Eric Bandholz: The Original Urban Beardsman
Tapping into a neglected niche, he helped transform a stereotype into a formidable community of bearded men.
Sometimes, your calling is right under your nose. For one man, this was literal … his beard. It was the first decade of the 21st century and a huge group of individuals still had no real representation or specific products aimed for them. Eric Bandholz would change all that.
Yearning to Be Himself
It began in a South Carolina elementary school when he started his first venture into business by repacking snacks for classmates. Decades later his business sense evolved into a career as a financial advisor.
“I always felt the pressure to conform to a certain look, even though it wasn’t really how I identified as an individual,” he recalls. “When I worked as a financial advisor, I felt like I was living in a shell. Like the real me was hidden away in a cage and could only come out when I was among friends or family.”
Little did he know that the facial hair, feeling so natural and “meant to be,” was also pointing him on his journey to prosperity. Like neon lights on the Vegas strip, the calling had been drowned out by life. Then in 2012, he discovered the West Coast Beard and Mustache Championships and he finally found his tribe. Bandholz walked in with a four-inch beard that took eight months to grow.
“When going to events, I got all the typical stereotypes associated with beards, from the Lumberjack to ZZ Top to the Duck Dynasty. And although they are all cool guys, it wasn’t me; I never really identified with them,” says Bandholz.
Fellowship of the Beard
Finally, he was comfortable —all around him stood other men who had decided to forego the razors and hassle that comes with them. After returning home, the blogging began. His new blog featured grooming techniques and videos for men of similar interests.
“I realized there was a community of guys who I came to call ‘urban beardsmen.’ They are business people, designers, ministers, people from all walks of life who didn’t fit that typical ‘bearded man’ stereotype. And I wanted to give those guys the tools they needed to feel confident about wearing a beard,” he says.
Before his endeavor, men with beards were seen as lumberjacks, bikers, or outdoorsmen. Bandholz felt it was needed to build a community where men could be given tools to invest in themselves. With his inspirational and educational posts, the community continues to grow.
From Beard to Brand
It began as a blog then turned into so much more … he began to sell products. With Lindsey Reinders and Jeremy McGee, Beardbrand was born.
Beardbrand was featured in a New York Times article and everything fell into place to launch the store.
The team went all in to form the business and, with only $30 and a one vendor they pieced together a store which launched the day before the article posted. From that day on, the business has grown consistently month over month and things were only getting started.
Beardbrand provides a variety of products, such as a beard oil to moisturize the skin and eliminate dandruff as well as a mustache wax for styling. Bandholz is in charge of marketing. Reinders and McGee each invested $4,000 to buy into the business, and none of them took any of the profits out of the business for the first 10 months.
At first, sales were somewhat slow. After gaining some credibility with The New York Times article which called him a beard expert and doing some self-promotion on YouTube, Reddit, and Tumblr, the newly created online store went ballistic and exceeded all expectations.
“Growing very rapidly with limited funds is a big challenge,” he said. “It’s a fine line between running lean and risking selling out, versus building a large inventory and not having that cash work for us.”
Bandholz famously went to seek investment on ABC’s Shark Tank which aired on October 31, 2014. Unfortunately, he walked out with no shark as an investor. All in all, he recalls having a good experience and has only good things to say about the sharks.
“The sharks themselves are very fun-loving, energetic, and passionate people. For them to invest in so many budding businesses is a gift to society and I am lucky to have spent a portion of my life interacting with them,” he says. The exposure, however, was tremendous and their web traffic and sales nearly tripled after the episode went live.
Well Groomed for Growth
According to Bandholz, almost 80 percent of Beardbrand’s revenue is coming from sales on their popular website and community following. The other 20 percent is derived from supplying products to 120 barbershops and boutiques around the globe.
Today, Beardbrand continues providing fantastic services to men and their beard cultures and is expanding their offerings with hair and body care products. For Eric Brandholz, his dream has become a reality and it’s his mission to help make men look and feel awesome!
Enjoy reading the many blog posts for men on beard, body, and hair care at www.beardbrand.com. Be sure to check out their products for great gift ideas.