A brand is more than a logo or a catchy slogan. It's the entire experience your customers have when interacting with your business, down to the tiny details.
Nick and Alessia Galekovic are the "King and Queen" of BEARD KING, a lifestyle brand and line of grooming products, who attribute the success of their 7-figure business to the time and planning they spent on branding through videos and visuals.
On this episode of Shopify Masters, you’ll learn from two entrepreneurs who built a 7 figure business by going all-in on building a brand that speaks to their target audience.
- Why you should first solve a problem and then build a brand around the problem.
- How to plan a content calendar for video content.
- Why you need to be on Amazon to combat copycats.
Listen to Shopify Masters below…
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- Recommended: The One Minute Manager Meets The Monkey (book)
Felix: Today I’m joined by Nick and Alessia Galekovic from TheBeardKing.com. The Beard King is a lifestyle brand and grooming products line. It was started in 2015 and based out of Miami, Florida. Welcome, Nick and Alessia.
Alessia: Hi, Felix.
Nick: Hey, Felix. Thanks for having us today.
Felix: Yeah, excited to have you guys on. Tell us a little more about this brand. What kind of grooming products do you guys sell?
Nick: The one we’re known for is the flagship product called The Beard Bib, but I guess let’s start off in telling you how it came about. Essentially, when I first started growing facial hair, I was obviously extremely excited. I was a boy now coming to manhood and I quickly realized though through that facial hair journey that grooming the facial hair itself was a very messy and time-consuming task.
Living at home with my mother, it was the first key point of she would come in … I think as a guy I did a decent job cleaning up, but unfortunately I didn’t. There was little hairs everywhere and she would yell at me like, “Nick! What are you doing? There’s hair everywhere. Go clean it.” I’m like, “What are you talking about?” When I met my wife, Alessia, the same issue happened and she was yelling at me. I was like, “You know what? There has to be a better way than putting down a t-shirt or a towel and that’s what I was doing before.”
Alessia: Right. That’s what he would normally do. He would grab a dirty t-shirt or a towel that was just hanging and he would just lay it on top of the counter and do his grooming regime. Not only was it creating more work and more of a mess because now he would have to grab that towel or t-shirt, go to the balcony and shake it off and it would be a mess all over the balcony and in the towel those little hairs are stuck within the towel so now my dirty basket of laundry is now full of hair.
It was never really an easy transition. Even though he did try to clean up best he could, I would always find those tiny, disgusting little hairs all over my makeup and my soap and my sink. Of course, it clogs the drains as I’m sure you can imagine. Having to share one bathroom, that was never an easy scenario.
We thought, “There’s got to be something out there.” Of course, there wasn’t.
Nick: Yeah, so leading into the discovery is I started searching online ‘beard catcher’, ‘beard bib’, ‘beard whatever’. There was nothing so I’m like, “Maybe I’ll come up with something here.” Actually Alessia was out of town and I had a few glasses of wine in me. I was sitting on the couch and I got my sketchbook out. I just started sketching this idea I had in my mind.
Felix: You had this problem that you knew existed. It’s a problem that I’m sure you knew … It’s not something that people talk about a lot, but I feel like within the last week, my fiance complained about the same exact thing, same problem that you guys have faced. You have created this prototype. What was next? What was the next step once you had created this prototype for yourself? What was the next step in terms of creating a more full-fledged product?
Nick: Yeah, absolutely. Alessia actually has this Italian tailor lady named Rosita. Such a sweet, nice, old lady. She’s like our grandma here in Miami. We took the idea. We had a meeting with her and then you can tell her the journey …
Alessia: Yeah, we took our first initial prototype and she tweaked it and made it look more of an actual product, gave it some shape, because Nick’s initial prototype was just … I think it was a sheet or maybe like a …
Nick: It was hideous.
Alessia: Yeah. She developed it. She made it into an actual working product. We added the pouch that … I don’t know if you have seen the product, but we have … The packaging in which it comes in is this pouch which is attached to the bib so coming up with little details that would make the product a little more efficient and interesting. That was a really cool journey because we had never developed anything, really anything in the past.
Nick: Yeah, we had no experience in textiles and manufacturing and all these things we were forced into this journey because of this idea.
Nick: We have the idea, but we have no idea how to get to the execution part of it.
Alessia: I feel as a young entrepreneur, that’s one of the hardest parts of overcoming. It’s actually the execution of your idea and coming up with the right … For example, finding the fabric was something challenging and making sure that all the elements within the product actually worked because there’s nothing there has never been done before so we were the pioneers. We had to come up with something that functioned as well as we would want it to function for our customers.
Nick: Correct. Yeah.
Felix: At this time, had anyone seen this product other than you two? Was it a tailor you were working with at the time?
Nick: Correct. Yeah, no, it was a tailor. Since we did, as we were mentioning earlier, searched for something to purchase as a customer on our own. As easy as it is, circling back to how she said, we had to learn about fabrics and all that. Most people might see the product online like, “Oh, that’s simple. Two suction cups and a bib.” Well, if you actually look at the intricate cuts and details and things that we did, it’s much more, I would say, not difficult to make, but it’s just not a blanket and two suction cups. That was my prototype, but when we manufactured it, it was very detailed.
What was your question again?
Felix: Yeah, my question was just while you were going through this process and creating these prototypes for yourself and then eventually working on a much more refined product with this local tailor, did anyone else see the product at the time? Meaning did you have potential … Not customers but friends and family looking at it? How much did you know about whether it was a pervasive problem that other people were facing or did you not know that yet?
Alessia: We had our family and our friends and neighbors look at it. Of course, you see our social media and our marketing. Even if you look first look at the video of our product, you don’t know if it’s an actual product. You laugh at it because it’s something so silly and it just triggers that emotion of, “Oh my God, why didn’t I think of this?”
Alessia: Of course, our family and friends were … They were critical and they would laugh at it, but the point is, it solved a problem. It solved a problem that a lot of men that have facial hair that trim and their wives or the person that you coexist with, everyone faces. It was comical and we’re laughing with you because it is a fun product too.
Nick: At the end of the day, the consensus was, it’s actually ingenious.
Nick: The first take is, “This is kind of funny. It’s a man bib. Guys are supposed to be manly,” but also we preach that worker smarter, not harder is manly. How Alessia was saying with the prototypes and I actually became dependent on it. Since we made our product a little over two years ago, I haven’t trimmed without it. It just doesn’t make sense because it makes such a mess. It’s one of those things that’s almost like ignorance is what makes it funny and people might question it, but once you try it, you’re like, “Oh, okay. I get it now. It makes sense.”
Felix: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. Did either of you have any business experience at this time? What was your background coming into this? It sounded like you knew where to go to try to get this at least more refined locally at first before you went on to some full-scale manufacturing. You guys knew that there might’ve been a market for it. What’s your backgrounds?
Nick: Yeah, my background is actually in brand development and design. We had an advantage together with our company, Beard King, because Alessia actually worked on the back end. She was a model and an actress and I was on … I’m sorry. She was on the front end and I was on the back end. We knew how to market products, how to design the packaging, the logos. We knew all the front end stuff that a lot of people don’t know or spend a lot in money doing.
As far as the manufacturing side, we actually didn’t know. That’s one of the things …
Alessia: Right. We just figured from what we made at home there’s got to be somebody that can make it look better and make it function better so that was when we took it to our tailor, but of course, there was further development after that because she can only do so much and go so far. That’s when your own drive and your own research comes in. We took it to a factory. There’s a process after the development.
Nick: To answer your question, there was no official background on manufacturing.
Nick: But again, to our advantage, the backgrounds that we did have in marketing and branding really helped us propel the brand because we knew that we could develop a product. We just didn’t know how to get there, but with the design, with the front end of what people see on social media, on branding, on the website, we knew we had what it takes to get there.
Felix: I was going to ask you. This place that you guys … Not this place but this advantage that you guys had with knowing how to market, how to brand, how to create a brand, I think, like you were saying, a big advantage, a big skill set to have because it’s what’s going to start bringing in the sales, especially later on when you’ve developed such a full-fledged brand.
What are the steps then when you sit down, maybe in your previous experience or especially with starting your own company, what were the steps that you took to make this brand more tangible? How do you even begin to develop a brand?
Nick: That’s a great question. I think one of the first things is you have to ask yourself, going through a marketing and branding strategy, is what are you? Now we didn’t come up and say, “Hey, we want to make a beard-related company.” It was that we solved a problem and built a brand around that problem. We also, as far as the steps and the process is … A lot of people overlook and skip the visual side of the brand. They’re like, “Yeah, I’m going to go get a stock image as my logo and create some messaging and I’m good to go.” You have to really think about what you’re going to be putting out there into the world.
We took our time with the branding, with the design, with the entire theme actually. Lord Felix, Queen Alessia, King Nick. We address all of our customers as queens and kings and lords and ladies. It’s more than just a logo or just the design of the font. It’s the entire package of the theme, the messaging, the logo, everything combined to create almost a character of your brand.
Nick: And the personality behind it.
Felix: Yeah, I thought that was hilarious when we first exchanged emails and you were referencing me as Lord Felix. It really stood out and it really solidified that brands as you were talking about in my head. The question then that I think comes out of this is, how do you make sure that you are always staying on brand all the time? Because maybe at this point it’s very automatic for you to add in these little characteristics to your emails or characteristics to the website, but do you do anything on a daily basis to make sure that you’re not diluting or diverting from the original brand?
Nick: Yeah, I would say even when we talk to our staff or anybody involved, we always keep it on brand, even if it’s somebody that we talk to every day, like our director of operations. I still call her Queen Sally. We’ll never just say, “Hey, Sally. I need this.” We’ll always keep that theme rolling. It makes you feel good. Like you said, you got the email and so when we talk to people and we address them like that, one of our statements is, “Treat everyone like royalty.” I feel like we always keep that in the back of our mind when we’re talking to suppliers all the way down to the customer. Even the suppliers, the vendors, everyone’s getting the same treatment and I think that helps us, again, differentiate ourselves with talking about the brand itself.
Alessia: It’s really cool to get customers’ feedbacks and wives that will send us emails or the reviews and they will say, “My husband loves using the bib. He feels like a true king.” Things like that. People really embrace it and it only pushes us forward to continue to grow on that … On building that character and that personality that our company brings.
Felix: Did this brand that you created, did it develop organically over time or did you set out from the beginning, “Hey, these are the three tenets, three pillars that we go by and everything branches off of this”? How formal is that process of creating a brand for an existing business or a new business?
Alessia: I would say that it was very organic. We started off with Instagram. Obviously, you had a brand new account of a brand new business. Because of Nick’s marketing background, he was able to create these really funny and engaging memes and people really, really liked it. We grew very fast, I would say. Our Instagram account is … It’s fun. It’s fun to look at. I would say it’s an organic growth.
Nick: But I think in regards, you were talking more about the process of it. When I was doing brand development for other clients, I would say it was very thought out. There was a whole entire process. My other business was called Galekovic and on there I had an entire steps one through five process between going through a brand audit. What’s your brand about? Where’s it been? Where’s it going? Through the brand strategy and then the brand identity is the step three. Brand implementation is where you execute and then brand manage is five.
There is a methodic process through the branding that we did go through. Now I do agree with what Alessia was just saying is that with Beard King, again, we didn’t … This was more of a personal project, per se, that turned into a brand. We did a reverse of what I would normally do for clients. It was more organic in that sense, but if we were just to start again, we would go through the methodic process of, “Okay, this is what we need to do.” That’s the background that we have.
Felix: When you look at other brands or businesses, what steps do you think out of those five or so steps in the process that you were listing before, what steps do you think people should spend more time on that you see people missing out on when they have a company that’s running already and that you see missing from their brand development process?
Nick: I would say the step three of brand identity. Some people are just straight business oriented and now with this millennial generation as people buying online, I think to stand out from the crowd, you really need to focus on your brand identity, your brand theme. You can have a cool strategy and all these numbers and graphs and charts and projections, but at the end of the traffic that doesn’t bring in traffic and convert always.
Focusing on that brand identity, the visuals and the messaging and how you deliver that personality to the world is what a lot of entrepreneurs should focus on. If you can’t do it yourself, that’s okay. You can hire designers to do that for you, but I think that’s probably one key element that people should really focus on. You can see the big brands that really set themselves apart because they focus and they spent a lot of money doing that.
Felix: Is there a way to test to see if you do have a strong brand identity or not or whether you should be working on it more or not?
Nick: Man, that’s really a good question because, see, Alessia and I both, with our backgrounds, we both have that art eye background so I feel like it’s a matter of taste at that point, but to actually gauge and test it, that’s actually a really good question. I’m not really sure.
Felix: Yeah, so maybe for you guys just because you have the experience already or that those skills are ready just feels very natural for you to be able to know if you have a strong brand identity or not?
Nick: Correct. Yeah, I would agree. It’s also more than the visual, I guess. I can tap into the experience of what you feel when you get the package in the mail, let’s say, and you open it up and whatever messaging is displayed there. It’s the feeling that it gives you. I think that’s probably the gauge that you can see if the brand is doing a good job on that. If you just get … I’ll get packages in the mail and it’s a clear bag and it’s just the product by itself and I’m like, “Okay.”
You have this emotional attachment to a product, per se, but when you go through the brand experience from the email messaging to the checkout … Or, I’m sorry. The checkout process on the site and then the messaging, the re-target marketing and then you get the product. All those elements I think are very important through the entire process.
Alessia: Right. Also listening to your audience, listening to what people have to say about what have you already delivered. Really that’s how we grow. We just listen to our customers and our feedback to see what we’re doing right and we also learn from what our competitors are doing, right? Because that’s how you grow. I don’t want to know what you’re doing wrong. I want to know what you’re doing right so that I can do it better. Just listening and just being aware of your surroundings and your feedback.
Felix: Yeah, I think that’s a good point. If you’re able to live a life essentially in your customers’ shoes and see what it’s like for them to go through the process of visiting your store for the first time, seeing those ads, ordering the product, what’s that process like, and getting the package, unboxing the package. I think that entire process, you either have to be so tied to your customers that you can visualize all those points and then be able to identify what’s good and what needs to be fixed or like you’re saying, you have to ask your customers, talk to your customers about all of these steps along the way so that you can identify what areas need to be improved on. I think that all goes back to having a strong brand identity or not. If you find that no one cares about the packaging or no one’s super delighted when they get a package from you, then that’s probably a sign that you need to improve on the identity, especially at that point.
Let’s talk about the very beginning. We’ll go back to the beginning stages. You have the prototype done. You’ve been working with a local tailor to refine the product. At what point did you realize, “Okay, now it’s ready to go start going into more large-scale manufacturing getting it done” or were you still continuing to work with this tailor when you were turning the first run of products?
Nick: We actually sat on the idea for almost four to five months. I remember called Alessia and I saw this product, the Philips Norelco Beard Trimmer.
Alessia: Oh, that’s right. That’s right.
Nick: That tried to market the same problem. I’m sorry. Solving the same problem, but their solution was a trimmer that had a vacuum on it. I was like, “Oh man, that’s actually a great idea.” But sometimes solving a simple problem with a complex solution is not actually the best way to do it. We purchased the product, the trimmer. Tried it out. Tested it. Did a little video.
Alessia: Really scared, by the way, because we were thinking, “This is the end of beard bib.”
Nick: By that point, it wasn’t even developed yet.
Nick: We were like, “Oh, that idea’s done. Let’s move on.” We sat on it. Purchased it. Tested it out. You know, it maybe caught 15, 20% of the hair, but the rest was all over the sink. It was honestly more of a mess because now you had to clean out the trimmer. It’s funny because last night in my Uber I was just talking to the driver about our product and he was like, “Yeah, I bought this vacuum trimmer and it doesn’t work.” I’m like, “Here we go.”
Alessia: It goes back to what I just mentioned of listening to your audience. We would look at the reviews on this trimmer with this vacuum thing and everybody would say the same that it’s creating more of a problem because now I have to open this tiny compartment and brush the hairs out and clean it. It was just more of a mess. It goes back to listening to the people that can relate to the problem and how do you solve that problem without being overly complicated.
Nick: Yeah, that’s when we decided talking about scaling it or moving forward. We went with a local manufacturer because clearly our little Italian lady couldn’t sew up a thousand bibs at a time. We did it very cautiously where we didn’t go to overseas and start investing a lot of money because we didn’t even have the money to do so. We had to start with very small batches. Our margins were terrible.
Alessia: Yeah, you have to keep in mind this product had never been done before so we didn’t actually know how it was going to do.
Nick: Yeah, we had no idea.
Alessia: No idea. We had to be very cautious and very conservative with the money that we spent because first of all, we didn’t have that much money to invest in the product development.
Nick: Yeah, we used our own personal funding which wasn’t much at all to do this.
Nick: We took it to the local manufacturer. Did maybe 100, 200 at a time which of course that’s laughable now looking back two years ago, but at the same time you have to go through those steps. Again, the margins were terrible, but we knew to test the product we needed to do this. We needed to just put it out there and so we did. We started very small. This was … Was it the end of 2014?
Alessia: Yeah, end of 2014. It was gearing up to the holiday season.
Nick: Yeah, it did okay. We didn’t know anything about running a Shopify store or anything like that. Again, that’s why our first year was 2015.
Felix: You said 100 to 200 products at a time. How were you actively selling these? How were you able to get those very first sales from the initial production run?
Nick: First, of course, friends and family. We pushed it out to them and they showed support. I would say Instagram really helped us where with our backgrounds of design and all that, we can do everything in house. We were just creating these hilarious memes which were just spreading and going viral online. Even some other indirect competitors and some competitors were actually taking our memes and just taking ’em and making ’em their own. At that point, we were just so young, we were just like, “Hey, share this with everybody. We got to get this out there.”
Alessia: The great thing about Instagram is … We were creating these memes and people were stealing our memes, but the whole point of how Instagram is so great for our business at the beginning is because we were getting that traffic to our website to getting those first few sales and getting that feedback that we needed. We needed to know is this a product that you actually want to buy and want to use? We used that to our advantage. People were stealing our memes and ideas on Instagram, but it was driving traffic back to us, which eventually got us the first few sales and we were able to find out do you really want to buy this.
Felix: Okay. The steps here were that you guys had this initial production run already and you were growing the Instagram at the same time by producing these memes and other photos that were going viral, getting more shares, getting more attention, traffic to your Instagram which then leads to the traffic to your store and then that’s how you’re able to understand is there a market for this or not by just looking at the sales or were you finding other ways to learn from the customers?
Nick: I would say both, but a key point in this process of memes and creating and engaging and seeing if this is even a viable product was in the month of May of 2015 and this is actually something we can talk about as far as Shark Tank, leading up to Shark Tank, but we created a video. Once we phased … Not phased out of visual pictures and Instagram, we also realized the next platform is Facebook and this is when Facebook … It’s obviously been around forever, but video really started to kick in.
Literally Facebook nowadays is like my news feed. I don’t even watch the TV. I just go on Facebook and I just scroll through hundreds of videos. Especially when they added that auto-play. A key point for us was in May of 2015, our first video that we ever made in house completely went viral. I think it was UNILAD or 9GAG, one of those huge Facebook accounts that has 30 million followers, it went viral.
Alessia: [crosstalk 00:26:35]
Nick: As soon as they picked it up, every account started picking it up. We did, in the month of May, I think it was 80,000 dollars in sales. We were like, “Wait, what?” We just went from the month before 10,000 in sales to 80,000. We were like, “What the heck?”
Alessia: Right. We could’ve done a larger number, which just didn’t … Again, being so conservative in our numbers in production, we didn’t have enough inventory.
Alessia: 80,000 was actually a conservative number because it actually would’ve been much more if we would’ve had this proper inventory.
Felix: These viral videos that you were posting or at least the one that took off that generated 80,000 dollars in that month of May, was it just a funny video? How was it tied back to your product or how did you actually get the people that were watching the products back to the site? Was there just some kind of watermark? What was the method for branding the content?
Alessia: It was a 15-second video of the beard bib being in use. This video we did ourselves. We shot it ourselves. We produced it ourselves. Directed it ourselves. It took very little … We spent, what?, maybe $500 on it? In Nick’s mother’s bathroom. It was very low budget, but it took a story and it gave you an immediate idea of what the product is. 15 seconds, that’s nothing. It was just so quick and so engaging and so funny.
Nick: I think it’s because, to add onto that, because no one’s seen the product before.
Nick: You’re talking about a store and a company that is nonexistent and has this product that’s so unique and that’s hard for a lot of these companies that have these unique products but they don’t know how to get it out there. When we saw that hit, it was because the world saw, “Oh, here’s this crazy cool invention.” It was the product. It wasn’t like we created this funny storyline video. It was literally just the product demo.
Alessia: Being used, right.
Nick: Yeah, being used. That’s really what propelled the sales from there and then that put us at a whole new plateau and also understanding of what we probably should focus on which was video and Facebook.
Felix: Super successful month for you guys. 80,000 dollars in sales. You said the previous month you’d only done 10,000 in sales. Obviously a big jump. Were you guys freaking out at the time? How did you handle such a big jump in sales all of a sudden?
Alessia: This happened in May, that really exciting month of 80,000 dollars, but gearing up to that we were actually getting ready to film Shark Tank in June so we had auditioned in January. Being on Shark Tank is a whole ’nother just language. There’s so many things that needs to be done and accomplished prior to you actually filming, so we were really, really busy not only getting ready for Shark Tank but having enough inventory.
Nick: It was a blessing and a curse because you go from no funding, you get a few thousand dollars in sales a month, which is not bad, and then you jump to a growth of that peak. You’re like, “Okay, what do we do now?” One of the issues we had was meeting the demand and circling back to listening to customers and customer service. We were team of two to three people. We didn’t have any knowledge of what was to come next.
We went to the Container Store. We bought racks. We were fulfilling out of our one-bedroom apartment on our own. I think we had a cleaning lady come help us. We had a college student that lived here come help us. It was terrible, but at the same time it was a blessing and a curse. We were happy that this was happening to us and the business was taking off, but I think a lot of entrepreneurs can relate to the struggle of, “Okay, now this is real.” You don’t just make money and sit back. You actually have to execute now.
Being on that back order status was a huge risk for us. We had this demand and we couldn’t meet the demand because we didn’t have the inventory. That was a huge learning process for us to try to meet that demand and to try to keep up with sales.
Alessia: Right. Circling back, that was around the time of going into Shark Tank.
Nick: That was.
Alessia: The stress level was …
Nick: Yeah, so not only going through the Shark Tank or getting prepared to go through the Shark Tank process, going viral on Facebook, not having enough inventory to meet the demand, customers were angry. We had so much to juggle. Okay, we went from, “Oh, this idea, we’re not sure,” and then it blows up and we’re like, “Oh my God, what do we do now?”
Nick: To think we got to do something about this or this is going to blow up in our face.
Felix: How did you get under control then because the sales were going through the roof way faster than you were able to have the infrastructure, the process set up to handle the sales. Like you were saying, your entire one-bedroom apartment was just packed full of orders. You had random people coming over to help you pack and ship everything out. What steps did you take to eventually be able to get a handle on this kind of growth?
Nick: I think for any entrepreneur moving through any level of steps of growing, it forces you to figure out what you need to do next, right? This was our tipping point of now we need to go to the next level. We were basically forced to learn, well, what do we do?
I know using Shopify, there’s a company called Shipwire that does fulfillment, but we felt like maybe we weren’t ready to start sending of inventory with maybe … We don’t even know where it’s going. It’s not local. We can’t touch it. We actually ended up working with a local fulfillment center and that was a blessing. We were like, “Please get this out of our house.”
One interesting thing, obviously we’re husband and wife. We work together. We’re partners, but the problem is when you work from home, it starts to creep into undoubtedly your personal life. That becomes a problem when you can’t separate work from home. That was another struggle that we had was like, “How do we separate this? This is affecting our personal lives.” We had to figure out that to not only help the business because if the parents or the king and the queen of the business aren’t healthy and doing good, then the entire business fails. We figured that out.
The fulfillment center really helped us obviously get all the inventory out and pump out the orders so we can get back to focusing on we even got here which was creating content, videos, marketing. That’s what we’re good at and we’re not good at fulfilling and doing all those things. We realized that, but we did it for so long that it drained us.
Alessia: Yeah, we were just wearing too many hats and I feel it’s important for entrepreneurs to understand when it’s too much, when it’s become the time to delegate some tasks or inventory can’t stay in my one-bedroom apartment. It needs to go to a fulfillment center. I can’t be driving back and forth to the post office all day long for six hours back and forth. I need to find a better way because things like that is what keeps you behind and doesn’t allow you to do the things that you are good at.
Nick: Yeah, but I think wearing all those hats as an entrepreneur is actually great. I think everybody should literally start from the janitor mopping the floors all the way up to the president so you understand everybody’s role. That’s what I was saying, it forced us to learn those roles so now we know, “Okay, this is what a fulfillment center does and this is great.” We can gauge what they’re working on and what they can do because we’ve already fulfilled ourselves so we know what needs to be done and so on and so forth.
Felix: Yeah. You guys have definitely made the right moves and worked way smarter by outsourcing these aspects of your business. I think there’s this mentality though with entrepreneurs where they say, “I’m just going to suck it up and just do it.” Like you were saying, you might want to do that at first so you can understand how everything works from Point A to the delivery to the end customer.
How do you balance that? How do you know when you should really be outsourcing something or delegating something versus handling it yourself nowadays especially now the business is larger and then you have more people working for you?
Nick: That’s a good question. One of my mentors gave me a book called The One-Minute Manager Meets The Monkey. You were asking about how do you figure out, “Okay, now’s the time to start delegating these tasks?” The problem is when you say,“ I’m going to suck it up and I’m just going to do it all myself,” those are what the monkeys are that are on your back. Those are the next moves that need to get done.
When you have too many monkeys on your back, your days just consist of doing everybody else’s work or all those hats or all those monkeys that you could be passing off to other people. We’ve implemented that into our process. If it’s not a huge task that’s not going to lose us too much money if we make a mistake, then it’s okay to delegate that task, whether it’s day-to-day emails or even social media where we have people working for us or now even video production that we used to do in house.
We realized that the term ‘it takes money to make money’ and you should obviously reinvest that, it’s so true because if you try to do everything yourself, there’s going to be a cap on your scalability. Even with our product, we don’t think that this is just some trending product because beards are so in right now, but if it is a product that you have that is trending, well, you need to get to the market fast, capture all that you can, and if you’re sitting there doing every task or all those monkeys like I mentioned in that book, then you’re not going to have time to scale.
Felix: Makes sense. Let’s talk a little bit about the Shark Tank appearance that you guys were referencing earlier. You went into the show, I believe, seeking 100,000 dollars for 20% equity in the company. At this time, your business was around, what?, maybe six months of being in business by the time you started preparing for Shark Tank. How did that happen? How were you able to pick as a potential company to come on Shark Tank?
Alessia: We officially opened our doors October 10th of 2014 so two months into our business journey we found out that there was an open call for Shark Tank in Miami at the Miami Beach Convention Center. It was just one of those things that was meant to be. We had been huge fans of the show and now having this product, we knew that we really wanted to be on Shark Tank.
It just all happened organically. We went to the audition in January of 2015 and we got the callback and, like I was mentioning earlier, it’s a very lengthy, lengthy, lengthy process so for audition in January we actually ended up filming in June. We had that really successful month in May of our … What how much was it? 80,000 dollars in the month of …
Alessia: We filmed in June and I guess because we were so new and we didn’t really have a whole lot of background, going into the Tank …
Felix: I actually remember seeing this episode very vaguely because I’m a big fan of the show as well. There’s a lot of talk about your content creation as the key for the growth of your business and obviously the month before in May the 80,000 dollars in sales was really attributed to the videos that you had created. Was this a big selling point that you guys knew you wanted to go in with when you to pitch on the show to talk about the content marketing essentially that you guys were doing?
Nick: Absolutely. As Alessia mentioned, we were so new in business in that even running a business ourselves we were so new let alone the business that we had presented to them. We knew going in there that if you go to the Shark Tank and you try to act like you know all these numbers and graphs and projections, they’re going to rip you a new one. We were like, “Let’s go in with what we’re good at,” which you just mentioned is content creation.
I remember Mark Cuban when he went out he was like, “If you guys would’ve came in here and told me you have XYZ content lined up and this next idea,” I would’ve been interested, but you didn’t tell me that. I was a little thrown off by that. I don’t know if you recall him saying that, but I just was like, “Okay, but I don’t really …” I get what he’s saying, but we didn’t really have a rebuttal for that, but it actually stuck with us. Now every time we think of that next video or idea, we think of, “Oh, remember what Mark Cuban said. We got to keep pushing.”
That’s also a key element is consistency. It’s not just about creating one video, one meme, one post and then making it go viral and then you get a bunch … No, it’s about constantly having those waves come in and crash and then you got to continue them.
Felix: Awesome. You guys did have success in the Tank, right? What ended up happening? What was the deal that you ended up walking away with on the show?
Nick: We actually, as you mentioned, it was 100,000 dollars for 20% and, of course, it’s TV. It’s entertainment. Not always what happens on air is what happens during due diligence. There was a gap of a few months that go through due diligence and within that month, that was towards the end of the year, Q4, and our product is a great gift so we exploded with sales and we really actually … When we pitched in the Tank, the deal that Lori got, it was actually great for her and decent for us. It was a little high with the equity stake, but we really needed the money. At that point talking about the May spike with had with the 80,000, even though you had that capital, we still needed to buy more inventory for the holidays, but we just didn’t have capital to do so.
Answering the question about what was the deal that actually came to fruition, well, there wasn’t a deal that came to fruition because we grew so much that financially the deal at 100,000 dollars for 40% didn’t make any sense. We had more cash tied into inventory and in the bank times three or four to not even need that deal. We negotiated, went back and forth, and respectively, we love Lori but we ended up both just walking away from the deal.
Alessia: Right. It’s important to clarify that how we grew and when we grew was prior to airing so it’s not like the show … Well, obviously the show was a huge platform and sales were obviously great when we did air which was in January of 2016, but between June of 2015 and January of 2016, there’s a six-month gap and that’s when we grew prior to airing. When it came down to signing the dotted line in January prior to airing, it just didn’t really make sense.
Felix: Makes sense. I’ve heard of this happening a lot too that a good portion of the deals after the show’s airing, after the Shark Tank don’t actually end up happening, but I’ve never heard of a case like you guys were you didn’t need the money anymore because of such a hyper growth. I think that’s the best kind of terms to leave with when you decide to not go with the deals because you no longer need it.
Let’s talk about the content piece then because it sounds like that’s what led to your success early on and it sounds like that’s what still continuing to help you guys with your sales and success. The Facebook video virality that you guys encountered, was there a follow up to it? Were you able to continue to churn out these videos that had that same kind of success? I guess even before we get there, how many views are we talking about at this time?
Nick: That’s a great question because when people heard us on Shark Tank talk about we had over 20 or 30 million views, if you look on YouTube, a lot of people would try to call us out like, “Oh, where are those views? You guys lied. You guys are liars,” but we’re like guys, there’s more than YouTube. We’re talking Facebook. If you go on UNILAD’s Facebook, they post so much stuff you won’t be able to find it in their content, but we have all the links and we re-post those links but with …
Alessia: I believe just on UNILAD alone I think it had close to 20 million views just on UNILAD.
Nick: One of the main Facebook accounts was UNILAD and that video, our first one had over 27 million views and 80,000 comments. You could imagine the traction and the communication that was happening. That was just one of, I think, over 20 different Facebook accounts that all have huge followings and huge reaches that re-posted that video.
Felix: Obviously lots of success with this and I feel like literally if you can get something like a video, a product video especially, to go viral, you have yourself the very beginnings of a successful business just because there’s so much attention and traffic for you. Now when you go back to creating content, are there formulas or keys or necessary elements of a video that you make sure are in this video to try to replicate this kind of success again?
Nick: Yeah, absolutely.
Alessia: I think that everybody has their own style and I feel like ours, it’s humor because our product … It’s funny. We just try to stick to what we know and the fact that it’s … We want to create that laughter, that humor. Who doesn’t want to laugh, right? We just keep it funny. That’s our secret sauce.
Nick: But to even drill down even further for the people that are interested, I think that also keeping it short. There’s so much noise on social media and even with Facebook, I’ll be sitting in bed or about to go to sleep or scrolling through videos in the morning and I don’t listen to any audio. That first two seconds has to be very engaging.
I will say to try to replicate that with our product does get difficult because our product popped off and was so unique that when someone first saw that, the audience was like, “What is that?” They’re engaged so over time I will say that there will be a decline in that because the audience will get over exhausted as the product gets out into the world.
To elaborate on what Alessia has said, yeah, we try to stick to humor because people do enjoy laughing, even at one of our friends and affiliates. I think it’s Squatty Potty and Poo-Pourri. These are products that aren’t saving the world, but in essence, they kind of are. Squatty Potty, their recent video was one of the most watched videos ever and it was hilarious, but prior to that one of the issues they brought up was they tried to go from the medical standpoint like you need this product. Very 1999, but when they added humor elements to their videos, that’s what made them go viral because it’s shareable.
People don’t want to share a product that it’s not fun. Some people that are listening to this podcast might not have a product that is glamorous or fun to share. They have to think of creative ways of how can they make it fun. An example of that, another person in Shark Tank alumni and friend that we talked to was FiberFix. They were trying to figure out ways … Because how glamorous is FiberFix tape? I mean, it’s just really tape, right?
But they came out with a viral video to launch a car off of a cliff with a roll cage. The first variable was duct tape and of course it fell apart, but with FiberFix it all stayed together. See how they took that simple product and made it fun and entertaining to watch. You have to entertain people is that secret sauce, really.
Alessia: Right. Especially right nowadays with social media, keeping it short because nobody really has the time to sit there and watch maybe a minute video or a 30-second video, but if you have a creative way to make it fun and shareable, I think people are more prone to wanting to share when it’s got an aspect of laughter, when you’re creating a moment.
Felix: Yeah, I think what it comes down to is that people don’t want to seem boring to their friends so they’re not going to share a very sterile-looking video. They want to share something that will make their friends be entertained or laugh and I think you hit on a very important point which is that you need to have those elements in there, otherwise it’s not going to be something that they would enjoy sharing themselves.
I think what you were saying previously about how Mark Cuban made that comment about what’s next for you guys, do you have a pretty extensively content calendar? How do you plan and prepare for all of the content that you are creating?
Nick: We try to stay on the fly with whatever trend might be in or a funny category or topic that’s happening, but at the same time, you can’t just go off of what’s trending. Yes, we do plan ahead. Obviously any big calendar holidays, Halloween, Christmas, whatever it might be. We try to plan ahead for those.
Actually one of the recent ones with Halloween coming up, we did a scary hairy sink where the sink almost looked like a pumpkin, but all the hair trimmings that feel in the sink created the shape of a jack-o-lantern. Creative little things like that we do try to plan ahead of time because if now you’re just going to run out and just have to post generic stuff.
Alessia: We try to be original and create our own content as opposed to just grabbing a picture off of the Internet and re-posting it. We try to keep it original.
Felix: What is the breakdown then? Because obviously you can’t be creating your own content every single day and posting it so you probably do have to share other things that you find. Is there a certain breakdown that works well for you guys between original content and sharing what’s already out there?
Nick: Yeah, absolutely. If you’re trying to grow a community, it’s definitely key to share … Because we have a lot of people messaging us and want to get shout outs and have their picture featured so we definitely have a nice balance and ratio of sharing community photos, lifestyle photos around that brand or topic, and not advertising too much though.
If you look at our feed, you might not see a lot of product that we’re advertising because not everybody depends on the platform like we talked about Facebook and video and Instagram and images, but we try not to advertise too much as far as of the content. It’s more around the lifestyle.
Felix: Makes sense. One thing that you mentioned in the pre-interview notes or pre-interview question, you said that ideas are cheap and execution is everything. I think this concept of a type of entrepreneur that’s just the idea guy is often kind of shunned or shot down. Would you guys ever consider yourselves the idea person or only the idea person at any point before you start executing?
Nick: Yeah, I would say so because we had to go through that learning experience. We have so many ideas, like most people do and even when friends now say, “Hey, I have this really cool idea,” and they obviously saw our success, I’m like, “That’s awesome, man, but put the tires and the rubber to the road and just go for it,” but most people stop there because they don’t want to go through the process. It takes a toll for sure, mentally/physically, but that’s why it’s true that ideas … They’re cheap and execution is literally everything.
Because it’s not all about having this amazing idea, amazing marketing. It’s about can you execute. Will you wake up every day and put in the work to execute and slowly chip away at that sculpture that you’re trying to create and at that business model?
Alessia: Right and not be scared to to fail because I believe it’s human nature to just … Sometimes when you don’t know the outcome of something, you become scared of taking action, but being an entrepreneur goes against that. You have to jump. You have to make a move. You have to make it happen because otherwise you will just sit on the idea or on your concept or on your product just because you’re scared.
Felix: Yeah, that makes sense. Nowadays, if someone out there has a product idea or a content idea or maybe if you guys have a product idea or a content idea, what do you do to make sure you get as fast as possible from just the idea phase into execution mode as fast as possible?
Nick: Yeah, I think once you go through the process of whether you’re using a project management system, you can … Once you pave those paths whether it’s manufacturing or marketing, you can document all that and then run that new idea or concept through that same pipeline over and over again. I know some of the other entrepreneurs that we listen to the podcast, they test it on certain platforms like Amazon.
We just listen to our customers, like she said, run it through the process of what we have going on and test it. Start small. We never get a new product development and just try to buy so much inventory because that’s a huge risk and you’re risking your capital. Once that money’s spent, if that product doesn’t sell, well, you might as well throw that money away. Always start small and test it in little, small batches.
Felix: If you were to start all over and you had some new idea, some other idea, what would you do then? What were the first steps that you would take to make sure that you weren’t just waiting around? It sounded like you actually did go through that of sitting on the idea for a bit. If you were to go back and give yourselves more of a kick in the butt to go move faster, what do you think that you would have spent your time doing to make sure that you’re executing?
Alessia: That’s a good question.
Nick: That is a good question. I would say planning.
Nick: How we talked about how this business grew organically and a lot of people just say that, but this literally grew organically. I would say it’s good to have that ratio going back to of having a plan and really going through those branding steps first. Also executing even a business plan. When we started this business, we didn’t have a business plan, but I think as you grow and you learn the different markets, you should have a plan. Again, we didn’t research beard market and all this in the beginning but now looking back and moving forward we are. I would say that’s the difference moving forward or if we had to start all over again is really planning to seize that opportunity to execute is what we would do different.
Alessia: Right and also staying organized so that you can command certain tasks to other people and having that plan like Nick just mentioned. I feel like a lot of times when you’re first starting off, again, you’re wearing so many hats. You don’t have a plan. You’re not organized and then you have to redo it all over again to teach somebody else. If you just create that framework, you have a better chance of just doing things faster and just going at it at a quicker pace.
Felix: Yeah, I think when I ask people, “How do you make sure you’re executing and what do you find that maybe you waste too much time on?” They do actually say that planning is what they waste a lot of time on, but what you’re saying I think is different than this. What both of you are saying I think is different than spending too much time planning.
What you’re getting at, I believe, is that you want to plan and organize enough so that you don’t have to spend all this time stopping and thinking about your next step just so that you can always be knowing what to do next and always hitting these key points. I think that’s a great point about making sure you are planning, making sure you’re organized so that you don’t lose the momentum and you know exactly where to go next. That’s a great point.
Two years of business now. I think you said you started in late 2014. It’s now late in 2016. Can you give us an idea of how successful the business is today? How much has it grown?
Nick: Yeah, absolutely. We’re looking at projecting well over seven figures this year. The first year we did a little under that. Another platform that we just launched on and should touch base on today is Amazon. We didn’t go on Amazon for the longest time and it was because, I think this is important, especially for people on Shopify, is building that audience to re-target to, to acquire that customer sometimes is expensive.
When you go on Amazon, that’s Amazon’s customer. That’s fine because I’m actually a shopper on Amazon myself, but starting up our own store, we wanted to acquire those customers, get those email addresses, to be able to re-market back to them. Now that we’re on Amazon after two years … Our product is solid. We knew that the reviews would be good. Now it’s exploded even more so we’ll have to wait and see at the end of this year how we do, but I think with Amazon we’re going to do great.
Felix: Yeah, Amazon is a new channel for you guys. Are you saying that you want to be able to capture those customers eventually? How do you tie Amazon back into your business, your own store?
Nick: I would say back through the topic of messaging, packaging, the branding side, because that’s how you can get people to Google and search. Now one thing I do want to bring up why we even got on Amazon besides just opening up a new channel was infringers. This is one thing that Lori said. She’s like, “You guys are awesome. This product is cool, but as soon as you hit the market, you’re going to get copied.”
Luckily prior to Shark Tank airing, we flooded the market, but people exploited us on Amazon because we weren’t on there. We held off as long as we could. We’re like, “We’re not getting on Amazon. We’re not …” We had to. If you, Felix, were to go look on Amazon right now, there’s at least 15 to 20 infringers copying our products. Some even steal our images.
Alessia: Yeah, not only our product, but they steal our images and don’t just copy and paste a different face or a different sink or whatever.
Nick: Yeah, they Photoshop.
Alessia: But it is just incredible what people will actually do to just steal your market and your idea and your content.
Nick: There’s yet another challenge.
Nick: We’re talking about all the different phases here and the next phase that we’re dealing with now is the legal side. The product’s patent pending. Unfortunately, Amazon … They’ll do a decent job, but it’s a wide open market like the wild wild west and until you go through the process of getting on Amazon, which is actually very difficult. We were like, “How are these people so easily copying us?” It’s because the sellers were already ungated. They were already on Amazon and then they’re just in the business to steal these product ideas that are hot, like ours.
Alessia: They undercut you with pricing.
Nick: Of course. Ours is 29.99. Everyone else is like 9.99, 19.99. They’re trying to just skim off the top. From all of our marketing efforts that we talked about today and all this viralidity, they’re just … People are going to Amazon. I do this all the time. If I find a cool product, I actually go to Amazon just to add it to my cart to remember to look at it later, but that’s what people are thinking they’re buying our product and they’re not. I’m sure I speak for a lot of entrepreneurs that are listening that they go through these same struggles that we’re going through.
Felix: Yeah, it’s definitely the gift and the curse of that kind of success is now you have all this attention, all of these other businesses that see … I guess you can call ’em businesses. All these other copycats that see your success and want to essentially use what you have done to shortcut them towards their own sales.
I think that’s an interesting point that you’re saying you went onto these marketplaces. In your case it was Amazon, but it could be any other marketplace for anybody else because there were copycats that were already selling the products and you weren’t there to truly represent the brand as the originators of the product.
When you’re entering a marketplace that already has all of these copycats, you’re entering a battlefield that already has some entrenched people in there even though you are the rightful owners of that product, you’re still entering this battlefield that has all of these people already selling, probably already has reviews and they already have sales rankings and everything. How do you even begin to take that kind of market share back when you are faced with so many copycats and you’re entering it a little bit later than them?
Alessia: I think the messaging that you bring. It’s all about the marketing and how we present our product and what we’re trying to tell with the products that we do put out there. I think it goes back to the messaging and how you market not only your product but the messaging within your store.
Nick: But fighting that uphill battle that you were just mentioning, it started off, to clarify, as only one or two copycats. I think one of them was Darwin’s Grooming. They’re put on warning. They known. They’ve been around. They were one of the first. I think just recently time stamping how this all happened was, especially gearing up for Q4 of 2016, this holiday season, that’s when the infestation just took over.
To answer your question, it wasn’t as hard of an uphill battle because we were already planning to get on Amazon. We were just waiting to pull the trigger. I actually think based off of the numbers and speaking to some of our account managers, we’re already taking that majority market share back. I think we actually are going to be or are already the number one in that category because we did create that category. It wasn’t like this category of beard bibs existed.
I think people are finding that we are, but they’re still … Like you said. It’s entering an entrenched battle where there’s these little warriors all over that are still stabbing us and we’re taking some of the shots, but eventually once the IP fully kicks in, we’ll be able to fully wipe them out but in the meantime, we are fighting back with Amazon ad placements. Alessia mentioned the way our content is presented, our imagery. If you compare some of these other copycats, the imagery is just so low budget, and that’s fine, but we’re so far ahead of them because we’ve been doing this for so long that they’re actually just replicating all the old mistakes we made.
Felix: Yeah, it sounds like a two-prong approach for you guys where it’s the legal side and but I think what Alessia is saying is very important too because I think when you resort to legal measures you almost have to be very active. You have to be like a sharpshooter and find all these different people that you need to go after, but when you have really strong branding, it makes your company just so defensible because the branding itself just becomes so pervasive that you don’t have to go out and search for all of these people to take down so much because all the customers out there already shopping around are impacted already know about your brand. I think both approaches make a lot of sense and I think a lot of times people underlook or overlook, that is, the branding side. Making sure you have a strong brand and that’s probably the best way to protect yourself from a lot of these copycats.
Obviously lots of success for you guys. Coming up on or by now the holiday shopping season. What else are you guys doing to plan and prepare for this holiday shopping season?
Nick: We’ve actually, over the course of the past four or five months, as we were talking about developing more products and not just being a one-off product company is we’re re-launching some of our body wash beard oils. We have our dog tag King Combs, we call them. We have a new king capsule coming out. We have a lot of these residual income products that are going to be surrounded by the flagship, because still the flagship, the beard bib, is the number one.
Going back to talking about branding, one of our body washes, it’s an all-black bottle if you can visual. Very sleek Apple-looking bottle. Black on black. It’s called Knight, but it’s spelled K-N-I-G-H-T like a royal knight. The other one’s called Imperial and the third name we’re still wrapping that up right now, but again, that all plays off of the branding that we talked about.
Felix: Awesome. What do you want to see your brand after this holiday shopping season? Do you plan on just adding more products to the product line or where do you want to see The Beard King go?
Alessia: I think after the holiday season what we want to focus on is maybe getting on some larger retail spaces. We haven’t done that yet. We’re only online and on Amazon. We haven’t really touched that, we haven’t explored that monster yet.
Nick: I also think exploring worldwide. We actually have customers all over the world, but due to only having distribution in the States … This problem is so universal all over the world, and especially countries like even Dubai, let’s say. There’s a lot of men all have facial hair there. There’s a market all over the world for this and so I think the future for Beard King is pioneering and piercing through with that flagship product while developing the new products along with that, but then going worldwide. We do have sales worldwide, but it’s by no means at a large scale like it is in the United States.
Felix: Makes sense. Thanks so much again for your time, Nick and Alessia. TheBeardKing.com is the website. Anywhere else you recommend our listeners check out if they want to follow along with what you guys are up to?
Alessia: Check out our Instagram, our Facebook, our Twitter. We’re very, very active on all social media platforms and we’ll keep you entertained. We’ll keep you laughing. That’s for sure.
Nick: Yup. Look out for our new YouTube channel development and all these new videos coming out. You guys are going to love them.
Felix: Cool. We’ll link all that in the show notes so you guys can find exactly where The Beard King is at. Again, thanks so much for your time, Nick and Alessia.
Nick: Thank you, Lord Felix.
Felix: Thanks for listening to Shopify Master, the ecommerce marketing podcast for ambitious entrepreneurs. To start your store today, visit Shopify.com/masters to claim your extended 30-day free trial.