Beard Balm Founder Delivers The Goods And Builds Sales By Bike
If you spot a fellow with a sizable beard toting natural grooming products around Detroit on a Schwinn, wave hello to Jon Koller, the founder of Beard Balm. About a year-and-a-half ago, he established a bicycle route to service some 30 salons, barber shops, hardware retailers, party stores and boutiques in Beard Balm’s hometown after realizing he’d snubbed the market.
“We were looking at the books, and it’s a big chunk of our business. We ignored it because, even as Detroiters, we believe the hype that there isn’t money in town, but there are awesome beards that need awesome products,” says Koller. “It was a crazy idea one day to distribute on bike. We kept doing it because Detroit is one of the most delightful biking cities, and there’s something about showing up in person.”
Beard Balm’s bike route spans about 20 square miles and among Koller’s stops along the way are Detroit Farm and Garden, Brooks Lumber, Detroit is the New Black, Buchanan Market and The Bearded Lady. He rides it monthly during the summer and biweekly or weekly during the winter, when the demand for Beard Balm increases. It takes him all day to complete the route with each stop lasting 12 to 15 minutes.
Before Koller sets out, he loads up a cardboard rig he designed for the front of his bike (Koller trained as a structural engineer) with $300 to $400 of Beard Balm products. On busy days, he occasional breaks from his route to replenish the load. If he has extra products at the end of his route, he’ll drop into a nearby store to gauge interest in picking up Beard Balm. “If the guy at the counter has a beard, that helps,” muses Koller.
Ash Hipps, owner of The Bearded Lady, appreciates the personal attention. After Koller parks his bike at her barber and beauty shop in the Corktown area of Detroit, she details that he “checks to see what products I’m low on, forfeiting the hassle of having to inquire with him through email or phone. I think we subscribe to similar a business mentality of simplicity, quality, and keeping good relationships with your neighbors.”
While Beard Balm’s local wholesale network doesn’t constitute a majority of Beard Balm’s revenues, Koller described it as a reliable source of sales. “As you add space in your supply chain to plug into large networks, you lose sight of exactly what is happening to all your stuff, what it’s doing and where it is going. Going into the stores where it is being sold, looking at it and talking to the people that are there, it feels durable,” he says.
Even as Beard Balm extends beyond Detroit – it’s available at roughly 1,500 retail doors and is expected to launch in Walmart stores next year – Koller doesn’t want to overlook his local turf again. “We have a lot on our plate right now, but it’s definitely on our mind to expand to a broader swath of town and potentially bring someone in just to service it,” he says. “If you actually like the town you live in and enjoy being out in it, you can’t monetize that. I wish I could do it with all my time, but we still have to sell all over the world.”