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SPRING HILL — It started as simple tinkering — stirring together a few ingredients in the kitchen — and evolved into a dedicated hobby. And now, it’s a business with a lofty pursuit: eliminating the “non-professional stigma” of a beard.
So say Shan McQuown and Garrett Homan, friends since childhood, now both 24.
This summer, the men launched Royal Beardsmen, a line of “handcrafted beard-care products fit for a king.” Their beard oil and balms, mustache wax and grooming tools aim to make the bearded resemble more the fastidious Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria than the rough and wild English pirate, Blackbeard.
Facial hair often is associated with unruly gaggles of bikers, McQuown suggested.
“We’re focusing on eliminating that stigma,” said the computer systems analyst, who has worn a beard since high school. “I consider myself a bearded professional. We target bearded professionals. We have the tools to keep the beard clean and professional looking.
“A beard is more of a lifestyle. It’s part of a person’s personality.”
When McQuown began toying with organic chemistry in his kitchen two years ago, he convinced Homan, an entrepreneur wannabe, to grow his first beard. As Homan’s beard outgrew the “awkward stage,” the duo scribbled recipes, shared products and sought feedback from friends. They refined concoctions, ultimately launching an online selection of beard-grooming products in July.
It’s expanded since then. Their latest addition, this month, is a seasonal chocolate-peppermint-scented beard balm. They sold out of 50 units in less than 48 hours, Homan said. More is in production.
“We strive to have the most unique scents,” McQuown said. Among them are Crusader’s Coast oil and balm — a pineapple-coconut blend and the line’s most popular — citrus-fragranced Forbidden Orchard, cinnamon-vanilla Dragon Spice, Whisky Glaze and Bonfire Brandy.
“Other brands don’t have scents,” Homan said. “Those are easy to make quickly and cheaper. The experienced user definitely likes to try new things.”
A cursory check of men’s grooming products in variety stores revealed only one labeled with a scent, Forest Glen. “’Forest’ is a beginner scent,” Homan sniffed, “for when (customers) don’t know what they’re looking for.”
Beardsmen scents come from essential oils, McQuown said, meaning they’re organic. Other products may contain inorganics, he said.
More common shelf products may contain one or two carrier oils. Beardsmen products use nine such oils, each with a specific benefit. For instance, argan oil works as moisturizer, with jojoba for anti-itch, avocado as a hydrator, hempseed as an anti-inflammatory. Others include grape seed, apricot kernel, pumpkin seed, sweet almond and Vitamin E.
“We are very competitive with our prices,” McQuown added, with balm at $15.95, oil at $18.95 and wax at $12.95. Competitor prices may be less, but Beardsmen goods are packaged in larger amounts, he said. Beardsmen also offers combination kits and gift packages.
The men buy their ingredients from American cosmetic companies, but no longer are concocting in the kitchen. They now send the raw materials and their recipes to a manufacturing plant for production.
McQuown designed and turns out the product labels. He also created the firm’s website.
Both are filling and shipping the online orders, some to as far away as Great Britain, Australia and Canada. An endorsement by Dan C Bearded, a popular product reviewer on YouTube, boosted worldwide orders, Homan said. Following the endorsement, Dan C told the young entrepreneurs his following grew by 2,000.
The fledgling business has sold more than a thousand units since its April launch. The duo is looking for a local site from which to handle stocking and shipping.
The men hawk their products at local events such as festivals, a farmers’ market and a cruise-in.
“We’re turning all our profits into marketing,” McQuown said, “to improve the brand, and our biggest goal is to grow products.”
Toward the latter, Homan added, “We’re experimenting with a new scent. At the moment, it’s top secret.”
Contact Beth Gray at [email protected]