If anyone were qualified to launch a business like Beardbrand, it would be Eric Bandholz.
An entrepreneur and former Merrill Lynch analyst, Bandholz has a business degree from the University of South Carolina and a well-groomed, 6-inch red beard paired with a mustache that covers his mouth as he talks.
His startup, Beardbrand, formed with partners Lindsey Reinders, 28, and Jeremy McGee, 31, launched early this year. The trio are marketing their own all-natural beard oils, formulated on Bandholz’s kitchen table, while also selling other grooming products and accessories on their website, www.beardbrand.com.
The beard came about after he left Merrill Lynch in May 2011. With a week’s growth in place, Bandholz, now 31, decided – with his wife’s permission – that he wasn’t going to shave for a calendar year. By the following February, he took part in the West Coast Beard and Mustache Championship in Portland. He didn’t do well, but he discovered a culture that fascinated him, and created a blog to broadcast his “beard-growth journey.”
Bandholz hasn’t shaved since; however, he does keep his beard trimmed to the 6-inch length to keep it from forking, and is currently selling advertising space in his beard for a nonprofit.
“The whole process has changed my style,” Bandholz said.
He and his partners want to take that style change and bring it to all of the “urban beardsmen,” not hippies, bikers, lumberjacks or the homeless, but white-collar workers who still sport facial hair.
“They enjoy going out to movies, drinking beer, hanging out, having coffee, things like that, that aren’t traditionally known with other bearded lifestyles,” Bandholz said.
Beardbrand’s three beard oils – made from a set of base oils and scented with essential oils – are designed to give a luster to facial hair without weighing it down. The products condition hair and skin, helping to prevent split ends and beard dandruff, which Bandholz didn’t know existed until he started growing his facial hair out, he said.
Apart from the three co-founders, Beardbrand is staffed by a writing intern from Whitworth University and a sales intern from Hunter College who lives in beard-filled Brooklyn, New York.
Because Beardbrand is location-independent – as Bandholz said, “They’ve got beards everywhere, man” – the founders feel like they could create a multimillion-dollar lifestyle business out of an investment they still fund solely with their own money.
“Ours is the first business I’ve seen that centers around style and beards,” Reinders said. “There’s other beard-grooming products, but ours is the first that centers around men’s style.”
Bandholz replied, “It’s not about the products; it’s about the lifestyle, and what that means, and how that looks.”