A Long-Overdue Update

Well, ladies and gentlemen, this has been a whirlwind of a beginning! I have been attending numerous farmers markets, all while filling online orders and working two jobs on the outside. At times, I am finding it difficult to manage this all on my own.

As quickly as I find those thoughts, I dismiss them. See, persistence is crucial, especially when bringing something brand new to the market.  Speaking of markets, this farmers market season was an exceptionally valuable learning experience. Was it profitable? Well, when you factor in the mileage & gas, probably not. The market research though? That is irreplaceable.

The overall response was a pleasant surprise! I began to develop repeat customers at various markets, and received many positive reviews for the product’s overall effectiveness. I also received a great deal of good advice, excellent ideas, and a waiting list of barbers and stores that were interested in carrying my product. As great as this all sounds, it does not come without it’s difficulties.

While starting and funding this completely on my own, I underestimated a few things. For starters, I had no clue how difficult getting an item retail-ready would be. I poured my money into research & development (of course, necessary), and getting out-and-about to showcase my product in front of real people (also necessary), but did not consider how expensive something as simple as UPC code could be!

I also underestimated the amount of money I would need set aside for things as simple as labels. They are not expensive, when you are purchasing them for one or two products, but as that number increase, naturally the expenses also go up. When funding a business on your own, it is probably best not to underestimate these crucial steps. I thought I had overestimated the cost I would need to get started.

Also to note, my social media presence has been extremely lackluster. It needs to improve. As much as I personally do not use social media, it is imperative for a fledgling business in our world, today. There will be an Instagram account coming, and more happening on all platforms.

The moral of the story is that there are never a shortage of lessons to learn. I have had some good advice from people close to me, but there is no possible way I could have foreseen everything I knew nothing about from the beginning. As much scouring research as I did before I took the leap, I still overlooked quite a few things. If you are starting a venture on your own, just remember that, as frustrating as some of these red-tape steps may be, they are merely minor setbacks. Your resolve will carry you through.

This is why I am working so much outside of the business. I must admit, though, I find tending bar to be quite cathartic, and I understand that it will all help me grow Beerd into  what I envision it can be.

So now, my priorities have changed! There are nearly-refined aftershaves and beerd waxes to look forward to, as well as a subscription service to make it easier. This was one of the major things customers seemed to want, so I shall deliver. Following the launch of the subscription service (when Garrison the Bartender has picked up enough tips), the UPCs will be on the way. After that? Well, as the great Buzz Ligthyear once said:

“To Infinity… And BEYOND!”

Until then, thank you for being a part of the earliest phase of my beerded revolution. More to come, very soon.

-Garrison the Bartender

On Starting a Business…

FINALLY!!! After two years of product development, thousands of dollars spent and dozens of hours spent in website development, I was ready to open up my business. Although there would and still will be so much work left, it was such a gratifying feeling to get to this point. I’m not really one for outward displays of pride, so I’m not positive I am familiar with the feeling, but after I hit the ‘open’ button on my store, I began to shake with energy. I paced my apartment for about an hour, calling family and friends to tell them it was finally ready to go, rushing back to my computer every time I got a pinging notification indicating an order was placed. After five orders in my first hour, I decided I needed to get out and go to the gym. I was far too amped to get anything substantial done, and I needed to let it all sink in.

It was a wonderful-yet-harrowing process from the very beginning. See, I worked my way through school, and all I knew was working for somebody else. I studied creative and screen writing, so I knew nothing of the process needed to start a business. I knew I had an idea, and I knew I had an excellent product, but I had no idea how to go about getting it out there.

So I started with my search engine. I decided to simply type in “how to start a small business in Massachusetts,” and found this guide directly from the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Economic Development. After pouring over the website, I decided that I would certainly need some assistance with all of the government jibbery-joop, so I went back to my search and hit the next result for LegalZoom. Being that I am certainly neither a lawyer or a businessman, I figured this would a logical fit. After doing a good bit of research on the company and ensuring I would have what I needed to get started, I went ahead and signed up to have them process the paperwork for me. All in all, it was a relatively inexpensive option that ended up saving me a great deal of time.

While I waited for LegalZoom to deal with the government, it was time to get my website built. I was faced with two options: pay somebody a good amount of money to build it for me, or figure it out myself. I decided on the latter, being that I do not have investors other than myself and I wanted to ensure I didn’t bankrupt my business before it even got off the ground. I did some searching again, looking for the best hosting platform for eCommerce. The name FastComet popped up more often than any others, so I decided to pull the trigger after reading several reviews and professional write-ups. Through FastComet, I hooked up WordPress wooCommerce to my website and began to get to work.

In the beginning, it was an extremely frustrating endeavor. I am not a technology-oriented person. My friends often like to joke that my smartphone is certainly smarter than I, and they really are not wrong! Nothing seemed to make sense! After about 16 straight hours of a combination of error messages, reading confusing “tutorials,” and staring aimlessly at my computer screen, I decided that I better call customer service.

I am also not somebody that enjoys calling customer service. I find the recorded lines to be nauseating, and all-too-often end up directed to a department I do not need to be at after waiting on hold for anywhere from 5-30 minutes. After that, I now must wait on hold for another 5-30 minutes to get to the department I need, and then when I find out that it’s actually a different person in the department that I need, I am on hold again for another 5-30 minutes. If you haven’t figured it out, I really do not enjoy customer service lines.

I was actually quite impressed by the FastComet customer service. Not only was I not on hold for very long, but the menu was quite simple and did provide a million different combinations of directions to follow before I get a real human being on the line. All-in-all, it was probably somewhere between 2-4 minutes before a calm voice said: “Thank you for calling FastComet customer support, how may I assist you today?”

I was pleasantly surprised. This poor lady stuck it out with me for over an hour, walking me through some of the basics to get me started on the right path. From there, I was able to figure out some of the rest, but was no longer hesitant to call customer service. Building a website is not as easy as placing things onto a canvas, that’s for sure, but it also isn’t quite rocket science. There is certainly a reason there are educational courses, and professionals that charge a lot of money to do this for you, but it can certainly be done by putting in the time and research necessary.

All while doing this, I began contacting farmers markets and some small local shops. Opening up an online store is fine and dandy, but I want to get my product directly in front of people’s eyeballs! Once again, I was pleasantly surprised at the response rate I received, and quickly booked four market dates and have several more on the horizon. There are even a couple of local shops that are interested in carrying Beerd products!

So what is the moral to this whole story? Do not let obstacles and a lack of knowledge slow your drive. Find that knowledge! Go around, over or right through those obstacles if you must. Ultimately, believe in what you do and believe in yourself. If you are starting a business from scratch, it will not be easy. It will not be without it’s trials, and there will certainly come at least one point you think you just cannot make it happen, anymore. Push through, relentlessly forward. In life, there is really only way you can productively move, after all.

Garrison the Bartender
Owner, Founder, Beerded

The Wait Is Over!

After spending a great deal of time developing Beerd products and countless hours teaching myself how to navigate the business landscape and build a website, I am pleased to say that Beerd is nearly ready to launch!

As I finally hit the ground with my very own business venture, something that I have erected by myself from start to finish, it is interesting to reflect on the process. So, while you wait for your Beerd products, here is the a bit about the journey of how Beerd came to be.

My childhood knack for exploration followed me into adulthood, and I was struggling to find what my place would be in the world. I am fascinated by the Italian Renaissance, and always fancied myself to be a Renaissance man. I knew the typical nine-to-five life was simply not something I could do! I even gave a job in sales a shot, and found it a terrible fit for my sometimes-hyperactive energy.

I was running out of shaving cream!!! When your facial hair grows like mine does, you begin to worry you only have X amount of shaves left before, if you are unable to hit the store, you begin to resemble depictions of human ancestors from the walls of the Smithsonian. Being that I work in a bar, I need to keep at least a reasonably well-kept appearance! Nobody likes an unkempt bartender, or a beerd hair in their Manhattan. As I was lathering up, praying I would have enough to get through to the next can, my eyes hit the ingredients label…

I could barely READ some of these things! Tetranitroglycolusa-huh?! As somebody that eats clean and tries to keep unnecessary chemicals from my body, I was not too pleased to find out I had been allowing them to seep directly through the pores in my face for years! I looked for natural shaving products, and to my dismay, found that there was a serious lack of options. No matter what conditioner I put in my beard and what I would shave with, I was left with dry hair, dry skin, and occasionally a vicious case of razor burn that resembled a case of pre-pubescent acne.

I began to research obsessively, just as I had done hundreds of times before when writing a piece to fulfill a contract or when I had another crazy idea or DIY project to dig my hands into. The research turned into more research, and then a list of ingredients. I searched for local purveyors of the ingredients, and got to work.

The recipes to the first Beerd condtioning serum and Beerd shaving soap were born! Patient Zero and The Rutherford B Hayes came out so well, and I had made a batch larger than I needed, alone, so I shared some with family and friends. After getting such a positive response, I decided to make a few batches and pass them out to people at the gym, at work and even on the street!

The response floored me! I knew it worked for me, but the fact that this worked for everybody else was both humbling and invigorating. Did I just stumble upon something, here?

Over the next several months, I would continue to work my jobs at the bar and at a local radio conglomerate as a promotional worker. I continued to develop the idea and the products that would become the basis of Beerd, and kept a close eye on my bank account. I sought out local providers of the goods I would need, and finished up everything I would need save for the official paperwork and licensing.

The time came, at last. I filed for all the paperwork, paid for my domain name, and began the journey of building this website that you see now. As soon as the paperwork and certifications are processed, you will be able to purchase all-natural shaving supplies, beerd conditioners, and facial cosmetics!

It has been quite the journey, and I have learned a great deal along the way! It is now that I realize the journey has just begun. As I conclude this rather brief reflection of a long and detailed ordeal, I would like to leave you with a single thought: follow those dreams! Whether this venture succeeds or fails, the process has been absolutely invigorating and the finality of the preface to the journey absolutely liberating. Let yourself go for it!

“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

-Wayne Gretzky

As I will hopefully be able to say one day from the airwaves, stay tuned!

-Garrison the Bartender