Jason and Alana Williams hadn’t intended to start a beard products company. They just wanted a good conditioner for Jason’s beard.
Four generations of men in Jason’s family have sported facial hair and Jason’s beard established the roots of Wildman Beard Co., a Nanaimo company that produces beard-conditioning products.
“The beard products that I was using were full of chemicals and artificial scenting,” he said.
Alana, who worked in the natural health products retail business, decided to come up with a beard conditioner recipe from natural ingredients.
“So I thought, you know what, I’m going to whip you one up and you try it out and that’s how it all started,” She said.
Alana sourced ingredients locally from beekeepers and shops on the Island and carried out her tests on her guinea pig, Jason.
“It was, like, trial and error,” Jason said. “This one made my beard feel too heavy. This one made my beard feel too greasy. I knew what I was looking for … at this point we were just flushing money down the toilet because we were just testing and we wanted to make a product that I enjoy wearing.”
Several months passed as Jason wore Alana’s concoctions for about two or three weeks at a stretch to give each a thorough trial.
“The last one she made, it was exactly what I was looking for,” he said.
The recipe was still just intended for Jason’s personal use, but the big-beard culture had established itself at the mill in Nanaimo where Jason, a machine operator, works with 250 guys, about 90 per cent of whom, he estimates, sport beards. After a couple of months, some of them, whose beards looked “like birds’ nests” and were likely about as uncomfortable, noticed the condition of Jason’s and got curious. Lunchroom conversations lead to requests for some of Alana’s “secret beard oil recipe.”
“That’s kind of how that arose,” he said. “We were just getting really good feedback … and thought, let’s share this … if they’re going to rock a beard, they deserve to know how to manage it.”
They formed the company in 2016, gave it Jason’s nickname, the Wildman, hired Nanaimo tattoo artist Steve Moore to design the company logo and in 2017 introduced Wildman Beard Co. with a line of products at the Nanaimo Marine Festival street market in downtown Nanaimo. Their stall drew a lot of attention.
“We had so many people around us just for the interest in it,” Jason said. “Beard products? Like, people [then] weren’t really in tune with it … their wives are saying, ‘I want him to shave that thing off. It looks like a bale of hay.’ Whoa, whoa, whoa. We can fix that. ‘It smells like a wet cat.’ We can fix that too.”
It takes hard work, time and money to set up a business and to develop formulas. Products must also meet Health Canada standards and companies must stay up-to-date on cosmetic hot lists about which products and ingredients could pose health issues.
“It costs a lot of money to start up … Even this little business was thousands of dollars to start,” Jason said. “Branding, testing and materials and all of your approvals and insurance and on and on and on … there’s a risk to it.”
Wildman Beard Co.’s beard oils and balms are sold at various retailers and community markets. They sell online to customers internationally, but say they prefer the personal interchange with their local retailer and customer base.
The business has become a passion for them.
“We’re getting a lot of good feedback,” Jason said. “That’s the push for us. It’s not about the money. We both have full-time jobs.”
They’re expanding the product line with a beard butter – it has a consistency between a beard oil and beard balm – and a leather conditioner for furniture, saddles and other leather products.
Jason said with the onset of beard culture – even Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is sporting a beard – there’s a continually growing market.
“I think what it is, is guys are proud. It makes them feel a little bit more manly. It sets a presence. It’s a lifestyle … they’re keeping them healthy-looking and they’re smelling good, so their wives are really enjoying the scents,” Jason said. “They’re starting to spend more time in the bathroom than the women.”