Today i’m interviewing Trent from Swagger Beards. Trent, along with Dave founded The Urban MANual and we thought this would be a good way for you to get to know Trent and his story. We’ll also be having a chat to Dave in the near future as well.
So let’s not stuff around and get to it. Let’s paint a picture for you. Sitting in front of me is Trent, he’s a rather tall guy, brown hair, he’s got a beard and one of the cheekiest grins I’ve seen in a long time. Reminds me of a kid getting up to mischief. He’s looking at me, thinking away, almost like he’s sizing me up.
So, Trent, tell us a little about your history before starting Swagger Beards?
Hi Max. I really don’t know where to start. I was born in Sydney, grew up there. I always had an interest in science, biology etc….After high school i pursued a career in the medical field and then i started Swagger Beards (laughing). Got married and had two awesome kids in between all that as well.
What made you start Swagger Beards?
After my Son was born i was off work for about 6 weeks and decided to grow a beard as my employer only allows us to grow beards whilst on leave (he says laughing) so like most people i got an itchy beard and it was driving me nuts. My wife liked the look of me with a beard so i had to figure out a way to keep it without it driving me crazy. I went to my local barber and he sold me two beard oils from Australian companies. I won’t say who but one was named after an iconic city of Australia…and the other markets themselves as a grooming company (he also says laughing). I had issues with both of them, the first was way too overpowering scent wise and the second was just a “scentless” beard oil, the problem i found with both of them is one aggravated the itch more and the other didn’t seem to actually do anything it marketed itself to do. It didn’t soften my beard or solve the issue of flaky skin under my beard, which pretty much everyone gets in the beginning. I started searching around the web and found loads of “beard care” companies, some looked great, others not so much.
To be honest, I found that a lot of these companies promised the world and never delivered, i knew they didn’t deliver from reviews around the web, on their own website (go figure, he says laughing), social media and forums such as Reddit. I knew there was a gap of actual quality beard care products for men in Australia. I started by speaking to friends, family and blasting social media with surveys getting an idea of what the customer wants and where our beard care industry here in Australia falls short. Armed with possibly the best information i could get i started working on a beard oil that would actually benefit all aspects of facial care, not just your beard. It came to be known as the “Swagger Six” blend.
So, what was the process of getting to this blend?
I had some help from a friend of mine who studied dermatology. We sat down, looked at competitors products and the ingredients they used, looked at what these actual ingredients did for the beard and skin and then looked at what carrier oils were actually required to achieve a product that not only talked the talk but walked the walk as they say. We actually started with a three oil blend and progressed from there. We sent the first blend out to random people who opted in through social media to be test dummies, received feedback and continued to revise our blend adding different carrier oils until we got to our “Swagger Six” blend.
Sounds like a lot of work. What’s exactly in your blend?
(Trent laughing) Yes! It was a lot of work, in saying that though it was fun and didn’t feel as though i was actually working, however, i think my wife may have disagreed at the time. Our blend consists of Grapeseed Oil, Jojoba Oil, Sesame Seed Oil, Sweet Almond Oil, Hemp Seed Oil and Castor Oil. The ratios of each are a closely guarded secret and there is literally only three people that know the actual recipe.
Great work. You’ve changed a bit since your initial launch. What changes have you made and why?
Yes we have. At launch we offered four different types of beard oils and two beard balms. We initially kept our product range limited so we could manage growth efficiently if we had any growth at all. We didn’t want to invest a lot of money into it in case it went ass up, it didn’t though, and we grew rapidly, we owe this growth to our customers and their huge support from the beginning. As time went on we added more products such as Mo Wax, beard combs, beard wash, solid cologne etc…and we also had a plan in place to expand even further in the Men’s grooming industry so we decided to remove the term “beards” from our logo and change the logo altogether as it didn’t truly reflect us anymore.
Below is Swagger Beards old and new logo.
I like your new logo better to be honest. I’ve heard there’s a funny story about your logo change?
Who have you been talking to? Yes, there is. We had a startup beard care company from Europe send us a message through Instagram one day with the message “great minds think alike” with a picture attached. The picture was almost a replication of our original Swagger Beards logo with their name on it. I honestly couldn’t do anything but laugh and was glad that our new logo was already in the hands of a designer. We settled on our new logo, trademarked the hell out of it and moved on to bigger and better things.
Sounds like a funny story. You said you’ve moved onto bigger and better things. What does this mean and can you give us any hints of the future of Swagger?
We now refer to ourselves as more of a Men’s grooming brand rather than just a focus on beards, there are plenty of brands that just sell beard oils and we’re really pushing now that we’re a lot more than just a beard oil company, in fact almost all of our current advertising across social media networks places quite a large emphasis on this.
As for the future, we’ve recently released two hair pomades and as part of our new HAIR line, we also have other lines to come in the near future but don’t want to speculate too much about that, no offence Maxy boy.
Maxy boy? No one has called me that before! So you’re a bit tight lipped about your product development. What’s your business competitors been like, both locally and abroad?
Sorry, i’ll call you Max. I don’t think we’d be where we are today by telling everyone what we’ve got in the pipe. In saying that though most of the products we’ve developed have been because our customers want them. As for competition, we’ve had a few, um, i’d say threats over social media. I guess when you’re losing business to another company it’s always going to suck, but it’s the nature of the beast and it’s not to say it won’t happen to us one day. Usually, if you start losing business it’s because you’re doing something wrong. Maybe you’re not advertising / marketing correctly, maybe you’re not delivering what you promise, maybe there’s no market for your product anymore, or quite simply you’re just not listening to your customers. Often when businesses get negative feedback they get the shits about it and rather than actually evaluating that feedback and taking something credible out of it and making changes they let emotion get involved and take it personally and sweep it under the carpet. This inevitably leads to a vicious cycle and ends in lost sales and potentially a business going under.
Sounds like you’re on the money there. Have you had to make many sacrifices since starting Swagger?
(Trent laughing again) Holidays (he says almost yelling). Running a business is hard work and time consuming which means often you don’t get time to do some things. Holidays is one of them. I recently had to cut a holiday short and get back to the team because of some logistical issue we had, needless to say it was annoying. I think the only saving grace is i love what i do so much that it doesn’t feel like work. Once again the wife would disagree with me at times (he says smiling, almost looking to see if his wife is about to walk through the door).
Is it true you’re still heavily involved with the “Swagger Team” as you call it?
Yes, that’s true. I still speak to customers every single day. I’ve made sure that even though i have some people that help me with customer service i’m always involved as well. I also do pretty much all the after hours customer service as well. Just because it’s a Sunday shouldn’t mean you don’t get good customer service!
Is there any advice you could give to the budding entrepreneur out there?
My advice would be to do lots of research into what ever it is you’re going to sell, whether that be a service or product. Make sure there is demand for it and develop a unique selling proposition to make you different to your competition. Invest money in the things you have no idea about, whether that be website development, marketing etc and don’t listen to the negative Nancy’s that think you won’t get anywhere with your entrepreneurial dream. Most of all i’d say if you don’t enjoy doing what you’re doing don’t do it! Most entrepreneurs begin their journey because they’re not getting satisfaction with their day job, don’t make your entrepreneur dream the same.
That seems like pretty solid advice. Last question. How did The Urban MANual come to be?
Ahhh, The Urban MANual. Dave and i got talking one day about the lack of good quality men’s style and grooming blogs out there. Most have an agenda just to plug their own businesses or have a focus on only one aspect of grooming or style. We want to encompass all with complete transparency and not be influenced by big brands that may feel the need to “buy” exposure from you and weasel the little guy out. Like most things this blog will evolve over time and we’ll focus on what our readers want, rather than what WE want them to hear.
“I think it’s time for a coffee now” Trent says to me.
Thanks for taking the time to get to read this and hopefully it’s been some what informative. Hit us up in the comments below and let us know what your entrepreneurial dream has been and how you’ve achieved it.