With a $20 Investment, This Unemployed Veteran Fueled a Million-dollar Business

Charlie Moyer was an unemployed military veteran with absolutely no ecommerce or online marketing experience.

But in one year, he grew his men’s grooming company from $3,000 to $375,000 in monthly sales. And it started with a simple $20 investment.

Today, he's sharing the secret formula behind his remarkable success.

In this TGIM short, you'll...

  • Learn why you don't need business experience to launch a successful product 
  • Discover the selling power of free samples and how they can drive business
  • Find out why targeting with Facebook ads is more straightforward than you think

Check out the full short below:

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"The problem with beards is that they’re smelly and they’re just gross to me. Right when they start growing it, it just feels like sandpaper on your face. It almost gives you a rash. I told him, “If you can’t fix this problem, you’re going to have to shave it, I can’t handle it.”

"To put it mildly, Ashley Moyer was less than thrilled with her husband, Charlie’s beard which was not by the way some hipster fashion statement. Charlie had just finished 10 years as a gunner with the US Coast Guard and wanted to try out what vets call a “freedom beard”, the first beard you grow after leaving the service. All the other unemployed vets at the college he was enrolled in were doing it. He wanted Ashley to be happy so he decided to groom it rather than lose it and went looking for a solution. What he discovered was potentially hazardous."

"I went to the different health stores, I went to CVS and Target and Walmart and they had isles of stuff for shaving but nothing for beards. I found out about a specialty store in the mall called Art of the Shave and I went there and they had a couple of products for beards but it was pretty expensive and then looking at the ingredients, the 3rd ingredient in their top seller was turpentine which is a paint thinner."

"Paint thinner on my face? No thanks! Charlie being a resourceful person thought, “Hey, I’m going to make my own beard oil.” He grabbed some shea butter, different natural oils, jojoba, vitamin E and started mixing up different batches."

"Because I was making so many different versions I was able to bring little samples to the vets at my school. Every day at school I’d go hang out at the vet center and I was giving them the samples to try out so they’d give me feedback, let me know what they thought and it got very popular very quickly. It wasn’t too long and they were coming in and asking for orders for the roommates and then orders for the family for the holidays. They encouraged me to put it up online and see if I could sell it on a website."

"This initial sharing of his samples with his vet buddies resulted in an unexpected business idea for Charlie. It led to the creation of Badass Beard Care but it’s not like he had any experience with any of this. He’d never built a website, remember, he’d spent the last 10 years on a boat."

"I’d sold a couple of things on eBay just privately and that was the only experience that I had."

"Okay, I think we can agree that selling a couple of things on eBay isn’t going to prepare you for running an online business. Anyway, Charlie somehow scraped together a basic website, posted his beard oils and balms and sat back thinking somehow the sales will start to ring up. Well, he was wrong."

"You quickly realize that you’re not going to get any sales, you’re not going to get any traffic unless you direct people to your site, people have to know about the product. That’s when I got on to social media and I started with Instagram and then I had the idea of using these samples, the same ones that I was giving to my friends at the vet center and school, just send those samples out to people, let them try it, give a review and tell their friends about it and if they liked it they would come back and buy more."

"He might not have had an e-commerce background but that positive experience handing out free samples to his vet friends had made an impression. How do you find the right people to give your free stuff to online? Armed with a barrel full of all natural, nice smelling beard oil and balm, Charlie was tracking down one by one every hairy hipster who hash tagged anything beard related; #beardlife, #beardo, #beardenvy. Waiting through this virtual sea of Instagram beards and no doubt countless man buns was time consuming and wasn’t translating into many sales. Then Charlie switched to Facebook which offered targeted ads. This is where his real life experience translated into digital success. A tiny investment was all it took."

"I put $20 into advertising. The fact that we had free samples was very targeted to men between the ages of 20 and 40 that had an interest in a beard or beard care products. Actually, Sriracha Hot sauce was probably the ones I targeted. As soon as I put that ad up telling people I had a free sample saw so many sample orders off that $20 boost and a big part of how many I reached. It ended up reaching I think close to 20,000 people and it was because it was such a noble idea of, “Here’s a free sample,” that people wanted to share it."

"Can we just stop for a moment to praise the power of Sriracha hot sauce. This was an inspired choice of tags from Charlie. Many hipsters have beards, most hipsters like Sriracha hot sauce, they put it on everything, it’s like catnip for them, they came calling in the thousands for those free samples that Charlie was offering, all because of a $20 ad boost. Then something unexpected happened, free became profitable, very profitable."

"Yeah. When we launched it, I was worried that people would just take a bunch of free samples and that we would be out product and out money for shipping and that they wouldn’t return. The surprising moment was when we launched the ad and we had people coming to give us samples. People would read through the descriptions in the decide for, “If I get one for free, I’m going to pick up a couple of others and pay for them just to see what it’s like.” Instead of losing money, we had people that were buying 7 other sample packs and then as soon as they get it, they liked it so much they would come back and buy in full size."

"In November 2014, Badass Beard Care did about $3000 in sales. In December, the month that Charlie started the free giveaway on Facebook, the company did $30000. Each month after that sales jumped, the following December, 2015, Bad Ass Beard Care did $375,000 dollars, not bad for an unemployed student just out of the Coast Guard with no e-commerce background. The growth continues to explode as more men are ordered by their girlfriends to soften those itchy, scratchy beards. Bad Ass Beard Care is actually banking on those complaints as it grows its inventory to include all kinds of men’s grooming products and free continues to be the strategy."

"Our free sample offer has been I think the leading driver of the company’s success. Our first year, we sent out over 70,000 free samples and I don’t plan on stopping it. It’s the best way to get people to try the product to see what our company’s about, just to see how fast we process orders and to see what our customer service is like. We treat even sample orders the same way we treat a full size order or a wholesale order. Honestly it’s the best way to get people to try a product that normally they would be reluctant to try or reluctant to spend money on."

"What does Ashley think of Charlie’s beard now?"

"Now that he’s grooming his beard, it’s really soft and when he comes in and kiss me, it’s really soft on my face and it doesn’t have that feeling that it had when I remember him first growing his beard that was really itchy and scratchy. It smells really nice, I really like it when he comes close to me. Sometimes I just ask him to come close to me so I can smell it. Before, I didn’t want him to keep the beard, I couldn’t imagine having him with the beard and now, I want him to keep it, I can’t imagine him without the beard."

"You see, that’s love. Guy goes out to tame his beard and comes back home with a multi-million dollar beard grooming company. Okay, time for one final lesson in marketing from Daymond John, founder of FUBU and star of Shark Tank. So far you’ve learned to build a following, you’ve heard about the power of influencers, now it’s time to put some money down and start advertising."

Show notes:

About TGIM: TGIM is a podcast for people who can’t wait for the week to start. In each episode we’ll be bringing you inspirational stories about entrepreneurs who have overcome obstacles, built incredible businesses, and are now living the life they want.