March 5, 2021

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Eric Bandholz of Beardbrand on Entering Retail in 2020

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Beardbrand, a digitally-native brand specializing in men’s grooming products founded in 2012 and launched on Shopify in 2013, is today known for not only its lineup of top-notch hair care, but also for its YouTube presence: Which now has more than 1.62 million subscribers. 

Based in Austin, Texas, Beardbrand also recently opened up its own barbershop and retail store—in the midst of a global pandemic, mind you—and is leveraging this physical space for content production, market research, and experience-based interactions with customers.

Eric Bandholz, the company’s Founder and CEO, shared some insight on the brand’s strategy that’s taken them from a modest online-only operation to the shelves of Target, as well as lessons learned from their newly opened retail space.

Creating content in-store 

If you go to Beardbrand’s YouTube channel, you’ll find more than 1,000 videos spotlighting different barbershop cuts, beard grooming tips, and more. 

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The focus of these efforts is to immerse viewers in what the brand is all about, to put faces to the company, and to showcase the experiential side of the business and its products—all of which enhance the overall customer experience. 

The Beardbrand view of YouTube for retail is that it’s less of a profit-driven channel and more of a tool that gives them control over production capabilities (to shoot when they want and with whom they want). 

Creating content in-store allows them to not only showcase different barbershop cuts, but it also gives them the freedom to control the production side of content creation, too: They can grab branded products off the shelves and tell stories about them (even filming on the fly with just an iPhone).

“Our YouTube channel is an extension of the brand and lifestyle. Today, the barbershop allows us to give customers what they see from us on YouTube and also helps position us as a place people want to stop by and see for themselves when they’re in town.”

Bandholz went on to explain that the Beardbrand YouTube channel is important for this new service arm of the business with the barbershop, as it allows viewers to see the work of different barbers they can go to, as well as providing insights into various barbers’ personalities, communication styles, and skills. 

“We want customers to have a Cheers-like experience when they come into our store,” he added. 

He said that for customers, this is empowering. Before they even sit down in the chair, it helps them feel assured they’re working with a professional who can deliver a desired cut or look.

Setting brand values

Beardbrand has three core values: freedom, hunger, and trust. 

Every day, they’re living those values, which is made possible by the processes they’ve put in place that help attract the right partners.

This is especially true when it comes to the barbers they work with. Take Beardbrand barber Bob Miranda, for example. 

After a falling out with the owner of the shop he was working at, Bob decided to go out on his own, but needed a space to work in. He asked if he could use one of Beardbrand’s unused spaces for cuts, and they gave him a key.

When a teaching opportunity fell through, Bob leaned into the work he was doing at the shop, and Beardbrand decided to leverage his skills as part of their education offerings. 

Today, Bob’s services are part of the barbershop offering Beardbrand launched during the pandemic. They gave him a space to work in, Bob gave back to the brand, and today, they’re partners that play to each others’ strengths.

“If you do the hard things, luck will fall into your lap.”

Using physical retail for market research

The barbershop retail space Beardbrand has in Austin is a modest one; that’s on purpose. 

Following the theory outlined in the book The Lean Startup, Beardbrand’s approach is to start with the minimum viable product and go from there. 

When you step into their space at 1003 52nd Street, you won’t find a flashy setup with hundreds of thousands of dollars in equipment and decor. Instead, you’ll find a modest shop that was designed on a tight budget.

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“We’re hoping grungy is cool and making it work for us,” Bandholz said.

This is also because the brand’s headquarters and retail footprint are more for market research and customer experience than anything else.

“We like being able to have our products on-site if people want to come by and smell the products or get the full experience.”

But you won’t find only Beardbrand products on the shelves there. Instead, they allow their barbers to buy (and sell) non-competing products of their choosing that will accent their workflows and round out the product lineup they have available. 

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Taking this approach allows the brand to see which products they should consider launching moving forward, which products sell best (illuminating potential gaps in their existing product lineup), and providing contextual feedback on future marketing opportunities that can fuel future growth.

Again, this is another example of the symbiotic and collaborative brand values the company lives and breathes.

“I’m building this company in a way that allows me to enjoy it for the next 20 years. I’m not going to get bored. I’m not going to give up. I’m not going to let somebody else come in. And if there is going to be a problem, we’re going to solve it.”

Want to hear more from Eric?

Catch him on his episode of Resilient Retail, a new podcast from Shopify. Watch or listen on-demand below.

Go to episode

And don’t forget to subscribe to Resilient Retail on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or YouTube.

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