Stubble. Fade. Circle. Carved. Goatee. Van Dyke. Full. Mountain Man. These are just a few of the many styles of beards appearing on men all over the United States in the last few years, and the trend shows no sign of abating.
Photo credit: Sam Levitan.
But as most women will tell you, with any hairstyle—including men’s facial hair—comes the need to take care of it, to keep it healthy and clean and smelling good. And this calls for “product”—in this case, beard balms, beard oils, beard washes, and special combs and brushes.
In 2013, West Virginian Eric Young started growing his traditional fall beard, and — as do most new beards — it itched and irritated his skin. A father of three, Eric couldn’t justify paying the prices for the expensive beard care products on the market. Instead, he decided to learn how to make his own, using only natural ingredients. Soon people began asking Eric what he used to make his beard look so good, and Eric, still making his products in his kitchen, decided to start selling them in small batches to supplement his income. Mountaineer Brand was born.
He listed his Mountaineer Brand products on Amazon, and as demand grew, in early 2014, he moved his production operation to a 12’x12’ shed in his yard. His operations quickly outgrew the shed and a 2600 sq. ft. workshop. The neighbors were getting concerned.
In early 2016, Mountaineer Brand moved production to a local industrial park in Martinsburg, and sales took off. Along with Amazon and its own website, Ebay, Shopify and Etsy began carrying the product online, and some brick-and-mortar retailers –including Dillard’s, Tractor Supply and Whole Foods — were selling it as well. Sales were up at least 500 percent.
To meet the 2016 Christmas demand, Eric needed to start building inventory by early July. Mountaineer Brand had been financing itself through its sales, but there wasn’t enough cash flow to produce the inventory he would need. United Bank agreed to provide the company a line of credit, and Partner Community Capital helped Eric meet the bank’s asset collateral requirements with a bank cash certificate of deposit (CD). Since then we’ve provided financing to automate and expand production, along with technical assistance for a solar installation that reduced its cost of operation and supports its mission as a natural products company.
In 2017, a year after Mountaineer Brand moved to its current production site, there’s no sign that the beard boom is lessening, Mountaineer Brand has added two other lines: Mountain Beard shaving products and Granny Vicars’ body care products, which include muscle rubs, lip balms and a DEET-free bug repellent. All are made with natural ingredients.
Today Mountaineer Brand has 15 full-time employees. Sales more than doubled from 2015 to 2016, and the company is on track to double sales again and add 12 new jobs over the next two years.