where under new leadership, the Post Master General has removed equipment, cut staffing and cut work hours to create instability and inefficiencies; all the while claiming he is working to make them more efficient. The Post Master General has no credible related business experience and only received the position as large political donor who will help with the process to privatize. The news from all major outlets has downplayed the cause and sensationalized the effect. In a world where pictures speak louder, they love showing you the piles of undelivered mail while subtly noting some changes while loudly stressing how work is not getting done. The message has been clear as we are hearing calls to “let Amazon take over the mail” from average citizens. I, for one, don’t want my mail left on the street because the delivery person didn’t feel like accessing the mailbox or was over their allotted hours.

You think that would not happen? As a private business expected to achieve a level of profits and secure top level executives you can expect to see all the same issues you will see with any other for profit business. Low pay employees that are pressured to perform at a fast pace over efficiencies. Managers incentivized to apply that pressure will ensure that workers perform their duties quickly and cheaply. Failure to comply will lead to high turnover rates and a revolving door of under trained employees. Those who do stick with it, will be demoralized and burned out. As people complain about their mail service, we will get a PR spokesbot telling us they are working hard to improve matters and that all employees are well trained and paid for the work they do – completely ignoring the issues. We will be forced to accept that answer as we have no options for similar services. Mail rates will increase in line with the increase in executive pay. Competing services will become more expensive and free services will start having a fee. If you think this is crazy, look to Australia for how “awesome” their private mail service operates; and why the UK wants to return their privatized mail back to public domain only after a couple years.

By investing in the USPS and correcting the actions taken by Congress to harm the USPS, we can improve our communities, offer jobs and return the USPS to profitability. United States Postal Service is not only a necessity for nearly all Americans, it is the best choice for small businesses like J&L to serve their customers with a quality service and a lower price. No matter what you think of the USPS, the facts show they are the best at what they do. Those who feel they are not, think hard about all the things they do and how much of it, and think how well a profit driven entity will do it. Logistically, there is no comparison to all that the United States Postal Service does. Are you will to take the risk of losing it all or would you rather see that real work is done to correct the destructive work of our political system reversed and improve their operations.

We urge everyone to contact their Congressional representatives and tell them to reverse the 2005 Act that started the problems and to work hard to ensure the USPS remains strong and functional.

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